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Tag Archive: Tatiana Maslany


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.

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All good things come to and end, but endings to good things are rarely good.

That’s not always so as it comes to television, as is being proved out in this fifth and final season of Orphan Black.  Three episodes in and Tatiana Maslany, Kristian Bruun, Jordan Gavaris, and Kevin Hanchard continue to deliver the best science fiction series in years, a sci-fi series cloaked as thriller, drama, and dark comedy.

You can’t say enough about Tatiana Maslany, last year’s Emmy winner for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama, and poised to be this year’s chief contender for the Best Actress Golden Globe award.  Her series promotes female empowerment more than any show.  The double, triple, quadruple, etc. message of a story about the bond among a small army of clone sisters is found in the singularity of a lead actress performing in every scene while also playing multiple parts in every other scene.  Viewers can’t help but attach emotionally to each of her characters.  Even last week’s exit of a minor character viewers barely got to know drove the show to a shocking halt.

As the series’s long-time protagonist, Maslany’s Sarah Manning, continues her battle to protect her daughter, the other sisters have broken out to reveal a key message of the show: In a future world of manipulated genetics, we’ll see many individuals with common traits but who are very much individuals.  It’s still the environment that determines who the individual becomes.

If you had to pick one standout to represent the best of the series it is Maslany’s take on Alison, a character who would have lived out a normal existence in Bailey Downs had Maslany’s Beth Childs not have driven her into the sestra, turning Alison chemical dependent, then leading her to become a drug dealer, a killer, burying all the bodies in her garage, and who knows what next.  But this weekend’s episode showed just how far Alison has come, with flashbacks to scenes that filled in the blanks of her past and told us ultimately you can’t take the quiet ones for granted as she positions herself as the best manipulator of them all.

But behind Alison was always the giant bundle of energy and over-the-top antics of Kristian Bruun’s Donnie.  Alison’s husband, despite his initial collusion with Dr. Leakey’s people, tried to prove his loyalty to Alison in every appearance.  And Bruun must be the ultimate good sport as the writers put him into bizarre situations again and again.

Will we see Alison again this season, and if she returns, will she return as a warrior, a ninja, something else?  We’re thinking the writers can’t keep a great character away for long.

On a personal note, and speaking of sestra, our own four-legged support team member Jade, who you may have met on her 16th birthday two months ago here, passed away this weekend after a stoic battle with several old age issues.  Jade was one of six sisters and three brothers, and their genetics as coonhound and German Shepherd came through to reflect many similarities especially in their youth.  But each also showed a profound individuality as they grew into their own personalities–as varied as the differences between any people you know, and as varied as the sestra of Orphan Black, a show Jade watched along with us for the past four years (Jade’s favorite character was Helena).  Jade’s family and friends will miss her love and fierce loyalty.

If you haven’t climbed aboard the Orphan Black train now’s the time to binge watch the first four seasons and be part of what is turning out to be a banner, final, season for the series.  New Orphan Black episodes air Saturday nights at 10 p.m. Central following Doctor Who on BBC America.

C.J. Bunce

Editor
borg.com

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Our borg.com Best of 2016 list continues today with the best in television.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Top Picks and Best Movies of 2016 here and the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2016 yesterday here.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg TV Series, Best TV Borg — Ash vs Evil Dead (Starz), Bruce Campbell.  We searched high and low for the year’s best TV series featuring one or more borg characters, but didn’t really need to go that far.  The brilliantly funny pop culture ace actor Bruce Campbell’s reboot of the borg.com Hall of Famer Ash could have gotten overlooked had it been just another horror series.  Yet underneath this over-the-top, blood and gore-filled demon hunt is a whole lot of silly fun.  And the actors could have been better, with the likes of Lee Majors (pictured above), Lucy Lawless, and Ted Raimi all making appearances.  We couldn’t ask for a better actor than Campbell to take our borg.com TV title this year.

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Best TV Series, Best TV Horror Series – Grimm (NBC).  The fifth season of Grimm was simply fantastic, full of gripping writing and a change-up of character roles in a way we’ve never seen before.  This season we saw the best action, twists and turns, and flat-out excitement, above every other series on television.  Pulling bits and pieces of folklore from Western and Eastern mythologies and everything in between, the writers delivered all season long.  The writing team’s best work was what they have done all along, taking the story in a direction no one could have predicted.

Stranger Things cast

Best TV Sci-fi Series – Stranger Things, (Netflix).  It’s nearly impossible to list all the influences that came together to form our pick for this year’s Best Retro Fix.  Stand By Me, Firestarter, Silver BulletStranger Things could be another coming of age Stephen King tale, but with nicely creepy John Carpenter undertones and the wonder and sci-fi of a Steven Spielberg movie.  Think Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, and Super 8.  Whatever it is, great performances by a lead group of kid actors, teen actors, and a few adults from filmdom’s past made for a fun season one.

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Best New TV Series, Best Re-Imagining on TV  – Wynonna Earp (Syfy).  We knew Syfy had a winner in the first episode of this year’s best new TV series, Wynonna Earp.  A great mash-up of Western, paranormal, and horror, Wynonna Earp took an American legend and made it interesting for today’s viewers.  Melanie Scrofano’s Wynonna is a classic heroine in a supernatural setting.  And her interactions with Tim Rozon’s Doc Holliday include some of the best humor on TV.  Did we mention the villains are basically zombies?  Wynonna’s got a gun–a Peacemaker–and she knows how to use it, giving us a fun, over-the-top shoot ’em up each week to look forward to.

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Best Animated TV Series – Star Wars Rebels (DisneyXD).  For the second year in a row, Star Wars Rebels proves that animated shows are just as compelling as big budget theatrical blockbusters.  This season we met the great villain Grand Admiral Thrawn, finally introduced to Star Wars canon.  Every episode gave fans something to be excited about, as in the episode “The Antilles Extraction,” where Sabine goes undercover as a cadet in the Empire’s elite flight academy to bring Imperial pilots over to fight for the Rebellion.  Darth Maul and Captain Rex are also standout characters.  Original trilogy voice actors, compelling visuals, and rousing music, make this one of the best series on TV.

After the cut, come back for more of our Best in Television 2016:

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What better way to celebrate the strong, determined leader Leia Organa made famous by actress Carrie Fisher than to celebrate her legacy in the genre heroines of today?  What do most of the characters on this year’s list of Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines have in common?  Most have roles that could easily be swapped with a male.  Sure, you can have heroine characters who are written to largely rely on traditional female qualities, but women characters bending gender roles are breaking new grounds.  We met characters this year who were held back in their place in time by their status as women, and it is often that role that prompts them to gain the fire and passion necessary to become the heroine of their stories.  So we have both a dress-wearing, well-read 19th century Jane Austen character on our list, but also a space-faring criminal in combat boots, a sea captain, an alien survivor, an alien visitor, a warrior, a sorcerer, a group of clones, a gunslinger, two cops, a zombie, and a supernatural assassin.

In past years we were able to select our Best Kick-Ass Genre Movie Heroine and Best Kick-Ass Genre TV Heroine, but this year the studios gave us more to cheer about than ever, and instead of ranking them we’re highlighting the very best from an unprecedented slate of heroines, with characteristics to learn from and emulate.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong.  You’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, very human, resulting from trying circumstances, personal losses, and even death of friends and family.  But they all mustered up the strength to rise above it all.  These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2016:

Sara Huntsman

Sara (The Huntsman: Winter’s War).  Heroines can be medieval or fairy tale warriors, a trained Huntsman quick with a bow and arrow or two-handed swordplay.  Jessica Chastain’s Sara was never seen in Snow White and the Huntsman, but we quickly learned why Chris Hemsworth’s Eric was filled with despair when learning of her supposed death.  A loyal warrior to her queen, she must decide whether to join her excommunicated secret husband against the forces of evil or stand with Queen Freya and her manipulative sister.  A powerhouse trio of actresses, Chastain’s Sara rises above them all opposite Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron in this great fantasy film.

Lily James and Bella Heathcote in Screen Gems' PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.

Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).  You already know Elizabeth Bennet as the eldest sister in the classic Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice.  An obnoxious mother harassing her, unlikely prospects for marriage, and an oppressive society with little opportunity to make her own choices.  Readers finally get to witness how the classic character might react when given opportunity–opportunity to learn Eastern mysticism and Japanese martial arts, and a role where she and her sisters and friends can fully defend their family and home from a zombie onslaught.  Lily James couples lacy dresses, Regency manners, and in-your-face, Quentin Tarentino-inspired kicks, with classic swordplay–and bloody beheadings.  If a war is coming, you want the likes of Elizabeth Bennet on your side of the battle lines.

After the cut, we reveal the rest of our list…

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Orphan Black Season 4 Four

So are you a big fan of the BBC America’s sci-fi series Orphan Black?  Do you consider yourself a card-carrying member of the Clone Club?  Have you ever wanted to see how they film Tatiana Maslany playing several characters in the same scene?  Now BBC America is giving Orphan Black fans a chance to win a walk-on role in next year’s Season 5–the final season of the series.

All you need to do is film yourself conveying how much you love the series in 30 seconds or less.  The Grand Prize winner will be randomly chosen–so don’t worry too much about the video quality.  The winner will receive a four day-three night trip for two to the set of Orphan Black in Toronto, Canada, including airfare, hotel, ground transportation, and $500 spending money.

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But you must act quickly to be considered–you must submit your video by November 29, 2016, at 11:59:59 a.m. Eastern.

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Even more so than the annual Academy Awards for achievements in film, the Primetime Emmy Awards seem to either award the same thing every year or never get around to awarding series, actors, and creative voices that really push the bounds of the ordinary.  Is that a generalization ripe for argument?  Of course.  But when you watch as much television as we do here at borg.com, at some point years ago we just turned off the TV award shows and never looked back.

So what changed this year?  Tatiana Maslany won best actress in a drama for Orphan Black.  Rami Malek won best actor in a drama for Mr. Robot.  Louie Anderson won best supporting actor for Baskets.  And the special Sherlock–The Abominable Bride won for best TV movie.  So what poles shifted?  What constellations re-aligned?  What does that mean if our own best picks align with Emmy voters?  Are we finally “in-touch”?

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Take Tatiana Maslany, a top borg.com pick three years in a row for best actress in television (or any other medium).  Not to slight her wonderful supporting cast, but she’s practically a one-woman show, playing a half a dozen characters each season–and seven this year in her fourth season playing clone sestra–meaning every scene is critical and must reflect Maslany’s work–and viewer believability–as a completely different person.  She never gets the luxury of “phoning in” a performance.  The result is top-notch television, and the best acting and toughest role we’ve ever seen, executed with mastery.  Go Clone Club!

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Orphan Black season 4 clip Donnie and Helena

BBC America announced this weekend at WonderCon that Orphan Black will receive its own “after-show” this season.  After the Black, a 30-minute show like The Talking Dead, will air weekly.   Ajay Fry, Morgan Hoffman and Teddy Wilson, hosts of the Space Channel’s series InnerSpace, will serve as hosts interviewing cast and crew with behind the scenes segments and previews of coming episodes.

BBC America also revealed the winning poster created by a fan for the fourth season:

Orphan Black season 4 poster

New characters this season include:

M.K. (Tatiana Maslany).  The newly discovered clone that lives off the grid, is hiding from Neolution.  Having retreated from society, she sought out an online community among other hackers.  She rarely meets face-to-face and on the off chance she does, she prefers to hide behind a sheep mask.  But M.K. knows a lot more than her clone sisters and may hold pertinent information that could reveal answers to their burning questions.

Evie Cho (Jessalyn Wanlim).  Evie is Neolution’s new corporate face selling their vision to the public. A powerful, seductively articulate bioengineer that preaches empowerment to those oppressed by sexism and physical ailments, she believes in eugenics — bettering the human race through intervention.  Born with a genetic disorder, Evie despises the current bioethical laws that constrain her research.  As a result, Evie believes great discoveries require casualties — a belief she’s prepared to viciously defend.

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Dizzy (Joel Thomas Hynes).  Dizzy is a hacker that doesn’t conform to group mentality. Intrinsically skeptical, he never believes things are as they appear.  He lives half his life online — scouring forums for secretive data only disclosed anonymously — and skirts around the edges of underground movements, gleaning information from within.  Obsessed with uncovering current conspiracies, Dizzy is about to slam head first into the most confounding one of all.

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Orphan Black Season 4 Four

Hello, artist friends! (You know who you are).  It’s time for your to bring it.

Whether or not you’re a member of Clone Club–the fans of BBC America’s Orphan Black–a new contest announced this weekend may be something for you.  One artist’s work will be selected as the new season’s official poster for the show’s international release.  It’s one way to get international fame fast.

Artwork submitted could become Orphan Black’s Season 4 advertising poster.  It’s a chance to win a grand prize of $10,000 and a private screening of the Season 4 premiere for you and your friends.

The selected winning artwork will be featured as part of Orphan Black’s Season 4 marketing campaign, with a print ad in Entertainment Weekly, featured on billboards, and featured on-air and online.

Orphan Black art Bunce

Twenty finalists will also receive a custom print of their artwork signed by the Orphan Black cast.

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Arnold Terminator Genisys

Well it’s been one long year, with plenty to do and see, plenty of good and not-so-good to read and watch, and as with last year we’re certain we reviewed more content this year than ever before.  This year was a big year for borgs in TV and film, so we had some difficult decisions to make.  All year long we sifted through all that Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre TV, films, comics, and other books we thought were worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual Best of the Best list.

Today we reveal the entire list–the best genre content of 2015–with our top categories Best Sci-Fi Fix, Best Fantasy Fix, Best Superhero FixBest Animated Fix,  and Best Borg selected regardless of medium.  A dozen properties garnered multiple mentions.

We hope you agree with many of these great creations of the entertainment industries, and wish everyone a great 2016!

Killjoys

Best Sci-Fi Fix – Killjoys (Syfy).  Surprised?  Killjoys pulled together great worldbuilding, characters and actors in a year of a dozen new sci-fi shows to provide us the closest thing to the next Firefly we’ve seen in a long time.

Galavant

Best Fantasy Fix – Galavant (ABC); Runner-up The Librarians (TNT).  It aired early in 2015 but nothing surpassed Galavant’s medieval high adventure and all-out Princess Bride-style fun.

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Best Superhero Fix – The Flash (CW).  Of all the Marvel movies and TV series from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Agent Carter and from Arrow to Supergirl, nothing had us coming back for more each week like the superhero world in The Flash.

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Best Animated Fix – Star Wars Rebels (DisneyXD).  Compare it to Star Wars: The Force Awakens and see if you think this animated Star Wars galaxy had an even better story and characterization, along with the return of its own group of original trilogy actors, compelling visuals and rousing music.

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Best Borg – Pops (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from Terminator Genisys (Paramount).  Schwarzenegger created yet another borg that could stand up against his prior successful characters from the series.  A cool, moving character in a big year for borgs on screen!

Ava from Ex Machina - borg

Best Borg Movie –  Ex Machina (DNA Films).  Incredible storytelling and a small cast of talented actors provided a classic science fiction story and Oscar-worthy film about our favorite subject.

Humans series

Best Borg TV SeriesHumans (AMC).  On television the most in-depth look at life as a borg and among borgs has never been portrayed more dramatically than on this year’s surprise sci-fi hit series from AMC.

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Best Kickass Genre Movie Heroine – Rey (Daisy Ridley), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Disney); Honorable Mentions: Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), Terminator Genisys (Paramount); Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), Mad Max: Fury Road (Village Roadshow)

Liv Moore

Best Kickass Genre TV Heroine – Liv Moore (Rose McIver), iZombie (CW); Honorable Mentions: Dutch (Hannah John-Kamen), Killjoys (Syfy); Helena (Tatiana Maslany), Orphan Black (BBC)

Want to know who we picked for best villain and best comic books of the year?  Take a look after the cut…

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Orphan Black Soundtrack cover

Orphan Black wrapped its best year yet Saturday with the third season finale “History Yet to be Written.”  Tatiana Maslany has secured her place in the acting elite with a solid third run in a role every actor dreams about–a true showcase of her talents.  This season she shared the multi-role acting gig with the Castor clone brothers played by Ari Millen.  Despite sharing screen-time with the Castors, and expanded roles for Mrs. S, Delphine, and the introduction of the vile Dr. Coady, Maslany created some of the best scenes in the entirety of the series this year.  Alison started a drug-and-soap business and ran for office and won (and had that off-the-wall bedroom scene with Donnie).  Cosima brought in Lost Girl star Ksenia Solo as a show regular, and doubled (awkwardly) for Alison in a campaign speech.  Rachel duped everyone after losing her eye.  And we met poor, new, completely baffled Krystal.  But nothing compares to the character arc developed over three seasons for the incredible Helena and her trusty scorpion adviser.

How could TV watchers possibly fall for a character like Helena?  Raised in a convent outside of any family, trained to be a cold-blooded killer, she would kill four of her clone sisters.  This season she befriended Alison’s husband Donnie, massacred a room full of drug dealers who threatened Alison’s kids, reunited with “boyfriend” Jesse, and proved her fighting skills could take the worst of the Castors out of the equation.  In one word, Maslany, as Helena, was brilliant.  Can the BBC keep up the momentum for season four?  While you’re waiting for 2016, you can pick up two albums released by the BBC and Varèse Sarabande Records.

Helena and Sarah

Sestra pals Helena and Sarah.  Insert your favorite Alanis Morissette song here.

The Orphan Black Original Television Score provides all the feel of the show a card-carrying Clone Club member could want.  Composer Trevor Yuile created a distinct sound for the show, mixing the eeriness of Angelo Badalamenti with the evocative repetition of John Carpenter and the mechanical sound of Massive Attack or Daft Punk.  Beginning with the psychedelic Orphan Black theme, which we only wish there was a full, expanded version, the album moves the listener between memorable themes.

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