Chosen One of the Day: Orphan Black's sitcom sidekick Donnie Hendrix

Contributed by
Sep 15, 2017

Oh, Donnie Hendrix.

For five seasons of Orphan Black, Donnie survives as one of the only regular characters on the series not portrayed by Tatiana Maslany. What makes Donnie so enthralling as a character is that unlike the rest the supporting cast orbiting the LEDA clones, like Sarah Manning’s foster family, her police partner by-way-of-stolen-identity Art, or Cosima’s HBIC girlfriend Delphine, Donnie doesn’t fit into the dark conspiracy filled world of Clone Club at all. Despite being his wife Alison’s secret monitor, he’s at first endearingly clueless about what exactly that means.

More so than perhaps any other character in the history of scripted television, Donnie Hendrix exists not just as an outlier to the main cast’s personality types, but as someone who is seemingly starring on a completely different show. He makes so little sense within the narrative of Orphan Black that if someone told me that Donnie wasn’t actually written in the scripts of the show, and all of his scenes were the result of actor Kristian Bruun digitally inserting himself into them as an elaborate internet prank, I would believe it.

In episodes filled with gruesome body horror like Brightborn babies, bioengineered cheek-worm ‘bots, or a woman literally digging her own eyeball out of her skull with a broken martini glass, Donnie bumbles his way through by overselling his clandestine performance as a gay wannabe father to infiltrate a fertility clinic. While helping his wife peddle recreational drugs, he literally finds himself in a “we brought the wrong bag!” sitcom plot line while trying to pay off the sinister gangsters shaking them down.

What’s paradoxically fascinating about all of this is that despite the thoroughly absurd levels in which Donnie’s presence bends the series’ tone, it works. It’s a testament to Bruun’s acting that this character who dropped in from an early draft of Weeds manages to ground suburban mom clone Alison within the Stepford-esque community in which the majority of their respective plots revolve. It’s even completely fitting that the power dynamics of the entire second act of the series are shifted because Donnie of all people accidentally blows the head off of Neolution figurehead Dr. Leekie during a temper tantrum.

Donnie’s storylines often border on legitimate farce, with moments like taking reformed homicidal maniac Helena to her prenatal care visits or simply serving as the goofy everyman bridge in scenes where various LEDA clones jump in and out of depicting one another within the narrative of their respective lines. He’s the comedic relief pressure valve whose utility only gets more and more necessary in later seasons when failed genetic monsters stalk the woods and the aforementioned self-ocular surgery sends viewers reflexively turning our heads in a cringe.

There’s been discussion already of potential spinoffs to Orphan Black either in a televised or movie format. I'm not going to act like I wouldn't be excited to follow the adventures of Delphine and Cosima as they travel the world saving the lives of other Leda clones, but it just may be the best spinoff may have been the dark sitcom about suburban criminals Alison and Donnie Hendrix that was already happening alongside the series the whole time.