In the next episode of The CW series The 100, entitled “Anaconda,” Clarke (Eliza Taylor) comes face-to-face with Cadogan (John Pyper-Ferguson), whose drive for answers puts everyone in a dangerous position. When a surprising connection recalls the past and the nuclear apocalypse that destroyed the Earth, we learn more about what brought everyone to this current moment in time.
To chat about all things backdoor pilot, Collider got on the phone with showrunner Jason Rothenberg who spilled some details about how they came to settle on this prequel story to tell, how Cadogan became so important to the story they were telling, putting together a cast of actors to not only guest in this episode of The 100 but that will also then become the cast of the possible prequel series, getting to tell the origins for stories they’ve already told the end of, and how the moral of this story will be told by the end of the series finale.
COLLIDER: You previously told me you were breaking this final season before you agreed to do a backdoor pilot, but that an episode that you’d already been planning to do was also the perfect springboard into a potential Grounder origin story. When you spoke to the network about a possible spin-off, was it always a prequel idea they and you wanted to do?
JASON ROTHENBERG: That’s a great question. It was always a prequel, but I didn’t land on it being a Grounder origin story, which essentially this is. At first, I was thinking, “Let’s do the Ark. Let’s do Generation One in space, and see Clarke and Bellamy and Murphy and Raven’s great, great-grandparents on their space station, and what they went through.” And, by the way, that’s happening in parallel, time-wise, with the story of the Grounders, post-the-end-of-the-world. I had planned to get up there and meet those characters, also, because it’s all part of the same universe and the same timeline.
But we wanted this season to basically be dedicated to the story of the original show, and I was definitely planning on telling this story, to begin with. We were always gonna tell the story of how Cadogan got to Bardo, and obviously that involves Becca and the Flame and the code that only she knows (that we see in prequel), so it was a story we were always gonna to tell, as we decided to make that the origin story of the Grounders. It became focused more on Callie and Reese, and their ongoing sibling rivalry than it was on Becca and Cadogan. In fact, it’s really sad because I made two versions of this. There is a pilot version of just the space ball story. The Callie and Reese story didn’t have the bookends, so I had to lose a lot of really great stuff. There’s this sequence where we went to a mall in hazmat suits, and they were attacked. There was some great stuff that did not make it into the air version of the show because we had to get it to time, which I would put on the DVD, if we don’t get ordered to series, so that people can see it ‘cause it’s great.
When you originally introduced Cadogan as a character, did you always know that he would be involved in the end of the series? Did he know that he would return?
ROTHENBERG: No, he didn’t know. Essentially, I knew that the Grounders were started from people that came out of the Second Dawn. I told John Pyper-Ferguson, when we hired him in Season 4, for one episode, that there would be more story to tell with his character. At the time, I really meant it. It wasn’t just that I was trying to lure him into doing it and promising him more episodes than the one, which probably got him to agree to do it, in that season, to be honest with you. I really did have the intention, in that season, to see him more, but the story took a left and we really didn’t use him, until Season 7 came along and we decided to tell that story in full. And so, I finally made good on the promise that I made to him, way back when. I can’t say that it was all part of my master plan, but I’m glad it worked out that way.
What are the challenges of casting actors who aren’t just guest stars for an episode, but who are going to be the cast, if this prequel goes into production?
ROTHENBERG: It’s really challenging because you don’t have more time than you have for a regular episode. You’re essentially trying to make a pilot on a episodic timetable. For a pilot, you often have 16 days to shoot it and months to prep it. We had a typical prep and shoot schedule, with a little bit more time than normal, but not very much. It’s hard. It’s a lot of extra work. People were doing two things at once. Because our producing director (Ed Fraiman) directed it, he was around, so we were soft prepping for awhile in advance, so we did get our ducks in a row because of that, probably more than we would have, if we hired an outside director to come in and do it. It’s really hard, and we were looking for some very specific characters. It’s a diverse cast, and that was really important to us. We had some very specific targets that we were aiming for, and we found Iola Evans, Adain Bradley, and Crystal Balint, who plays the mom. And so, the answer to your question is that it was hard and we got lucky.
Is there a difference in the approach to the storytelling of something like the prequel, when you don’t really have to figure out what the ending to the story is, since you already know where these characters eventually go?
ROTHENBERG: Well, there’s a hundred years between Callie’s story and Clarke’s story, so we don’t know really anything about the lifetime of that first generation of Grounders. We know that eventually the Grounders become 12 separate clans, so we might see the formation of some of those various groups on the ground. Those things which are stories that we told the end of, in the original show, getting to tell the origins of, in this prequel, is exciting. It’s definitely not anything that I think anybody would be able to predict, though. I don’t think it’s something that we know the ending of, just because it’s so far removed in time from our originals.
What would you say to prepare fans for the series finale?
ROTHENBERG: Well, I hope we will get a chance to talk about that episode, before it airs, so that we can have a better conversation about it. But the ending of a story is what that story meant. The moral of a story is delivered in the end. The moral of the story, obviously, is yet to be told, and it will be, by the finale. It will be different than what I think most people anticipate, and it’s all coming to a head, as a result of what we find out in this prequel.
The 100 airs on Wednesday nights on The CW.