krysten ritter

Krysten Ritter stars in Orphan Black: Echoes

Miranda Penn Turin
Krysten Ritter
Miranda Penn Turin
Fill 1
Fill 1
June 10, 2024

Behind the Scenes of Orphan Black: Echoes

Krysten Ritter plays to her strengths in the sci-fi thriller Orphan Black: Echoes.

In the first episode of Orphan Black: Echoes, there's a line that Krysten Ritter says she lobbied, unsuccessfully, to have removed. After finding herself trapped inside of what looks like a cozy home study, her character, Lucy, glares impatiently at a pair of parakeets sweetly chirping in a cage and hisses, "Fuck off, creeps." "I didn't love that line there," Ritter says, "because it felt like a Krysten Ritter line."

Though it seems like only yesterday that she forever elevated her standing in Hollywood by playing Jane Margolis, the ill-fated girlfriend of Aaron Paul's meth-maker Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad, more than 14 years have passed. Before Jane, Ritter had specialized in gabby sidekicks, the kind she describes as "ditzy girls with short skirts and high heels." Post-Jane, Ritter found herself in a new category, playing all manner of black-haired, pale-skinned outsiders who are smart, coolly flippant and not to be toyed with.

That type is a perfect fit in the world of Orphan Black: Echoes, a spinoff of the sci-fi thriller Orphan Black, premiering June 23 on AMC, AMC+ and BBC America. In fact, when casting began for the new series and Ritter's name kept coming up, creator and showrunner Anna Fishko began rewatching her in Breaking Bad and Jessica Jones, which starred Ritter as a complicated superheroine in scuffed combat boots and ripped jeans.

"I felt like there was a lot of overlap there — in a good way — to what we were looking for in Lucy," Fishko says. "Krysten's had a long career of playing tough but also vulnerable women who have an emotional center. They seem like they've had to get by on their own without any connections to other people or anybody to ask for help, who've had to develop this selfreliance. I think that really felt like Krysten."

In part, what made Ritter say yes to Echoes is that, as much as Lucy was in her mysterious-loner wheelhouse, the role had elements that made it seem like a heavy lift. To start with, she'd have to learn sign language, pick up some rudimentary Spanish and revive her Jessica Jones stunt skills. "Lucy's really good at so much stuff. That was exciting and terrifying at the same time, and that fear was really appealing to me," Ritter says. She also liked that while Echoes is set in the world of Orphan Black, which should attract its legion of loyal fans, the series leaps 37 years into the future and is distinctively its own thing. Whereas Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany played more than 14 sister clones birthed in an illegal IVF experiment gone wrong, Ritter's Lucy is a woman who wakes up one day with pink goo under her fingernails and what might initially be mistaken for amnesia. "I'm a different kind of clone from the original," Ritter says. "They're making human printouts from super high-def 3D scans. So, I was printed at age 34 and wake up with a glitch, because I don't know anything."

When it comes to playing someone who is trying to piece together her past while also trying to build a relationship with an ex-medic boyfriend (Avan Jogia) and his deaf daughter (Zariella Langford-Haughton), Ritter’s approach is definitely her own. Lucy runs the gamut: furious, determined, placating, flirtatious, unbending. In one scene, when she finds herself on the sidelines of a game of wine pong at a sorority, it’s hard to pinpoint the expressions that flicker over Ritter’s face. Bored? Goofy? Both? “She’s a really unique performer,” says John Fawcett, who directed three Echoes episodes and cocreated the original Orphan Black with Graeme Manson. “She’s not going to make conventional decisions. I don’t even know if it’s actually a decision-making process with her. It’s just organically what’s happening. She’s very good at being present and in the moment. When a performer like Krysten is allowed to be open and free, you get interesting results, and a lot of that winds up on the screen. That’s what’s so cool about her. She’s quirky, different, unexpected.”

Ritter's own life story, at least from her perspective, is not what you might imagine. The daughter of a short-haul truck driver and a diner waitress, she lived in Benton, Pennsylvania, until the age of 12, when her parents divorced. After her mother married a cattle rancher, the family moved to a working beef farm just outside the nearby town of Shickshinny. "It was totally solitary," says Ritter, who filled her time speeding down hills on her moped or shooting BB guns with a cousin who lived nearby. "I'm so proud of being from a small town and being from a farm. You don't meet very many people in Hollywood with those kinds of beginnings."

When she was 15 and already five-foot-nine, however, she was plucked from obscurity at a local mall by the Elite modeling agency and began spending months at a time overseas, unchaperoned and living out of a suitcase. She missed so many days of high school that she barely graduated. Her eureka moment came when she was 18, and it changed everything. She began noticing that if they didn't manage to turn heads, many of the equally leggy, beautiful models she was hanging out with were sent packing after two seasons. "I was like, 'I am not going home. I am going to turn this molehill into a mountain.' So, I became very tunnel-visioned and figured out how I was going to navigate things," Ritter says. She vowed to herself that she would show up the earliest, work the hardest and be the most prepared. "I was ready to get out there and chase my dream."

The first part of her plan was to make the acting division of her modeling agency notice her. She kept her approach simple: "I'd find any excuse to walk by their door and go [in an exuberantly cheerful voice] 'Hey! How are you?'" When they finally took the hint, an agent offered to send her to try-outs for commercials. "I thought you'd never ask," she replied. Though she'd never auditioned for a TV ad, she had a plan for that, too. "I was always loud and obnoxious. So, I told jokes," she says. "I used my personality to get the gig. After that, it was like, 'This is it.'"

To read the rest of the story, pick up a copy of emmy magazine here.

This article originally appeared in its entirety in emmy magazine, issue #8, 2024, under the title "Heir to the Clone."

Browser Requirements
The sites look and perform best when using a modern browser.

We suggest you use the latest version of any of these browsers:


Visiting the site with Internet Explorer or other browsers may not provide the best viewing experience.

Close Window