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Eight expectations

Tatiana Maslany and Jordan Gavaris. Picture: Supplied

The life of an actor can be either feast or famine. Many can't take the erratic nature and fallout but Tatiana Maslany isn't one of them.

"The beginning of last year I did a play in January and was really jazzed about it, it got a great reception," the Canadian actress says.

"And then I went to LA for pilot season and had the most difficult time. I tried out for loads of things and thought I was right and thought I did an interesting audition or whatever, and then you don't hear anything - and it's the hardest as far as rejection goes. But I think we're kind of addicted to that high-low thing."

That high-low thing kept her unemployed for almost a year. "Then I got Orphan Black and it's the best job I've ever got because the part is insanely exciting. The part is like something I would've dreamed about and never thought I could actually do or be seen for."

Australians will catch Maslany honing her dialect skills when Orphan Black premieres on SBS2 next week. Those skills have seen Maslany nominated for a Golden Globe award this weekend for best actress in a TV drama for her much-praised turn playing eight different characters with varied accents, looks and temperaments.

"The character is this kind of London working-class girl. She's a hustler and she's rough and she's lived hard and has a lot of regrets and a lot of flaws. And that's exactly the kind of people I'm fascinated by," she laughs. "It's so far from my world, yet it's human. We all have those flaws."

Though she grew up in the far reaches of Saskatchewan, Maslany has been performing since she was a kid. She starred in miniseries such as World Without End and Heartland but never attended drama school.

"It was always working, learning on the job, learning through making big mistakes on the job. And watching bad things and being, like 'OK, our mistakes are right there on screen, on celluloid for the rest of our lives'. It's out there and there's lots of movies or TV shows I wish I hadn't done."

A shy person, she says she's been an observer most of her life. "As a kid I was very studious, very nerdy, very tomboyish. I wanted to be a boy. I thought that was more interesting than being a girl. I had a younger brother who I grew up with who was my best friend and a little, little brother who's 12 years younger than me. So he was a baby that we raised.

"Our family was very close. We went on bike rides all the time and my brothers and I would make movies in the backyard with a video camera and make claymations and sitcoms. We'd always be creating something, music or freestyling or doing improv with our friends in our basement," she nods.

"I wasn't rebellious in any way so I think I'm really drawn to characters who have that 'other thing' in them."

Maslany's mother is a translator and her father a woodworker. She's Ukrainian/Polish on one side and German/Austrian/ Romanian on the other. Besides English, she speaks French, German and a little Spanish: "I've done a lot of dialect work on this show and just having a sense of different cadences and different vocal placements and vowel sounds - it definitely helps to know other languages."

At 28, she thinks she's also retained a childlike view of the world. "I didn't grow up really quickly in as much as I was in the industry and had a job very early. I didn't want to let go of that sense of play or imagination or wonder. I was kind of wide-eyed and fascinated with the world instead of becoming a jaded teenager."

Glancing at her hands which lie on the table in front of her, she says: "I think I stayed a kid for a long time. I think that especially now that I've gotten over needing to be an adult - that sense of play has started to return to the way I want to work and the way I see the work.

"Because it is that openness of a child that you need to bring to it. If you don't, then you're not keying into all the cool things your imagination can bring to it."