Interview | Tatiana Maslany talks Butterfly Tale, Orphan Black and She-Hulk

tatiana maslany
Share this Article:

Ahead of the release of her new animated film Butterfly Tale, we speak to Tatiana Maslany about her career.

You know her as Jennifer Walters, or She-Hulk. You know her as Erin, wife to Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jeff Bauman in the inspirational true story Stronger. Or perhaps you know her as Sarah, Helena, Rachel, Alison or any of the other clones in Orphan Black, the award-winning sci-fi show about clones, all of which she played. 

Whoever you know her as, Tatiana Maslany will next voice a butterfly called Jennifer in Sophie Roy’s charming Butterfly Tale. We sat down with Maslany to chat about the physicality of voice work, letting go of previous roles and the current status of her TV show Invitation To A Bonfire

Butterly Tale isn’t your first animated film or voice work that you’ve done. So when you get a project like this, do you still need to have that same level of relating to a character than you would in a live action film or TV project?

I feel like there’s a little more space to take something that maybe you don’t totally… I think the relating sometimes is like, ‘Oh, well, you don’t look like that person’ or ‘you’re not that age’. I think there’s a little more fluidity with it in terms of animation. It’s a lot more about the dexterousness of your voice if you’re able to like access things. There’s so many amazing voice actors who play characters that are ancient [or] babies. I don’t know that the relating thing is as crucial as the ‘can you find the energy in you’ or ‘can you find the point of view’. 

butterfly tale jennifer
Credit: Signature Entertainment

I assume you recorded this after you had done She-Hulk. So going into just a sound booth by yourself, there’s no costumes, no dots on your face or any of that, did it feel a bit like a relief?

For sure. There’s less pressure on you in some ways. What’s remarkable to me is how physical voice acting is and just how precise [Sophie, the director of Butterfly Tale] was about different melodies in your voice or intonations that signify something. I could say something and think I was exactly relating what I was thinking, but she’d be like, actually, you need to do this or that to clarify the thought. It’s a totally different kind of acting, yet, it’s super physical. Even though you don’t have those physical things to relay to the audience, your physical body is still super invested in it and it has to be or else it doesn’t work. 

I imagine in live action, you’re bouncing off whoever you’re acting against, but here I assume the other voices are recorded. It’s a different kind of spontaneity. Do you find that difficult?

I’m hearing the voice actor who’s already recorded all of his stuff, and I’m bouncing off of that, but I’m also sewing together why he says something like this, and then why he responds to me like that. There’s an interplay that’s totally different. It’s less about, in the moment, bouncing back and forth and it’s more about how do I craft the response that then gets us to this next bit? And at the same time, it requires a lot of spontaneous and immersive imagination work, to put yourself in that size, flying over a cavern or canyon or that I’m dragging these stowaways in the milkweed. It activates all that kid stuff, which is the best part of being an actor.

Read more: She-Hulk: Attorney At Law season 2 | “Disney was like, ‘no thanks,’ says Tatiana Maslany

I listened to a podcast that you did, where you talked about doing more internal roles such as Stronger. And then obviously, you’ve got these incredibly physical parts. Are you more drawn to one or the other?

Not really. It’s funny because even Stronger was a physical role in the sense that [Erin] was a runner and I was supposed to be able to run the marathon. There’s like different places that a character will live in. Some characters require more, like I want to dance to find them, or I want certain music or I want to read. I did a show that never came out because it got cancelled before we finished it. But I was reading novels, that was all I wanted to do for that character. So there’s different things that get demanded from the character for different reasons. 

tatiana maslany she-hulk
Credit: Marvel Entertainment

The show that you mentioned, is that Invitation To A Bonfire


What happened? It got cancelled, like loads of things all of a sudden are being cancelled, which is terrible. Last thing that I could find about it was that you were still shopping it around hoping that someone would pick it up but is all hope lost? 

I really don’t know. I don’t totally understand how that part of the industry works at all, why decisions like that get made. I know that money is the only thing for certain elements of the industry. It’s sad because it feels very precarious. Even if you’re an actor and you’re doing a job, you can’t guarantee that that job is going to hold. I think about the crew who suddenly found out they were out of work. It’s like a surreal nightmare. I’m so grateful that we went on strike and grateful that certain things have changed. There’s a lot more that needs to change. 

You’ve done such a variety of roles, do you carry all these characters around with you? Or how do you let go of them?  Like Jennifer in Butterfly Tale or the other Jennifer from She-Hulk, all the clones from Orphan Black, Erin from Stronger… Are they all still with you?

I feel like when I’m working on something, it’s hard to close it at the end of the day, it sort of stays there. I think I need to get better at stepping away from things sometimes. But I do enjoy stewing in something and living in it because other than Orphan Black, I’ve rarely done anything that’s longer than like four months of work. When I’m working on [a character], they continue to live in me and I get curious about things or I have ideas or I have dreams that I can use and play with. But I don’t know if I’m good at closing it, saying goodbye to things. Eventually they don’t occupy too much space in my head but at the time, it’s like a very intense love affair that I’m having with those characters. 

orphan black tatiana maslany
Credit: BBC America

Has there been a character that’s been especially intense for you?

Orphan Black, just because of how many of them there were and then living with them for like five years, really experiencing so many things with them. Some of them die, some of them give birth, all of this huge life stuff. And it was just such an important part of my life as an actor. I was 27 to 32, so it’s kind of an intense age anyways. For a long time, I felt like how do I play a character that doesn’t have Sarah in her or doesn’t fall back and just become Helena. They had a bit of a hold on me for a while.

Has there ever been a character that has made you go, ‘I don’t get this character, this character is so unlike me,’ and that’s kind of what pushed you to take the role?

Oh, absolutely. I did a play called Network, which was on the West End, and then it came to New York. [The character] was Diana Christensen, who was played by Faye Dunaway in the movie, and I immediately was like, I don’t fit this bill. I don’t look like Faye, I don’t have that Dunaway thing. This is such an iconic part. I just felt like a fraud alert on high and yet I had to go up every night and try to find her and embody this thing that felt so very unlike me, and being on stage is a specific vulnerability. 

Butterfly Tale is Sophie Roy’s debut feature film as a director. Do you actively seek out these female-led projects because you seem to have been in so many?

Not really. I’m fortunate that I get to work with so many women in these positions of making the decisions and guiding the ship. It’s definitely not like a concerted choice, but I’m grateful that it’s definitely more prominent or more frequent now that that women are getting the opportunity to lead. It still feels rare, it still feels like somebody is like, usually when these projects come up someone’s like, oh, and guess what? It’s a female director, and it’s a female person. And it’s like, still kind of remarkable. I can’t wait for the day when that’s not even a thing. When it’s not a remarkable thing. That people who aren’t cis, straight men who are the default.

she-hulk tatiana maslany jennifer walters
Credit: Marvel Entertainment

Exactly. We’ve just had such an incredible year with Barbie as the highest grossing film, but looking at the 2024 release calendar, it’s still cis-gendered white men telling the stories. Why are we still stuck to that?!

I don’t know. I’m sure we could talk about this forever. I think that there’s a lot of quota filling. A lot of like, ‘oh, look, we did it, so now we can go back to how things should be’, which is men leading everything. There’s a lot of lip service paid to the fact that things are changing in the industry and what that actually does is cover up the way that things are not changing. And they’re like, ‘oh, representation!’, but what does that representation actually mean behind the camera in terms of writers who aren’t just consultants, but actual writers? Like disabled writers who are often given consultancy jobs as opposed to staff writing jobs. I think there’s a lot of ways that we’re stuck in the same patterns and the same systems and don’t actually have the change that we want, or that we’re told that we have.

You’ve always been such an ally and advocated for the LGBTQ community. Has that always been  important to you?

Orphan Black was the thing that most connected me to the power of what a story or a show can do. It’s not about the show, but it’s about the community that comes around it and the way that people find each other. What was so cool about Orphan Black was even though we touched on all of these ideas of gender, sexuality and science, it was really like the Clone Club that took those ideas and built this amazing community out of it. And a lot of them are LGBTQ or allies. That power is so incredible to me and it made me feel so fortunate to be part of something that had that kind of dialogue. We are in such a brutal time, in terms of rights being turned back, and threats to reproductive rights, threats to health care and just existence as a human in your body and in the world. So it’s a no brainer to me.

Butterfly Tale is in UK cinemas 19 April.

Thank you for visiting! If you’d like to support our attempts to make a non-clickbaity movie website:

Follow Film Stories on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.

Buy our Film Stories and Film Junior print magazines here.

Become a Patron here.

Share this Article:

More like this