At the Television Critics Association press tour on Sunday, Jason Rothenberg, executive producer of the CW’s “The 100,” said that the show would be returning to its roots in its upcoming third season, which arrives alongside “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” Jan. 21.
“The show started with the 100 [survivors] wanting to kill each other, and could they overcome their internal conflict before the threat of the Grounders wiped them out,” Rothenberg said. “Last year, we introduced some new elements and the conflict became a little bit more external.
“This season we get to a pure version of where the show started,” Rothenberg continued. “There is internal conflict at Camp Jaha — what was formerly known as Camp Jaha — and there’s a new group that comes in and really mixes things up and creates a lot of conflict internally. And we tell a lot of the story in Polis this season,” where political upheaval is also in the air.
Polis is a Grounder city, and its leader is Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey), the commander of all 12 Grounder tribes, who descended from those who survived an apocalypse that wiped out much of humanity.
“My favorite part of Season 3 is the fact that we do get to explore the world of the Grounders — their politics, their culture, their spiritual history and how it’s changed and how they adapted things from what the world used to be,” said Debnam-Carey, who is a guest star on “The 100” and a series regular on “Fear the Walking Dead.”
“There’s a little less fighting, a lot more political” maneuvering, according to Eliza Taylor, who plays Clarke.
“I realized straightaway, wait a second — I’m doing a whole lot more talking,” Debnam-Carey said.
“When I first explored the world of Indra, I went to what I knew,” said Adina Porter, who plays that Grounder clan leader. “I could totally relate to being an outsider, I could totally relate to being an indigenous person — my father was born and raised in Sierra Leone. But then the world began to change. I’m constantly being surprised by what it’s like to be a seasoned warrior and then to [have] a boss, and when I choose to listen to her and when I choose to think differently. The writers are constantly throwing something new at us.”
The show’s mix of action, moral quandaries and difficult choices will continue to lead to dark moments and wrenching scenes. Rothenberg said he is in constant contact with the network’s Standards and Practices department, and noted that the depiction of a brutal act by Clarke at the end of Season 2 was “a Standards and Practices nightmare,” in terms of what could and could not be shown. But he added that CW president Mark Pedowitz fully supported the show going to difficult places and has done so since the beginning.
“I’m still kind of more surprised by the notes we don’t get than by the notes we do get,” Rothenberg said. “But the network’s been amazing. I feel like one of our jobs is to kind of creatively push the envelope for them — for the network, for broadcast television. I’m happy to do it.”
Earlier in the day, Pedowitz said that “The 100” had been purposely held back for mid-season, in part to allow new fans to find it.
“One of our strategies moves we made was to hold it back for midseason to allow year two to go up on Netflix,” Pedowitz said. “And it’s performing, I just was told before I got onstage, very, very well in terms of binging for Seasons 1 and 2.”
Rothenberg said at “The 100” panel that Pedowitz had prodded him to have the show develop its own language for the Grounders, and cast members talked about how difficult it can be to gain fluency in it.
Debnam-Carey and Porter said that they constantly run their Grounder lines on their way to the set. “Transportation, that’s how we learn to speak it,” Porter said. Eliza Taylor, who plays Clarke, invented a song to increase her facility with the language, and pleaded with Rothenberg to release a video of cast members flubbing their Grounder-language lines.
“I’m guilty of forgetting my Grounder and saying absolutely anything with conviction,” said Marie Avgeropoulos, who plays Octavia.
Aside from Rothenberg, the entire panel was made up of women who play key characters on the show, and all of them said they were relieved and grateful to be part of an ensemble with so many complex female characters.
“I think I’m finally at a point where I can take it for granted,” Porter said.
“It’s a very exciting time for women in television getting to play very strong roles,” Taylor said. “I’m grateful every day. For me, I’m blond, blue eyes. Of course I get cast as the dumb one, the slutty one. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to actually play a character with true integrity and strength, and it’s absolutely amazing.”
“I always enjoy playing characters where fans come up to me and say, ‘I hate you,’” Porter said. “You don’t want anyone to feel wishy-washy about you. I don’t think I’m a bad person in real life… I very much enjoy being able to explore all the different dark places one can go to. In a world where so much is about survival, it’s going to get dark.”
“I think what makes it interesting is when you have a strong woman and the strength is coming from vulnerability and being flawed. And the strength coming from there, as a woman, is more empowering. It’s very interesting to play,” said Paige Turco, who plays Abby, the show’s chancellor. “For myself as well, being older, I’m so grateful. It’s rare to have so many women on one show.”
In the fast-moving world of “The 100,” “if women want something done, they go do it,” said Avgeropoulos. “They’re not a damsel in distress, having to ask for a man go do something for her.”
Though she gets caught up in some political intrigues in season 3, her character will continue to look like a woman most comfortable in the outdoors and on the move.
“I actually don’t feel normal without dirt on me now,” Taylor said.