‘Orphan Black’s’ Tatiana Maslany ‘Stronger’ in new role

Emmy winner stars opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in the film about the Boston Marathon bombing which opens Friday

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Toronto -- Tatiana Maslany has made it. She’s the Emmy-winning star of “Orphan Black,” the sci-fi series in which she played almost a dozen roles during the show’s just-wrapped five-season run.

On the other hand, she’s still a working actress, trying to memorize Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA” while driving to auditions in Los Angeles. “I’m, like, adamant that I learn all the lyrics to that,” she says.

Tatiana Maslany attends the “Stronger” premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on Sept. 8 in Toronto.

Her days of auditions may be nearing their end. Maslany takes on her first big, name-above-the-title movie role in this weekend’s “Stronger,” the story of Jeff Bauman, the man who lost his legs during the bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013. Maslany plays Erin Hurley, Bauman’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, and she makes a big impact in the role.

When she heard about the project, Maslany sent in a taped audition and got a call to do a chemistry read with star Jake Gyllenhaal, “which even just that, I was like whatever, if it doesn’t go any further, I’m just so honored I got to play with him for an hour in a room,” says Maslany, talking up her “Stronger” role in a high rise hotel suite earlier this month during the Toronto International Film Festival. “That’s just kind of a dream for me as an actor.”

She got the part, and met with Hurley and Bauman one night in Boston when, along with Gyllenhaal and director David Gordon Green, they went out for dinner and caught a comedy show. She didn’t set out to do an impression of Hurley on screen, but she wanted to capture her essence and spirit in her portrayal.

“I just wanted to be around her, to get a sense of her in the world and how she thinks and how she speaks,” says Maslany, her legs wrapped in a down blanket in the cool hotel room.

While “Stronger” marks Maslany’s first big movie role, she’s been acting most of her life. As a child in Regina, Saskatchewan, which she lovingly calls “a tiny little weird place,” she danced ballet, jazz and tap, and was caught one day by a flier for auditions for a local production of “Oliver!”

“My mom was like, ‘you want to?’ and I was like, ‘yeah,’ ” she says, and thus began a career in the arts.

Maslany, who turns 32 on “Stronger’s” opening day, appeared in numerous school plays and local theater productions in Regina. She began landing TV and movie roles in her teens, appearing on the Canadian TV series “2030 CE” in 2002 and 2003, and playing a ghost in 2004’s “Ginger Snaps: Unleashed.”

At age 20 she moved to Toronto and began to study acting more seriously, taking acting classes and learning about the craft.

“I found a deeper place and took more of an ownership about it,” she says, crediting John Cassavetes movies with giving her a more serious appreciation of cinema.

“It became about so much more, which was empathy and characters, studying characters, psychology, and all this cool stuff that comes along with breaking down a character.”

Tatiana Maslany and her "Stronger" co-star Jake Gyllenhaal attend the movie's premiere party Sept. 8 in Toronto.

Maslany continued to work steady roles in small TV and film projects before landing “Orphan Black” in 2013. On the clone-themed BBC America series, she played a dizzying number of characters — at least a half-dozen per episode — and she took home the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2016, the second year she was nominated.

She filmed “Stronger” between the show’s fourth and fifth seasons, and is now looking for her next move. She’s currently living in Los Angeles on a work visa and has been working on developing a “totally experimental, very small indie film” with her boyfriend, actor Tom Cullen (“Downton Abbey”).

Maslany was auditioning for roles as recently as last month.

“For now, this is what excites me,” she says. “I’m used to being a working actor and I’m used to working for the roles I get, so I enjoy this process.

“Acting is this beast that grows as you grow as an actor and as a person, so there’s never an end result you can achieve. I don’t think I’ll ever feel safe and satisfied.”

But for now, at least she’s feeling “Stronger.”


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Rated R for language throughout, some graphic injury images, and brief sexuality/nudity

Running time: 119 minutes

Opens Friday