It’s been exactly a month since members of the auxiliary Clone Club bid a tearful farewell to Orphan Black‘s core four sestras (as well as their 270 other siblings) on the cult show’s Aug. 12 series finale. The episode’s final shot revealed our clone heroine, Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany), looking around the home she had built for herself and her daughter, Kira, as well as looking forward to the freedom she had fought so hard to achieve. According to Maslany, though, that’s not the last scene she filmed. Catching up with the Emmy-winning actress at the Toronto International Film Festival — where her new film Stronger, in which she stars opposite Jake Gyllenhaal, had its world premiere — Maslany remembers the final shot being far less consequential. “It was an insert shot; I think it was a close-up of a wrench or a screwdriver. We were like, ‘That’s how we’re going to end this?’ Meanwhile, we’re all crying off-camera.”
The tear-shedding was only appropriate considering that creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson specifically calibrated the finale to provide viewers with “all the feels,” even if it meant wrapping up the show’s complicated mythology more quickly that fans might expect. It’s a decision that Maslany says she agrees with. “We fought really hard to take [the ending] away from being a big set-pieces kind of thing,” she explains. “I was interested in the idea of now that Sarah has the freedom she wanted, and fought for over five seasons, what does that actually look like? How can you be happy when you’re not necessarily equipped to be so? In my own life, there’s always the day after; suddenly, you’re just living life and it doesn’t end in a clean little bow. So I was excited that the episode ends in a clean little bow, and then keeps going. We’re stuck with the after-effects and questions like, ‘Can she be happy’ and ‘What is freedom for anybody?‘”
In fact, Maslany isn’t convinced that Sarah is ever really going to get it together. In the finale, for example, she bails on taking the test that would earn her a high school equivalency diploma and, notably, we never do learn whether she tried again. “I think she’s probably going to be a bit s**t,” Maslany says, with a laugh. “And that’s what I love about her! She doesn’t fit the conventional idea of what a mom is supposed to be, what a sister is supposed to be, or what a woman is supposed to be. She’s her own beast; she’s not going to let a system dictate anything to her.”
If Maslany has any regrets about the finale, it’s that she didn’t get the chance to bring back a few fan favorite clones like Krystal or Tony. On the other hand, she did accomplish one of the most technically challenging sequences Orphan Black ever attempted: a prolonged Clone BBQ where the four central Leda sisters Sarah, Alison, Helena, and Cosima all regularly inhabited the same frame. “It was weird not knowing when we were really going to be saying goodbye to a clone,” Maslany says. “If I had, I might have taken a little moment to be with Krystal before I hung up that wig forever! But that was the nature of Orphan Black; I never knew who I’d be playing in a week.”
The challenge of leaping into the unknown with a character on a regular basis is something that Maslany hopes to continue even now that Orphan Black is done. The actress points to Stronger, based on the life story of Boston Marathon bombing victim Jeff Bauman (played by Gyllenhaal) and his ex-wife, Erin Hurley (Maslany), as an example of a role that captured her curiosity because it demanded slipping into yet another new and different personality type. “She’s very pulled back from a lot of the showy work I did on Orphan Black; everything’s happening in the depths of her belly,” she says of Erin. “That’s fun territory to navigate. I’m just following the fear and the question marks — my curiosity is all over the place.”
One thing that didn’t change between Orphan Black and Stronger is Maslany’s use of music to get into character. She famously created individualized playlists for each of the Leda clones, with lots of show tunes for Alison and M.I.A. for Sarah. Maslany says that there’s no specific “Erin Hurley” playlist, but music did help her acclimate to the real Erin’s lifelong passion: marathon running. “Running was such a hard thing for me to do! I needed music to pretend I wasn’t doing it.”
All five seasons of Orphan Black can be viewed on BBCAmerica.com. Stronger opens in theaters on Sept. 22.