‘The 100’ Showrunner Talks Clarke’s Sexuality, Lexa’s Return and Season 3 Stakes

'The 100' Boss on 'Clexa,' Clarke's
Courtesy CW

Spoiler warning: Don’t read on unless you’ve seen “Wanheda: Part One,” the Season 3 premiere of the CW’s “The 100.”

I shared a few thoughts on the return of the CW drama in this review, and I’ll have more to say about “The 100” later in season three. Executive producer and showrunner Jason Rothenberg addresses aspects of the new season and “Wanheda: Part One” below (and Rothenberg and members of the cast discussed what’s coming at a recent press event as well). Part 2 of this interview will be posted after the fourth episode of “The 100” airs. This interview has been edited and condensed. 

The biggest thing I noticed about the early Season 3 episodes is the scale, the epic feel of some of the new sets. There’s a “Lord of the Rings” feel in some ways, in the storytelling and in the look of the show in Season 3. Why go to that bigger place?

That’s the kind of epic storytelling that I like. “Lord of the Rings” I loved. I love “Game of Thrones” still. The reason why [we did it] is because we could. [The characters] came down in season 1 and looked at [the world] through the keyhole — all we saw was that. What keeps me excited season after season is to put these people into new worlds and have them interact with new characters. The more they see of the world, the more we see of the world.

What do you feel you learned in the first two seasons? Over the course of telling those stories, what do you feel like you locked into what you want to keep on doing?

It’s a little disingenuous of me to say we found the show in [season one’s] episode four, because the truth is, I knew when we started that we were going to do the culling that season. Day one in the writers room, I said, “This is going to happen. And this is where we’re going.”

But in terms of finding the level of edge and the level of darkness and the level of grittiness, [that took some time to calibrate]. The pilot ended with a spear in the chest of one of our main characters, and it was supposed to kill him. But Devon was so good as Jasper that [we didn’t kill him]. At the time, we thought, “If we wimp out on this, people are going to kill us.” We needed to quickly figure out a way to find that place again — to get that credibility [about a willingness to kill off characters, otherwise] we’d lose a bit of that.

So at the end of episode three, we had the death of Wells, then we had the hanging of Murphy and then Charlotte jumping off the cliff. And of course, the culling. That was like, boom, boom, boom, episodes three, four, five — here we are and this is where we’re going to stay. We’re saying, “There is no right and wrong. The good guy is hard to pin down.”

We really pushed that in season two. At the beginning of the season, I knew Clarke was going to kill Finn, but I didn’t know how. I knew that at the end of the season, she was going to irradiate every man, woman and child in Mount Weather. There’s some fighting [about that as the story is shaped]. You’ve got to overcome the instinct to [always] want to have a happy ending or a little lightness. I have certain people around me who are really, really helpful in creating cool ideas and keeping me on track and making sure I picked the right thing. [Writer] Kim Shumway, for instance, was always right there saying “No, no, we have to do it. We have to irradiate. We have to do it. We can’t go soft and let the children escape or some other thing.”

What activates that is that I could credibly see that going either way — Clarke had reason to do it, and reason to not do it. Each of those choices is valid.

Well, I think you have to earn that credibility in an audience. If you know that anybody can die because the show has earned that, you watch the show differently. You see things happening and you say, “No, no. No way are they going to kill Clarke. She’s the lead.” But then you think to yourself, “Hmmm, well, they did kill Finn.” So you never know. Some of the invincibility comes away from the protagonist, which I think is important to make the drama feel real.

But with Clarke, for example, there’s something worse that you can do to a character than kill them.

You can make them live with it.

Exactly. Some shows seem to think that the only bad consequence is an explosion or a death, when really, a character having to continue knowing what she knows — knowing what she did, even for reasons she believed in — can be worse.

Sure. That’s the other side of the coin of the choice to do the dark thing. Whether it is irradiating Mount Weather [or something else], you then have to be honest in the way it affects the characters going forward. You can’t let them off the hook. Raven’s injury from Murphy in season one — it will be with her forever. She’s now disabled. I don’t want to pat myself on the back for this because I’m sure a lot of shows would have done it this way too, but how many times have you watched a show where like suddenly [an injury] is gone? They forgot that that happened.

Someone broke an arm Tuesday, but it’s OK now.

Right. Sometimes you have no choice and sometimes things move so quickly, and I’ll watch a cut or dailies and I’ll be like, “He should have more bruises on his face because he just got beat up the episode before.” Ninety-nine percent of the time, our people in production on set are so awesome with that stuff, and they don’t make any mistakes. They know that’s the way I want it to be — I want it to leave a mark.

So it’s out there that Alycia Debnam-Carey is back in Season 3 as Lexa.

Yeah. It’s been a little tricky. For Alycia, we had to negotiate with AMC at the beginning of the season regarding how many episodes we needed her for.

Are you willing to say how many that is?

I don’t think that’s a good idea. I do think that she has been amazing. And if somebody came to me with the same request for one of our actors, I would do my best to make it work. Especially since this particular character preceded [her role on] “Fear the Walking Dead.” That’s always a concern when you have an actor in your show that is popping — that someone else is going to grab them and make them a series regular if you don’t. That’s kind of what happened in this case. You know we can’t compete on some level with the cache of a franchise like that, with the numbers.

Clarke and Lexa is something that is obviously huge to parts of the fandom of “The 100.” And of course, I understand why at the start of season three, Clarke was not in a place where she could really think about Lexa in a romantic way.

They were on a break.

A major break. In “Wanheda: Part One,” you show Clarke sleeping with Niylah, the woman from the trading post. Did it ever give you pause to do that, given how many Clexa fans are out there?

Not really. I found some of the internet discussion interesting, in that people questioned whether Clarke was in fact bisexual, because I suppose to some it seemed that Lexa instigated [their kiss]. I knew Clarke was on this walkabout in season three, running away from herself and hiding from what she has done, hiding psychologically from herself. Changing her appearance, because people recognized her when she would blow into an outpost or wherever it may be. And she was probably [having sex] and drinking her way across the post-apocalyptic earth, to try to escape. That was escapist sex in that first episode. I knew that was going to happen. At first, I didn’t know whether it was going to be a male or a female partner. But it did become important to make it a female partner, because I felt like it needed it to be clear that she is bisexual. I usually don’t make decisions based on that. But I didn’t want there to be any doubt about it.

Ryan McGee and I discussed the return of “The 100,” along with “The X-Files,” “The Magicians,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” and several other shows, in the most recent Talking TV podcast, which is here and on iTunes

“The 100” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on The CW.

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  1. b says:

    oh please. he did that so he could get away with continuing clexa without everyone being like wtf. It’s disgusting. Unnatural, and cringeworthy. i have to look away because its too much. hell i even find the sex scenes in general to happen completely randomly and out of nowhere where im like what just happened? It’s gross and uncomfortable.

  2. Tad says:

    That homosexuality/bisexual stuff is everywhere nowadays and bored me… remember like 15 years ago when suddenly every team on a show must had a black/hispanic person. I’m done with the show too.

  3. Nick says:

    I honestly think that eventually down the road, Clark and Octavia should get together… That would spin the audience for a loop

  4. marisa says:

    kathy you are seriously ridiculous, the series is just about acceptance, equality, and a world where right and wrong are not in black and white. that is life Everywhere.nothing is black and white. only ignorant narrow mind folk believe things to be black and white. thanks for sharing you ignorance.

  5. Kathy says:

    Just disgusting to ruin the story-line even more by introducing homosexuality. I’m done with the show after that disgusting and revolting display. And these bimbo actresses that would do it with a dog if they thought it furthered their acting career are just deplorable. The yuk factor is overwhelming. Besides the story-line that jumps around all over the place. One day this character has a little bit of common sense, then the writers of the show move the characters to a 180 degrees turn. It’s like everyone is hyper bi-polar. Jumping around all over the place in actions, word and deed. No one is dependable. Crazy stuff like when Raven begs Clarke to kill Vin. Then almost beats Clarke up for doing what she begged her to do. Who is writhing this nonsense? But then, the producer, Rothenberg points out there is no such thing as “right or wrong.” Are you kidding me? … So what he’s saying is, there are no absolutes. Even though he’s absolutely sure there is no such thing as “right or wrong.” What a jackass!!! I’m a scifi junkie, but this pathetic piece of indoctrination, called entertainment is nothing more than an agenda driven vehicle for women’s lib, homosexuality and promiscuous sex. And these agendas are all lies. It pretends women are physically just as strong as men. Lie!!! It implies that everyone is bi-sexual. And that it’s just the same as heterosexuality. Lie!!! In a post apocalyptic world, procreation and family stability would be what is in the best interest of the group of people that are left. And promoting promiscuous sex implies there is never any negative consequences to this behavior. Lie!!! … The whole story-line just lacks believability. And the agenda of the producer and writers is in your face. And you insult the intelligence of the audience by this disjointed writing style, and agenda driven screed.

    • Wasteland says:

      Your writing style is disjointed. Seriously, it took me, like, 5 minutes of reading and rereading to understand what you were even saying. As for moral absolutism, anyone who could possibly think life is black-and-white is in for a huge shock when they figure out that literally every rule has exceptions. “Don’t kill people”… except when defending yourself, defending others or forced to do so through threat of your own life. Now, for your weak-sauce arguments about “women’s lib, homosexuality and promiscuous sex” (you missed a comma there, btw). Women and men actually overlap a lot in terms of physical strength. True; men, on average, tend to be slightly stronger. But plenty of women are stronger than most men. Also, what does this have to do with feminism? why shouldn’t women be equal, socially, even if men are physically stronger. Love yourself. It doesn’t imply that everyone is bi though if you have ever admired the beauty of someone of your own sex, it means you’re at least a 1 on the Kinsey Scale, meaning you’re kinda bi. Also, give any sort of reason why homosexuality/bisexuality is different than heterosexuality. Looking at it logically, there’s no reason it wouldn’t be. Also, it would actually be in everyone’s best interest to allow gay people to sleep with whoever they wanted, because bringing a baby into their environment would just waste resources, which are limited. “Family” is a social construct anyway. Finally, there is literally a negative consequence to anything you do. That shouldn’t stop people from doing anything, as long as they’re safe with it. Every writer has an “agenda,” that’s why they’re writing in the first place. At least these writers are promoting acceptance. The bigger agenda is yours, honestly. You want to censer any media that doesn’t agree with you. I’m sure Hitler would have loved you.

  6. Lance says:

    Terrible idea to make Clarke bisexual! That’s just deplorable!

    • Kathy says:

      Absolutely!! What a disastrous, disgusting turn of events. But then look at the producer and the writers. And their bi-polar, and disjointed writing style.

  7. Random Reader says:

    Jeez, I feel like I wandered into my parents’ living room reading this thread. “Gay agenda.” Who knew Variety’s readership was so incredibly old and homophobic. One guy wants to bring back separate beds on TV shows. LOL!!!

  8. Wc3 says:

    Thank you for turning me away from the show. She has to be bisexual why? I’m done

  9. Sherri says:

    I don’t really care that Clark or Lexa is bi-sexual or even gay; I just think if they get together after everything that has happened, the show would have become plain stupid. Clark couldn’t even look at Finn in the same way ever again after his incident, and yet Lexa causes Clark to do something that makes Clarke not even able to live with herself; something she’ll carry the rest of her life. And yet she might end up with Lexa again?? Clark would see death and betrayal every time she looked at Lexa, even if she comes to understand why Lexa did it. If a gay agenda is needed, find another character for Clark.

  10. thedon says:

    YAY ANOTHER GAY AGENDA.

    Thanks for turning our favorite character into a homosexual. Bravo…

    • marisa says:

      if you noticed in the series Clarke has done a lot of horrific things to save her people. she blew up many of Lexa’s people. yet Lexa forgave her. besides Lexa only did what she did on order to save her people with out killing her troops. Clarke understands this, so of course she forgives Lexa. and why is her being bisexual a big deal? get over your self. love is love.

  11. Gennie says:

    i LOVE LOVE clexa. i just really hope that the creator is not giving us false hopes about their relationship. because it’s true that some, are doing this stuff to gain popularity or fame on their series

  12. thefact says:

    Im extremely disappointed clark is a carpet muncher. they just ruined the whole show

  13. Sloany says:

    The 100 is the best show after GoT !! Clarke is a true hero and Lexa is our commander. Clexa will rise again in this season.

  14. me says:

    Here we go again more Gay BS…Just another show I now have to quit watching…stupid gay agenda forced down everyones throats…and to think I actually bought season 1.

    • Nick says:

      Um exuse me non relevant human, it isn’t being shoved down your throat… Tf..? You got a problem, you don’t have to watch the fucking show.

    • Wasteland says:

      Yeah! It’s not like heterosexual couples are ever shoved down our throats…. Wait a second. Could it be that the entire idea of “the gay agenda” is ridiculous? Woah!

    • maro says:

      same with me,they just spoilt the show. Am out.

    • Tom says:

      No one cares. If same-sex themes were enough for you to quit the show, that says a lot about you and nothing about the show. The 100 isn’t there to cater to your prejudices.

      • marisa says:

        i like chu. and i agree.

      • Wasteland says:

        See ya thefact. Don’t let the soaring ratings hit your homophobic @$$ on the way out. ✌

      • thefact says:

        Not really prejudice its kinda detestable to the one who made us… so theres that no big deal you know?

        And he’s right all these producers do have an agenda with all this gay stuff being forced down everyones throat. I was amazed season 1 had no gayness but I was soon disappointed in season two with that random kiss. But now straight up carpet munching? No thanks ✌

  15. courtney shouder says:

    i ship bellarke always

    • schnurrbart says:

      thefact totally has a point. after decades of shoving down heterosexuall bs (yeah, I think u used bs to word ur opinion) down, it would be really even greater bs to show anything besides that. especially when all that gay bs is practically absorbing the show. clearly 98% of heterosexual bs is not enough, by any means, to endure two women together (and Miller has a boyfriend too…how can I ever trust any tv show again). oh wait.

      don’t know what your problems are. I’m really disturbed that there are still so many people here that hate on a person, because of their sexual orientation. this means so much for so many queer folks out there, especially bisexual people. and for it to be just as ‘normal’ as heterosexuality is ‘normal’. I also get that no matter what I or someone likely minded is going to say to you will change your mind. but please, if u have this anger/hate or whatever it is that u have (and wherever that anger and hate might really stem from) – just please keep it to yourself. that words, that opinion, you are hurting people and that’s not okay. just please stop.

    • Nadia Khoks says:

      Clarke and Bellamy have a brother and sister relationship, CLexa though…..

    • Nadia Khoks says:

      Nooo! XD Clexa for the win! :D

  16. Eva says:

    As much as I 100% support more bi exposure I can’t help but wither on the inside at the thought of more Clexa because I’ll ship Bellarke until the day I die.

  17. Anonymously yours says:

    I do not like the fact they were so graphic about her sexual encounter. I don’t watch the show to see that, but it’s like now all of the shows are flaunting the gay agenda. I country has lost morals did what it puts on TV. It’s like Every show had to display sex, straight or gay, in order to be successful. I miss TV shows that showed men and women in separate beds I guess…

    • ca says:

      Your comment is just one reason they should do this. its was graphically on par with other heterosexual encounters in first 2 seasons. nothing has changed.

    • Kelli says:

      I 100% agree with you. I MISS THE OLD DAYS.

    • Matt says:

      This isn’t the 1950’s anymore, old man. Get over yourself. Society is moving forward while you’re taking ten steps back.

    • Ruby says:

      Oh no, the gay agenda!!

    • That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Bisexuals definitely need more representation, gay people do, asexual people do. The world isn’t full of heterosexual people. And neither should our TV shows.

      • thedon says:

        Deerelly, actually the world is full of heterosexual people and homosexuals are a small percent. But the homos in tv and hollywood are pushing their gay agenda. Accept the truth son

      • rinsefm says:

        Yeah I agree with thefact. The reason there are more gays now is because it is accepted by society now. People are more tempted to experiment with the same sex thinking its normal, so they become bisexual or gay because its now okay to have the same sex get you off. Getting off feels good so now they stick with that lifestyle not knowing they are disregarding a stern warning from God. And its crap like this show that encourages abhorrent homosexual behavior. But… this was all prophesied a long time ago that people would act this way so oh well thats on them.

      • thefact says:

        Not really. When people start forming sexual feelings for their pets and start performing beastiality people are gonna be grossed out, until like all things it will be pushed and pushed and pushed until it becomes normal to society. society is not pushing forward it is sliding into a dark hole.

  18. nathiest says:

    They WERE on a break. Were!! As in they’re back on!

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