(WARNING: if you haven’t seen the Season 4 premiere of Orphan Black, there are spoilers within this post. Watch or re-watch the season premiere right here for free on BBCAMERICA.com—and share with a friend.)
Kevin Hanchard has many reasons to smile these days. Not only is the actor in the thick of it with his role as Detective Art Bell on BBC AMERICA’s critically acclaimed drama Orphan Black, Hanchard is in-demand in both movies and TV. He boasts roles on The Expanse, Rogue, The Girlfriend Experience, and now he’s co-starring with Ethan Hawke as jazz great Dizzy Gillespie in the Chet Baker biopic Born to be Blue. We chatted with Hanchard about his busy schedule and that scene in the fourth season premiere of Orphan Black.
ANGLO: How would you describe Art’s evolution as a character over the last three seasons of Orphan Black? He’s becoming more and more wrapped up in the Clone Club story.
HANCHARD: Well, it’s been an interesting thing because Art came in as this guy who was threatening to blow up the whole thing. He was this guy who was just angry, and we didn’t know what he was so angry about from the beginning. Especially this season, we get to find out why he’s so invested in Beth, why he’s willing to go along with the sisters, potentially at his own peril. Why? What is that all about? We start to really get that onion peeled back and find out what’s at the heart of his motivation vis-à-vis the women and what the mystery of the story’s about.
I think that the whole idea of this season is about going back to the beginning to find out where we’re going moving forward. Because we’re moving towards something, but to be able to really get there, we’ve got to make sure that the whole foundation is laid out, and everybody knows that we’ve got a great jumping-off point. So we’ve started to answer some of those questions that have either been glossed over or that we haven’t had an opportunity to really dig into. We see that with Art, and we see that with a lot of the characters this season, and I think people are really going to dig that.
ANGLO: How was it to finally dig into the history with Art and Beth?
HANCHARD: Here’s the thing I always talk about when I do interviews. My agent always tells me, “You’ve got to stop talking about the fact that you do theater!” I’m a theater actor. I’m so used to having a whole arc plotted out for me from beginning to end. But for a show like this that’s now going into its fourth season, you don’t know what that end point is going to be. So you play each scene for what it is with an idea for what the overriding arc is. But you’ve got to play your cards close to the vest and make sure that you leave yourself open for options that the writers may have down the line or things that may pop up.
To actually be able to go back and get these solid answers was great and reconciled all the things that we’ve done to this point. OK, if we play this scene, the love scene, how it actually happened between Beth and Art, does that make sense given what’s happened later on and how things have played out between the two of them, how he’s acted with Sarah as Beth and so on? It’s a wonderful sort of puzzle to put together, and it was a great challenge as an actor.
ANGLO: Let’s talk about that love scene. How did you and Tatiana collaborate on that particular moment?
HANCHARD: I think we hit the mark. Now that we’ve had some time to steep and grow and learn what these characters are about more, it was really great and really organic. The fortunate thing for this season was that we knew that this was going to be important stuff, and we were afforded the opportunity to have rehearsals. Usually, when you shoot a scene, you have about 10 minutes of rehearsal before you shoot, but [for this] we had a day to really talk through the scenes and the relationships and actually plot it out and make sure it made sense, which is so comforting. To make sure we’re all telling the same story, and we’re all telling the right story.
For me, it was really important, given Beth’s drug abuse history, that the line that’s crossed is handled delicately and properly. That you don’t have a woman who’s under the influence or for it to be viewed as someone taking advantage of someone who’s in a weakened state or in a diminished capacity. There had to be an understanding that [Beth] was someone who had the ability to make an informed decision to cross that line. And that was something that was very important to me. We talked through that and dealt with it with John [Fawcett, the director], Tatiana, and myself. And I think that speaks to the relationship between Tatiana and myself as friends and as actors and our relationship with John as a co-creator as well. I’m really happy with how it turned out, and I think everyone else is as well. And I’m just excited to hear the collective sounds of millions of brains exploding when they see that scene played out on screen.
ANGLO: What’s your dream scenario for Art in the Orphan story?
HANCHARD: A spin-off series, that’s it! (laughs) You know what, I think there’s so much more left in this story. I would love it if Art really was the one who cracked the whole mystery because he is “sleuthy,” if I can make a up a word. He’s got a nose for this mystery and part of what drives him is that he’s got this dogged determination to figure out what happened to his partner. I think he feels like it’s the least he can do—he’s duty-bound to find out exactly what happened, who’s at fault, and to bring them to justice. I would love it—if he’s not “The Guy” because Sarah is the protagonist in this story—but if he’s right there, side-by-side with her when or if this whole thing gets solved, and the people who perpetrated this are brought to justice, that would actually be my dream scenario. If he would actually be there at that moment of truth.
ANGLO: You play Dizzy Gillespie in the new Chet Baker biopic Born to be Blue starring Ethan Hawke. How did that part come about?
HANCHARD: It was kind of like Orphan Black in that it was just another audition. You get the phone call that says you got an audition tomorrow. It’s 5 o’clock in the evening, and you have an audition tomorrow at 9:30 a.m., and you just gotta put it together as best you can in the limited amount of time that you have. But I was really intrigued by it because it was Dizzy Gillespie, and he was always one of those figures that I was sort of remiss that I didn’t know much about as a kid. I learned about Dizzy Gillespie on The Cosby Show! Like how terrible is that? It’s great and it’s terrible at the same time. I had this crazy kid sort of fascination with the guy who could puff his cheeks out that big. But then at that point you do a little bit more research, as a kid even, about who he was as a jazz legend.
ANGLO: What did you learn about Dizzy Gillespie in researching for the role?
HANCHARD: I learned about his religious beliefs, how deeply spiritual he was, which was a great thing. It helped me understand why he was sort of as in the pocket as he was in almost all of the interviews that I saw. It was a really great thing to behold, you know. More than anything else, it gave me a sense of peace and comfort in being able to not really go over-the-top and have to put together a caricature of who this guy was. I just had find that soul, which was typified in everything that he did. He had an uncanny ability to get to the heart of music and be able to stir up something in people that not many others were able to. So, for me, that was the most lasting thing I was able to discover when I was looking into the role.
ANGLO: You have so many roles these days. How do you find the time and keep track of all the roles you’re playing these days?
HANCHARD: It’s a gift, it really is. It’s a dream come true for me to be able to be bouncing from set to set. There was a moment in time when I was shooting Orphan Black and The Expanse at the same time, and they were both being shot at the same studio. So I was just bouncing from soundstage to soundstage day to day, so I was going essentially from Toronto to Mars. What more can you ask for as an actor than to be able to put on different masks and costumes and, the thing is, I’m playing a cop in [both series]. I have to find the differences between these guys. One’s an intergalactic police officer, and one’s a regular terrestrial police officer, but there are different motivations that drive them, different nuances. It’s all about flexing your muscles and exercising your talents and abilities in different ways. And to be able to do that is just great.
I’ve always heard about actors who say, “You know, I’ve reached my limit. I’ve played this one guy on General Hospital for 10 years and that’s enough. Blah blah blah.” But to be able to switch and change and do different characters and play a jazz musician and play a lawyer and I played a comedian a couple years ago as well—it’s all one could ever dream of. And I’m just fortunate that things have really bounced my way over the past couple of years.
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