I had the pleasure of chatting with Vas Saranga all about his current role on Orphan Black and learn a little bit more about the mysterious island run by P.T. Westmoreland. Thank you to Vas for taking the time to speak with me and for sharing so much about the filming process.
How would you describe your character on Orphan Black?
“I describe Amar as a little bit reluctant, but subordinate and highly motivated to accomplish any task that he’s given.”
What was it like filming on the island?
“We shot near the Scarborough Bluffs and we shot in Rouge Park, which is actually not as remote as it looks, but the way that they captured it and the way that they built the set made it feel like it was remote. I actually grew up in that area and when I got to the set it was unrecognizable to me that this was still in the city of Toronto, just on the outskirts of it, it really felt like it was a thousand miles away. It was very cold I can say that much. It was definitely getting into, at least in Celsius, the negative temperatures with a lot of snow. I think that actually made the challenge more worth accomplishing and I think it brought a lot of reality to the scenes. The people on this this island are braving all kinds of weather conditions because they believe in what the founder has to say and they’ll pretty much do anything, live anywhere, and live however he tells them to live.”
In episode 6 the islanders led this massive revolt, which I believe your character kicked off?
“Yes, that’s right that was me. I was proud to be given that task as the character that confronts Cosima and is ultimately the one that has the power to decide which way the mob swings. If you notice from the scene she shows me the picture of P.T., whose just some college student in that picture, and there’s that moment where she’s being held by those sentries and she says ‘please just let me go,’ and I have that moment in character where I can say ‘No I don’t believe, this is a lie too, how can I trust you?’ but the way that she presents that information, everything adds up to me. Thankfully the islanders direct their rage outward and not towards her, allowing her to leave and basically just burning everything to the ground. You’ll hear us chanting ‘This place is a lie’ and ‘The Founder is a liar, none of this is real’”
Are there any behind the scenes moments that you can share?
“Yeah definitely. When I was shooting that scene with Tatiana (Maslany) we worked it out a bunch of different times, we shot from different angles, and we were kind of blocking it. We were trying to get it to a level where it really looked like she was being pushed around and grabbed and that her bag was being ripped from her hand, but she’s actually quite strong so it took extra effort on my part. Even as the character Cosima she can’t hide her actual strength so we had a tug of war with that thing a bunch of different times. I think on one occasion she might have pulled back and the bag clipped her in the face and she was a good sport about it. I was like ‘Tat are you okay?’ and she’s like ‘Ready to go again, let’s do it again.’ *laughs* Other than that just being with all the villagers. There’s a lot of background performers, hundreds in this village spread out among the cast and we were shooting late nights and we were standing around actual fires trying to stay warm. It’s kind of cool as an actor, it feels a bit method. They had the techno crane coming in, a drone flying overhead to capture all of these high tech, fancy shots and here we are with basically just campfire and rifles, gaslights, and things like that. It’s sort of a mixture of the high-tech and the low-tech kind of made it more real. We had a lot of comradery on that set.”
When they were destroying the island how was that sort of worked out, did people actually get to set stuff on fire?
“It’s very orchestrated. There’s many highly trained stunt performers interspersed into the mob whose cues are set first and they do many rehearsals with any pyrotechnics. The guy who basically sets the trailer on fire that’s a stunt guy who’s highly trained with pyrotechnics and then stunt coordinators making sure any real flame isn’t spreading. Literally the second they say cut a bunch of people are coming in with extinguishers putting it out. There were large propane type explosions that were meant to mimic gas tanks blowing up and Molotov cocktails blowing up and they worked that out very carefully. On this set safety comes first so if they have to take extra time to plan out everything they absolutely do that. They set all of the stunts and then they start placing the actors and the background and we start trying to coordinate running in between them. There’s guys on all-terrain vehicles buzzing about and their path was perfectly set and they’ll just repeat it over and over and over again from different angles so it becomes like a fine dance. By the end of it it’s really controlled chaos. It’s kind of amazing too. When you see that shot of Mud standing there while the chaos is going all around her and I’m behind her screaming and I’m just kind of passing through and there’s all this chaos happening and she’s just there picking up that picture and going ‘what have I done.’ It’s the same action being repeated over and over again so that there’s no chance of her getting hit by anybody and the fire explosions and things like that happen at the exact same time. It’s really really amazing. When you’re in it you feel as an actor that it’s really happening because you can’t see where the cameras are because they’re shooting from so far away and you’re not exactly sure what the shot is going to end up being in the edit so you have to assume that you’re going to be on camera at all times. You have to stay in character and every take you start to notice more and more things, like you see some people looting and some people setting things on fire and some people with rifles. As an actor I started noticing on every take what people are doing more and more and as we did more takes it would feel more real. It was actually really exhilarating to film a scene like that where everything is being destroyed and burnt to the ground and know it’s such a dramatic point in the storyline just makes it more exciting.”
It was amazing to watch because when you’re watching it you never really think how much work goes into it, because when you watch it it’s just happening.
“It’s movie magic. It takes an army to do this, it takes almost an entire day of filming to do something like that.”
Can you tease anything, no spoilers, about the island going forward?
“There’s no way to tease anything without spoiling at this point *laughs* I know you had to ask, but my lips are completely sealed because there’s only a couple episodes left and I don’t want to do any kind of disservice to anything that’s coming up. I can say they’re very smart in the way that they produce the show and the way that they coordinate. It’s very much like you’re joining the CIA. You’re on a need to know basis as an actor. I did not get scripts for the episodes that I was not in and I had to have one on one conversations with the directors to fill in the gaps because they don’t want any leaks, giving away any kind of a storyline in any sort of way would basically ruin what they’re trying to achieve here with the final trip. I was really impressed, everything is kept under lock and key. Even Tat was saying sometimes she has to wait for the script to come in to know what’s going to happen.”
I know your brother, Varun Saranga, was on an episode. Did you guys come in contact at all?
“No, no, he filmed on a different day entirely. He filmed at a different location and on a different day so we missed each other just by a couple of days. The great thing was that when I went in for my next episode and when I was doing the read through and even when I was going through hair and make-up everyone was like ‘Hey your brother was here, it was so fun working with him. Wish we could shoot with both of you together at the same time. It was really fun.’ That was exciting to know that he had fun doing it too and that everyone got along with him. I think there was already a rapport, I guess now the family is part of the clone club.”
Who is your favorite clone?
“Krystal is my favorite clone. I just think she’s the funniest, so super funny, really crazy out there character that has the most surprises. Like the person you think knows the least knows the most and ends up being right so many times. Has a way of just putting people down, but at the same time fishing for compliments. I just think it’s brilliant, especially seeing Tatiana portray a character that on the surface is dumb, but there are so many layers there, and knowing how smart some of the other characters are and seeing where the lines overlap. Where some of the clones overlap in their emotions and personality. For me Krystal’s stuff has been my favorite.”
If you had to pick a clone who was most like you, who would it be?
“I’m scared to say Alison, but just some of the uptight qualities she has. I’m not nearly as far in that direction, but I’ve been told sometimes I can exhibit some of the little more annoying qualities that Alison has.”
I know you have some projects coming up, what can you tell me about Little Italy?
“Little Italy is a really funny romantic comedy that I filmed this year with Hayden Christensen and Emma Roberts. It’s kind of a modern day take on Romeo and Juliet set in the world of pizza restaurants. I play Hayden Christensen’s co-worker at his family pizzeria. It’s a really really fun movie that has a lot of tender moments and a great emotional journey for all of the characters. It’s got an all-star cast and a great director, Donald Petrie, he did How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Miss Congeniality, Grumpy Old Men. He’s just a legend in the industry. It’s going to be hilarious I think and I think people are going to really like it.”
You also have a webseries coming out, Jib and Jab on a Quest, what can you tell me about that?
“It’s a pilot project webseries that’s currently securing funding and in development. It’s set in a gamer space, like an RPG themed webseries. I think the best way to describe it in one sentence is Monty Python in Middle Earth. It follows these two characters Jib and Jab who are avatars in a video game, but don’t know it. They’re just dropped into an RPG style game, like Legend of Zelda and they are on this quest to destroy the evil Count Bloodbone in this universe that’s full of ghouls and witches and sorcerers and all sorts of other crazy things. They team up and go on this quest together. It’s very much a buddy comedy. It’s got action, humor, fantasy, I think it checks all the geek boxes. I’m really excited to be a part of it and I’m really hoping it makes a splash online.”
What are some of your other upcoming projects because I know that’s not all of them?
“I’m playing a recurring character on CBS’s new thriller Salvation, which premiered on July 12th. It’s a summer event series, a thirteen part event series. I play a character named Dexter who works at the Pentagon and the show is about an asteroid that’s on course to strike Earth in six months. A billionaire tech genius and an MIT grad student team up with The Pentagon to stop this catastrophe from happening. It really deals with the human stories that come up when you’re dealing with something of this scale, when you’re faced with the world ending and your life being over in six months and how do you spend your time. What do you do? How do you conduct yourself? Do you sacrifice your time to try and stop this thing from happening or do you live life in a way that you haven’t, just accepting your fate? There’s a lot of really powerful themes in this show and a lot of really cool angles that they play. At the same time it’s thrilling, there’s lots of action and high drama and pretty funny at times too. I’m really excited to be part of the show.
I’m also going to be playing a recurring role in season two of The Girlfriend Experience, which should be premiering this fall on Starz. This season is an entirely new storyline and the storyline I’m part of takes place in the world of Super Political Action Committees. It’s set in the world of power and greed in politics in Washington and that’s going to overlap with the escort business. I’m really excited for people to see that and I’m excited to be part of the season.”
I saw that you had a cat and a dog from Happy Tails Rescue, and I love a good rescue pet story, so I was curious how you got your pets and found out about the rescue.
“The cat’s rescued from the Toronto Humane Society, but our dog, Lincoln, is a 12 year old Yorkie that was rescued by Happy Tails Rescue Ontario. It’s an organization that specializes in rescuing small breeds and finding them homes. They rescue them, they foster them, they nurse them back to health, and they try to find the perfect homes for them. Actually my wife Marina was looking to rescue a dog after we had such a great experience with our cat and Yorkie has always been one of our favorite breeds. We found Happy Tails online and they actually post all the pictures of the new dogs up for adoption on their Facebook, Instagram, and their website. Once we saw Lincoln, he was around 9 years old when we adopted him, he had that innocent look in his eyes and he’s so tiny and everyone thinks he’s a puppy even though he’s a senior dog. He had a couple of health problems, but when we met him he just took to us right away and we fell in love with him. Part of what they do is try to find the perfect home for pets, especially if they have any health issues or any trauma, which can happen a lot with rescues. When they find that perfect home that can lead to better overall health because they’re happier and their mood is better. He’s been the best thing that ever happened to us, we really love him. I’m actually looking at him right now, he’s sleeping in his little bed kind of watching me talk on the phone. He’s totally a lap dog. He was really shy when we first met him, but now he wants belly rubs every two seconds, he always wants to jump up on the couch and sit on our laps when we’re reading or watching tv. He’s always at the door when we leave and in the same spot at the door when we come home. It really makes us happy and proud that we were able to take him in and we’re always talking up this organization to everyone that we meet because they’re really doing great stuff. There’s so many dogs and cats out there that need good homes and going forward rescuing is what we’re going to do moving forward.”
Thank you again to Vas for such a great interview and for complimenting my Orphan Black recap videos.
Make sure to tune into Orphan Black Saturdays at 10 pm EST on BBC America!
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