After Playing So Many Roles, Who Is the Real Tatiana Maslany?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because this versatile actor is turning TV on its head.
By Eromo Egbejule
Emmy Award–winning actor Tatiana Maslany was the most recent guest on The Carlos Watson Show. The Los Angeles–based Canadian discussed, among other things, life during quarantine and her masterful performance on the TV series Orphan Black (Maslany played 14 different characters). Below are excerpts from the hourlong conversation.
Joining the Protests
Carlos Watson: Did you consider going anywhere else at any point [during the pandemic] versus being in Los Angeles?
Tatiana Maslany: Yeah. I mean, I’m Canadian, so when this all kicked off, I kind of ran back to Canada.… I thought it was going to be like two weeks. And then as the months wore on, I was like, “I need to change the scene.” It’s so intense to be anywhere, really. I feel like we’re going to be processing this time for so long afterward. I feel like it requires a bit of space, which is hard to get any perspective right now because we’re all in the same thing in so many ways.
Watson: I think it’s interesting that you say that. I think it’ll take a long time to get full perspective. Have you been very involved in some of the protests?
Maslany: I did. So when I got back from Canada, I was quarantined for two weeks and that’s when everything started to really happen in terms of people actually getting in the streets or more getting in the streets. There’s a lot of demonstrations that were happening in LA for years that I didn’t know about until all of this. And every Wednesday, there’s a movement down at City Hall, and it’s baffling to me how little I knew before all of this. When I got back, everything had just started happening in terms of people speaking out on police brutality and Black Lives Matter. And so as soon as I was done with quarantine, I was out trying to be part of it and be there physically. It felt really important to do.
Watson: Do you feel like you’ve changed very much over the last six months in any way?
Maslany: I mean, massively so. I feel like COVID and quarantine stripped away from me a lot of the context by which I reflected back who I was. So social interactions, going out with friends, being free, just moving through the world the way that I did, taking things for granted. But all of these things were such markers of my identity, my career, all of it being such a huge part of just who I defined myself as. So having all of that stripped away was a really interesting revelation in terms of like, what’s left? What is there after all of that context is removed? So in that way, I think I’m learning huge things. I don’t know how I’ve changed from it, but I know I’m learning stuff. And then in terms of just baseline, my privilege as a white woman, to move through the world with the freedom that I so took for granted and with all of the luxuries that I took for granted and all of the privilege and all of the spaces that were mine to occupy, I am massively coming to terms with that and learning about that.
I think that’s life work. As I’ve been reading, that’s for the rest of your life kind of stuff that you have to incorporate and continue to analyze and to re-remember and refocus on.
The Term ‘Actress’
Watson: Which actors and actresses do you admire? And do you use the word “actress”?
Maslany: I don’t for some reason. And I don’t … I think it’s slightly political, slightly a move just to … I always get weirded out when somebody’s like, “a female director.” I’m like, “Or maybe just a director.” You know what I mean? And there’s this … I remember doing improv as a kid and they were like, “This is girl-prov because it’s a girl’s team.” There’s always this thing attached to it as if the default is not female. Do you know what I mean?
Maslany: So, I do say “actors.” And some of the ones that I look up to the most … A Woman Under the Influence was the biggest influence to me in terms of acting. And Gena Rowlands in that movie specifically. I think I saw it when I was 20 and just realized what potential this art form has in terms of freedom and expression and connection and the ability to be so many things at the same time. This limitless freedom that it feels like I can feel in her performance there. I was like, “Ah, I want that. That’s the thing I want.”
Dealing With Rejection
Watson: So why do you think you broke through?
Maslany: I don’t know. It must’ve been a combo of getting used to rejection but then also not taking it as rejection. I really experienced this when I was working, I did Network on Broadway a year or two years ago now. I went to an understudy rehearsal, which is where they basically go up onstage and all of the understudies play all of the parts as if it was a live performance. So all the music cues, the costumes, the everything. I watched my understudy, Nicole Villamil, sorry, do the performance.
I remember just being like, “Oh, no one part should ever be played by one person. There’s no correct way to play any part and I’m learning so much watching her do this because she’s bringing stuff that she knows to this character that I don’t know yet.”
Watson: How did you feel when [Orphan Black] came to an end? Was that relief, disappointment, surprise? Where were you when the show ended?
Maslany: I mean, similarly, pulled from my context, because so much of the five years of working on a show, that’s your family, that’s the people you see the most. That’s the focus throughout the year, even when you’re not filming, because I’m promoting it or I’m talking about it or whatever it is. So, it was massively connected to my identity and to who I was, and to the fact that I could walk into a room being like, “I’m on this show.” Not even saying that, but just knowing that I’m on a show, OK. You know what I mean? Like that kind of self-worth that comes from that. So when it was gone, I was like, “I don’t know who I am. I don’t know that I have any value anymore. What is anything? What’s going to be the next thing that means that much to me?” Because it meant so much. So, it was a real shock to the system.
Unusual Celeb Crush
Watson: Most embarrassing thing you’ve never told anyone?
Maslany: I feel I’ve told everybody all the embarrassing things. Most embarrassing thing that I’ve never told anyone? There’s nothing I haven’t told them. I haven’t told you that I have a crush on Rick Moranis. I didn’t tell you that, but I’ve told other people that. So that’s not embarrassing.
Watson: Your most unusual celebrity friendship?
Maslany: Here’s a weird one. Amy Schumer named her dog Tatiana Maslany, so that’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to me. That’s the weirdest thing. It’s right there. That’s the one.
Watson: Wait, are you guys friends? Or how did she end up doing that?
Maslany: I guess she was a fan of Orphan Black. So I don’t know. We once were staying in the same hotel and she and Tatiana Maslany the dog came to my hotel room and we had some wine. And the dog pooped on the floor. So it was a great night … I’ll send you a photo.
- Eromo Egbejule