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Renée St. Cyr: Terrified of Rachel

Heyo Clone Club!

“You know you’re ready to write when the characters appear in your dreams.” The talented Natalia Guled told me this during one of our many discussions of this episode. The first time I witnessed “Rachel” on set was during the Season 4 finale. I cowered behind the monitor, flinching when Tat-as-Rachel forgot a line and slammed her white cane against the boardroom table. “Can we go again right away?” she asked, her face clenched stoically, just barely containing the character’s vault of rage. Moments before John Fawcett shouted “action,” I got the hiccups from holding my breath. The same thing happened when I encountered a grizzly on a hike. Rachel was straight-up terrifying.

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Graeme and John came into the room this season with a new conceit — character episodes. We didn’t know when Rachel would get hers, but they wanted to explore what happened when yet another father figure betrayed her. Would she turn to the sisters? Would she bear down and entrench further into the only world she knew? We weren’t sure, but we loved the idea of Rachel’s bionic eye being the gift that came with strings attached; in this case, a leash that P.T. Westmorland could yank when Rachel strayed.

Tatiana Maslany is a force, on and off camera. She visited the writing room in the early days of this season’s development so we could furiously scribble notes as she expounded insights into the characters. On Rachel: “Of all the clones, she’s the most afraid.” Tat was interested in finding the deepest longing of each character, the unmet need that drives them. We discussed Rachel’s childhood trauma of being separated from her parents and placed in the loveless competitive environment of a corporation. What if she was given the acceptance and love she always craved? I wrote down the word “giddy” in my notes. Returning Rachel to a place of childlike trust was something we all wanted to see.

I was originally told I’d be co-writing Episode 507 with Graeme Manson. As Graeme and writers got peeled away from the room to focus on other episodes, I relied on a team of female voices — Natalia Guled, Aisha Porter-Christie, Jenn Engels, and Science/Philosophy Consultant Cosima Herter. We examined our own experiences in life and specifically within our careers: the moment we each personally realized patriarchy — that ever-prominent boys club, and how it intersects with other systems of oppression and domination. As the U.S. elections came and devastatingly went, internalized misogyny was a circulating topic and ripe for Rachel’s story. I felt intensely supported while grappling with how to dramatize these concepts. It became clear that when Rachel discovered she was being surveilled, it was a betrayal that would open her eyes to the flawed system she’d embraced. No matter what she did, Neolution would always perceive her as an object to be controlled.

After I wrote the episode outline, Graeme promoted me as sole writer. I cried — my typical response when processing any strong emotion; in this case it was absolute gratitude. I remember Graeme smiling as he said, “You got this.” He was a true mentor throughout this process.

A tricky aspect of this episode involved telling an internal story. Because Rachel was stripped of allies, we couldn’t lean on her processing realizations verbally. This meant telling a subtle and visual story. I couldn’t have imagined a better director and cinematographer than David Frazee. Most of our conversations involved us gesturing visceral feelings and contorting our faces as we empathized with Rachel’s pain and vulnerability. He encouraged my involvement on set throughout. In his words, “This is fun.”

I dreamt Rachel for three months. It ended up being less terrifying than I thought it would be. Thank… god.

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