Actress Tatiana Maslany, the Canadian star of the acclaimed TV series Orphan Black, says she fell in love with her boyfriend once again while they played a troubled couple in a new film The Other Half, which is playing at the Vancouver International Film Festival.
"We got to fall in love again. We got to meet each other for the first time," Ms. Maslany told a festival forum Saturday, referring to her relationship with actor Tom Cullen, slyly adding, "It was like very kinky role play."
It was a candid, personal insight, but one that spoke to her work as an actress – one among many in a wide-ranging, on-stage interview with the star of the made-in-Toronto Orphan Black. Ms. Maslany has long been saluted for playing multiple clones, variations on a single person, on the show, but is in the spotlight for having recently beat out stars from such series as House of Cards, Homeland and The Americans to win an Emmy for best lead actress. "It was nice for Canada," she said Saturday.
Ms. Maslany brought rare star quality to VIFF, a festival that has generally disdained the celebrity dazzle of its higher-profile Canadian counterpart, the Toronto International Film Festival. But much of Ms. Maslany's weekend forum, in which she was interviewed by Hollywood Reporter TV critic Tim Goodman, was focused on how she works as an actress.
In The Other Half, Ms. Maslany plays a bipolar woman in a relationship with a man, played by Mr. Cullen, struggling with grief associated with a family tragedy. The pair were executive producers of the film, which has been in the works for five years, and was shot in Toronto over about 15 days.
When writer-director Joey Klein heard Ms. Maslany and Mr. Cullen, a Welsh-born actor who has appeared in such dramas as Downton Abbey and the British TV series The Five, were a couple, he tailored the script to them. "Obviously there are parts of us in there, enormous aspects of our love," Ms. Maslany, 31, said.
With Ms. Klein, Mr. Cullen and others in the production, Ms. Maslany said it was a supportive artistic environment that allowed her to go into an artistic "deep end" although the pair knew her actorly tricks so she had to abandon them. "There was a real safety net there," she said. "It didn't seem like an unsafe place to be messy and explore."
Production is about to begin on a fifth and final season of Orphan Black, which airs on Space and BBC America, and has vaulted Ms. Maslany from a journeyman actress in varied Canadian productions to something approaching stardom. She said she is happy Orphan Black is coming to an intended end and that the rug has not been pulled out from under its creators and cast by cancellation. "Hopefully we get some answers to things, because I have a lot of questions," she said.
On Saturday, the cinema seemed packed with her fans, sometimes dubbed members of a so-called Clone Club.
One woman, preparing to ask Ms. Maslany a question during the Q&A session, said she watches every Orphan Black episode with a group of 20 people. "You're kind of on a goddess level to us," she said, nervously. One man tossed an item – apparently a memory stick – to Ms. Maslany, saying it was a script he hoped she would read. "Thank you," she said as she caught it, and said, "That's how things happen." Another woman nervously said, "Thank you for being so awesome." After the formal end of the presentation, Ms. Maslany waded into the crowd.
Ms. Maslany took the adulation in stride, respectful and affectionate with the fans, crediting their support for sustaining the visibility of Orphan Black.
As for the future, she said she is looking for challenging projects. She said she has turned down the opportunity to play multiple characters in other projects. She is interested in more comedy, explaining, "Comedy is my biggest enjoyment in life, to watch."
She appears in another Canadian film Two Lovers and a Bear. She is also the female lead, opposite Jake Gyllenhaal, in the coming U.S. film Stronger, in which Mr. Gyllenhaal plays a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing.
One aspiring screenwriter asked Ms. Maslany about the "thing" in scripts, especially in the lower-budget films she is interested in, that piques her interest.
She said she is intrigued by characters who are not the noble, lovely version of themselves.
"I am interested in the things we're embarrassed to reveal," she added. And she said she likes to consider the challenge of evoking characters without dialogue. "If I was looking at a scene from a distance, could I understand this dynamic in my guts without hearing clever dialogue?"
She said she is looking for opportunities that terrify her. "I really thrive off something I am not sure I can do," she said. "I have a lot of fear when I go to work, but why else am I doing it? If I feel like it's comfortable or that it's easy I don't care. I like being thrown into a situation that I am like, 'I don't know how I am going to do this.'"