Just before Tatiana Maslany started working on a little science-fiction show about clones – have you heard of Orphan Black, by the way? People seem to like it – the actress made a road movie in Western Canada called Cas & Dylan.
Directed by Jason Priestley, it’s a nice little character study starring Richard Dreyfuss as an ailing doctor who drives to British Columbia on a personal mission – and bonding with a spirited hitchhiker (Maslany) along the way.
Distribution being what it is, the movie is only reaching DVD now, and Maslany – in London shooting The Woman In Gold, about which more below – finds herself flashing back to a time when she was just another actor, rather than someone who’s been making jaws drop on a weekly basis.
“It seems like so long ago,” Maslany says. “We shot it, like, the two months before I started the first season of Orphan Black. I had met with Mark Montefiore, who’s the producer, and the writer, Jessie Gabe, she knew me from Being Erica, she’d written for that show. I had a meeting with them and discussed the script; I thought it was fun, and kind of a nice departure for me as far as the work I’d done prior to that. And then Richard came on board and I was like ‘Oh my god, I am the luckiest person on the planet.’”
The two actors have a lovely chemistry in the film, and Maslany credits that to having another performer behind the camera: Jason Priestley had been directing for television for a while, but this was his first feature.
“I always love when there’s an actor as a director,” Maslany says. “There’s an understanding there that’s different. But I have worked with directors who aren’t actors, who’ve never acted, but just have that language in them. They just understand how to talk to actors.
“But Jason is so great, because he’s had the experience of working on TV sets where you’re churning out so much product in such a short amount of time. So he’s very efficient, but then he also allowed us to play – to really find the chord, the tone, that builds the relationship – because if that weren’t there, nobody would care. He was really great about that. And also he can understand comedy; his timing is great, and he’s great with, you know, the science of it. Which is helpful, because I find it quite scary.”
This takes me by surprise, since I’ve always regarded Orphan Black as a comedy with the occasional thriller element.
“That’s right!” Maslany laughs, though she’s quick to point out that the show’s funniest moments – usually involving the uneasy interaction of type-A soccer mom Alison Hendrix with her clone sisters – are the result of a great deal of teamwork.
“That’s a testament to so many people on the set that those scenes work,” she says. “You know, whether it’s my acting double, Kathryn [Alexandre], or Geoff [Scott] and all of those guys with Intelligent Creatures, you know – it’s like, just such a group effort. Like, the moment the techno-dolly comes out, we’re all like unified; it’s us against the camera. But yeah, I see what you’re saying about the timing and stuff; it’s definitely like a choreography. It’s got a rhythm to it.”
And it’s the rhythm between Dreyfuss and Maslany that gives Cas & Dylan its heart.
“I think the whole movie is about traveling,” she says. “It’s about movement, running away from feelings or running towards something that’s better than where we are now. And I think in those moments, Cas and Dylan both are able to be still together in a pleasant moment in their lives, you know? It’s such a great release for him and a great new experience, sort of a dawning, for her.”
And now Maslany is in London, playing someone very different – in more ways than one – on the set of The Woman in Gold.
“It’s directed by Simon Curtis, who did My Week with Marilyn,” she says. “It’s about Maria Altman, whose family was Jewish and in Vienna at the time of the Holocaust. The Nazis basically stole all of their paintings, including the Klimt painting The Lady in Gold. These paintings were taken from her family, and she fled Austria – fled to the States – and later in her life she goes back to Austria to take back these paintings from the Austrian government. It’s this beautiful true story. I play her when she was young and still in Vienna, in the midst of the Holocaust.”
The older Altman is played by Helen Mirren, so Maslany can add another legend to her collection.
“I was so honoured,” she says. “I’m in such awe of her – I think she is one of the greatest, and still maintains this amazing sense of humour and kind of coolness about her. I got to watch some of her work, and try to bring in some of her elegance and the dignity that she has with this character. It was quite fun.”
And once The Woman in Gold wraps, it’s back to Toronto to start the third season of Orphan Black. As to what we can expect from that, well …
“God, I would love to know,” Maslany laughs. “I’m supposed to be chatting with the guys at some point; I think what I like about that show is that I never know where it’s headed either.”
That’s okay, I tell her; as a fan of the show, I don’t really want to know anything about the new season until I see it. It turns out Maslany feels the same way.
“As an audience member, I hate spoilers,” she says. “I hate anything like that. I just wanna be surprised. I love going to a movie and literally not having seen a single stitch of footage from it. Just going into it blind, that’s my favourite. I did that with Under the Skin – I had no clue what I was in for, I didn’t know anything about it, and it was perfect to see it that way.”

Cas & Dylan is now available on DVD from TVA Films.