Review by C.J. Bunce

So many books chronicle seasons of hit television series, but a new release for BBC’s Orphan Black takes viewers beyond the norm.  Like the incredible behind the scenes access we saw in Firefly–A Celebration, Abbie Bernstein’s new book The DNA of Orphan Black shows how the unique science fiction series creates its magic.  In 2013 we first saw Sarah Manning watch her doppelganger step out in front of a train.  Who knew how many clones we’d meet in the series, and how many roles Tatiana Maslany, last year’s Best Actress Emmy winner, could play in a single scene?  It’s not so difficult to wrap your head around the characters of the series because Maslany plays them all so well.  But when you try to list your favorite characters on the series, you momentarily forget “they” are a single actress portraying so many incredible people, and none like anyone you’ve seen before.

In The DNA of Orphan Black fans get unprecedented access to the development process, as told by the show’s creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson.  We learn how Maslany sees each character and created the nuances of each personality.  And we learn from the supporting cast, plus makeup designer Stephen Lynch, hair designer Sandy Sokolowski, costume designer Debra Hanson, art director Jody Clement, and production designer John Dondertman, and more.  Wrapping up its series finale in only four weeks, Orphan Black doesn’t have anything left to hide.  So we learn the tricks of the trade, and how the sleight of hand by the production team has created such complex scenes like Helena’s dream sequence and the clone dance party.  How do viewers know we’re not seeing Maslany’s Rachel, but her Krystal posing as Rachel?  Makeup designer Stephen Lynch explains how.  You’ll learn great tidbits about the show, like how the hair designer created only one “hero” wig for each of Maslany’s characters (each cost $5,000 to $8,000).

The DNA of Orphan Black is not just another TV show souvenir book.  It’s full of behind the scenes images, but it also includes surprisingly detailed interviews, thanks to author Abbie Bernstein (whose last book, The Great Wall–The Art of the Film, was one of the best film art books we’ve reviewed at borg.com).  You’ll see from the table of contents (below) that not only does Maslany provide a few pages of content as lead actor, as found in many TV books, each of her characters gets separate discussion as they would if they’d been played by different actors on any other series.  So as a fan you can get right to your favorite performance by Maslany.  Equal to Bernstein’s handling of the sestra clones is her attention to the key secondary characters: Felix (Jordan Gavaris), Art (Kevin Hanchard), Donnie (Kristian Bruun), Siobhan (Maria Doyle Kennedy), Delphine (Evelyne Brochu), the Castor clones (Ari Millen), and probably most significantly, Maslany’s acting double, Kathryn Alexandre.

Continue reading

Advertisements