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Janna is a staff writer for The Hudsucker. Born and raised in a small Ontario town, she made her move to Toronto for university and immediately fell in love with the excitement and pace of the big city. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production from York University, specializing in editing and screenwriting. She currently works as an assistant editor for a television production company. Janna loves stories told in all mediums, especially film, and takes herself to the movies as much as she possibly can. She can generally be found taking a Zumba class, exploring some of Toronto’s lesser-known gems, or relaxing with her fluffy feline roommate.

ORPHAN BLACK’s Kevin Hanchard on Season 3 and Detective Art Bell’s Backstory

In a world full of clones impersonating other clones, mind-boggling science, and countless twists and turns, Orphan Black rarely gives viewers time to catch their breath. But when it does, we’re often treated to great scenes with steadfast, reliable characters—like Kevin Hanchard’s Detective Art Bell. Art Bell is a reliable, straight-talking police officer with a penchant for just a little rule bending; in real life, Kevin Hanchard is a funny, friendly Toronto-born actor who’s always on the go. Hanchard and I recently sat down and discussed the third season of Orphan Black, covering new clones, the investigation, and what it all means for Detective Art Bell.

(Beware: there are some spoilers for Season 3 below!)

Credit Tim Leyes Photography

Born and raised in Mississauga, Ontario, Hanchard is no stranger to film, television, and the stage. He’s had an admirable career that spans several decades, with roles in television’s Due South, Nikita, Suits, Degrassi, and The Expanse, as well as films such as Savage Planet and Four Brothers. He’s also well known for his stage performances at the Stratford and Shaw Festivals, including productions of Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Topdog/Underdog, and His Girl Friday. He’s a two-time Dora Award nominee, and just last year was nominated in the category of Best Supporting Actor at the Canadian Screen Awards. But of all his roles, his turn as Orphan Black’s Detective Art Bell is the one for which he’s most known.

Orphan Black is doing wonderful things for television, and for Canadian television especially,” Hanchard tells me when we sit down to talk about Orphan Black’s newest season. “It’s blowing the doors off conventions and what everyone is expecting TV to be like. And people are forgetting that it’s a Canadian show, which is the biggest compliment ever! With all due respect to the great Canadian TV fare out there, Orphan Black seems to be on a different level.”

Hanchard isn’t wrong. Airing on BBC America in the States and on SPACE in Canada, Orphan Black really is becoming something of a cult phenomenon. The show is rated an 8.5/10 on IMDB and a 9.2/10 on TV.com. Its viewer numbers are getting higher every season, and talk of the show is everywhere online. More and more people are tuning in to see the great storylines and characters that Orphan Black is delivering, and Hanchard’s Detective Art Bell is a bit of a fan favorite. Now, with Season 3 getting into full gear, there’s a lot more in store for Art Bell.

Not that Hanchard can share all that much with us, of course. “Honestly, under pain of death, I can’t say too much about it!” he says with a laugh. “Art being back on the force is definitely a good thing, because he instantly becomes a resource for Sarah and the rest of the clones. He has access to information they wouldn’t normally have access to. Now that he’s aware of what’s going on, for the most part, and he’s put himself all in as far as helping out, he has a fine line to walk. Last season, it almost got him fired! He has to make sure he toes the line between his responsibility as a cop and the duty he feels to Sarah… and to Beth.”

Credit BBC America

 And that’s the key part of it, for Art Bell: Beth. While Beth committed suicide only minutes into the pilot episode, her presence and her story has reached far in the world of Orphan Black. For Art’s character, Beth is incredibly important, and Hanchard has been more than aware of that fact as he’s played Art throughout the show’s three seasons.

“Art still has questions about Beth’s death,” he says. “If you had someone close to you who killed themselves under unexplained circumstances, you’d want to get all the answers you can, right? If you knew someone who was having these problems, and then they suddenly killed themselves, it would gnaw away at you for a long time. And when you get an opportunity to get some of these answers, you aren’t going to pass that up. That’s what drives him. That’s what propels Art forward.”

Season 3 Episode 3 of Orphan Black, which aired this past Saturday, revealed even more about Art and Beth’s relationship before her death. During an investigation with Sarah (Tatiana Maslany), Art reveals that Beth had called him the night she’d killed herself—and he’d blown her off, thinking that her addictions were causing problems again and feeling frustrated that she wasn’t getting help. He also finally confesses his real reason for being so invested in helping Sarah and the other clones: he was in love with Beth.

After that big reveal, I couldn’t wait to hear what Hanchard had to say!

“It’s nice to play something other than the grump!” Hanchard says with a laugh, referring to his introspective scenes with Sarah in Episode 3. “Graeme Manson and John Fawcett [the creators of Oprhan Black] and I talked about Art’s story between Seasons 2 and 3, and they told me this was where they wanted to go with it. I thought it was great. People would always ask me, on Twitter and in interviews, why Art got involved with Sarah in the first place—it was really great to be able to finally answer that question! It’s so nice to get more background for Art and to understand why he does what he does to help Sarah. It’s incredibly frowned upon for partners on the police force to get involved, which is why Art never acted on his feelings, but I think it brings a really nice depth to his character and his history with Beth. It resulted in some really nice, quiet scenes in Episode 3 that I was happy to get to play. Episode 3 was one of the episodes I enjoyed the most upon my first read of the scripts.”

Credit BBC America

The scenes between Art and Sarah in Episode 3 were moving and insightful, and really enforced everything Hanchard had to say about Art’s relationship with Sarah.

“Art’s opinion of Sarah may not be entirely fully formed yet, to be honest. I know that he has a love for her, because of who she is physically—because she’s Beth’s sister,” he shares. “The affinity and affection he had for Beth naturally translates to Sarah, but of course he sees her as her own person. He knows that Sarah is the key to finding out exactly what happened to his partner and that underlying guilt and responsibility that he felt for Beth is still there. Sarah is a physical embodiment of all that. At the same time, though, he knows that Sarah isn’t someone you can fully pin all of your trust on. But she is what she is, and I think Art is beginning to accept her for all her faults, and to recognize her many strengths. When Tatiana Maslany is playing Sarah, she’s extremely grounded while at the same time being a bit of a wild card—that brings a really different energy to our scenes together. It’s a lot of fun to work with.”

Most of Hanchard’s scenes in Orphan Black have been with Maslany—as either Sarah, or Helena, or Sarah-being-Beth, they’ve shared a lot of screentime. But Hanchard is incredibly fond of his costars and speaks very highly of them all, even those he’s never personally shared a scene with. He was happy to talk to me about his dynamic with them all, as well.

“There are no weak links on this show, and I’d love to do scenes with anyone. It sounds really corny, but the Orphan Black set is just such a fun set to be on. Every day is great—everybody is just a big family. Everybody’s trying to support each other, and we do a good job of that. I think it really shows in the final product,” Hanchard enthuses. “You know, sometimes it’s tough playing the straight guy! You have scenes with Felix (Jordan Gavaris), who is hilarious, and then you see scenes with Donnie (Kristian Bruun), who gets great one-liners. Art’s gotten a few of them, but… listen, Art is bad at jokes. There was a scene in Season 1 where he’s in the morgue with Angela DeAngelis (Inga Cadranel), when he’s saying these things to try and be funny, and they’re just falling flat. He tries! He’s not humorless, but jokes are just not his thing! He has other strengths.”

It’s evident through our whole conversation that Hanchard has put a lot of thought into his portrayal of Art, far beyond what makes it to the screen in every episode, and is well aware of Art’s strengths. He has a whole life for Art outside the police force, which he says is essential for making a supporting character feel real and honest.

Credit BBC America

“You kind of have to have a whole life sketched out for him, you know? He isn’t a main character—the show isn’t about Art. So it becomes your responsibility as an actor to flesh out his personality as much as possible to bring the character to life,” he says. “You think about things that, for practical reasons, don’t get shown onscreen. I’ve thought about stuff like… I think Art definitely has hobbies! I think that, not unlike me, Art likes sports. If he’s not working on a Sunday, you’ll find him watching a football game. And I think he really likes music. He’s a really introspective sort of guy, so he’ll go to a bar and drink, but Art’s not going to go to a dance club. There’s a reason he wasn’t in the clone dance party in Season 2! He reads a lot. He’s in the middle of a separation, so he’s dividing his time between work and seeing his kids as much as he can. It doesn’t leave much time for many other endeavors, but he’s simple like that.”

The amount of thought and attention that Hanchard has put into his character easily comes across onscreen. Though Art doesn’t even appear in every episode, he’s always felt like a very real, very relatable character; never once has he felt like the stereotypical, two-dimensional cop he easily could have been. It’s a credit not only to Hanchard but to the rest of the cast and crew of Orphan Black that the characters on this show come across as feeling so true and grounded in such a hectic, reality-bending show—it’s evident that everyone working on the show cares for this world and these characters.

This care is likely a large reason why so many people have latched onto the show, and why they feel excited to share it with others. Orphan Black is a show whose fanbase grows mostly from word of mouth, Hanchard says, and the whole cast and crew are incredibly grateful for that fact. “We’re not a giant network show that’s getting millions of dollars of press. Orphan Black is getting attention because people are saying, ‘Have you seen this yet? You’ve got to watch it!’. And they get their friends to watch. People watch one episode and go, ‘Okay, where is the other nine? I’ve got ten hours booked, and I’m going to binge watch the whole damn thing!’”

Credit BBC America

It’s people like that, Hanchard says, who have gotten this show on the map. It’s thanks to people who have convinced others that may not be fans of sci-fi to give the show a chance, because there’s so much more to it than the science and the clone elements. It’s a show about friendship, and family, and identity. A show about figuring out one’s place in the world and how to make things better for the ones you love.

Though the clones themselves are a pretty big draw. Hanchard himself is pretty fond of the idea of having his own clone—“That clone could do my taxes for me!” he jokes. “There just isn’t enough time to do the things you want to do along with the things you need to do, so I would totally enlist that clone.  I’d try to do something like that. But in all honesty, if I had a clone and ran into him one day, the way Sarah ran into Beth, what could I do? What does one do? Do you go to the police and tell them you saw someone who looks just like you? You have to literally grab that person by the shoulders and say, ‘What the F?’, and sit and talk to try and put the pieces together. To try and figure out how this happened. And then… shoot, I don’t know. You write a TV series about it, I guess! I think you could make a couple bucks off of that, huh? I’d bring my ugly-ass clone around and show off what I found. I’d take my clone to TMZ and have him do my taxes. That’s the answer, right there.”

It looks like Kevin Hanchard has the clone thing all figured out, but Orphan Black is nowhere near done delving into the mysteries surrounding Sarah, Beth, Alison, Cosima, and the rest of our favorite clones. Season 3 has seven more episodes for fans to devour this season, and they’re sure to be just as exhilarating as all the rest. And just like Detective Art Bell, I know that the show’s fans and I can’t wait to find out more of Orphan Black’s answers.

“Orphan Black” airs Saturdays at 9/8c on BBC American and SPACE.

Aside from his role as Detective Art Bell, Kevin Hanchard can be seen in Season 3 of DirecTV’s “Rogue” and Starz’s “The Girlfriend Experience” later this year. To keep up with Kevin and his other upcoming projects, follow him on Twitter.

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