The CW series The 100 is back for Season 3, and three months have passed since the tragedy at Mount Weather left no one unscathed. A bounty has been put on Clarke’s (Eliza Taylor) head, and unbeknownst to Clarke, a team led by Bellamy (Bob Morley) and Kane (Henry Ian Cusick) heads deep into Grounder territory to save her, all while she’s trying to get a handle on the finer points of Grounder politics.
While at the TCA Press Tour, actress Alycia Debnam-Carey spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about how much she adores her character, when she realized just how deeply fans have embraced Lexa, finding the right mix of vulnerability and being wise beyond her years, the brutal process of becoming a Commander, shooting her first fight scene, whether Lexa and Clarke’s relationship can ever truly be repaired, and balancing playing a young woman in such a heightened world with playing such a normal girl in Fear the Walking Dead.
Collider: When you signed on for this role, did you have any idea that Lexa would be as embraced as she has been?
ALYCIA DEBNAM-CAREY: I had no idea! It’s taken me completely by surprise, but that’s always the way it happens. It’s when you least expect it. I signed on for this role at a time in my personal and work life when there was a little bit of a lull period. I was like, “I don’t know what I’m doing!” It was one of those actor freak-out moments. So, when this came along, the potential for what I could do was so exciting for me. I was like, “Wow, there’s this great show with great actors who are a part of it, and I’ve got this character that I could do a lot of things with.” Thankfully, (show creator) Jason [Rothenberg], the creative team, the writers, and the hair and make-up are very collaborative. They’re really willing to create something. And that’s what’s so lucky about this show. It never started with expectation, so we’ve been able to embrace it and really make it our own, and that’s been wonderful. I never expected that Lexa would take off this way, but I adore her. She’s my favorite character, so far, that I’ve ever played.
When and how did you realize that this character had become so important to the LGBT community?
DEBNAM-CAREY: I was on Instagram or something and I checked my tagged photos, and I realized that suddenly they were all LGBT artwork. I was like, “Oh, my god!” I had no idea. It was the first time I realized I was a figure for that community. What an honor, how flattering that is to bring a character to life that people find their self expression in and a safety with. It’s new for our society, as well. It’s one of the first shows that really has two characters in the cast that are gender and sexually fluid and embraces that. There are no labels. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of. I’m all for it.
It’s interesting how, when everything is life-or-death in the outside world, that is no longer something people make an issue of.
DEBNAM-CAREY: That’s the thing. It’s funny, I often think about how, if we were all placed in an apocalyptic situation, you’d realize quickly how stupid, petty things just don’t matter anymore. Who you love is who you love, and it doesn’t matter. Survival is your primary focus. In this third season, we actually get to explore that idea. You don’t often get a choice in who your enemies are, who you’re friends with, what your situation is, and the environment you’re placed in. You just have to make due with what you have.
As a leader, so much of Lexa’s emotions are held inside because she can’t really show that. Is that a big challenge
DEBNAM-CAREY: I think the toughest thing for me to figure out, as an actor, was how to translate all those layers that are in there and that history that the writers have done such a great job at forming. For me, it was about finding that mix between vulnerability and tension and a wiseness beyond her years. It was one of the first episodes in Season 2, I was working with a particular director and he was like, “The less you do, the more powerful it is.” I realized that I was slowly developing all of these things. Someone was like, “Is it a thing you’ve chosen to do, to not blink all the time?” I was like, “Wow!” When it comes to Lexa, she’s very steely-gazed, all the time. There’s a presence about her and a knowingness, and she’s always observant. I started to pick up all these traits, just from working with this character, that I didn’t expect.
Is it weird to go from someone like Lexa, who is wise beyond her years, to a character like Alicia on Fear the Walking Dead, who is very much a typical teenager?
DEBNAM-CAREY: Yeah. It’s a nice balance to have because they’re so, so different. Alicia is a lot closer to a regular person, so it’s nice to have a little bit more of a fluid stream of consciousness about it. She’s a complex individual who’s fighting her own battles, but it was very different having to go from Lexa to evaluating what a normal teenager is. But, I never saw Lexa as a teenager. I never even gave her an age, really. It’s almost like she skipped that period. She was place in a position where suddenly she was forced to make a lot of hard choices that most people never have to make, no matter what their age is.
The 100 is a world where you don’t ever really get to be a kid.
DEBNAM-CAREY: Yeah, exactly. And in Season 3, you start to see how the Grounders’ politics, religion and the spiritual nature of their culture plays into her character, too. You’ll learn about the history of the Commander line.
This season, we see her training the next generation of warriors and leaders. Do you think that she treats them any differently, since she’s been there herself and knows what it’s like?
DEBNAM-CAREY: Yeah, I think there is a soft spot. It’s a brutal process, them being selected to be a Commander, which you’ll start to learn about. She does have a soft spot for them, but she has to keep her distance because she knows that the moment she weakens is the moment that everything falls.
Lexa has clearly done something to betray Clarke, which has led to a crack between them. Can they ever repair that, or do they just have to live with what happened and figure out what’s next?
DEBNAM-CAREY: When you’re placed in a world where survival is the main focus, a lot of that other stuff, like wrongdoings in the past, become obsolete. You have to focus on the here and now. Yes, there is tension between the two of them. But in Clarke’s unique position now, seeing Lexa really stand up for what she believes in and her people, she has to do the same thing and take on a leadership role, and that really actually starts to bring them together again.
You’ve got a big fight scene with Zach McGowan. How was that to shoot?
DEBNAM-CAREY: It was so cool! That was the best. Zach McGowan, who plays Roan, makes me look so much better than I am. It was an intense couple of days of training to learn that scene, but the stunt team on that show are phenomenal. They work around the clock to make us all look really good. It was a full day of shooting that wasn’t easy. I was definitely sore for the next couple of days. And it was my first fight scene. It’s a live-or-die situation.
The 100 airs on Thursday nights on The CW.