Dear Emmy – Four Words: Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany

First of all, congratulations to television for offering a larger venue for more amazing female performances than one generally finds in movies, but shame on Emmy for repeatedly failing when it comes to nominations. The fact Tatiana Maslany, the star of BBC America’s Orphan Black was ignored last year despite playing multiple yet subtly distinct roles is a massive black mark on a group of awards that all too often rewards the safe and familiar while filing to recognize the new and interesting.


orphan black

No offense to most of 2013’s nominees including Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel) , Claire Danes (Homeland), Robin Wright (stellar in House of Cards), Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men – 5 nominations but no wins which is absurd ) and Kerry Washington (Scandal), but repeat nominee Michelle Dockery is a ridiculous choice as a mostly talented but entirely unchallenged actress who has no business getting nominated multiple times for being adequate in the inexplicably popular Downton Abbey, a BBC an ITV soaper which everyone would ignore if the accents weren’t British and in which Dockery isn’t even the best part. Full disclosure: I haven’t seen Connie Britton in Nashville because life is just too short to fill it with nonsense.

As talented as most of the nominees were, Tatiana Maslany easily deserved a place at this Emmy table. It’s true, there’s room to nitpick the overall quality of Orphan Black, but you can also easily do the same thing to Danes’ Homeland which is an absurd and mostly shitty potboiler redeemed almost entirely by the lead actress. The fact Elisabeth Moss has repeatedly provided the heart, soul and vital counterpoint to Jon Hamm in Mad Men yet hasn’t won despite 5 nominations since 2009 is shameful, but that’s really another story. At least Moss has been nominated which is more than you can say for Maslany.

The other thing is, Emmy had seven nominees in 2013 as opposed to six the year before. I don’t know what the ins and outs behind the nominations, but clearly they’re fluid. If so, why not eight nominees when it’s warranted? Apparently the number is not carved in stone so why not acknowledge Maslany who was better than any of the other nominees? It’s another example of why Emmy isn’t taken seriously.

If you haven’t seen the show, the important fact is that Maslany plays multiple characters who look similar but are different in subtle but fundamental ways. They are physical clones but mentally behave as individuals. While each character gets a degree of mileage out of different hairstyles, accents and personalities, Maslany repeatedly goes beyond that. The difference between the characters she plays are surprisingly subtle.

One of the best episodes of the first season involved Maslany as one clone pretending to be another clone. What was amazing was the pretender was clearly a third distinctive character in the most subtle of ways. She was a little bit of the character she was and a little bit of the character she was pretending to be yet ultimately different. Similar yet distinct. Maslanay could not rely on costume or hairstyle or accent. It was pure acting and it was brilliant and should’ve been acknowledged last year at the Emmys.

The fact Emmy ignored her last year in the favor of other comfortable but popular favorites is a big reason no one takes the awards seriously. How can you repeatedly acknowledge Dockery in a hanky-twisting crock like Downton Abbey yet fail to reward Tatiana Maslany who has ennobled TV with a wonderful and unique energy?

In the first few episodes of Orphan Black this season, I can’t say Maslany has been called upon to approach what she did last season, but it doesn’t matter. She still single-handedly carries a terrifically entertaining show and she should’ve been acknowledged last year. Now is the time to get it right, Emmy.


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