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Here's the Story Behind That Talking Scorpion on Orphan Black

Get info about Helena's strange new ally

Hanh Nguyen

The Clone Club's newest member may look deadly, but is actually rather comforting.

On Orphan Blackthis season, Helena (Tatiana Maslany) has been a prisoner at the mercy of Project Castor, but she hasn't been lonely despite being separated from her sestras. That's because she has Pupok, a talking black scorpion, whom we first met in the premiere. Co-creator Graeme Manson tells TVGuide.com, "When I first heard the scorpion idea, I was like, 'A scorpion?' [Co-creator John Fawcett] said, 'No, a talking scorpion.' And then I was on board."

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A talking scorpion is kooky enough, but once one learns that "Pupok" means "bellybutton" in Ukrainian, that reaches new heights of wacky. Since this is Helena, though, we'll go with it. But what is Pupok exactly?

"It started with this funny idea that we would have an imaginary spirit animal for Helena," Fawcett says. "We thought maybe it would speak Ukrainian to her and that we would subtitle the scorpion." Thankfully, that did not happen.

Manson adds, "Only Helena sees her scorpion. It would be, like, her intuition, her inner wisdom or the good angel versus the bad angel .. But the scorpion is not new in Helena's life... Pupok appeared to her when she was quite young as a child and was trying to deal with surviving the torture of the nuns back in the convents in Ukraine. It became her guidance and her strength."

Pupok has given Helena a pep talk while she was imprisoned in her crate ("Nobody said it would be easy, kiddo.") and drooled over the possibility of mangoes. And if the voice of Pupok sounds familiar, there's a reason: Maslany added the scorpion to the many roles she plays on the show. "Tatiana is doing the voice of the scorpion as well," Fawcett says. "We talked to her very early on... to create a sound that you could hear the scorpion before you saw it, so you knew it was around. I had this idea that the scorpion would kind of purr, partly like a cat and a velociraptor. The clicking and the purring and all of these different sounds that normally would be sound design and sound effects guys ... Tat has created all of those sounds herself."

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Providing the voice for a scorpion is nothing, however, compared to the reality of working with a live arachnid. "We had a scorpion wrangler and auditioned a number of scorpions. I've never worked with a scorpion before," Fawcett confesses. "It was all just us going, 'Wouldn't it be great? This is a hilariously cool idea. Have you done that before? Nope,' So it could have gone very sideways on us. It's not easy to shoot with a scorpion, but it's not the hardest thing either. This little dude turned out to be a pretty good actor."

His co-star also seemed to appreciate the scorpion's abilities. "We were lucky that Tat was as cool about the scorpion as she was," Fawcett adds. "The scorpion became Tat's little buddy. She actually got really comfortable handling it. I think she really likes her scorpion."

Be prepared to see more of Pupok in the future. "This is a character that we want to explore just like any other character," says Fawcett. Manson adds, "There's an arc, but I think we have to leave it at that."

Any guesses? Maybe... Project Pollux?!

Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 9/8c on BBC America.

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