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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.

 

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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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Craig Kennedy

Craig Kennedy is looking for the best on screens small and large. Follow him on Twitter (@LivingInCinema), on tvtag, on Facebook and listen to him along with Sasha and Ryan on the Oscar Podcast.

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11 Comments

  1. May 4, 2014

    She is just amazing. I think Cosima may be the best example of a clone acting like an individual, you don’t see Maslany at all, you see a completely different person. The episode you mention, where Sarah pretends to be Alison is pure comedy genius. But when Helena pretendes to be Beth is in a whole other level. I just love that part. Thanks for this piece!

    Reply
  2. Chris
    May 4, 2014

    Dude, Downton Abbey isn’t even BBC – it’s their commercial rival ITV

    Reply
  3. Branko Burcksen
    May 4, 2014

    I have not seen Orphan Black, but I have heard nothing but good things about it. And this performance is definitely one of them. It reminds me of how the entire cast of Cloud Atlas was shafted despite the majority having to play multiply characters. What’s more, it is rare to see a female character(s) with so much diversity within a single show.

    Last night I watched the premiere of Attack on Titan. It will easily be overlooked by many just by looking at a few images, but what is really surprising is how much variety the female characters show. What’s more, unlike many other serial dramas in period settings, these girls are not judged by their male counterparts because of their gender.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTxCp1tryyE

    Reply
  4. Craig Kennedy
    May 4, 2014

    Chris. you’re right, but it’s still terrible.

    Milagros. Yes I think Cosima is my favorite too. I like them all in their own way. Helena! I love the way she eats.

    Reply
  5. Craig Kennedy
    May 4, 2014

    Branko, Cloud Atlas is still an open wound that stings. Even if people hated the movie (and lots obviously did), it’s a shame the cast didn’t get more respect.

    Reply
  6. Craig Kennedy
    May 4, 2014

    Branko, tell me more about Attack on Titan. Is this an English dub of a Japanese show?

    Reply
  7. Branko Burcksen
    May 4, 2014

    Craig. Yes, Attack on Titan is a Japanese cartoon that originally aired in 2013. The last remnants of humanity live behind huge walls to protect them against monsters called Titans. Basically, they are like giant zombies. I do not want to say more about the story than that. It became very popular as people discovered it online. Attack on Titan is one of the few anime I would recommend to anyone without hesitation if they are adults. The entire first season is available in Japanese with English subtitles on Netflix and Hulu. Cartoon Network will run the series in English on Saturdays at 11:30pm.

    Reply
  8. Craig Kennedy
    May 5, 2014

    Thanks Branko. I’ll have to check it out. Cartoon Network is not in my wheelhouse, though I did recently enjoy Rick & Morty.

    Reply
  9. PaulContinuum
    May 27, 2014

    If you factor in the last 2 Leo Awards, Constellation Awards, Canadian Screen Awards & Saturn Awards, Rachel Nichols is the lead actress on a series that’s been nominated for a cumulative 55 awards. The quality is there, people, if you just watch the show. But ancient and outdated eligibility rules DQ Continuum from Emmy and Golden Globe consideration for the threadbare reason it was produced in Canada.

    That’s why Nichols >>> Maslany. Pop in a tape of the second season episode “Second Opinion” and your tune will change. The Saturns agree with me. Continuum was nominated for 3 of them in February (Cable Series, Nichols and Erik Knudsen). Orphan Black? None.

    Reply
  10. Craig Kennedy
    May 28, 2014

    I don’t think being a Canadian production disqualifies a show from consideration. It just has to air on US TV in primetime. Downtown Abbey is not a US production, but it gets nominated all the time.

    That’s not to say you’re not right about Nichols. I haven’t seen Continuum, but will check it out.

    Reply
    • PaulContinuum
      May 31, 2014

      Rule 8, Criteria for Eligibility, 2013-2014 Emmy Regulations:

      “Foreign television production is ineligible unless it is the result of a co-production (both financially and creatively) between U.S. and foreign partners, which precedes the start of production, and has a commitment to be shown on U.S. television prior to the start of production.”

      The Globes’ rules on Canadian produced TV is similar. I urge you, Craig to turn to Netflix, where the first 2 seasons are ready for viewing :)

      Reply

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