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Episode 1: What You Didn’t Know About “The Collapse of Nature”

Here are behind-the-scenes secrets from our very own Orphan Black production team! Before you read on, watch the premiere FREE here.

MOTORBOAT
Every year the Orphan Black writers’ room and production office crew pick a new alias name for the production. Usually everyone suggests names and we have a big vote the first week of prep. This year, “Rabbit Hole Productions” won, but if some had their way, it would have been called “Motorboat!” (exclamation point included).

Fun Fact: Below is the first draft of the first episode written by Graeme Manson.

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CHEEK CHOPPERS AND NEGATIVE MAKE-UP
Frank and Roxie were called “the cheek choppers” all through development, and though they’re not referenced on-screen like that, the Hive can’t think of them as anything but! They were also the first actors that we started casting for in Season 4.

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The reveal of the cheek choppers’ first victim is the first example of “negative” make-up we’ve done in this series and was our biggest VFX collaboration to date with Stephen Lynch, Orphan Black’s make-up designer. Stephen created the outside of the wound and torn/cut flesh, and the VFX team filled in the middle.

REBUILDING THE PAST
In order to go back to the beginning this season we had to rebuild a few sets that we had disposed of. We had to rebuild Beth’s condo from the ground up as it had been disposed of after Season 2. That meant that our production designer’s teams were responsible for sourcing and matching all of the same wall colors, wallpapers, fixtures, and furniture from the original set. If you look closely you can spot small differences: the set is slightly bigger and the light fixtures in the washroom are different, to name a few.

Fun Fact: Beth’s couch became the writers’ room couch in Seasons 2 and 3 and we writers were very hard-pressed to return it to the set. Luckily we got a new couch and it was L-shaped, which proves better for cat naps.

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The police precinct was also a set that we disposed of after Season 2. However, instead of matching the set perfectly to what was built before, we decided to expand the precinct world and Beth’s world at the same time by building a different boardroom, office, and hallway.

Fun Fact: The hallway in the precinct set is actually the hallway between our two studios. We were running out of space in our studios and decided to get creative by making a real hallway look like a precinct hallway. The art department even painted the tiles pattern on the cement floor.

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SCOUTING THE PAST
Similar to how we got to rebuild some of our iconic sets, we also got to go back to familiar Season 1 locations. Luckily for us, over the last three years neither the Thompson Diner (Fung’s Diner) nor the Uniun Nightclub (Club Neolution) have changed their décor at all! This also meant that our crew knew how to navigate and shoot in the places, allowing us to make a lot more out of both locations.

Fun Fact: When we shot the exterior Club Neolution scenes in Season 1, we shot at the back of a brick warehouse separate from the club. This season our schedule allowed us to shoot exterior of the actual club, and our art department had to work extra hard to make sure it would match what had already been established.

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NEW CLONE, NEW SET
M.K. aka Mika’s trailer set is based on a real location here in Toronto just off of Lakeshore Boulevard. We built the interior to match a trailer and a shipping container that we found down by the tracks. Most of the junk was already there — we had to add very little to pull off the junkyard look.

Fun Fact: M.K.’s interior trailer has more set dressing than any other set we have ever had before. It even beats Ethan Duncan’s hoarder house set.

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MAKING OF A SHEEP MASK
Finding and deciding on what kind of mask M.K. would wear this season was no easy task. First, our props department was tasked with getting us farm animal masks. They ended up buying more than 60 different masks! At that point, we narrowed it down to rabbits and sheep, and the props department ended up buying another batch of masks. When we finally decided it was going to be a mask, we weren’t sure what we wanted it to look like so, again, the props team were tasked with creating 14 different looks for the sheep. And finally from there we narrowed it down to three, and then John and Graeme found the perfect fit, our final M.K. mask. Below are some photos of the last stages of picking the mask.

Fun Fact: the mask is supposed to look like it was from the late ’80s because M.K. has had it from childhood.

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SHOOTING MAGGIE CHEN
In Season 1, the only visuals we established for the shooting of Maggie Chen were some photos we took with a background player we cast for the crime scene photos. Recreating this scene was not an easy feat: we had to cast an actress to match the look of the woman we had previously established, match her wardrobe which had been disposed of, and find a location that felt like Chinatown but also met our needs and matched the crime scene photos. Pearl Street alley — although not in Toronto’s Chinatown — fit the bill. All we needed to add were some neon signs, plaster the walls in Chinese advertisements and Pearl Street (Toronto’s theatre district) turned into back-alley Chinatown.

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NEW STUDIO, NEW HIVE
This year, production moved studios, so we got a new read-through room and a new Writers’ Room. And we loved them! Here’s a photo of our Episode 401 read-through.

Fun Fact: We celebrated Tatiana’s birthday at our 401 read-through. There were fruit platters, cupcakes, and the Spice Girls! Wannabe is a Toronto-based Spice Girls cover band and they came out to sing and dance after we were done. If you look closely, you might recognize Sporty and Ginger Spice: Anika Johnson and Barbara Johnston respectively. They are the creators of Blood Ties, Alison’s musical from Season 2, and they also appeared in those episodes as the piano player and background dancer. And if you stay tuned for the rest of Season 4, you just might get to see them again!

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