Interview: 'Orphan Black''s Jordan Gavaris talks nudity, homophobia
No matter how many times I meet Jordan Gavaris, I don't think I'll ever get used to how far removed he is from his indelible "Orphan Black" character, Felix Dawkins. That perfect English accent? The snarky attitude? The fabulous rent boy wardrobe? All part of the character -- and diametrically opposed to Gavaris' own Canadian accent, preppy clothes and exceedingly polite behavior.
As much as his co-star Tatiana Maslany has dominated headlines (and rightfully so) with her portrayal of multiple clones, Gavaris has resonated with fans as the guy you'd most want to call during a crisis. Felix might roll his eyes and crack wise, but he'd definitely be there for you. How can we not love Felix?
I had a chance to talk to Gavaris during press tour, and while he couldn't give any substantive clues to what's ahead in season two (which debuts Sat. April 19 at 9:00 p.m. ET), he was able to give a sense of what's ahead for Felix. The good news? Felix may not be stuck on the sidelines anymore. And more Felix is always a good thing, isn't it?
HitFix: I think everyone has this feeling like they have a Felix in their lives, so they know Felix.
Jordan Gavaris: Absolutely.
HitFix: But he’s a little edgier than probably most of our Felixes.
Gavaris: He’s bold. He’s very bold. Bold strokes. Bold, broad strokes.
HitFix: And you are taking a lot of risks in creating such a bold character.
Gavaris: Huge. I was terrified.
HitFix: Speaking of risky, you’re not naked-naked, but you’re undressed quite a bit.
Gavaris: Half the season. I’m in a state of undress a lot of the time. And just the [noticing someone passing by] – what a wonderful sentence to walk in on.
HitFix: Yeah, come in on that sentence. "So, I’m naked a lot!"
Gavaris: Just naked a lot. It was a big risk and I knew that there would be some criticism because people have a tendency to – when they see something like that on television, “Well it’s a cliché. It’s a stereotype. This is wrong.” And usually my response to that is, “Well the first thing you’ve done is honed in on the sexuality as a character, which is innately homophobic. So you’re not examining your own homophobia. That’s ironic.” And the second part is that any minority, any face of minority, deserves to have a voice, deserves to exist. You cannot put on 'Modern Family' and say that you represented all LGBT characters or all characters that are LGBT. I want to make that distinction clear because I’m trying to make a distinction between – I just think the whole gay character thing is so silly because we don’t refer to straight characters as straight characters so – in any case I thought that’s exclusionary to say that this person doesn’t have the right to exist.
Gavaris: And I take a great comfort and responsibility and I love being a part of his conception and execution because I love him. I love all parts of him. I think I know Felix and I think those – there’s just so many more interesting things to talk about.
HitFix: In the first season, Felix was like a superhero sidekick -- the guy Sarah could call at three in the morning to bring the funny for the episode.
Gavaris: Exactly. And I wanted him – I want him to develop his identity outside of the clone mystery. I want him to – or within it, but still having his own identity as a person. I think that’s really important.
HitFix: Also the cops are kind of looking to him and realizing he’s their entry into the case.
HitFix: So it seems like you’re kind of going to be more incorporated into the main plot and the stakes are going to get higher for Felix.
HitFix: I love the relationship between Felix and Alison, too. These fractious, tense little connections that blossom into something interesting on the show have been great.
Gavaris: And who would have thought it, too! Of all the characters, they would be the most unlikely partnership, but they just work so well.
HitFix: Do you have a wish list of who you'd like to see Felix with?
Gavaris: Oh, definitely. Had Helena not died, I’d have loved to see them like in a room together.
HitFix: I would have really liked that. I’m really sad about Helena.
Gavaris: I know. I got really attached to Helena.
HitFix: Now that Felix is getting pulled more deeply into the plot, what is that requiring of you as an actor?
Gavaris: I’m stretching myself a little bit more. Emotional accessibility. Instead of just going, “Oh well,” you know, you have an [attitude] or a quick [moment] here and a witty repartee or his trademark sardonicism, [it's] bringing genuine, rooted truth to a moment, especially if it’s – you know, Felix is – his go to, his automatic response when things get tense or serious is, “Oh well, you know, I’ll just laugh this off” or “I’ll make a joke out of it.” But what does he look like when it’s not a joke? What is his ultimate truth, his stripped down vulnerability?What does that look like on him. And we’re gonna find out.
HitFix: I’m assuming as he’s pulled deeper into this, the stakes are going to go up for him emotionally.
Gavaris: Stakes in general. Emotional stakes especially, yeah. So it’s gonna be a different side of Felix. [There are] multiple sides we get to see and I think that it’ll be really interesting and interesting for anyone who thinks they know the character already.
HitFix: Can you talk about what it’s like to sit down with Graeme Manson and John Fawcett to sort out who Felix is?
Gavaris: Hugely. I don’t think it started out that way, either. Like, I don’t think that Felix was going to necessarily be as integral a part of the drama as they thought, but the relationships worked so well. So he became – he became that other person.
I’m gonna have to get my inhaler soon. It’s the pollen count. My asthma’s acting up. I don’t know what the heck it is.
So yeah, it is quite an in-depth process, and I value their input, too, because a lot of the times – I mean the more you can mine from the writers the better, the stronger that the character’s representation will be. But I take a lot of libertie,s and then they’ll come in and tell me if it’s too much or not enough. There are so many bad takes we have like, you know, on film. But it’s good – I always say that if every take is good on a production, something’s wrong. If it’s just good, it’s got to be bad, good and great. And then you know that you’ve got something special because if some takes aren’t bad you’re not taking enough risks.
HitFix: There's so much pressure on Tatiana Maslany. Does the rest of the cast goof around or tease her on the set?
Gavaris: All the time. Especially when she’s in Rachel garb. I would love to get a new power suit. [looking at his button-down shirt] I’ve been, like, playing Rachel all day actually.
Are you looking forward to the season two premiere of "Orphan Black"?