"Orphan Black" may be all about the clones, but it's never about repeating itself.
Following an ambitious and expansive third season in which Sarah Manning, her identically DNA-ed sisters and their extended, bizarrely functional family delved deeply into the clones' own sci-fi-tinged origins while still dealing with everyday day dramas like school board elections, series creators and executive producers Graeme Manson and John Fawcett are promising a more intimate tone for the fourth season while still offering up an abundance of out-there situations crafted to put star Tatiana Maslany's versatility even further to the test.
The showrunners sat down with Moviefone to preview what's ahead for the new season -- debuting on April 14 -- including new and returning products of Project Leda, new character combinations, and collaborating with Maslany to create unique and distinctive characters every time a new sister clone joins the family tree.
Moviefone: After what I would call an epic "Orphan Black" season, what prompted the decision to bring it back to a little bit more intimate scale again for this season?
Graeme Manson: I don't think it's a "smaller" season. "Intimate" in that our characters all know each other better now. Especially our core characters of Cosima, Alison, Sarah, Helena -- and Rachel for that matter, even though she's the bad sister. I think drawing those characters close together this season, that feels intimate. The family that we've built is starting to feel more and more intimate. I don't think it's intimate in the way that they all sit together in the living room and watch TV. [But] that's not what happens.
John Fawcett: No. But I think that there was a decision, because we all sort of sat around after season three and went, "Wow, that was big -- we did a lot of big things," and there was this desire to kind of have this sort of feel of Season One. We were like, "How do we get that back?" Not that that's necessarily smaller, but it kind of is because we wanted this sort of feel of starting at the beginning again a little bit. And at the same time, we have all these relationships that we built.
So I think there was this desire to dig into characters and dig into relationships, and then have this first-person vibe again of the mystery, where you just don't know. You're like Sarah and the mystery's coming at you like this, and you just don't know what the right answer is. You don't know who to trust. You don't know who the bad guy is. She doesn't know. She doesn't even know who she's supposed to be playing in that instance.
You mentioned there's going to be a new clone introduced. Tell me a little bit about that process of when you start designing a character, knowing the skill level that Tatiana brings.
Fawcett: I think the decision to create a new clone is obviously always a kind of big thing for us, and takes a big amount of prep and of work, not just from the writing department, but from Tatiana. We work collaboratively together. We want to challenge her always, but we don't want to kind of like go so far out in the stratosphere. We want her to be able to identify, because she's the one that has to breathe life into the character.
So it's always been a kind of collaborative process. We draw her in all the time and get her ideas. She's been great in terms of creating these characters. She was instrumental in creating Krystal last season. I mean, just what she did early on in the season with a character that we weren't even certain was going to be a clone was what kind of led to the creation of Krystal.
Manson: It starts in the writers' room, and there's a practical aspect to what you need from a character. But the fun part once we have a function is to go to Tatiana and start to flesh that character out. That then turns to hair and makeup and wardrobe, because she slips into these characters and hair and makeup really helps her. We get peeks at the character and she works with her hair and makeup team. We get to go out to the trailer and see this character begin to evolve physically which is really cool.
Fawcett: And then there's Tatiana's playlist. There's always the new playlist. She has a new playlist for each character. So that helps. She listens to that helps her get into the skin of the character.
Tell me how you wanted to challenge each of the core characters this season.
Manson: That is what we do: we challenge them. We challenge Sarah and her family. Not just the clones, we really challenge Felix this season as well. We challenge the definition of family to him.
Fawcett: I think that this season is quite fraught for the characters. It's a kind of dark and twisty season emotionally for everyone.
Manson: They all have to kind of answer for the past this year. They all have to kind of answer for the things that they've done, or that they didn't do.
Fawcett: That's true. It feels very much like these characters -- I can pick almost every single character, every single one of them is haunted by something in their past. It feels like that's almost a theme of the season.
Of the lighter elements, I always love how you mix and match the different characters together. What kind of combos can you tease at for the new season?
Manson: I don't think it's too spoiler-y to say we got some really fun combinations. We were really happy to bring Krystal back this year. Krystal and Felix, there's a pairing.
Fawcett: Krystal and Donnie.
Manson: Krystal and Donnie. Krystal and Art.
Fawcett: Felix and Art. They did great scenes this year.
Manson: Yeah, they did. Their relationship has grown like over this year to one of respect, I think. Art really had no time for Felix when we first started.
Fawcett: One of the other ones that we are excited about is Donnie and Cosima. So that's another interesting. Anytime we can put Kristian [Bruun] with anybody!
Any other clones that we've seen before that we might keep an eye out for?
Manson: Well, we can say that we're looking forward to seeing Krystal again. For sure.
Fawcett: That's about it. I don't think we're going to say more there.
You guys started out with a pretty bold concept, and then you found Tatiana. How did she change how much bold you could be? Did she really change your ambitions for the show?
Manson: Absolutely. It's a great joy in the writers' room to know that we have the freedom to put any one of those characters in unimaginable situations, and that Tatiana will not only do a great job, but totally sink her teeth into it, and bring things that we didn't expect.
Fawcett: And also, the thing I love about it is that she can make some of our crazy, absurd shit believable. Honestly, because we like to have a sense of humor. When Graeme and I set out to make the show, we were like, "Let's make a clone show." It was always like, "Don't take yourself too seriously. The show's got to have a sense of humor." Somehow, she manages to kind of take our idiotic sense of humor and make it believable and make it real, and draw the viewers into these different characters. That's been very gratifying.
Being able to create a show that really is a very strange genre mashup. If you were kind of to look back, like if I was a network type, I'd go, "There's no way this is going to work. There's no way." But somehow, the fabric of what she does knits it all together.