The CW drama series The 100 proved in its first season that it’s dark, unpredictable and not afraid to go there. Now in Season 2, Clarke (Eliza Taylor) is frantically trying to make sense of the people at Mount Weather, while the fate of many of The 100 who came to earth from the Ark is still unknown to her. Meanwhile, the survivors of the Ark have to face physical and moral dilemmas in this dangerous new world, and Chancellor Jaha (Isaiah Washington) must figure out what to do with no one left to lead.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, which recently took place at The CW offices, actor Isaiah Washington talked about how unexpected his character’s journey has been, that he’s still blind to where things are going but that he also doesn’t want to know, what it’s like for Jaha to not have anyone to lead, where he goes from here, and what might happen when he meets up with those who left the Ark. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: With how this character was first pitched to you to where he is now, how different has the journey turned out to be? How unexpected has it been for you, or is it pretty close to what you were told?
ISAIAH WASHINGTON: Not at all. People ask, “Are you surprised that you’re still alive?” Well, yes, I am. They also ask, “Did you think you would die soon?” Probably. I didn’t know. When the Ark was brought down in the season finale, there was so much talk and so many millions of dollars spent to build it and so much set up, I thought we would have more time trying to figure out how to get to Earth. That completely was not what we talked about when I was hired. So, when that happened, who knew?
Were you concerned about job security, at all?
WASHINGTON: Yeah, the people who take care of the Ark have no jobs. No. It just let me know that the show has a life force of its own and it’s going to dictate to us what it wants to do. That’s what I was hoping for. The characters are that visceral, and the subject matter is that visceral. If you think about this world, we don’t want to be like Jack Bauer in 24, where you just survive every single threat. That’s not realistic.
When you saw the direction the character went in for Season 1, and things were left where you didn’t really know about the fate of anyone, had they given you any indication about the overall arc of Season 2, or are you still flying blind?
WASHINGTON: I’m still blind, and I want to be. I didn’t ask. They just said, “Isaiah, you’re not really going to die,” and I said, “Oh, okay, cool!” That was it. On January 25th, I went on with my life, working on my foundation and on the other interests that I have. I didn’t think anything about it. I said, “Hey, we had a great run.” I treated and supported it. And then, I got a pick-up letter saying that we got a second season, and I was like, “Okay, great! Awesome! That’s going to be a lot of fun.” I don’t ask questions. I’ve been doing this a long time, and I know what happens when I get really, really invested, outside of the experience. It’s not fun for me. I’m having fun because I’m not so invested in all the other things above my pay grade. I’m not a producer of this show. I produce films, so when I’m done, I go and produce films that I’ve already started. I went and did my own movie in Wilmington in March. So, I understand how it works. I decided, as a purposeful decision, to not be encumbered with things that are none of my business. I don’t have all of those pressures.
WASHINGTON: Great observation! You’re absolutely right. And if I’m saying, “I’m going to be an actor,” which I’m hired to be, then that’s the job and that’s the challenge. As an actor, you get to do all of these amazing things, and then have special effects. There’s nothing for me to complain about. I told them, “Whoever you want me to play, I’m here. If that changes, great. It was a great opportunity.” People are still watching my work. My work is still a calling card. This is considered a hit show, so whether I’m here for two, three of 15 seasons, people get to see my work, and that usually begets other work. If I’m working as an actor, then that’s a good thing. You don’t want to be on a show that no one wants to see, and then think your phone is going to be ringing off the hook to do other jobs. I’m not tethered to the fact that my demise may be reached this season or next season, or whatever. It’s all okay with me ‘cause that’s how I came into it. I came into it like, “Whatever you want, Jason. Use me however you want to.”
Jaha was a leader, but that’s all been stripped away. What will that be like for him now?
WASHINGTON: Well, he has to start all over. He has no one to lead, but himself. And his first order was to let himself die, which is not the bigger picture. I don’t really have to talk about what changed his mind-set because you saw it. There was something clearly bigger than himself that said, “No.” Was it Wells talking to him? Was he talking to himself? Was God talking to him? Is he an atheist? That’s what I love about that scene. I know what I believed in every moment of the blueprint. You need a blueprint to build a house because you need to know how far the concrete is going to be poured and you need to know how think the walls have to be. I can’t control anything outside the building of that home, but I was totally invested in following the foundation of the blueprint that was written by our writers. All I can do is be in a place that was not comfortable, emotionally and physically, multiple times for multiple takes, but if I am worth my salt, as an actor, and I do the job that they’re paying me to do, my job is to suspend your belief. I’ve never been asked to do anything like that. I think it was that special. When you look at this show, you wonder about how far a human being would go to survive. It’s brilliant storytelling.
WASHINGTON: You better believe that he wants to be Chancellor, clearly. He wants to lead his people. You can believe that, after all that. He’s going to lead his people, by hook or by crook. There’s no doubt. And I’m sure that anything that gets in the way of that is not going to be in the way for long.
The people on the Ark named their camp after him, but Jaha is not actually dead and probably wouldn’t be too happy about some of the things that they’ve already done without him. Will it be interesting to see how that plays out?
WASHINGTON: I think you will see how that plays out. We’re addressing it pretty much now. You’re onto something. No disrespect to anyone, but you clearly get it. He’s going down to Earth to get it right. This Earth is just so dark that it’s sucking the life out of everyone.
What was it like to have the character of Wells back to interact with, after being gone, so early on in Season 1?
WASHINGTON: It was beautiful. People forget that it’s an acting assignment. You can work with someone for three months, three years or 30 years, and then you move on. I’ve done I don’t know how many films, and I can look at the film and know that I worked with Clint Eastwood, but I’m not still trying to hang out with Clint Eastwood. We did our jobs. That’s the difference, in terms of how people look at television versus film. I don’t hold onto it. He’s not holding onto it. He was offered the opportunity to come back and act, we did our jobs, and he’s on to the next. It was cool, and it worked.
The 100 airs on Wednesday nights on The CW.