I have to tell you about Tatiana Maslany.
Spawned from equal parts lyrebird, chameleon, and rakshasa, Maslany might right now be your dentist, your grandmother, your professor, your girlfriend or your best friend – and you wouldn’t even know it.
There is no way to overstate how good she is – she is an amazing actor who does things on screen I thought impossible.
Right now she’s the star of the BBC America show Orphan Black, which is worth watching even without how utterly fantastic Maslany is. The premise of the show is not that important in this context, but on screen she plays several different “clones” of herself – all of whom superficially look identical but who have lived very different lives and are therefore very different people.
She plays these doppelgängers so skillfully and so successfully that if I stumbled into the room and had never seen the show before, and were just catching it in the middle of an episode where Maslany is on screen as two or even three different versions of herself, I would have no idea at all that it is the same person.
She doesn’t just play a character. Maslany becomes that character.
The photos embedded in this text will show only the superficial differences, just the differences in appearance of each character that Maslany plays. That is really not even the smallest part of it. Maslany manages to change her mannerisms completely. Her voice sounds different as each character without sounding unnatural in any way. Everything about the essence she exudes is completely and utterly altered as Sarah, as Allison, as Katja, as Helena, as Beth.
Two parts of the show I want to mention specifically. The first is a part in episode 4 where Maslany as Helena walks into the police station where another Maslany version works (as an impostor, too complicated to explain here). The sense of menace and barely-contained violence that Helena radiates is so palpable it nearly bleeds from the TV screen. Watching Helena try to contain this baleful emanation, to try to be for a few moments the “impostor-police” version of Maslany gave the sort of frisson of which only great art is capable.
And in another part of the same episode, the soccer-mom-suburbanite version of Maslany must impersonate the street hustler/drug dealer Maslany clone, and this is done utterly brilliantly. Because for normal people – people not Tatiana Maslany, that is – impersonation of another person is extremely, ridiculously difficult.
So we have Maslany, as Allison, impersonating Sarah, and Allison’s Sarah is just too much. Mannerisms in Sarah that seem completely natural, such as her somewhat-macho walk, Allison at first can only imitate by walking like an ape intent on dragging its knuckles on the ground. In other words, a terrible caricature as most people would do it.
Watching Allison’s Sarah only makes you realize more just how subtle what Maslany is doing in all the many roles she plays – because Allison’s Sarah seems like a dime-store imitation of someone real, whereas Sarah, Maslany’s Sarah, seems like a completely real person that you might meet somewhere.
Maslany is in fact so good that it’s easy to tell when she’s being one character even as she’s dressed as a different one.
Entertainment Weekly said it best I think when they wrote, “There is no better special effect on TV than Tatiana Maslany.”
I could go on and on about Maslany’s raw fucking talent, but really – just watch the show.