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Aubrey Nealon: Paul’s Goodbye

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When you write on a show as serialized as Orphan Black, you don’t get to decide what stories you’ll tell in your episode. Your job is to provide a chapter in the larger story, often working with beats that were mapped out by the writing team as a whole many weeks before. Sometimes this means you’re tasked with handling material that’s not necessarily in your wheelhouse. Other times you’re given pure gold.

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Episode 306 fell squarely in the gold category. I couldn’t believe my luck. For starters, the episode has a great launch point thanks to Alex Levine’s kick-ass 305. Sarah has gone to the ends of the earth to save Helena, only to watch the little monster betray her and leave her alone and imprisoned in the Castor camp. From here, we knew the beats of 306 would include Sarah’s discovery of Coady’s true motives, a visitation from Beth, a reckoning between Helena and her scorpion, and most important of all, an escape from the Castor camp in which Paul would die.

 

That’s juicy stuff. Eliminating a key character is not something we do lightly. I’d been through this process last season when we killed off Dr. Leekie. We had countless conversations about just how that moment should unfold, not to mention who should be the killer. When we finally landed on Donnie as the Leekie-slayer, we knew the scene would require a Donnie-ish tone, and we came up with the accidental execution in the car—shocking, gory, funny.

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For Paul we had a much different death in mind. Paul has been so mysterious and mercurial through the course of the series that we wanted to use 306 to finally see his true nature. We wanted his death to tell us something about him, to show his decency and heroism. And not just for the character’s sake, but for the actor’s sake too. Dylan Bruce is a huge part of the OB family, and he deserved a proper sendoff. We did our best to give it to him.

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Here’s what I’ll remember about shooting 306 with Dylan. Picture this: it’s 3 a.m., we’ve been going for hours, and Dylan has already put in a monster day, from a physically demanding fight sequence with Miller to a complex betrayal scene with Coady. Now he has to deliver the emotional heart of the episode: he has to say goodbye to Sarah, knowing he’s going to die. The fake blood from his knife wound has seeped down his pants and thickened into a sticky paste, so that each time his takes a step, it tears hairs out. Director Helen Shaver (who deserves a blog entry of her own for the spectacular work she did on this episode) asks Dylan to do another take on the crucial line of the scene. Then she asks him to do it again, then again once more. This goes on for many takes. Each time he’s told to go again, Dylan gamely moves to his starting position, takes a breath, and throws himself into the moment. And each time, he kills it. Brings everything he’s got. One take after another, on and on into the night.

From the outside, it looks agonizing. But when the scene is finally complete, Dylan flashes that grin of his and gives his torturer Helen a big hug, thanking her for the experience. He was having a blast. That’s the kind of guy he is: a total pro and a quality human being to boot. We’ll miss him.

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