Five seasons of Orphan Black comes to a close later this summer, with the new season starting up Saturday. But the show—at least the concept for the show—has been around a lot longer than that. John Fawcett, co-creator, says it took a decade to find a network willing to take on the unique series. Ultimately, BBC America did.
“It’s an awful long time to sit with an idea for a story,” Fawcett tells B&C.
He says the show’s premise—it’s centered on a woman who witnesses a suicide and takes over the dead woman’s identity and later finds out she’s a clone that’s being hunted—is “unique and compelling and exciting.” That thought kept Fawcett and his co-creator, Graeme Manson, going across those many years that they hustled to find a home for Orphan Black.
“That’s what kept Graeme and I chomping at the bit for 10 years,” he says.
Tatiana Maslany stars in the series and was awarded an Emmy for best actress in a drama last fall, beating out Claire Danes of Homeland, Robin Wright of House of Cards and Keri Russell of The Americans, among others. (“I feel so lucky to be on a show that puts women at the center,” she said that night.) Fawcett says Maslany’s performance—she’s deftly played about a dozen clones on the show—has been key to Orphan Black building an audience and lasting for five seasons.
“I don’t see Tatiana on screen,” he says. “Even as the creator, I forget one actor is playing all these parts.”
Fawcett directs many of the episodes, while Manson runs the writers’ room. They also share the showrunner title. Fawcett says he plans to focus on his directing when Orphan Black is done. “I look forward to just going back to directing,” he says. “I’ve been a producer and a showrunner and in the writers’ room on Orphan Black.”
Fawcett’s new projects include a “supernatural thriller based on a graphic novel,” he says, that he is working on with Orphan Black producer Russ Cochrane, as well as an adaptation of his horror film Ginger Snaps.
While previous seasons of Orphan Black “dug deeper into the mystery,” Fawcett says, the final season involves “finally meeting the man in charge, so to speak.” (If you don’t have time to sit through all ten episodes of season five, BBC America has the whole season in 60 seconds.
The “emotional” series finale, which Fawcett directed, has a scaled down quality to it. “We had huge, grand ideas for the finale,” says Fawcett. “In a lot of ways, it’s much smaller in scale than I originally thought. At the end of the day, viewers get to come back to the characters they love.”
For Fawcett, it hasn’t fully sunk in that Orphan Black, which took so long to find a home for, is actually coming to a close. “I don’t know that I’ve completely processed this,” he says. “I’ve been a bit in denial.”
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.