Etiquette

Tatiana Maslany Talks Terrible Accents and Tough Love

The "Orphan Black" star gives us some insight into playing a small army of clones, confesses to the bad hip-hop that gets her through the day, and advises our listeners on what to do if they look like Moby.

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(Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images for GLAAD)

Brendan Francis Newnam: Each week, you send in your questions about how to behave, and here to answer them this time around is actor Tatiana Maslany. For the last three years, she’s starred as not one, not two, but nine (and counting) characters on the much-acclaimed BBC America series “Orphan Black.”

It’s about a woman who finds out she’s one of many identical clones, and with the help of her clone sisters, who range from uptight soccer moms to stoners, she — actually, that sounds like my high school class [Tatiana laughs] — she tries to get to the bottom of how it all happened. Last year, she earned an Emmy nomination for Best Actress, but it could have been nine nominations… you like that?

Tatiana Maslany: I like that. Nobody’s said that before!

Rico Gagliano: Really?

Tatiana Maslany: No!

Brendan Francis Newnam: well, hat tip to our producer, Jackson Musker. Anyway, the series returns April 14th, and Tatiana, welcome.

Tatiana Maslany: Thank you so much for having me.

Rico Gagliano: Thanks for being here.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So first of all, auditioning for this role, did you have to read nine different parts?

Tatiana Maslany: We didn’t know about most of the clones at that point. So there were like three or four who I had to do. And one of them was Sarah playing Beth.

Rico Gagliano: Oh — The punky Sarah clone, pretending to be Beth, who’s a cop.

Tatiana Maslany: Yeah. So the kind of like mashed-up-clone thing. But yeah, it was just kind of like theater sports, in front of the crowd of execs.

Rico Gagliano: That’s something, ’cause Sarah has a British accent, and Beth is quite… Canadian, I suppose?

Tatiana Maslany: Yeah. Or like, non-threatening just general North American.

Brendan Francis Newnam: [Laughs.] Yeah, she is generic North American.

Rico Gagliano: Well, let’s hear a scene that features one of those characters. We’re gonna hear in order: Alison, the soccer mom clone; then Sarah, the punky Brit, and then the introduction of Cosima, who’s a stoner. All of them played by Tatiana Maslany.

Rico Gagliano: [All laugh.] So good. But it’s so complicated.

Tatiana Maslany: Oh my God.

Rico Gagliano: Like, it isn’t difficult enough that you have scenes like that one, where you’ve got three clones played by the same person. But sometimes, as you mentioned, one clone will pretend to be another clone. How do you keep even just the plot straight in your head?

Tatiana Maslany: That is totally beyond me. The plot, I have no idea. That’s why I struggle so much in these things, like in press. ‘Cause people are like, “So tell us about the direction this season!” I’m like, “I have no clue what’s going on.” I can only take care of what I’m doing in that moment, because there’s just so many plot lines. And I’m just not a plot person.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Do you ever hear a maniacal cackle from the writer’s room?

Tatiana Maslany: Yeah.

Rico Gagliano:This will drive her insane!”

Tatiana Maslany: “Screw you, Tat!” Yeah. “Good luck, buddy!”

Brendan Francis Newnam: It is really intense. We actually created a software program just to get ready for this interview.

Tatiana Maslany: Oh nice!

Cosima (Tatiana Maslany), Sarah (Tatiana Maslany), and Cosima's friend/lab partner Scott (Josh Vokey) are also trying to figure out what's going on. (Photo Credit: Ken Woroner for BBC AMERICA)
Cosima, Sarah, and Cosima’s friend/lab partner Scott (Josh Vokey) are also trying to figure out what’s going on. (Photo Credit: Ken Woroner for BBC AMERICA)

Brendan Francis Newnam: We’ll share it with you afterward.

Tatiana Maslany: Could you please pass that on to me?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well, it requires some heavy government computers.

Tatiana Maslany: Right, OK.

Rico Gagliano: The most recent season ended with a dinner party. Forgive us for bringing it up, but you know — that’s the name of our show. And it featured four of your clone characters, mixed in with other clones around a long table. Even knowing about green screens and such things, it’s crazy to watch that unfold. How did the actual filming of that scene happen?

Tatiana Maslany: Well that was complicated. We had rehearsal so we could get down the details of, “Well, who passes the beef to who and when?” And “How can we touch each other, but not touch each other.”

But that scene I shot mostly with people, which was kind of nice.

Rico Gagliano: Oh — because usually if the clones hang out they’re just talking amongst themselves. And this time there were other people for the clones to talk to.

Tatiana Maslany: Yeah. Until I played Helena, who’s like the Ukrainian serial killer….

Brendan Francis Newnam: Spoiler alert!

Tatiana Maslany: …Exactly. Yeah, sorry guys. But Helena sat at the table by herself for three minutes, eating broccoli with sugar on it and just talking to nobody. Which kind of made sense. That was the easiest clone scene I’ve ever done.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That was the one clone you understood.

Tatiana Maslany: Yeah! It was like “This, this is true.”

Rico Gagliano: You have, in other interviews, talked a little bit about how you prepare to portray each different character. You apparently keep a playlist of music for each character and listen to it before you portray them. But we actually had a listener — we’re gonna get to some listener etiquette questions in a minute here — but we had a listener write in and actually ask what you, Tatiana, listen to music-wise.

Tatiana Maslany: Currently?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yes.

Tatiana Maslany: Oh my God. It’s so embarrassing.

Brendan Francis Newnam: No, we like that.

Tatiana Maslany: Right now, it’s… honestly, I don’t know what happened to me, but I re-discovered the Ying Yang Twins. And I was like…

Brendan Francis Newnam: Whoa.

Tatiana Maslany: Yeah, terrible!

Brendan Francis Newnam: No, I don’t even know them… are they Canadian?

Tatiana Maslany: No, no, they’re hor-, like they’re not good musicians. They’re like terrible rap music that’s… look up “The Whisper Song.” I was… yeah. It’s so bad.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s been your jam lately?

Tatiana Maslany: It’s a lot of terrible hip-hop right now. ‘Cause I’m tired, and I feel like I need something to keep me going.

Brendan Francis Newnam: It gives you energy.

Tatiana Maslany: Yeah.

Rico Gagliano: Well, that’s legit.

Brendan Francis Newnam: No shame in that.

Tatiana Maslany: It’s not. Don’t encourage me, please.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I can’t wait to put a big dose of Ying Yang, in this interview.

Tatiana Maslany: I really am so embarrassed right now.

Rico Gagliano: Well look — Tatiana, you play nine characters, so clearly you can relate to other people. [Tatiana laughs.] You ready for these questions?

Tatiana Maslany: OK, yeah.

What would Moby do?

Rico Gagliano: Question number one comes from someone calling themselves GhostSaffron, via Instagram.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Good name!

Tatiana Maslany: Really cool.

Rico Gagliano: Both cool things: ghosts and saffron. “My partner,” writes GhostSaffron, “often gets mistaken for a certain music celebrity. The past couple times, he’s just played along, posing for photos and signing dinner napkins.”

Tatiana Maslany: Ooh.

Rico Gagliano: “The celebrity spotters were thrilled, and my partner was saved the hassle of insisting he isn’t a celebrity. Even so, this is probably ethically questionable. What should one do? Should he keep doing it or not? P.S. The musician is Moby.”

Tatiana Maslany: Ohhhh! That’s a look. That’s a specific look.

Rico Gagliano: It’s kind of cool.

Tatiana Maslany: I think… I feel like that’s OK. I feel like that’s totally reasonable.

Rico Gagliano: Really?

Tatiana Maslany: But I don’t know… would Moby be open to autographs, do you think?

Rico Gagliano: I think, probably.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, Moby’s actually a pretty approachable fellow in Los Angeles.

Tatiana Maslany: Is he? Oh.

Brendan Francis Newnam: He owns a restaurant in Los Angeles…

Rico Gagliano: He’s around.

Brendan Francis Newnam: He’s a man about town.

Tatiana Maslany: OK. Well, then, yeah! Spread the love, I think.

Alison would probably have a different solution... (Photo Credit:Ken Woroner for BBC AMERICA)
Alison would probably have a different solution… (Photo Credit:Ken Woroner for BBC AMERICA)

Brendan Francis Newnam: Although, it could be ethically… if I’m not mistaken, Moby doesn’t drink, for example.

Rico Gagliano: Yes, and he’s a vegan, as well.

Tatiana Maslany: Oh, yeah!

Brendan Francis Newnam: So, if you do identify as a certain celebrity, your behavior…

Tatiana Maslany: You have to act as that celebrity.

Brendan Francis Newnam: …They may be monitoring you.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, you can’t be just, like, swilling directly from a bottle of J.D.

Tatiana Maslany: Yeah, exactly.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So, it could get complicated.

Tatiana Maslany: Also, what about those, like, “looky-likey” scenarios, where you just walk around at parties dressed as Michael Douglas or as Catherine Zeta-Jones?

Rico Gagliano: Paid lookalikes, yeah.

Tatiana Maslany: They have agents, and they go in to be paid… to looky alikey.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I see.

Tatiana Maslany: And so, I think this guy should really capitalize on this.

Brendan Francis Newnam: No lawsuits will come of that, right?

Tatiana Maslany: No, not at all.

Brendan Francis Newnam: If you’re like, “I’m Moby. I can DJ here.”

Tatiana Maslany: Absolutely.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s bad advice, I think.

Tatiana Maslany: Thanks! You’re welcome.

Rico Gagliano: But if you want to take it, GhostSaffron, you’ve got a career lying ahead of you, being Moby.

Dealing with bad fake British accent

Brendan Francis Newnam: There you go. Next question comes from Liz in Virginia, and Liz writes: “My friend, an American, does a terrible British accent! The thing is, she thinks it’s the best. I don’t think I should tell her because it would totally crush her. Then again, since she’s known to share her talent with other people, so maybe I’d save her some embarrassment. Thoughts welcome in any accent.”

Tatiana Maslany: I’m always concerned about somebody who’s like, “This is the best!” Like, “This thing I do is the best!”

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s a red flag.

Tatiana Maslany: I feel like that’s a big red flag. I think, as a friend, you need to be like, “Hey, here’s a lesson in humility.” So, maybe she needs to actually go through it and actually, like…

Brendan Francis Newnam: Be humiliated?

Tatiana Maslany: Yeah, be humiliated! Buy her a ticket… take her to the U.K. Take her to a pub in the U.K.

Brendan Francis Newnam: But the British are too polite!

Tatiana Maslany: No.

Brendan Francis Newnam: No? Ok.

Tatiana Maslany: I think with that stuff…

Rico Gagliano: They’d call her out?

Tatiana Maslany: Yeah, because I’ve been called out on my terrible British accent!

Brendan Francis Newnam: But you don’t really use your accent for anything other than a major television show produced by the BBC.

Tatiana Maslany: A major motion picture, yeah.

Rico Gagliano: Actually, what would “Sarah,” the British clone, have for a piece of advice for Liz?

Tatiana Maslany: She’d be like…I don’t know. I think she would just, like…

Rico Gagliano: No, use the… do the accent!

Tatiana Maslany: There’s no way!

Rico Gagliano: You won’t do the accent?

Tatiana Maslany: You can’t pimp me out to do the accent.

Rico Gagliano: Why not?
Brendan Francis Newnam: Nice try, Rico.

Tatiana Maslany: I’m in, like, a granny sweater right now. I need the clothing.

Rico Gagliano: Come on!

Tatiana Maslany: I am so sorry.

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right. So, wait, but we do have Liz’s answer: So, you’re saying that… take her to Britain, have her humiliated in a pub…

Tatiana Maslany: Throw her to the wolves! [Laughs] I’m such a mean friend.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s a pretty expensive way to deal with this question.

Tatiana Maslany: It’s super-expensive, but it’s worth it.

Twin dating “bro-tocol”

Rico Gagliano: Here’s something from Dave in New York. Dave writes: “I have a twin brother…”

Brendan Francis Newnam: We see a theme here.

Tatiana Maslany: Yeah.

Rico Gagliano: “We have a mutual friend who I want to ask out, but I kind of get the impression my brother is also interested in her…”

Tatiana Maslany: Oh, no!

Rico Gagliano: “Think it’s cool if I just go ahead and ask her, or am I under any obligation to give him a heads-up first? I don’t know the… ‘bro-tocol.'”

Brendan Francis Newnam: [mock dismay] Ohhhh…

Tatiana Maslany: [mock dismay] Ohhhh…

Rico Gagliano: “…I bet this question also applies to clones,” says Dave.

Tatiana Maslany: Clone-tocol.

I’m concerned about this, for a few reasons.

My first instinct was like, “Freaky Friday” that! You can both date her [laughs]. That’s so wrong!

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh. No, that’s very modern.

Tatiana Maslany: But I’d say, this is your twin brother. Do you not have that twin-brother-brain-vibey thing? Where you go, “Oh, I know exactly what you’re thinking at all times?”

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, I thought that’s supposed to happen!

Tatiana Maslany: Exactly.

Brendan Francis Newnam: But he kind of does. He knows his brother likes this person. I mean, I feel like the Bible and other things covered this topic.

Tatiana Maslany: What doth the Bible tell us? Matthew 35…

Brendan Francis Newnam: I think Shakespeare covered… I mean, I feel like this is not an uncommon scenario. But what would Tatiana, what would you do?

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, yeah, the Bible. But Tatiana, what do you have to say?

Tatiana Maslany: I’d say talk to your bro. Really bro down with him, and be like, “I have feelings for this girl. How deep is your love?” And then have a competition about it.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Arm wrestle?

Tatiana Maslany: Yeah, exactly.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I also just want to point out another point of etiquette. At first, when I saw “bro-tocol,” I was a little scared. But they’re actually brothers, so I’m going to say it’s OK to use the phrase “bro” here.

Tatiana Maslany: Because it’s not like, [uses dumb-person voice] “bros.” It’s like bros, brothers.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, it’s an actual…

Rico Gagliano: Brother-cal.

Tatiana Maslany: Yeah; Brother-cal!

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, there you go, Dave.

Rico Gagliano: Multiple solutions to one etiquette question, Dave in New York. Which makes perfect sense coming from a woman who plays nine characters. Tatiana Maslany, thank you so much for telling our audience how to behave. It was a pleasure having you.

Tatiana Maslany: Thank you. And I’m so sorry. So, so sorry!

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