The BBC America drama series Orphan Black is back for Season 3, in which the clone sisterhood (brilliantly played by Tatiana Maslany), known as Project Leda, is now forced to deal with the fact that they’re no longer alone, as they cross paths with a new group of militaristic male clones (played so chillingly by Ari Millen), known as Project Castor. More shocking twists and turns will arise, and characters will be forced to come into their own more than ever before, if they’re going to survive.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actor Ari Millen talked about finding out that he’d be playing the Project Castor clones, having Tatiana Maslany as a guide for playing those clones, that it’s scary but great to explore so many different characters within the same show, where it’s all going this season, and what it’s like to develop each clone. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: You were already on the show before you learned exactly where things would be evolving. At what point did you find out that you were going to be the male clones?
ARI MILLEN: It was so last minute. We were filming Episode 9 when Graeme Manson gave me a call and asked me the question. So, it was very last minute. And then, I went in and they were like, “Okay, this is what we’re thinking.” The reveal that was the character development was all about the visual. It wasn’t until this season that we got to develop the characters. It started with the look of them, and then from there, over the summer, I got to think about who these people are and tried to tease out as much information from Graeme and John [Fawcett] as I could.
Was it intimidating, at all, to have to follow the incredible example that Tatiana Maslany has set?
MILLEN: I think it’s the opposite. Because she is such a giving person and actor, there is no ego there. Working with her is such a give-and-take. It couldn’t be any better. I couldn’t have a better acting partner to help go on my own journey with. She’s there and she is very supportive of what I’m doing ‘cause she gets it. She understands that it’s such a personal process. I’m sure she went through her own journey, in the first season, and she gets to be there without taking away the magic that I get to experience, this season. It’s been the ideal situation.
Did she give you any tips on how to keep the characters separate?
MILLEN: Interestingly enough, the best tips I’ve gotten from her have just been from going to set and watching her work. When I found out, I went to watch the clone dance party, just to understand how it all works, technically. I watched her on set, at different times of the day when she was playing different people, just to see how she lives in those characters and how she delivers a scene. That, to me, has been the most invaluable.
What’s it been like to explore different people within the same show?
MILLEN: What’s so scary but great is that they knew they wanted to cast Project Castor, but they didn’t decide that it was going to be me. The writing process is very fluid. So, I’m learning new things, episode to episode, that I didn’t know before. A freakish amount of times, my own thoughts of who these characters are end up being who they actually are. I’ll go to Graeme and be like, “I think this would happen,” and he’s like, “Wait until the next episode.” And other times, out of nowhere, something will happen and I’ll be like, “Oh, wow, yeah!,” and that informs something about the character that I was struggling with so much. It’s both scary and rewarding, and a whirlwind of excitement.
We first got introduced to your character in such a great, intense way. Did you intentionally give each of these clones their own introduction, in that sense?
MILLEN: Yes, each introduction to these characters is a statement. There’s a visual and a storytelling statement that says, “Here’s Project Castor.” We have such a rabid fan base and Clone Club exists because they really enjoy the intensity and the adrenalin rush of this story. You care about the development of these characters and the peril that they’re in. And Project Castor is only there to shake up the mix even more. It’s great. It’s very important to me, for the characters that I play, to be more than just the surface. And from very early on, with Mark, I really tried to find a softness to him because I didn’t want to just be the bad guy sidekick. I really wanted to be a person, too. We’re all people. No matter what we’re doing, we do it because we think it’s right. It doesn’t mean it is right, but we’re still human. That’s what I’ve been trying to do with these new characters, this season.
What can you say about where it’s all going, this season?
MILLEN: For the longest time, Mark has wanted a family. He’s wanted something other than Project Castor. And I think he’s found it, but things are not going to come easily. With Rudy, we know that he’s far from ordinary. We’ll elaborate on who he is. And Miller is almost the opposite of those two, in that he’s very driven to climb the military brass. He’s very regimented, very straightforward, and very willing to tow the party line and take orders, no matter what. The dynamics between the brothers, but also how it feeds into the plotline is very dynamic.
Do you get much time to develop how you want to play each clone?
MILLEN: Before the season started filming, I sat down with John and Graeme and talked about things. Myself and Nick Abraham, my clone double, got on the same page by talking about these guys. Two heads are better than one, and getting his input helped build these characters. We went to Bruce Clayton, who’s an acting coach in Toronto, who really helped us flesh out the psychology of the guys, their relationships with each other, and their relationships with their mother. And then, it was just about getting the scripts, reading them, and just seeing what was next. From episode to episode, we flesh them out. A lot of it is the fluidness and the intuitiveness of the writing. They’re writing for the actors. They’re not writing just for the sake of writing. They’re really listening, which is great. And I’m trying to really listen to what they’re writing. It’s just this beautiful collaboration that the fans have come to enjoy and appreciate. They definitely haven’t made it easy for themselves, with how they’ve shot stuff. They’re always trying to raise the bar.
Are each of your clones very distinct from each other?
MILLEN: Unless they want you to mistake them, you’ll never be wondering who is who. They are distinct enough. But they’re self-aware, and have been, from the beginning. As you get to know twins, you see the differences in who they are. But if you’re meeting them for the first time and seeing them individually, you might not be able to tell who is who. So, as the season progresses, you’ll get to know them and you’ll know who is who.
Orphan Black airs on Saturday nights on BBC America.