On The CW series The 100, after a bounty was put on Clarke’s (Eliza Taylor) head, bounty hunter Roan (Zach McGowan) has done the impossible and captured the commander of death. But while Bellamy (Bob Morley) and Kane (Henry Ian Cusick) risk life and limb to rescue Clarke, she finds herself in the middle of Grounder politics, which proves to be more challenging than she ever could have imagined.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Zach McGowan talked about how he came to be a part of The 100 this season, what attracted him to this material, how he views Roan, what drives his character, how much fun it was to work with Eliza Taylor, shooting the great fight scene between Roan and Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) in Episode 404, and what Roan really wants from his mother. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: So great to see you on The 100! Your character is definitely making an impression this season.
ZACH McGOWAN: It’s a good opportunity. I was excited that Jason [Rothenberg] wanted me to come on and have some fun with the cast. I’m a friend of Bob Morley’s, so it’s really cool.
How did you come to be a part of the show?
McGOWAN: I believe they had been holding casting sessions, or something of the like, and they were looking at tapes. I had been at Comic-Con, and I have the same manager as Bob Morley, so we ended up at a Warner Bros. party. I met Jason Rothenberg for the first time, and he’s a fan of Black Sails and Shameless and some of my work, and was like, “Hey, we’ve been having trouble casting this part. I think you’d be perfect for it, if you’d be willing to come up and have some fun for some episodes.” I was like, “Oh, really? You’re just offering me a TV role like that?” I’m not used to getting offers like that. And he was like, “Yeah.” So, I said, “When does it start?” I think that was a Friday night, and it started on Monday. So, I went up there and had some fun. It was very cool. It was over the summer, and it was great.
Had you been familiar with the show, prior to doing this role, or did you have a cram session?
McGOWAN: I had watched a few episodes because Bob is in it and I know Bob. I hadn’t seen all of them, so I did a big cram session that weekend. My storyline comes into it in a different way, so between watching and talking to everyone and the scripts, I was able to get filled in.
The 100 is very different from Black Sails, but it’s as equally as raw and bold in its storytelling. What is it about the show that appealed to you, and why do you think audiences have gotten so hooked on it?
McGOWAN: For me, I always love some sci-fi and any type of post-apocalyptic world idea. There are a lot of resources that go into this show, and it’s shot in Vancouver, in the mountains there. More than anything, it’s the pace of this show. It happens very quickly. It’s not a show that you can sit around and get bored with watching. It has a lot going on.
And it’s really just a story of human survival.
McGOWAN: That’s really at the core of any good story, whether it’s physical survival, survival in the wilderness, or surviving one’s fears. That’s the base of all story. It’s about trying to forge a life with your given circumstances.
How do you view Roan?
McGOWAN: This show spends a lot of time showing these societies, and in any society, there are those who are disenfranchised by it. In some ways, Roan is one of those people. He’s an outsider, in that way.
As someone who’s been cast out by his own people, why does Roan even want to be accepted back in the Ice Nation?
McGOWAN: In the beginning, you had Clarke’s storyline about what one’s survival on one’s own in this world really looks like. In that reality, there is always the inherent desire for greater comfort. That drives Roan a lot. Living in the wilderness does not include any creature comforts.
Roan has a very specific purpose for capturing Clarke, but he also clearly thought capturing her would be easier than it’s proven to be. What does Roan think of Clarke? Do you think he has respect for how driven she is?
McGOWAN: At the beginning, he definitely writes her off. She’s supposed to be the great commander of death, but he scoffs at that. But over their time together, more respect grows. At the beginning, he’s just a bounty hunter who’s taking her. His opinion of her only really has up to go, in that way.
You had some very physical scenes with Eliza Taylor, dragging her around, chained up and gagged. What was it like to work with her and explore that dynamic?
McGOWAN: It’s funny, I ended up meeting most of the rest of the cast at that Warner Bros. party, and I met Eliza there. Jason was like, “Well, it looks like he’s going to be dragging you around, tied up and gagged, over stones and across streams and rivers, through the woods and to Grandma’s house.” It was great. And getting to meet the rest of the gang was really cool. And then, going up to Vancouver and spending so much time with everyone was fun. Eliza is really great. She’s really cool and fun to work with. We had a lot of fun. There were constant hurdles to get over, and she was all tied up, being dragged. And I couldn’t believe how many different locations we shot in. There was a lot of jumping around, in the beautiful summertime in the mountains.
Without revealing the circumstances or the outcome of it, since it’s in the trailer for the season, I can say that there’s a great fight scene between Roan and Lexa. What was that scene like to shoot?
McGOWAN: When Jason and I were talking, he said, “We do a lot of fight stuff.” And then, I met with the stunt team about it, while we were shooting Episode 3, to talk about Episode 4. I met with Alycia [Debnam-Carey] and she had never done a sword sequence, and I’ve done a lot of that recently. She’d been a dancer, so I told her that she’s totally got it, if she’s been a dancer, because it’s basically just dance, but with a sword in your hand. So, we started working on it. When you do stuff like that for TV, you shoot a lot of stuff and assume it’s going to end up getting cut down to 30 seconds. But that scene is about two and a half minutes long, of straight sword fighting. It’s awesome and a testament to what everyone was able to put into it. If I remember correctly, I think we shot it in half a day. We had to finish by a specific time, so it was about a half a day of shooting. But, we’d had a few days to rehearse it. It was really fun. It was very Gladiator. There were a lot of extras around watching us. Sometimes we looked pretty bad-ass, and sometimes we looked silly when we messed up. It’s always fun days when you get to do that kind of stuff.
We saw a lot of characters who have daddy issues, but Roan clearly has some mommy issues. In an ideal world, what would he want from his mother?
McGOWAN: The Ice Nation is a pretty brutal place. They breed war heroes. The relationship between mother and child, in that world, is a little bit different than it is in our own society. But, no one really likes being a disappointment to their parents and their family. More than anything, he just wants to return home.
The 100 airs on Thursday nights on The CW.