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ORPHAN BLACK Co-Creator John Fawcett Talks “Crazy” Season 3

As fans of Orphan Black learned at the end of season two, the sestrahood like no other has many a mystery left to solve before answers about their clone-y origins are revealed. Heading into season three we also know that some mysteries have even bigger mysteries hiding just below the surface. So, naturally, we were thrilled to get a sneak peek at the upcoming third season of the series at the 2015 Winter Press Tour stop of the Television Critics Association. It was, in a word, bananas.

And while we don’t have that footage here to show you (the world is cruel, we know), we did get a chance to talk about it all with the series’ co-creator John Fawcett. And, well? Johnny-boy over here gave us heaps of clues and insight into next season’s wildly different course of force and what it takes to make a show this big and bold.

Oh, and we also heard a fun story about lube from Fawcett that you’re definitely going to want to read.

Nerdist: I’m so glad I’m getting to talk to you after the TCA panel because — oh man! — that footage from season three was f**king nutso. [Laughs]

John Fawcett: [Laughs] It is crazy; it’s crazy. That’s what I like about the show so much is that we can just do this crazy shit and people seem to love it. The more craziness [laughs], the more people seem to like it. Because we just have characters where you can do that kinda thing with, you know?

N: And what you guys were saying on the panel, about playing with genre and stuff. We saw a bit of that in season two, but is that going to be amped up or sorta stay the same in season three?

JF: Oh no, everything changes in season three! Really changes.

N: Oh my god.

JF: Yeah, really changes. You know what? I think that you kinda do things for a little while and you’re like, ‘OK, now we’ve got to shake it all up again,’ you know? When we sat down to plan season three, we realized that we couldn’t just plan season three. We had to plan season four and five — because there was never any, I don’t know. We had a loose plan for three seasons, to get to the end of three seasons. And we really had season one sorted. And then it was like, as we went through season two and went to Comic-Con we were like, ‘The show’s doing really well, no one’s going to be happy if we think we’re going to end this story at the end of three seasons.’ We really have to map this out. We have to expand it and make sure that we know we have five seasons worth of material to get to the end. It’s a story though, ‘cuz it’s got a finite ending and there’s only so much, I think, we can do to kinda keep the song and dance going before we need to end the story. But the good thing is, through that planning period back in May, I feel really strong about where season three, four, and five are going.

N: That’s exciting!

JF: It is exciting, because every year we’re kinda trying to push things in a different direction and shake it up. That’s sort of the fun of the show.

N: Especially a series with such a fervent fan base as Orphan Black, it could very easily slip into fan service-y territory, which can so often be the kiss of death for a show.

JF: Yeah, I think we know it when it’s happening and it’s fun to milk it a little bit — when you know what fans really love, but when fans really love something it’s always fun to be cruel also. Sometimes fans wanting something is really where you go, ‘Hmm, I think we should be doing the opposite then.’ So sometimes it also adds a little fuel to how we go the other way. So it’s interesting, the social media kinda functions in that way for us. Right from the very beginning, Graeme [Manson, the series’ co-creator] and I said when people start predicting the story, that’s when we need to change it and go another way. Even if that means going against what our plans are, you know?

N: Well like you said, I know you’ve planned out seasons 1 – 3 when you were initially developing the show. Has a lot of that changed now that you’re three seasons in?

JF: Yeah, for sure. I think things like Project Castor were always part of our original plan, way back before we even started shooting the series. We know a lot of the big ticket things that were going to spell out the mystery for us, but you develop it every year and it hones and changes. You discover things along the way, and you want to emphasize certain relationships and de-emphasize others. I think, within the structure that we’ve given it, we like that feeling of being able to be loose and organic with the material. Because I think it brings a kind of spontaneity to the work. I think it brings a reality to things, too, when you can kinda just go with what’s working, you know what I mean? Rather than go ‘here’s the plan, and it’s very rigid, and we’re going adhere to this,’ you know? I think a lot of the time what you end up with is artificial drama then.

And what has always been important with this show is, for me and for Graeme, is to take what is a very absurd premise and make people believe in the characters and invest in the characters — so we go with that. That’s always been a priority, that you believe the characters. And that goes hand in hand with the visual effects, too.

N: Well yeah, they’re quite impressive and extensive on this show! And so often they’re really terrible on TV shows because they’re so expensive to use.

JF: They don’t call attention to themselves, they’re just there to allow people to believe. It’s funny because my visual effects supervisor says we’re never going to get a visual effects nomination because no one ever sees what they do. It’s all seamless and people don’t realize they’re watching a really technical visual effects show.

N: Part of that is probably Tatiana’s fault, too. [Laughs]

JF: Yeah, but they’re not just in the clone scenes — they’re happening all throughout. They’re never used in a way that calls attention to themselves, ever. One of the things I laughed about that I spent visual effects money on was last season. There was a scene with Felix and Colin and there’s this montage. Felix is getting dressed and then Colin comes over and they’re kissing, and it winds up with Felix without his shirt on, on the couch, and Colin grabbing a big bottle of lube. [Laughs] And Colin goes like this [Fawcett air-squirts a bunch of air-lube into his hand]. Well the lube kinda only dripped out of the bottle and it just looked lame, so I spent a good, I don’t know, $1,500 to make it like a good [more squirt noises] pile of squirt; like coming out of a ketchup bottle.

N: [Laughs] That’s truly amazing.

JF: But it’s never about wanting anyone to see the visual effects, it’s all about making them invisible and enhancing the storytelling.

N: Switching gears slightly, but, now that you’ve written a whole season of male clone stories, has anything surprised you about the male clone trajectory versus the female one?

JF: Well, this is a story about our girls. This is a story about Sarah and her sisters and Project Castor and the male clones really are necessary in the storytelling of the mystery. As much as we’re invested about what’s really cool about the male clones, that’s a means to an end for us. But at the same time it’s really cool — because we have Ari [Millen, who plays the Project Castor boys] and we’re working on different characters and there’s a new angle to what it’s like; it’s a very different story to what it’s like to be a female clone, but the reason it’s there is to get answers. It’s all about getting answers, but getting them through characters and through the human aspect of this project.

N: There was something I noticed in the notes that we got, the new character named Dr. Coady [played by Warehouse 13‘s Kyra Harper] also goes by mother?

JF: Bad Mother. In the same way that Helena started her way as “Assassin Black,” Coady began her life as “Bad Mother” and often we still call her that.

N: Is it safe for me to assume she must be a motherly figure to the male clones?

JF: This is a really interesting new character for season three and she’s complex. She’s not what you expect — and I think we like to do that. It’s just sort of the fun of the show.

N: It’s very important that all these new characters, even if they’re there to service a function, don’t feel as if that function is the only thing driving them the whole way. Which must be fun to play with since it’s actually sort of counterintuitive, considering the clone aspect.

JF: Yeah even the male clones, who have grown up a little bit more together, so it makes them very different even just right there compared to the female clones, who’ve grown up in very disparate environments and communities. They’ve kind of been sequestered. And all of this is certainly a big challenge for Ari.

N: I can’t even begin to imagine how crazy all of this must feel to him.

JF: Well, that’s the whole thing. The whole thing’s a bit of a mindf**k, frankly, and that’s a really good example. Especially for him as an actor, to think he’s doing one thing and then — wait a second — now this is something different.

N: It’s one of those moments where you stop and go “OK wait though, because this actually changes everything.”

JF: Well it’s interesting because we just didn’t know. We knew that Castor needed a face and that was just one of those things that we found organically and it was honestly well into season two that we realized who it needed to be. And then a lot of things we were trying to solve fell into place when we realized that was the solution.

It’s a big challenge for him and he’s doing a LOT of work, but he’s doing a great job and I think the show is really cool because we’ve gone in a direction — and are going in new directions — that I think people will hopefully go with. It’s definitely a f**king trip. Whether everyone loves the decisions we’re making or not, I don’t know. But it’s definitely a f**king trip.

How excited are YOU for the new season of Orphan Black? Let’s hear it in the comments.

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  1. Kaitlyn says:

    YES YES YES!!! I can’t wait until the new season! Tatiana is absolutely brilliant in these roles and I am beyond excited to see what they do with Ari. This show has such an amazing cast. Certainly one of the best on television. 

  2. Bea says:

    Someone give that girl an Emmy already. Super excited. 

  3. Paige says:

    oh my god! cannot express how much I love this show. it’s so well written and acted and made. This is the sort of thing I hope to work on/make when I break into the industry because its a real mindf**k but really keeps you interested ☺ keep it coming! xxx

  4. cj says:

    beyond excited.