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Ari Millen on Clones, Scorpions, and Why ORPHAN BLACK’s ‘The Best Thing I’ve Ever Done’

Well, folks, the word is out: [and it is spoilerific if you haven’t watched the season two finale of Orphan Black, so turn away now if you haven’t!] Ari Millen is Project Castor, the male set of clones, created seemingly concurrently with our Project Leda sestras. Joining the Clone Club is no small feat — especially when one considers the rabidity of the OB fanbase — and it’s something the actor is keenly aware of when stepping into his new, many-headed role on the BBC America series.

We had a chance to sit down with Millen at the Television Critics Association winter press tour stop in Pasadena to talk about tackling the bro-clones (a completely original and unique name for them that we came up with), working with scorpions, and why he’s seriously obsessed with working on the show.

Nerdist: So how different has this season been for you compared to season two now that you’re the face of all the bro-clones, as I’ve taken to calling them?

Ari Millen: Bro-clones, love it. It’s a full time job now, you know? Sometimes five days a week, so it’s not slowing down. We’re coming to the end of our holiday hiatus though, and I think for the first week I only woke up to like, eat. I didn’t realize — I don’t think most people realized — how tired we were until we had the chance to sit down and take a breath. And that’s great, you know? I’m very happy that I can say that this job has tired me out. It’s been a blast.

N: John just told me, too, that right before break you guys watched the first episode together. What was that like?

AM: Well to a certain extent, it’s kind of been happening in a bubble, right? I start with doing the work, doing pre-production, and figuring out who these guys are, and I get the scripts and we start shooting. And I’ll watch a take here or there, but seeing that first episode? And seeing it cut together, in context, seeing it told as a story was like, ‘Thank god,’ you know? Because I didn’t know! I didn’t know if I was doing it right, if I were these distinct characters, so it was such a sigh of relief. And for my money, that’s the best episode yet.

N: I’m so excited to see it. I wonder what it must be like to come up with these clones now that you’ve played on both sides of it. I know you spoke a little bit about it at the panel, but did you have any challenges with that?

AM: Yeah, they’re all precious to me [laughs], because this whole experience is so exciting to me, so yeah. I don’t take any of them lightly, I don’t one-off them. I put so much work into creating these guys, that when they’re in danger I get sad and go, ‘Oh, no!’ you know? They mean so much to me, so I can’t definitively say ‘No, I like this guy [the best],’ but on the day I’m doing something — if Rudy’s doing something — I’m like ‘This is the f**king best thing I’ve ever done.’ And the next day I’m Mark and I go, ‘Ah, you’re kidding me! This is awesome!’ And the same goes for Miller and on and on. So kudos to John and Graeme [Fawcett and Manson, the series’ co-creators] and the writing team for creating such great story and giving the fans what they want. Trust me.

N: John was saying — and it looks to be that way from the clips we say — that things just go off the rails in a really exciting way. Was it anything like how you anticipated?

AM: [laughs] I think for the longest time I couldn’t get over the idea that this is going to happen to me. And it was only as I started to read things, and go to Comic-Con, that it became realer and realer and I thought ‘Oh, wow, this is going to be fuuuun.’

N: You must’ve come to Tatiana with just a totally different outlook on things after your first day as a clone. I hope she held your hand a bit throughout this process, metaphorically speaking. Or maybe even literally, too. [Laughs]

AM: Oh totally! I mean definitely. I’ve been working opposite her a lot more this season and while handholding isn’t the right term, it’s just so effortless to work alongside her. If there’s any handholding it’s just the fact that she’s making it easy. We’re just playing. I think, in the cast, there’s a real sense of freedom and wanting to play — and not nailing something down. The first take is not the fifth take and it’s not what the coverage is going to be either. We let the editor tell the story but give them as much as we can and just have fun with it.

N: What are you most excited about for this upcoming season?

AM: Where the story’s taking us this year, and the clone scenes that we get to do — either with Project Castor and Project Castor or Project Leda and Project Castor, or even Project Leda and Project Leda — the scenarios they’re creating are just like [Millen blanches with amazement], if I’m peaking now? If this is the last thing I do? I’ll be happy, this really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

N: Well it seems like there’s a lot of layered stuff going on there. There’s definitely a rich feminist territory that Tatiana gets to play into with her scenes. But it’s seems like it could be really subversive to see some of those struggles played out with the male clones, even though they’re self-aware.

AM: I think what it comes down to is the fact that there are male clones and there are female clones — yes this can set up a male versus female dynamic, but Project Castor also has questions that it needs answered. It’s not a juggernaut of power that’s infallible. Why we’re in the story is because we need answers and we want those answers from Project Leda. So our answers are also going to help answer what Project Leda is looking for. Even though we’re kinda working against each other — and Project Castor is not going to make life easier for Project Leda — as a story tool we’re there to help solve that mystery. We’re only strengthening the sisters.

N: Well there was this idea that really centered the first two seasons with the Leda ladies, but since then it’s expanded in a way that does leave you guessing. Which is so exciting for TV because it sucks when you’re able to figure out the mystery before it’s unfolded for you. Whereas here, you have an actual scorpion seemingly crawling out of Tatiana’s stomach and it’s like, ‘OK wait though, because like what in the actual f**k is happening?’ [laughs]

AM: [laughs] Oh god, I don’t know how she acted with that thing. I was terrified. That is literally the scariest animal on earth. It has claws! It has a stinger! It has 6 legs! Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh. And the only thing protecting her was like, crazy glue or something!

N: Oh no, really?

AM: And I think Kathryn [Alexandre, Tatiana’s clone double] got clamped one day because it came unstuck!

N: Um nope dot com, backslash never.

AM: Hashtag screw you!

N: Hashtag hardest of passes.

AM: [Laughs] Exactly.

Are you looking forward to Millen’s turn as a clone? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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  1. Sam says:

    Hey, this is great. Very excited about the scorpions. For future reference: there is a male leda clone. Tony. So “bro-clones” doesn’t work very well in reference to the Castor clones, and the same goes with the “leda sisters”. Let’s stick to “castor clones” and “leda clones”Anyway, SO excited about that scorpion.