‘Orphan Black’ star Tatiana Maslany is strong Emmy contender for playing clones old and new

As the fourth season of BBC America’s celebrated clone drama “Orphan Black” winds down this week, it has become very clear that the focus of this season is how the past affects the future. Will Tatiana Maslany, who revisits both old clones and plays a new one, return to the Emmys after her breakthrough last year? Dish “Orphan Black” with Hollywood insiders in our notorious forums HERE

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After a second season of locations all over the world and a third focused on male clones, this season got back to basics of the first by returning to the events of the show’s pilot in which police detective Beth Childs jumps in front of a train to her death. Her identity was taken by her look-alike, con artist Sarah Manning who becomes our guide to the world of “Orphan Black.” If this is only a show you’ve heard about at Emmy time but haven’t yet seen, it’s important to know that Beth and Sarah are not just look-alikes — they are clones, part of a large scientific project titled Leda, which monitors clones all over the world.  So far, we have been introduced to 11 of these clones — 10 women and one man — all portrayed by Maslany.

Besides Beth and Sarah, the fourth season also brought back: Alison, a practically-perfect soccer mom who’s addicted to pills and alcohol; Cosima, a bisexual graduate student who is studying the clone history and who suffers from an illness that is affecting many clones;  Helena, Sarah’s much-abused twin who works as an assassin; Rachel, an executive at the institute that is operating the clone project; and Krystal, a manicurist who has no idea that she is a clone. And we were introduced an new clone character in Veera “M.K.” Suominen, a mysterious Finnish clone, who sometimes disguises herself by wearing a sheep’s head, but is apparently well-connected and imparts vital information needed by her clone sisters.

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But it is her return to Beth — who we barely got to know before her suicide in the pilot — that provides Maslany with her richest material. She gets to interact with some beloved characters from the past and brings to life Beth, a plot point from long ago who feels like a fresh character to us. It’s terrific work. While another actress might rely on wigs and accents to differentiate among the clones, Maslany uses her physicality as well. Sarah doesn’t move the way Helena does or hold her head quite the way that Alison does. She offers up eight fully rounded characters this season, even while sharing screen space with several of them at the same time.

Maslany was nominated in a tough Emmy field last year and looks likely to repeat this year, particularly with the richness she had with the fourth season material. While Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”) is no longer eligible, there may be sentiment for a final nomination for Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife”) and Michelle Dockery (“Downton Abbey’) who were snubbed last year. And there’s the rising fortunes of Caitriona Balfe (“Outlander”) with which to contend. Maslany is currently in sixth place in the Gold Derby predictions center to reap another bid.

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