Exclusive: Jordan Gavaris Talks BBC America's Orphan Black, Clones and Much More
AMANDA DYAR: Tell us how your career in acting got started and how long have you been doing it?
JORDAN GAVARIS: I started acting in my senior year in high school. I was working at a local video store and at the time, was fascinated by counter-culture directors like Terrance Malick, Robert Altman, and Brian De Palma (even though, at 17, I didn't fully understand their work). I was convinced I was going to be a director. I wanted to learn more about an actor's process, so I enrolled in a local acting studio. There was a sense-memory exercise and scene-study component to the class, and while I couldn't make heads or tails of sense memory, the instructor approached me after I put up my first scene in front of the class; "Why are you here?" she asked. I told her I wanted to be a director and was already working on my first script. "No, no," she said. "You're not a director. You're an actor." Well, the woman was so sure of herself that I guess I believed her too. Six months later, I was standing in the middle of the Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan, shooting my first feature film.
AMANDA: How did you become involved with Orphan Black and what inspired you to audition for this particular role?
AMANDA: What are some of the biggest challenges in becoming Felix and do you have any peculiar/funny/favorite moments from those experiences?
JORDAN: Felix is anything but bland, and I knew if I was given the opportunity to play him, I couldn't chicken out; I couldn't play it safe. Felix is a showman. It's even fair to say he's over the top, but he's not a cartoon; he's still a human being. When I was working through the audition material, I understood Felix's relationship with Sarah, and I got that the hair, make-up, clothing, and attitude are all part of an armored defense for him, but something was still missing. So I asked myself, “How does he walk across the room? How does he butter his toast? How does he load the dishwasher?”‘ (For the record, you can tell a lot about a person by the way they load a dishwasher). I decided to combine the physicality of a feline with some of the loose hip work of Mick Jagger. Unfortunately, I decided to practice in front of a bay window in my parent's house and didn't see that the pool company was there to remove the winter cover. I must've been quite a site, strutting around my kitchen and crawling on the furniture like a house cat. When I finally turned around, they were kind enough to pretend they hadn't caught the show.
AMANDA: How do you and Tatiana Maslany get along on set? Tatiana plays A LOT of characters on the show. Are there any of her characters in particular that you like or dislike?
JORDAN: Tat is an exceptional artist and an extraordinary human being. She was as gracious, warm, and hard-working from the day we met to the day we wrapped; the spiritualist in me likes to believe we were family in a past life. Pretending you've known somebody for twenty years when you only met last Tuesday can be challenging, but Tat made it easy- she was so open, and that made me feel like I could do the same. Needless to say, we got on from the start and have been great friends since. As for the other "Tatianas", that's easy: I'd kick it with Cosima anytime and would happily taste-test anything out of Alison's kitchen, but if I ever bumped into Helena, I'd probably run as fast as I could in the opposite direction, or at the very least, try and find some rebar.
AMANDA: The budget for Felix's wardrobe has to be huge. What do you think about all of his outfits and what does this add to the character?
JORDAN: The running joke on set was that Felix's make-up bag was so big and his wardrobe so extensive that, that's why we could only afford a ten episode season. Our costume designer, Laurie Drew, put a great deal of thought into Felix’s wardrobe. When I went in for my initial fitting, she had pages and pages of tear-sheets from European fashion magazines and old portraits of 70's glam-rockers. Part of the gag is that, like any good entertainer, Felix has an outfit for every occasion. This makes the rare moments when Felix is grounded and stripped down, more impactful. With any luck, the audience will see an evolution in the character as the season progresses and this is reflected in his wardrobe- it's slow-going, but it's there.
AMANDA: In regards to horror, what has been the scariest moment of the show?
JORDAN: I think so far the scariest moment was the Helena "reveal". She's a wild card; that volatility is exciting- it's also frightening. The first scene in episode four where a young boy comes down the stairs of his home and stumbles onto a bloodied Helena performing self-surgery in the bathroom. She has that haunting Cheshire grin and she quietly brings the kid into the bathroom and locks the door. My stomach dropped ten stories.
AMANDA: For those who haven't watched Orphan Black, what makes it a must-watch above all the other shows on TV right now?
JORDAN: Orphan Black is high-concept and fast paced and the story line is fully developed. John and Graeme had work-shopped their idea over, and over again, until they had their endgame. The writers know how the story ends and I think that sets us apart from a lot of other shows with big concepts. And if that's not enough, two words: Tatiana Maslany. 'nough said.
AMANDA: Do you enjoy scary movies/tv shows and if so what are some of your favorites?
JORDAN: I'm a horror nut! It all started with a neighbor's Halloween display when I was a kid- he loved monster movies, and each year he would rig his parents' house to look like something out of a Tom Savini flick (coincidentally, that neighbor was Geoff Scott, who is part of the special effects team on Orphan Black). "Carrie" ranks at the top of my list; both Brian De Palma and Sissy Spacek are major influences of mine. I also admire Dario Argento, and I think Suspiria is one of the most operatic and artistic horror films in history (opera and horror have a lot in common). As for the films that kept me up at night, "The Exorcist" is an easy choice, and probably the greatest horror-movie ever made. "Scream" was a precisely balanced, highly intelligent, slasher film, and that's no easy feat. "Child's Play" is, by far, one of the most inventive horror movie concepts, and the clever tongue-in-cheek sequels spawned by Don Mancini are some of my favorites. Honorable mentions go to: The Thing , Halloween , Ginger Snaps (Fawcett & Walton rule!!!), Black Christmas , High Tension, House of 1000 Corpses, and the supremely atmospheric, Audition.
AMANDA: If you could have a clone, would you? And why?
JORDAN: A clone? No way. I don't think I'd like me very much if I met me. In fact I've heard that nobody would like themselves if they met themselves- save for a narcissist.
AMANDA: What does the future hold for Felix and is there anything in particular that you hope happens with your character?
JORDAN: I've heard faint whispers from the writer's room about where Felix may be headed for season two, but nothing concrete, and I like that. Generally speaking, our characters know about as much as we do; which means that when Felix makes discoveries on screen, that's really just me amplifying whatever reaction I had to reading that section of the script a few days prior.
Now, I've never played anybody so clearly delineated from myself, and it was challenging at first. I so relished the scenes between Sarah and Felix where their sibling dynamic shines because that was a strong access point for me, and I made many a discovery about who Felix is in those scenes. That said, I'd like to explore his personal life more- I'd like to learn what a romance looks like to him, and if he's capable of being vulnerable with someone other than Sarah. I'd also like to know where he came from- what his roots are, if he has any. More than anything, I'm ready for whatever the writers throw my way; even a clone or two.
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About Orphan Black
Led by Tatiana Maslany, the cast includes Jordan Gavaris (Degrassi) as Felix, Sarah’s thorny foster brother and her one true confidante; Dylan Bruce (NCIS) as Paul, Beth’s boyfriend – a decent guy with chiseled features, but more complicated than he appears; Maria Doyle Kennedy (Downton Abbey) as Mrs. S, Sarah’s hard-nosed working class foster mother from across the pond; Michael Mando (The Killing) as Vic, Sarah’s volatile ex, aptly nicknamed “Vic the Dick”; Kevin Hanchard (Republic of Doyle) as Art, a veteran detective working alongside Beth who grows suspicious of her erratic behavior: and Skyler Wexler (Carrie) as Sarah’s seven-year-old daughter. The ten-part conspiracy thriller, produced by Temple Street Productions, is co-created by Graeme Manson (Flashpoint) and John Fawcett (Spartacus), with Manson also serving as writer and Fawcett as director.
Sarah hopes that cleaning out a dead woman’s bank account will solve all her problems. Instead, they multiply at an unnerving rate. Smart, sexy and pulsating with suspense – BBC AMERICA’s new original series, ORPHAN BLACK, features rising star Tatiana Maslany (The Vow, Picture Day). She portrays Sarah, an outsider and orphan whose life changes dramatically after witnessing the suicide of a woman, “Beth,” who looks just like her. Sarah takes her identity, her boyfriend and her money. But instead of solving her problems, the street-smart chameleon is thrust headlong into a kaleidoscopic mystery. She makes the dizzying discovery that she and the dead woman are clones… but are they the only ones? Sarah quickly finds herself caught in the middle of a deadly conspiracy, racing to find answers. ORPHAN BLACK airs Saturdays, 9:00pm ET/PT, as part of BBC AMERICA’s Supernatural Saturday.
All images copyright of BBC America.