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Sherry White: A Little Breather

I was a late-comer to the Orphan Black writing team. I came into the show already a fan, and though that was cool, it was kind of intimidating. I knew right away I was slotted to write the Alison “farce” episode, and I was warned that they are the hardest ones. After Aubrey’s amazing and intense Episode 306, we wanted 307 to be a little breather — a break from the conspiracy stuff. A fun episode. I somehow thought that fun equaled easy. I was wrong. It was hard! (But who am I kidding? They’re all hard.)

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We decided that because Sarah was on the road, it would be fun to have Cosima play Alison. But then there was the old “braided hair” issue we had to work around. (Luckily we had Felix around to whip up a new set of bangs.) It was a puzzle, trying to get it all to happen. We knew we wanted to introduce Alison’s mother in the episode. We knew we wanted to highlight the campaign. We knew we wanted Alison to purchase Bubbles. So here is what I was tasked to do: write a story that took place at the school trustee candidates’ event at Alison’s old high school where she and Jason get to have a Grosse Pointe Blank kind of high school reunion… at the same time as Alison’s meddling mother shows up to cause trouble… while Donnie also needs help getting out of his drug deal gone wrong… just as Alison is in the midst of convincing her mother to let her purchase Bubbles Soap store… all while Cosima is looking to borrow Alison’s pee and mistakenly gets dragged into Alison’s vortex? In one episode. (With a Helena/Sarah story and a Rachel/Scott peppered in there as well) Yikers. Thank God I wasn’t the only writer whose brain was on this story. What a team of amazing people.

Oh, and um, Technodolly? Can you say “torture?” I ate more food on the Orphan Black set than I’ve ever eaten in my life because clone scenes are torture to watch be filmed. On the day we were shooting the Mexican bar scene with Helena, Sarah, and Mrs. S., I thought I was going to eat my leg. How did Tat do this every episode? Finally, at around 8 o’clock at night I had to leave (yay being a single mom!) — but the shoot kept going till midnight. The next day, I saw Tat transformed into Alison at the high school location. I walked up to her, looking sympathetic, a little sheepish in fact. I felt guilty that I ducked out before wrap the night before. But I smiled and said, “How did the rest of last night go?” And she looked at me, very serious, and said, “Oh my GOD. It was sooooo….

fun.

That’s what’s so magic about Tatiana. She is having fun and makes it fun for the people around her.

Random tidbits:

• During the bathroom scene, one of Tat’s amazing photo doubles was working her way through the scene as Alison. Then, next thing you know she books it out of shot and into the bathroom stall, throwing up her guts in the toilet. She had a stomach bug and was fighting it hard, but couldn’t hold it in.
A.) What a trooper! and B.) So glad we were shooting in a real bathroom.

• I played Tat’s mother in the film Grown Up Movie Star in 2009. She was extraordinary then as well.

• I went to a real life school trustee debate as research, and it was far weirder than we could do. It was held in a primary school, in the library, where we sat on small chairs and took part in “getting to know each other” exercises before the debate took place.

• Oh. And when Chris Roberts suggested Alison call Jason “Jage” (short for Jay-Jay), I laughed so hard I fell off my chair. Only time that ever happened to me.

• Chris and I also shared an office, and it was like we were two teenagers in our first apartment with nobody telling us to clean up so we didn’t. It was gross. Best officemate ever.

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