How the ‘Orphan Black’ sausage is made

There are times you have to go public with your telly ‘guilty pleasures’. Being Human, one of my early earliest, had a fairly improbable story line about a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost who rent a flat in Bristol and attempt to live ‘normal’ lives. More recently, it was the brilliant psychological thriller Mad Dogs, starring Phillip Glenister, John Simm, Marc Warren and Max Beesley.

Since both Being Human and Mad Dogs have run their course after only a few series, it was time to find a new series to occupy my time. Enter, Orphan Black, a clone conspiracy drama starring Tatiana Maslany, which is getting ready to conclude its third series on BBC America. With an almost as equally as improbable story line as Being HumanOrphan Black follows ‘a group of clones’ named Sarah, Alison, Helena, Cosima and Rachel (to name a few) who discover that someone is plotting to kill them. The origin of the clones, it is discovered, is a scientific movement called Neolution, which believes that human beings can use scientific knowledge to direct their evolution as a species.


Besides Maslany’s brilliant performance(s), what makes this more than just  a guilty pleasure is how these brilliant ‘seamless’ multiple clone sequences are filmed. Here, Orphan Black star, Tatiana Maslany, co-creator/writer Graeme Manson and co-creator/director John Fawcett explain the cutting-edge “motion control” filmmaking which allows “…not just putting multiple clones in the same frame but literally having them touch each other.” 

In scenes in which Maslany has multiple parts, she first acts the scene with her body double Kathryn Alexandre in the alternate clone role, then again with the roles swapped, and a third time with the scene filmed with just the camera motion for a background plate. Suspended tennis balls help Maslany retain the proper eye lines. In post-production Alexandre and the tennis balls are replaced with the images of Maslany from the alternate shots, thereby allowing for more action in scenes where she interacts with herself.

There are times that you really don’t want to know ‘how the sausage is made’. This is not one of them. This is just plain cool. Ok, I’ve admitted my telly guilty pleasures, what’s yours?

In: Drama