Middle Man: Interview with Orphan Black's Dylan Bruce

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Bell Media/SPACE

Dylan Bruce as Paul Dierden in Orphan Black

When two people are in a long-term relationship, they very often share secrets with one another that they would never tell anyone else. When it comes to Orphan Black’s Paul Dierden, he clearly knew much more about his girlfriend Beth than she did, including that she was one of several clones and that he was being blackmailed by a powerful international biotech firm, the Dyad Institution, to act as her “monitor.” When Beth committed suicide, one of her fellow clones, Sarah Manning, assumed her identity and life. Paul soon caught on to her scam, and together with Sarah was drawn deeper into a convoluted and constricting web of lies. He is still stuck in the middle of all this at the start of season two, and actor Dylan Bruce, who plays Paul, remains right by his side.

“I was waiting in eager anticipation to get going on season two,” says Bruce. “Once I found out we’d been picked up for a second season, I could hardly wait to step back into Paul’s shoes and see what our writers had in store for my character’s story. We kind of left him off last year in an ambiguous place as far as where his loyalty lies, and as season two begins, Paul definitely sees the termination of his role as monitor. Sarah [Tatiana Maslany] is now very much self-aware, and he is still in Dyad’s grasp.

“Paul needs to find a way to make himself an asset to Dyad, but he doesn’t want to become a disposable asset, if you know what I mean. He has no choice but to agree to cooperate with Rachel Duncan [another clone and a high-ranking official within Dyad] and do her dirty work. As the same time, Paul doesn’t want to eliminate the sliver of trust that he’s been able to establish with Sarah. As such, he’s clearly walking a tightrope at the beginning of season two, and he also has his own agenda that he’s pushing. So it’s a rollercoaster ride all over again. We had a saying this year on Orphan Black that we hit the ground running, and as you could tell by the first teaser trailer for season two that went out, Sarah is running full-tilt and everyone is giving chase.


“When it comes to my character, he’s still cold, methodical, calculating and always looking for an angle. Having said that, Paul remains compelled to a degree to help Sarah because of the guilt he feels over what happened to Beth as well as Sarah’s desperate search to find her daughter Kira [Skyler Wexler], who has been abducted. As I mentioned, though, Paul has his own agenda that he’s trying to push forward. He’s always looking out for number one, and I would never doubt, not for even a second, that that theme is going to prevail with him throughout season two. He’s such a terrific character and I never want to paint him into a corner, so I appreciated the writers steering Paul in a direction where his loyalties could play out in so many different ways. That’s where the [acting] challenge was for me, just to make his story believable and keep viewers guessing as the season goes on.”

Despite having grown up in very different surroundings and under very different circumstances, the fact that Sarah and Rachel are clones means that they share certain traits, including drive and determination. Rachel is fixated on her mission to get Sarah under Dyad’s corporate thumb, while Sarah only wants to get on living her life with her little girl. Meanwhile, Paul is trapped in a moral tug-of-war with himself between doing what he knows is right and guaranteeing his own survival.

“Dyad still has the friendly fire incident that it’s holding over his head, so Paul has to look out for himself,” explains Bruce. “In order to keep on doing that, he has to continue to make himself useful not only to Rachel but also Sarah. By staying useful to Sarah, he, in turn, makes himself useful to Rachel, because he’s the only one who truly knows how Sarah ticks. I had such a good time playing the scenes between Paul and Rachel. I absolutely love this new character, and I think Tatiana really found her stride when playing Rachel. Her performance is so fascinating, and when ‘Tat’ gets into Rachel mode, it’s scary, intriguing and fun to watch, all at the same time,” says the actor with a chuckle.


“I think Paul still has feelings for Sarah, and that really comes to light in the second season as well. However, with any TV relationship, you want to drive a wedge between a couple that you really like so that you can root for them, and there’s definitely a wedge that’s driven between Paul and Sarah now that Rachel is in the picture. Again, he has to tread carefully with Rachel and not get on her bad side. There are some interesting scenes coming up this year between Paul and Rachel, including some that are rather creepy and even ones that I’ve never seen done on television before, so get ready to be surprised.”

Paul’s ongoing professional relationship with Dyad in Orphan Black’s second season means further interaction with Dr. Aldous Leekie (Matt Frewer). He is not only the public face of Dyad but also the key figure behind Neolution, a scientific movement based on pushing the limits of human evolution and that is responsible for bringing Sarah and her fellow clones into the world.

“I had a ball working with Matt Frewer,” says Bruce. “Not only is he Max Headroom [the 1980s Sci-Fi TV series starring Frewer], so how cool is it to be on-set with such a legend, but he’s also one of the funniest guys in the world. Right before we’d shoot a serious scene, he would have me in stiches. It was hard for me to finish an entire scene with Matt without breaking character and cracking up. So it was a blast working with him and exploring the relationship between our two characters. Along with everything else this season, Paul is answering to two masters, Dr. Leekie and Rachel, and it was a blast playing out that seesaw battle in front of the camera.”


Like any TV show, the success of Orphan Black depends a great deal on its ratings as well as the support of its viewers. Numbers-wise, the show’s second season is off to a tremendous start, and its global fan base is going to make sure that that trend continues. Needless to say, Bruce and the rest of the show cast and crew could not be more grateful.

“Our fans are amazing,” enthuses the actor. “We have such a loyal and strong fan base, and we also have a varying degree of fans. We have the teen sect as well as the forty- to fifty-year-old sect, and it’s incredible to see that kind of range of cool people who are enjoying our show. I mean, I think I’m a little bit past the teen heartthrob phase, but sometimes I still feel like one with all the young Twitter followers I have. It makes me feel young again, that’s for sure, but, seriously, we’d be nowhere near where we are today with this show without the fans that we have. They make Orphan Black what it is.”

Along with Orphan Black, Bruce recently appeared in a multi-episode arc playing Starling City assistant district attorney Adam Donner in season two of the CW series Arrow. The actor also reprises his role of Bart Winslow in the upcoming made-for-TV movie Petals on the Wind, a sequel to the 2013 TV movie Flowers in the Attic.


“I actually auditioned for Arrow in Los Angeles with Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg [series co-creators/executive producers], both of whom are fans of Orphan Black,” he says. “It just so happened that they really enjoyed my work on the series and were very gracious enough to extend the offer of this role on Arrow to me. I think Arrow is a fantastic show and they do it right. They know the DC Comics universe better than anyone and really take into account what their fans want to see. The show has a great cast as well as crew, including an amazing stunt crew, and it was wonderful being on that show and witnessing the amount of preparation that goes into making the stunts look fantastic.

“I had a lot of fun working with Katie Cassidy [Laurel Lance] and Stephen Amell [Oliver Queen/Arrow], and I loved playing Adam Donner. I’d just finished doing the first season of Orphan Black and it was a treat for me to jump into this whole new world on Arrow and a whole new group of characters. I think Marc Guggenheim used to be a lawyer, so I had a ball playing a lawyer and getting to spout off all this legal jargon. It was nothing short of a great experience, plus I got to shoot in my hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia, which is always a plus for me.

Petals on the Wind was an equally positive experience for me. I got to work with Hollywood legend Ellen Burstyn as well as movie star Heather Graham and our wonderful director, Karen Moncrieff. This movie has a different feel than Flowers in the Attic, and my character of Bart Winslow plays a bigger part in it as well. The story takes place in the early 70s, and they styled my hair and dressed me in such a way that I think I look a lot like Darren Stevens from [the TV series] Bewitched,” jokes the actor. “We do some crazy stuff in Petals on the Wind, even more so than in Flowers in the Attic, and I think this movie is going to blow a lot of peoples’ minds. I feel quite lucky because I’m now being afforded the opportunity to play a variety of roles and I don’t feel like I’m being stereotyped and forced into playing just one particular type of guy. I’m really excited for fans to see Petals on the Wind and I think it’s going to be a huge success.”


Although Orphan Black fans have just recently embarked on the journey that is season two, Bruce already knows how it plays out. Is he pleased with how his character’s story arc unfolds this time around?

“Absolutely,” says the actor. “At first, and not to spoil anything, I was a little surprised with the direction that they were going with my character, but I think it was necessary what they did with Paul. John Fawcett and Graeme Manson [series co-creators/executive producers/writers] are a lot smarter than I am and the two of them know what they’re doing, so I put my complete trust into what they had in store for Paul this season. They still always make it a collaborative effort, though, and will ask me things like, ‘Would your character say this?’ and, ‘How would Paul react in this situation?’ They let me throw my two cents in, which any great show runner is going to do, but, again, these guys are just so talented and I know they’re always going to do the right thing.

“So yes, I’m very pleased with the direction that they have taken with Paul and his storyline. It’s going to be a big surprise for a lot of people and so far it’s been nothing short of phenomenal to play this character.”

Season two of Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 9:00 p.m. EST on Canada's SPACE Channel and in the States on BBC America. Please note, all Orphan Black photos courtesy/copyright of Bell Media/SPACE.

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A native of Massachusetts, Steve Eramo has been a Sci-Fi fan since childhood, having been brought up on such TV shows as Star Trek and Space: 1999. He is also an Anglophile and lover of British TV. A writer for 35 years – 17 of those as a fulltime freelancer – Steve has had over 2,500 feature-length…

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