Written by Hayley Ellis


Binging: Orphan Black

So, you’ve finished The Wire, Breaking Bad and The Killing but you’re still hungry for more boxsets. Fear not, Standard Issue writers are on the case with some hidden gems you might not yet have seen. This week, Hayley Ellis suggests genre-bender Orphan Black.

Tatiana Maslany in Orphan BlackWhen my boyfriend first said we should watch Orphan Black, I read the blurb, saw the words sci-fi and shut up shop for siesta time.

I’ve never been a fan of sci-fi. When you have to have subtitles for a language that doesn’t exist and your main characters look like black moor goldfish, it’s not going to make me want to Sky+ you. I blame Jar Jar Binks.

Anyway it was getting really late and Netflix’s other recommendations were White Chicks and a 1992 film about a woman with a headscarf who ran away someplace to find herself. I’d already seen the headscarf film, so I reluctantly agreed to watch episode one of Orphan Black. Just one episode though. I mean, I definitely was not going to like it…

Episode one of the BBC America series starts with main character Sarah Manning (played by the brilliant Tatiana Maslany), witnessing the suicide of a woman who has the same face as her. Sarah steals her identity and starts to live her life in the hope of getting money to escape a problematic situation.

I was instantly hooked. It’s hard to explain what Orphan Black is about without spoiling it but what ensues is a fast-paced, brilliantly acted rollercoaster of action, drama, romance, violence, comedy and, of course, that wretched sci-fi.

There are loads of fantastic things about the series. The acting is dead good. All the supporting cast are fresh, convincing and deliver their roles with a great believability. Star Tatiana Maslany has the range to play so many emotions that some days she must have gone home from the set feeling like she had multiple personality disorder.

The roles she plays (of eight in total) vary from soccer mum and all-round perfect suburban housewife Alison Hendrix, to Helena, a deranged Ukrainian serial killer. I struggled with my lines at school and only played one character, with one line! So the downside is that Orphan Black does make you realise you will never be as good as Maslany at anything.

A little known fact – if you don’t Google facts about Orphan Black, that is – is that Maslany was up against Ellen Page (star of Juno) for the role(s). That’s how good she is.

Cast-wise, Paul, played by Dylan Bruce, is particularly easy on the Ellis eye. Although I don’t fancy him, I just think he’s talented* (*what to say when your partner notices you are paying more attention to this particular character). The casting is flawless, with supporting roles provided by Jordan Gavaris, using his excellent comic timing, as Felix, and Maria Doyle Kennedy, as the possibly sinister foster mum Mrs S.

It’s not your average sci-fi: there wasn’t a black moor goldfish in sight, no spaceships and I didn’t need to learn Klingon to understand any scenes. It also has some lovely comedy moments. The dialogue between characters is brilliant and as well as being dramatic lends itself to some beautifully funny one-liners.

I lost three days in a row watching series one. I only left the sofa to eat, wee and when the batteries ran out on the remote as I had been watching that long. Series three is arriving soon – I’m just booking some holiday at work so I can watch it back to back with no interruptions.

So, go on, give Orphan Black a chance; I promise you won’t regret it.

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Written by Hayley Ellis

Hayley Ellis is a full time woman and part time lover. She has been performing as a stand up comedian since 2009 @Hayles_Ellis