PASADENA, Calif. — The life of an actor can be either feast or famine. Many can’t take the erratic nature and fallout. But actress Tatiana Maslany isn’t one of them.
“The beginning of last year I did a play in January and was really jazzed about it; it got a great reception," the Canadian actress said.
“And then I went to L.A. for pilot season and had the most difficult time. I tried out for loads of things and thought I was right and thought I did an interesting audition or whatever, and then you don’t hear anything — and as it’s the hardest as far as rejection goes. But I think we’re kind of addicted to that high-low thing."
That high-low thing kept her unemployed for almost a year. “And then I got ‘Orphan Black.’ And it’s the best job I’ve ever got because the part is insanely exciting. The part is like something I would’ve dreamed about and never thought I could actually do or be seen for."
Americans will catch Maslany honing her dialect skills when “Orphan Black" premieres March 30 on BBC America.
“I had to go in with an accent, and the character is this kind of London, working-class girl. She’s a hustler and she’s rough and she’s lived hard and has a lot of regrets and a lot of flaws. And that’s exactly the kind of people I’m fascinated by," she laughed. “It’s so far from my world, yet it’s human. We all have those flaws."
Though she grew up in the far reaches of Saskatchewan, Maslany has been performing since she was a kid. “I was doing it in high school professionally. So I would leave school for two months at a time to shoot a movie somewhere in Canada, or shoot a series. Even in high school I thought, ‘I really love this, I don’t know why.’ It was the only thing I do, so that must be it. It’s the thing I’m good at or the thing that I’ve been rewarded for."
Maslany starred in mini- series like “World Without End" and “Heartland," but says she never attended drama school. “It was always working, learning on the job, learning through making big mistakes on the job. And watching bad things and being, like, ‘OK. Our mistakes are right there on screen, on celluloid for the rest of our lives.’ It’s out there and there’s lots of movies or TV shows I wish I hadn’t done."
A shy person, she says she’s been an observer most of her life. “As a kid I was very studious, very nerdy, very tomboyish. I wanted to be a boy. I always thought that was more interesting than being a girl. I had a younger brother who I grew up with who was my best friend and a little, little brother who’s 12 years younger than me. So he was a baby that we raised.
“Our family was very close. We went on bike rides all the time and my brothers and I would make movies in the backyard with a video camera and make Claymations and sitcoms. We’d always be creating something — music or free styling or doing improv with our friends in our basement. We were super nerdy in that way," she said.
“I wasn’t rebellious in any way so I think I’m really drawn to characters who have that ‘other thing’ in them."
Maslany’s mother is a translator and her father a woodworker. She’s Ukrainian-Polish on one side and German-Austrian-Romanian on the other. Besides English, she speaks French, German and a little Spanish: “I learned it in high school. I’ve done a lot of dialect work on this show and just having a sense of different cadences and different vocal placements and vowel sounds it definitely helps to know other languages."
At 27, she thinks she’s also retained a childlike view of the world. “I didn’t grow up really quickly in as much as I was in the industry and had a job very early. I was doing improv with my brothers in the basement and I feel like I didn’t want to let go of that sense of play or imagination or wonder. I was kind of wide-eyed and fascinated with the world instead of becoming a jaded teenager.
“I think I stayed a kid for a long time. I think that especially now that I’ve gotten over needing to be an adult — that sense of play has started to return to the way I want to work and the way I see the work. Because it is that openness of a child that you need to bring to it. If you don’t, then you’re not keying into all the cool things your imagination can bring to it."