Earlier this evening, Kathryn Alexandre spoke with hosts from the Orphan Black podcast Orphan Black Chat and shed more light on what she does with the show.
For those of you who don’t know who Kathryn Alexandre is, she plays an integral part of the Orphan Black filming process: Tatiana Maslany’s performance double!
Whenever you see Maslany on screen acting against herself, what you might not know is that behind the scenes Alexandre is there playing the other clone. Alexandre helps Maslany by stepping into the shoes of each character when Maslany has to make sure her timing is precise.
For a little glimpse of what she does, check out this clip from BBC America where Maslany explains the process.
Confusing, huh? Well that’s why we brought Kathryn Alexandre on Orphan Black Chat, an Orphan Black podcast run by Tariq Kyle. She explains her side of the process and tells us more about what it’s like to work with Tatiana Maslany.
You can listen to the episode below through SoundCloud, but if you’re unable to listen to the episode or just want to read the transcript, we’ve made it available past the sound clip.
Can you help explain what you do to anyone who is unfamiliar with your work?
Basically what happens is when there’s a scene when Tat[iana Maslany] is two or more people, they bring me in. Say it’s a scene between Sarah and Alison, we start with Tat playing Sarah and I play Alison. I’m in the same wardrobe with Alison’s hair, and we do the scene with me playing opposite her. If we’re doing a big Technodolly [which is a huge moving camera crane] shot, which ends with Tatiana in the final shot, we do those with me and then they take me out in the end and replace me with her. And they also do coverage, where they shoot over my shoulder so you’ll see my back as Alison and Tatiana’s face as Sarah.
And then once we’re done doing the shot that way, we flip. So we go back into hair and wardrobe and I become Sarah and she becomes Alison, and then they do the Technodolly shots and coverage [over the shoulder] again.
How did you get this job and/or what was the audition process like?
Once they cast Tatiana, they knew, basically, what kind of actor they needed to cast as her double to fit her size and look. So they put out a casting call, for at that point what was called a stand-in, but it was a stand-in that was also an actor. They wanted to find someone who can act, not just a stand-in, so they auditioned a bunch of girls – me being one of them – as if we were auditioning to play Sarah and the clones, basically.
So we read all the same scenes that the other actresses (like Tatiana) were reading in their auditions. So I auditioned in front of the casting director like that, I played Sarah and Katja and Alison in my first audition – my kind of interpretation of them.
And then I had a call back with the casting director and John Fawcett, who’s the director and creator of the show, and we kind of worked a bit more, he and I. And then they brought Tat into the audition and we played off each other, so she would play Alison and I would play Sarah and we’d flip and I’d have to remember what she did as Alison and mimic her. They saw how well I could transition into mimicking her, and they compared our body sizes and our hair and this and that.
And then I had a final audition, it was a hair consult, really, just to see if they’d be able to make my hair look like hers. And it was [kind of] a meet the network heads and get the final go ahead that I can do the job.
How much preparation do you do together and/or on your own before you film?
It kind of depends on the scene and how complicated it is. In the first season there was a bit more of rehearsals before we filmed so that we can get used to each other and I would see the way she was playing the characters. Like in season 1, the big car scene between Sarah and Katja, that we had kind of a full day of technical rehearsal for so the crew can get used to doing the clone stuff and we could get used to [it], so it was a bit more complicated in season 1.
In season 2, we each kind of do our own prep; Tatiana definitely does her own prep and I look at the script and break it down as an actor, if I would be playing those characters. And I kind of try to anticipate how she will play it.
And then we just get on set and we do a first team rehearsal, and she walks through both parts, we kind of flip flop in rehearsal sometimes and play it out to see what works best. So I’ll watch her do both parts as we’re rehearsing through it and we just kind of go with the flow and see what happens. It’s a little more on the fly now, but it was more complicated near the beginning.
Is the car scene the first time you guys worked together really heavily?
I think that was the first big clone scene we did, it was the first time we really worked off each other and had to use the earwigs (which are the little microphones in our ears that record my voice and play it back to Tatiana when she’s acting on her own). And Alison and Sarah, their scene in the soccer shed was a really early one as well since we filmed episodes 1 and 2 of season 1 in tandem.
It was really funny, and a crazy experience. We realized when we did the part when Tatiana plays the scene on her own that the car doors still had to open and close when the other character would be closing them, so I was actually laying across the whole front of the car across the driver’s seat and passenger seat and opening and closing the doors from the inside on cue, for like when Sarah was supposed to be opening and closing them. It was very, very strange, and there are all kinds of little weird things like that on the show.