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article imageOp-Ed: The case for Orphan Black: snubbed in Emmy award nominations

By Mathew Wace Peck     Jul 12, 2014 in Entertainment
For the second year running, and to the annoyance of ardent fans, the sci-fi series “Orphan Black” has failed to garner a single nomination in the Emmy awards.
Orphan Black is BBC America’s science-fiction-y #CloneClub thriller series, Season 2 of which recently concluded. Season 1 originally aired just over a year ago, and a third round of new episodes has already been announced for next 2015. The series stars Tatiana Maslany, in multiple roles (believe me, you’ll lose count!) and Jordan Gavaris. Simply put, it’s brilliant.
However, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Emmy Squad had never heard of the Clone Club.
Inevitably, as happens with awards ceremonies, and as Tim O’Brien voiced on Digital Journal a couple of days ago, disquiet from some quarters was going to follow the publication of this year’s Emmy nominations — not surprising, when there are so many contenders for each category.
But nothing — nothing at all! — for the second year running for one of the most innovative and consistently superbly acted dramas to have graced TV screens? Somebody is taking the $%£&.
Zero and zero again
In 2013, following the conclusion of Season 1, in which Maslany played up to ten different clone characters, fans of the show eagerly anticipated that year’s Emmy nominations. However, they were left very disappointed and utterly bewildered, Orphan Black failing to receive even one nod.
That disappointment, bewilderment and, in some cases, anger has increased several-fold at the news two days ago that Orphan Black has received exactly the same number of Emmy nominations — i.e. zilch — this time round.
Many, many people — everyone but the Television Academy bods, it feels like — are airing their views in support of the series wherever they can: online through various publications, in chat rooms, on blogs, through websites and on social media, especially through Twitter.
As reported by E!, “the Twitterverse erupted in outrage, with [Maslany] a worldwide trending topic on the social media site following the announcement of the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations.”
Meanwhile, for its response to the Emmy snub, the official Orphan Black Twitter feed decided to resort to a series of cheeky tweets.
Annoyed-reaction articles have also already appeared in the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly and New York magazine — to name just three.
What, then, is so special about Orphan Black?
Well, the disappointment and bewilderment shared by so many fans of the show is in no small part due to not understanding how the Emmy awards committee could, for two years in a row, overlook Maslany in particular for, as Wired puts it, her “stunning performances.”
Yes, “performances” plural. Orphan Black’s great conceit is that many of the character’s in the series are played by just one person: Maslany (if you haven’t already guessed — Clone Club? — it’s all about cloning). What impresses anyone who’s watched the show is that, without exception, all of her characters are distinct, even down to the subtlest facial movements.
Often, up to five of Maslany’s characters — including Rachel Duncan, Cosima Niehaus, her main character Sarah Manning and Alison Hendrix — are seen on screen together, interacting with one another. Obviously, when filming these multiple parts, she is having to do each scene separately; it’s the magic of television that presents it to us as a whole.
Tatiana Maslany appears four times in this picture  as (l to r) Rachel Duncan  Cosima Niehaus  Sarah...
Tatiana Maslany appears four times in this picture, as (l to r) Rachel Duncan, Cosima Niehaus, Sarah Manning (foreground) and Alison Hendrix
BBC America / Orphan Black
We’ve seen it in film and on TV many times before, of course, where one actor takes on two separate roles, but what’s really really incredible in the case of Orphan Black is that we the viewer find ourselves forgetting that these characters — often considerably more than just two — are all the same person! Maslany’s performances are truly impressive.
Still just 28, on her Orphan Black performances alone, Maslany surely still has a bright acting future ahead of her. Who from the film and television industry would not be interested in casting her? But try convincing the people who make up the Emmy awards committee, a committee that Wired, in echoing the thoughts of many, describes as not having “a broad enough television palate to actually be considered a TV authority in 2014,” and asks “have [they] ever even seen an episode of Orphan Black?” It could be that, as Dewdle says, they watch “filtered television” or, in keeping with a sci-fi theme, “television in an alternate universe altogether.”
Maslany definitely deserves recognition, as does another Orphan Black cast member to have been ignored once again in the Emmy nominations: Jordan Gavaris. He, too, impresses anyone who watches the series with his portrayal of Felix, Sarah’s foster brother and Clone Club insider.
Recently, shortly before the nominations were announced, Zap2it talked — rather naively, as it turned out — about Maslany’s “inevitable Emmy nomination,” and suggested that it would be fitting for Gavaris to get some sort of recognition, too.
Sadly, it’s not to be, despite his undeniably solidly consistent performance in the show. As Felix, Gavaris is often seen interacting with the multiple clones, which necessitates the 24-year-old spending an awful amount of time performing to Maslany’s tennis-ball-on-a-stick stand-ins.
Also of note is that while Felix speaks with a pitch-perfect British-English accent, Gavaris is in fact a born-and-bred Canadian. (Oh, as a complete aside — and forgive me for straying — someone else who is currently providing a pitch-perfect English accent is the American actor Maggie Gyllenhaal, in Hugo Blick’s brilliantly frustrating BBC Two British thriller series, The Honourable Woman.)
Jordan Gavaris
Jordan Gavaris
Creative Commons
In Gavaris’s case, apparently, even his co-workers were shocked the first time they heard him speak in his normal accent. Having to that point been used to hearing him only as British, they, like anyone watching Orphan Black on their TV screens, assumed he was English and, even now, find it hard to believe he isn’t — he fooled me completely.
In fact, if you watch an interview with Gavaris, it takes a little time to adjust to it being the same person, all of Felix’s idiosyncrasies and posturing, as well as the accent, discarded.
I do take some comfort in Orphan Black’s sidelining, however; for, ironically — as was voiced by Vanity Fair following Maslany’s Emmy non-nomination last year — all the hullabaloo surrounding the show and its leads being consistently ignored will probably do it and them a lot more good, in terms of publicity for and wider interest in, now and in the future.
I’ll say it again: Orphan Black is well worth watching, Tatiana Maslany is superb and Jordan Gavaris is pretty brilliant, too. Spread the word and, to misquote dreadfully one of my favourite films, remember this: What’s the first (second and third) rule(s) about Clone Club? You talk, talk and talk again about Clone Club!
Roll on Season 3 and, if you haven’t already joined Clone Club, I suggest you seek out the Orphan Black DVDs and Blu-rays now.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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