Here are behind-the-scenes secrets from our very own Orphan Black production team!
DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
From Day One of development for Season 4, Graeme and John knew they wanted to bring to Sarah to a point where she would experience her “dark night of the soul,” and the Sarah that came before the fateful day on the tracks would be on display. As the season was put on the board, Episode 407 would always just say “dark night of the soul” and we all seemed to somewhat understand what that meant. And we were all pumped to slow down the plot a bit and dive into a dark and character-driven episode, which would explore Sarah’s wild side, taking her into seedy punk bars and the dark places of her past. In a way, we needed to take our hero to her darkest depths in order to have her reborn and repurposed.
Fun Fact: Graeme co-wrote the episode with Niko Troubetzkoy, a new writer to The Hive this season. Graeme has said on many occasions that this was an easy episode for him to write, easier than most, because he knew exactly where he wanted to take Sarah from Day One in the room.
PEACHES, PEACHES, PEACHES
As soon as we knew that Sarah would be going into her past, we knew it was time for an Orphan Black musical appearance. Similarly to Mrs. S.’s performance last year, we wanted to showcase a band on stage to fill out Sarah’s world. At first we targeted some local punk bands, but nothing was feeling quite right. And it wasn’t until our music supervisor Marco suggested Peaches that we realized how perfect a fit she would be for our show and this world we wanted to create. Little to say — we are all huge Peaches fans and the monitors were very crowded the day she performed at the Bovine Sex Club.
Fun Fact: Peaches brought her wardrobe for this episode. She sent production an image of the hand-printed and sequined nude body suit and the decision was made on the spot: it was perfect.
Fun Fact: Stephen and Kat, makeup and hair respectively, didn’t have to do much in terms of Peaches’ hair and makeup. She has a very clear and iconic look that she walked them through in a prep meeting.
Fun Fact: This wasn’t Peaches first time appearing on television. She had recently been featured on Amazon’s Transparent Season 2, as herself.
BOVINE SEX CLUB
It was fun getting to scout and find a bar that Sarah would go to on a binge. Getting to take the character back closer to how audiences met her was something with which every team helped. Locations brought us pictures of the Bovine Sex Club and we knew it was the place — the vibe and grunge was perfect.
Fun Fact: Peaches is Canadian and has played real shows at the Bovine Sex Club in the past. The club is an iconic Toronto establishment and it was really exciting to get to put it in the show for the crew and for Peaches.
Fun Fact: The first song that is playing when Sarah arrives at the club is from a local Toronto band called the Rough Spells and the song is called “Nothing Left.”
Originally we had imagined that Sarah would follow in Beth’s footsteps all the way back to the tracks where they first met. However, that location is extremely difficult to shoot in, and after further discussions it felt right that she should find her own “tracks.” That’s when we decided to use the Bathurst Street bridge in Toronto. It has a really graphic city backdrop and you pair that with Toronto’s winter, you end up with a perfect noirish location for this climactic clone scene.
Fun Fact: The bridge that Sarah ends up on at the end of the episode is parallel to the yellow bridge that Paul was on in Season 2 (Sarah leads him there; DYAD are listening; she gets away and runs across the black bridge). It is on Bathurst Street in Toronto and features one of the best views of the city’s skyline.
Fun Fact: It was January and the dead of winter when we shot all night on the bridge. We were able to design an outfit for Sarah that kept Tatiana warm. However, as Beth, she needed to be in her iconic outfit from the opening of the show. So Tatiana had to wear a blazer and stockings in some of the coldest weather Toronto experienced that winter.
Cosima goes to extreme lengths in this episode to try to help herself, and the sisters, when she is about to put the bot inside herself. (Small note: our clones seem to like to perform self surgery.) The bot is created using all visual effects, but that proves difficult when actors need to use it as a prop. So we use a small piece of a fishing lure in place of the VFX bot. Our VFX team then use that lure to mark where the bot moves through the shots and once the bot is created, they scrub out the lure and replace it with the maggot bot.
Fun Fact: We changed the sequence of Cosima’s lab events around once we got into post-production, and wanted to use some of Cosima’s dialogue that she said after she had cut open her mouth. Only there was one problem: Cosima had blood in and around her mouth so the continuity didn’t work. Lucky for us, Geoff Scott and the team at Intelligent Creatures came in and cleaned up all of the blood using VFX and the edit worked perfectly!
Last year we asked our director of photography Aaron Morton to direct an episode of the show — he ended up directing and DP-ing his episode. It went really well, but it wasn’t easy to find a DP to replace him while he was off prepping. So this year we decided to ask our long-time collaborator and Orphan Black director, David Frazee, to also both direct and DP for an episode as he knows the show inside and out, having been a director for us since the first season. So when we shot Episode 407 Aaron was prepping to direct Episode 408 and David did an amazing job wearing both hats on set.
Fun Fact: David Frazee was a director of photography for many years here in Canada before he started directing, so we knew the show was in great hands with him manning the camera team.
BIRTHDAY PARTY GONE WRONG
One of the most hilarious, yet dark, moments of Episode 407 is when Gemma’s birthday party is interrupted by the cops there to arrest Donnie. John Fawcett loved the idea of shooting the scene at 60 frames per second and having screaming kids running everywhere. David Frazee did an amazing job capturing the dark and twisted birthday party John wanted.
Fun Fact: Our editors used a really bizarre rendition of Happy Birthday over the rough cut, and we decided it was a perfect match for the scene. We weren’t able to get the rights to the original song, so Marco, our music supervisor, wrote, sang, and produced his own version of a birthday tune and put it to some twisted chords.
Fun Fact: The art department outdid themselves in this episode with our Alison world. Between the flowers for Mrs. S. in her first scene, to the cookies and decorations for the birthday, Alison was on her crafty A-game in this episode thanks to their work.
Fun Fact: Originally, the birthday party was supposed to be a daytime scene with parents. However, when we realized it needed to happen at the same time that Sarah was out on the town, we knew that it couldn’t be daytime. So we made it a sleepover! And what better way to have the cops knock on the door than with a classic knocking ghost story.
This is the first episode in which Rachel, and the audience, get to see the other parts of Susan’s island compound. We built an extension to the mysterious room that consisted of a hallway with doors and a staircase. That staircase leads up into the modern part of Susan’s home. However, in the studios, it leads up to nothing as the home we shot in is actually located on the Bridal Path, a very expensive part of Toronto where all of the houses are big mansions. We used visual effects to tie the location and studio together.
Fun Fact: The house we shot in is only two blocks away from the mansion we used to shoot Marion Bowles’ house.
Fun Fact: We used a real swan inside the house for Rachel’s visions. Only it didn’t go exactly as planned when the bird got off of its riser and started to walk across the beautiful soft wood floors. We had to send in a repair man to help get rid of the swan scratches.
Fun Fact: The swan wrangler is the same animal wrangler who provided and worked with the scorpions in Season 3.Read More