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Season 3 Finale: Q&A with Graeme Manson and Aubrey Nealon

Season 4 Writers’ Assistant, Renée St. Cyr, sat down with Graeme Manson and Aubrey Nealon to ask them a few questions about Season 3’s finale and what’s in store for Season 4.

Renée: Hey Clone Club! This is Rae. I’m sitting across from these awesome writers — Graeme and Nealon — in the Season 4 writers’ room. Let’s get started.

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This is Episode 10 spread out on the operating table.

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First off, can you talk about what it’s like at the end of production and the pressures surrounding a finale episode?

Graeme: At the end of production you’re always behind. This was no different. Both of us remember an emotional blur of extremely rapid development for the episode. The production team totally stepped up, even though we were delivering materials to them much later than usual.

Aubrey: They were working at breakneck speed. It helped that John was directing.

G: We had the advantage of communicating in shorthand. You know, finales are both great to write but super challenging. You are trying to go out with a bang and tie off a bunch of storylines while setting up the story for next season.

R: Speaking of next season… is Delphine dead?!

G: It’s literally so hard for me to discuss this without becoming totally emo.

A: Seriously though, we never make these decisions lightly.

G: We created the part of Delphine for Evelyne Brochu, and worked with her through three seasons to craft a rewarding, endlessly interesting and complex relationship between her and Cosima.

A: Despite the ups and downs, we always knew that Delphine and Cosima loved each other. It was a beautiful relationship that we really enjoyed writing.

G: The thing is, this is TV, and on a show like Orphan Black with a big cast and lots of moving parts, you have to tell a story with the pieces that are available. We made a choice to tell the strongest dramatic story we could. We did it working closely with Evelyne and Tatiana. The incredible actor that she is, Evelyne embraced the tragic climax to her character. Actors love dying, guys. Sorry, it’s true.

R: Nooooo. I’m so sad. I should’ve waited and asked that question at the end. Give me a moment to be emo too.

R: So what about Castor and Leda. Can you say anything about how they’re both infiltrated by Neolution?

A: We’re excited that Neolution is able to permeate these big structures, implementing their plan through them. We like the feeling of “they could be anywhere.”

G: At this point, Sarah has peeled back all the players to reveal the true enemy. Now she knows what she’s up against. This is an entirely new enemy – not just a corporation or military, but an ideology. It’s exciting for us to double back to Season 1 when we first introduced Neolution. Our characters have come to understand that it is much more than their original impression.

A: It’s not just Leekie’s pop science.

R: We saw that with Ferdinand. He wasn’t even aware that Topside was a spoke in Neolution’s wheel. Does he remain our ally and help fight Neolution?

A: We like finding friends in unlikely places just as much as we like finding enemies in unlikely places.

G: We don’t want characters to be black and white, but challenge their allegiances by placing them in complex situations. We like James Frain being evil. He’s a dangerous friend to have because he’s shown that he can bite.

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James Frain sniffs out Neolution right next to him. RIP Earl Pastko

R: I wanted to talk about Cosima’s illness. Now that we have the original’s blood, can we expect a cure?

G: Creating a gene therapy based on the synthetic sequences we get from the original is some of the science we want to explore this season, yes.

A: And the fact that we have what Neolution wants certainly sets us up for conflict.

R: The Castor storyline provided most of the conflict in Season 3. Will they be playing a role in Season 4?

G: Sarah spent a large part of this season understanding Castor. Just like discovering the “original,” it’s really about her discovering her own story. As genetic siblings, Castor remains important to our girls. Mark is perhaps the one brother who has earned the right to call himself a brother, and we will definitely see Ari Millen again next season.

R: We better. I want more naked meditation.

G: The writers do that.

A: Alex Levine is totally into it.

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R: In Season 3, we learned quite a lot more about Mrs. S’s backstory. Will you be further delving into those backstories?

G: The reveal of Kendall and delving into the history of Mrs. S opened up the opportunity for us to shed some light on our clones’ origin. Kendall’s resurfacing certainly gives Maria more family to explore. We want to dig deeper into her, but next season we’re really interested in crafting an individual journey for Felix.

R: That’s really exciting. So along with Mrs. S reuniting with her mother so did Rachel. Can you describe the decision to bring back Rachel’s mother?

G: In the second season we revealed Ethan Duncan, the father side of this scientific parentage. In the back of our minds we always thought it would be really cool to meet the mother side of their creator parents. We’re particularly excited about giving Rachel the satisfaction and/or agony of meeting her long lost parent.

R: The big clone scene in Season 3 was the dinner table scene. What can you tell us about shooting that?

A: We turn to Alison to give a voice to the regular life that these sisters could be leading. The substance of that “toast” is the sisters’ combined efforts to make time for Donnie and Alison so they could lead a normal(ish) life; it’s a victory for the sisters.

G: It was one of John’s concepts very early in the season to do a dinner scene, similar to how the dance party was a reward for the characters last season, and one for Clone Club. This year, sitting our key cast all at the table was a gas for them — it was the first time they all had a scene together. It took two days to shoot. It wasn’t just a capper for the season, but a visual that represents their unity in moving forward.

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Blocking out the “Clone Toast”

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Tatiana sets her Sarah-to-Alison eyeline. (Then sets her Helena-to-Alison eyeline, then Cosima-to-Sarah, then Alison-to-Cosima … etc, etc, eek!)

A: But of course — since this is Orphan Black — there’s this slight Last Supper feeling.

G: Right, Delphine didn’t get dessert and they’re all looking at this great unknown ahead of them.

R: It does have an ominous feel. Like, enjoy it while it lasts. It was touching to see the family together — it’s something they’ve all worked really hard for. Russ Cochrane spoke in The Hive blog about the lengths one might go to for love. Would you describe Orphan Black as ultimately a love story?

A: All relationship stories are love stories. In some ways, Orphan Black is about Sarah expanding her capacity for love. Embracing her ever-widening family is taking more and more people into her heart and under her wing. It is about learning to love and nurture, to be a better mother. She’s creating her own kind of family.

G: It’s one of the things that we really dig about our characters on Orphan Black, that they are choosing their own definitions of family.

R: Where did this season take you that even you didn’t expect it to go from the start?

G: London. We definitely didn’t expect to go there.

A: Going to the Mexican desert was new, but we definitely planned that one.

G: None of us knew that Donnie and Helena were gonna be besties this season.

A: These character discoveries are the joy of the work in the writers’ room.

R: What about getting Alison Steadman to play the original? I can imagine that was pretty joyful. How did that come about?

G: Our casting director, Sharon Forest, was looking for an experienced UK actor… and as an experienced UK actor Maria Doyle Kennedy had a lot of great suggestions too. As it turns out, Alison Steadman was one of her acting heroes. One of our most rewarding days on set (and certainly for the actors) was to see Tatiana Maslany, Maria Doyle Kennedy, and Alison Steadman in a scene together. It’s three generations of kick-ass actors in a maternal tale.

A: I was stoked. One of my all time favorite movies is Life is Sweet and Alison Steadman is the lead.

R: Thank you both for taking the time to answer these questions. Is there anything else you want to say?

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G: Absolutely! From the bottom of our hearts we want to thank the entire cast and crew for their huge work on Season 3, and our personal thanks to our fellow Hivers: Russ Cochrane, Kate Melville, Chris Roberts, Lynn Coady, Alex Levine, Sherry White, Cosima Herter, Hannah Cheeseman, Mackenzie Donaldson. And of course, we can’t forget you buncha Madhatters at #cloneclub. We do it all for you, it’s true. Stay tuned for Season 4!

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