NEW YORK — No one was more surprised than Ari Millen to learn that this character on BBC America’s “Orphan Black” was not being killed off, but was being expanded.
Millen was going from a supporting character as a creepy religious cult member to playing clones with a major story line in season three, which premieres at 9 p.m. Saturday.
“I was supposed to be dead in episode six (of season two),” he said in a recent interview. Then he got a call from the show’s creator asking “if I would like to be a clone and then I hung up the phone, I sat down and caught my breath.”
He kept the secret to himself (only telling his fiancee and agent), and watched the season finale with friends. In one of the final moments when it was revealed, Millen recalls turning to see their reaction.
“Totally worth it,” he said with a smile.
“Orphan Black” stars Tatiana Maslany in multiple roles as women who discover they are clones and learn they’re part of a conspiracy.
Millen uses visual clues to play the clones. He likes to “get into costume, go into hair and makeup and see the guy in the mirror.” But after a long day of filming, characteristics of one role can sometimes bleed into another.
“Every once in a while I’d get a reminder from our script supervisor, Melanie, ‘You’re a little bit too Mark right now. I need more Rudy,’ ” he said.
He’s learned to get comfortable playing both sides of a scene.
“The learning curve this season was remembering that I had to flip around and be the other character, so don’t lock down something you can’t change later,” he said.
Millen welcomes the challenge, calling it “the best time of my life.”
“It’s really exercising my acting muscle. I don’t know if anything will ever top this and I’m happy to say that,” he said.