Ari Millen Interview on Orphan Black Season 3

One of the highly anticipated plot developments for season 3 of Orphan Black is that of the revelation of the male clones of Project Castor. Actor Ari Millen was introduced in season 2 as Mark but in the season finale, it was revealed that Mark was but one of many! Ari joined us for a conference call interview and teased about his core group of four clones and discussed the challenges of taking on this array of characters.


Being that the Castor clones were raised self-aware, how does that change who they are to each other and their brotherhood when compared to the Leda clones?

Ari Millen: The fact they're self-aware, meaning that they grew up together, they have a very close-knit, wolf-pack of a military upbringing. Just like any set of brothers, there's a real closeness, they like taking the piss out of each other, they can be vicious, but there's also a lot of love there compared to Project Leda who are just learning who they are. As the season progresses, Project Castor is definitely going to hit the ground running as far as making it very difficult for Project Leda because they have something that 'we' want and because we know who we are, we have a certain better understanding and are almost more cohesive, whereas Project Leda is not only figuring out who they are but who they can and can't trust. The Castor clones are a very strong foe right off the bat.

Who is Paul to the Castor clones? What can you tease about what we'll see of him and the male clones and do they trust him?

Ari Millen: Oh man. Without giving away spoilers, I think at the end of the season, we now know that Paul knows more than he was letting on and I think that he might have been playing both sides. As the season progresses, we'll find out more of what Paul knows and more of his motives and who he is to Project Castor.

With the Leda clones, there's a spectrum of sexuality. There's Cosima, who's a lesbian, and we have Tony, the trans clone. What would you say is the spectrum of sexuality for the Castor clones?

Ari Millen: They're ultra-hetero. [Laughs]. Oh man, this is a good question. I think part of how they wanted to position Castor this year was as this sort of testosterone-menace and I think that aspect plays itself out through their ultra-sexuality. It's a sort of frat-boy mentality, but that is just one part of them. But on the complete opposite side of that, you have Mark who is almost virginal and almost innocent. There's some interesting dichotomies with them but the sexuality will play a big part for this season, that's for sure.

Since you were a part of season 2, you've had a chance to see Tatiana in action. What was the biggest challenge for you since you've been having to do so much more than you did last season?

Ari Millen: I think the biggest challenge was, since Castor is self-aware and they grew up together, finding the differences within the similarities. Finding the little nuanced things that make Rudy Rudy, that make Mark Mark, that make Seth Seth. On a multiple Clone day when I was playing more than one of those Castor guys, just making that switch. Because they're so similar, trying to drop one and pick up the other, depending on how much sleep I got the night before might've been more challenging. It was a really fun process of trying to find these guys within their brotherhood.

Which of the Castor Clones would you say is the most dangerous that you wouldn't want to encounter in a dark alley?

Ari Millen: I think the obvious answer is probably Rudy but, I think Rudy to a certain extent wears his heart on his sleeve. I think Mark is the more dangerous one. He's very good at hiding what he's doing and you don't want to cross him. You don't want to threaten what he's going for because he will make you pay.

What is going on with Mark and Gracie? Will we see more of them?

Ari Millen: Yes, Mark and Gracie have just eloped at the end of this last season and they're trying to make their escape. They're trying to hide from the Proletheans and now with this new revelation of Project Castor, we find out that they're also looking for Mark as well.

What kind of advice did you get from Tatiana about playing multiple characters?

Ari Millen: The first thing that happened was, she knew probably a day or two before I did that it was gonna be me, so the first thing that happened after I found out, and it was still a secret to the rest of the cast and crew because we hadn't gotten the season finale script yet, she just sort of came up to me and gave me a little rub on the back and winked at me and said, "Congratulations." That's how it's been for us this season too. Acting is such a private and personal process that it's never something that you impose on anybody else. For the most part, she's present and there when you're in the scene together, but if I ever had a question about, "How do you act with those tennis balls so well?" she would be there to answer it. But I find for me that the best lessons that I can learn are just from watching people who are good at what they do, do it. So that's what I would do. When I was on set and she was on set, I would just watch her do her stuff and see the little things that she was doing and say, "Oh hey, that's brilliant. What a great idea." Then I would go on my turn and try that little trick out and if it worked for me, I would keep it and if it didn't, I wouldn't. For the most part, it's a visual process. She's very supportive.

So did you find any tricks that you used to get into the headspace of each of the clones? She has certain playlists for hers so did you have anything that you did to inhabit those guys?

Ari Millen: At the end of the last season, it was more of a reveal but no one knew who they were at that point other than John and Graeme who knew what they wanted. We got these wicked visuals, like of Rudy with the scar and the mohawk, and Willard the military guy. That's what I had to sit with during our time off so when it came to creating the guys, it was a visual 'in' for me. I would put on my wardrobe for the day, I would go to hair and makeup and they would put that on me for that day and I would look in the mirror and drop into the decisions that I had made. "Okay this guy is like this and this is what he does." It was a very visual process for me and if ever I found I was coming out of it, I would go find a mirror and settle, take a breath, and just look and drop back in. It was a very different process for me than normal but it still worked. It's interesting, I had an acting teacher once say that whatever works is good. There is no right answer. If it works, it's good.

There's some major differences between season 2 and season 3 for you. In season 2, you're acting with other people and you've got people to play off of. In season 3, you're getting to do scenes with potentially just yourself. What's been the most difficult or perhaps most fun element of filming things like that?

Ari Millen: Well I'll start with the fun. Being on a show like Orphan Black, you get put in a lot of really crazy and exciting scenarios. The fact that my screen time got multiplied this season only meant that I was gonna get to do more fun and exciting stuff. With that came the challenge of acting with myself. The challenge was learning how to plan out the scene for both characters at once. You shoot the first half of the scene as one character and then you switch over and do the scene again as the other character. The trouble could be, if not handled properly, if I only pay attention to the first character I was playing and forgot about the other guy then the decisions I made, I would've been stuck with when we flipped the camera. The big challenge this year, especially working with my clone double Nick Abraham and the director, we would just talk it out and plan it and make sure that if it was a scene with Rudy and Seth and I'm playing Rudy that we make sure that Seth does 'this' at this point because this is the moment that I want to create for Seth. There was a technical side of trade planning that wasn't organic to me so it was a very interesting learning curve to do this season.

Were you able to put any input into the characters? Did you put any of your own spin or nuance into their personalities or looks?

Ari Millen: What's great about this show is that there is a real fluidity to the script writing. There's a lot of frustration with only learning the next episode part-way through the episode that they're shooting but that also lends itself to being organic and switching on the fly. Certainly Graeme and John and the rest of the writers always were happy and interested and inviting for our input. What I found really cool too was a lot of the time, I would come to them with this instinct that I had about it and then they said, "Don't worry, we already got you covered in the next episode," so it was like we were on the same wavelength with a lot of stuff. I think one of the greatest things about this set is that it's a collaboration. There's not one dictator at the top, it's a collaborative process.

In the season 2 finale, that moment where Mark and Gracie are getting married is huge. Once you knew what Mark really was, did that make you modulate how you played that scene? Was there more menace to it or was it more protective? How did you want us as an audience to look at Mark in that moment?

Ari Millen: One of the things I found most exciting and I enjoyed the most about this season was the rediscovery of Mark because I didn't know what we all know now, last season. Specifically in that scene, I was still in the mindset of who Mark was from the point of view of last season. I think often it's dangerous to play the end in that. I think it was more important just to see him getting what he had always dreamed of. That was the most important thing. That's what he always wanted. He always wanted that sort of fairy tale, of disappearing out of wherever he came from and going forward with the white picket fence, the wife, and hopefully soon, children. So in that moment, it's just pure happiness for him. I don't think he was thinking about anything else other than, "This is the woman I want to marry." Castor doesn't even factor in at that point.

For that really wonderful reveal at the end of the season, what was the conversation with Graeme and John on which visage to show to Sarah in that really intense moment?

Ari Millen: The little that they knew about Rudy at that point was that they knew they wanted him to be a little bit unhinged. I think that was really concrete direction and then we just played. We probably did ten different takes in ten different ways of that reveal and that's the one they chose. They were all similar but different.

Will we see conflict within the Castor clones?

Ari Millen: Yeah, they're brothers, they fight. That's kind of a generalised way to say it. Certainly Mark has his own ideas of who he wants to be and where he sees himself going. His brothers in Project Castor are gunning for him. They're not going to let him go without a fight. There's gonna be some conflict there, there's gonna be some butting of heads, and fights. Within the other guys, they're reaching a certain point in their life, and I'm gonna try to be as vague as possible so I'm not giving spoilers, but they're reaching a certain point where something is becoming very very important so there is a certain amount of stress that they're all under. The bickering will start but for the most part, they're a cohesive group and they're all working towards a common goal and even though there's fights, there's ultimately love and family and that's the most important thing.

Which clone did you find the most intense to play?

Ari Millen: I guess the answer is Rudy. What's really fun about Rudy is that it's often a game to him to try to push people's buttons and knock people out of their comfort zone. We'll see with Sarah and then we'll see with some other people where he's just trying to get under people's skin. That antagonistic approach is kind of fun to play around with and along with that comes some pretty intense scenarios. So the answer is Rudy.

Orphan Black has always been jam-packed full of action. What sort of physical preparations or training did you do to prepare for that challenge?

Ari Millen: I had to look like a military man! [Laughs]. It was good motivation to get off the couch, that's for sure. But other than that, I guess the diet. It's amazing what kind of willpower you can have when you're motivated that way. Unfortunately, it doesn't last but I was in the best shape of my life for the first little bit. [Laughs].

In addition to enjoying your work on Orphan Black, we have a memorable impression of you from Darknet. You seem to do really well with infusing this troublesome darkness into your work. What is it about this energy dynamic that you're drawn to playing?

Ari Millen: I don't know, I think bad guys are a lot more fun to play. But I don't know, I think I'm a nice guy! [Laughs]. They keep casting me this way but I'll take it!

What was your approach to playing all of these clones? Tatiana raved about your portrayal but she said your approach was different than hers.

Ari Millen: Certainly. Going back to the fact that they were self-aware, I guess the best way to describe it is, if you've ever met twins or triplets or, I don't know, I've never met quadruplets but if you don't know them that well, you could very easily confuse them until you get to know them and then you get to know their individual personalities. One of the set PAs on our show, he's one of triplets and I had also worked with his brother Anthony and mistaken his brother for him on a different show that I had done earlier in the year. It was a really good lesson. 'So, how do you find the differences within the similarities? What makes this guy uniquely himself?' That was the biggest challenge, because they were so similar. 'Mark's like this, so what motivates Seth to do something like this where in this scenario, Seth would do this but what would Rudy do or what would Miller do?' It was just comparing them against each other and finding those little things. Whereas with Project Leda, they grew up in different parts of the world so they can be as drastically different as possible and Tat can have free reign and explore and have fun with these huge differences. I would say that's the biggest difference between Castor and Leda, their upbringing.

Each season, Tatiana has played a core group of four to five clones and a few miscellaneous others. How many would you say are going to be in your core group that we'll see this season?

Ari Millen: [Laughs]. I feel like that might be a spoiler. We know of four, so I'll talk about four. Um, yeah, I'll say four.

Of the four, how many times did you have all four of them in the same scene or, what is the challenge of when there's four or even three in the same place? What's the toughest part when they all have to interact?

Ari Millen: Having two in a scene was hard enough so thankfully we didn't have much more than that. The difficult part of having multiples in a scene is just making sure that you're planning. All the acting training that I've ever had and most people would have is, you plan the scene as your character but if you have to play both sides of the scene, you've got to know both sets of motivations and plan out how they're going to execute. It's all about that first performance and the first half of shooting that one scene is to make sure that it's open enough for the other side of it to make sense. Don't set it in stone in the first couple ones otherwise you're stuck with it.

If you can tell us without it being too much of a spoilers, which one of your clones encountering Tatiana's clones is your favourite pairing?

Ari Millen: Well, coming into Orphan Black, first off my favourite clone was Helena. Mark got to meet her pretty quickly and it was mostly playing off of Sarah and Helena the whole second season and those two are my favourites. But in going into season 3, if I talked about anyone that would be a spoiler but I've already gotten to work with my favourites so I'm lucky.

Can you talk a bit about the audition process? What did you show them that convinced them that you could do this and take on this massive task?

Ari Millen: Oh man, if I knew that I would be pulling that all the time. That's probably better answered by John and Graeme but all I can say is I'm very thankful that they gave me the opportunity. I've had the best time of my life this season. I guess it made sense because of story, why Mark being a clone would be a good idea. But I wouldn't want to put words in their mouth. [Laughs]. I'm just happy they did.

What was it like stepping into this established world? Was everybody very welcoming to you?

Ari Millen: Yes, it's a dream set to be on. From craft to the writers room to all the actors that we work with, everyone is… and this is unique. This is not something I throw around lightly. Not every set that you go on is this cohesive and this motivated and supportive. It's a very wonderful group of people to be a part of and it makes it easier to take risks and be a clone. [Laughs]. That's no easy thing to tackle.

The show is nothing short of a phenomenon. What do you think it is that viewers connect so much with?

Ari Millen: The fact that there are clones, in one show or in one or I guess now two actors' performances, people can relate to different clones and different characters so it appeals to a broader audience. That's one aspect but it's also really smart writing. That's what attracted me initially. When I was watching, I really enjoyed the plot line. I just found it really clever. It's not too over-the-top that it lives in the world of your classic science-fiction. It's really rooted in reality with science that may very well exist at this point and we're just saying it does and this is the possibility of what could happen. It's giving strong voices to lots of talented actors and I think that's why it appeals to so many people.

What's not to love about it, right?

Ari Millen: Yes, exactly!

We've got a lot of American and Canadian accents going on. Any chance of getting more interesting accents going on?

Ari Millen: I don't know about that yet but I certainly tried my hardest this year. Thankfully, we have a dialect coach on set most of the time but I definitely tried to drop my Canadian-isms. These guys are supposed to be American so there are certain words that would come across as Canadian. They kept telling me, "Ari. Drop it. Drop the Canadian."

I know Tatiana has done this already but if you were given the chance, what would you think about playing a transgender Castor clone?

Ari Millen: You know, that's a very deep and serious question as far as the subject matter. I think what Tat and what the writers room did with Tony was no short of pretty incredible but that is something that is, it's not mainstream so much yet and if you're going to do it, you have to do it right. You have to do it proper justice. If that were ever something they would want to tackle with Castor, I would really hope that we would do it as best as possible and I would do as much research as possible. That is not something to throw around as a gimmick, that's real stuff. I think they did a beautiful job with Tony.

And are you hoping you get your own Clone dance party?

Ari Millen: [Laughs]. That would be cool!


Orphan Black season 3 premieres on Saturday, April 18, at 9PM on BBC America.


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