On the new CW drama series The 100, a nuclear Armageddon decimated planet Earth and destroyed civilization, and the only survivors were the 400 inhabitants of 12 international space stations that were in orbit, at the time. Ninety seven years later, the survivors now number 4,000 and resources are running out on their dying Ark. To protect the survival of the human race, the leaders take ruthless steps to ensure their future, including secretly sending a group of 100 juvenile prisoners to the Earth’s surface to test whether it’s habitable again. The series stars Paige Turco, Isaiah Washington, Henry Ian Cusick, Eliza Taylor, Thomas McDonell, Bob Morley, Eli Goree, Marie Avgeropoulos, Christopher Larkin and Devon Bostick.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Thomas McDonell talked about why this show enticed him to doing TV, his interest in the unpredictability of the story, embracing the fact that any character could go at any time, checking out the fan reaction on Twitter, that there are more big game-changing plot pieces coming up, Finn’s love drama, how his character ends up being extremely close to one of the last people you expect he would, and that things will just keep ramping up. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
THOMAS McDONELL: I never wanted to work on TV, or anything like that. But then, this show was presenting something new to me, as an actor.
Were you able to tell how different this would be just from reading the pilot script, or did you also have discussions with the show creator?
McDONELL: Yeah, we talked it over. Pilots for television shows have very short loglines. It was like, “One-hour sci-fi drama,” and that didn’t really do it for me. I didn’t want to do it, until we had talked it over for awhile. I was interested in the unpredictability of this show. There was something really attractive to me about it. As a viewer, you understand that anything can happen. But actually working on it, it was a lot like that. The creator (Jason Rothenberg) and the producers insisted on keeping their plans and the plot pretty close to the chest.
So, when you read the pilot script and learned that a main character took a spear to the chest, and then a couple episodes later, another supposedly main character was killed, did you start to wonder about how long you might be sticking around? Did it make you flip to the end of each script to see if you’d be around for at least one more episode?
McDONELL: Yeah, but you just have to embrace that. It makes for some pretty good jokes, working on set.
Are you constantly in a state of anxiety, over who will get killed next? Even if it’s not your character, is it stressful to think about the possibility of losing fellow cast members, at any moment?
McDONELL: Yeah, it was like, “Shit, I don’t want Devon Bostick’s character to get a spear through him. It’s really hard to come back from that.” But, I’m glad Devon’s character survived that. Jasper is good to have around.
With a show like this, where big things happen on a regular basis, do you like to check out what fans are saying on Twitter to see how they’re reacting to everything?
McDONELL: Yeah, and sometimes it’s really surprising, the way that it comes across. There are varying interpretations of things. It’s funny, I find myself weirdly upset when people are interested in knowing about Bellamy and Clarke’s relationship. I get jealous, which is crazy.
What can you say to tease what’s coming in the next episode, and how the events in it will affect Finn?
McDONELL: Well, a lot of stuff is about to happen, in the next couple of episodes. There are big game-changing plot pieces that have to do with the interaction between the people who are still up on the Ark and The 100, and The 100 and The Grounders, and also the introduction of new elements. Maybe they’re not totally alone either. But a big part of the next couple of episodes, for Finn, has to do with the continuing drama of his women.
McDONELL: I guess he’s immediately drawn to her, but not necessarily in a romantic or sexual way, at first. When you meet them, they are butting heads. He’s teasing her, and she doesn’t appreciate it. But when they have to deal with the realness of being on Earth, for the first time, and watching her handle that is what really makes him fall in love with her.
There is always a love triangle on shows with a lot of young people. Were you surprised that that love triangle would involve your character?
McDONELL: No, I had a feeling about that. But, it ends up being less of a triangle and more of a tetrahedron. It will be a love rhombus. When Finn is forced into a situation where he has to decide about these women, there is betrayal and revenge, and that has to do with romance between other characters, and all of that.
How would you say his feelings for Raven are different from his feelings for Clarke?
McDONELL: He has this long, deep relationship with Raven that has to do with them growing up together. Not that it is black and white like this, but she’s started to feel a little bit more like a sister. When he’s confronted with this new love in Clarke, it changes everything.
Over the course of the season, who would you say that Finn forms the closest friendships with and who will he come into conflict with most often?
McDONELL: Oh, man! I don’t want to spoil it, but weirdly, he ends up being extremely close to one of the last people you would think that he’d end up with. But where we are right now, clearly he has problems with the new political structure that’s happening with The 100, with Bellamy at the head of that. Finn is on the Clarke side of things, if it’s one or the other. But that all gets switched up, too. It’s hard to say because a lot happens. The first couple of episodes work in a way where one episode ends and the next one picks up right where it left off. It continues in that way, mostly throughout the entire season, but there are small passages of time, which allow for things to have taken place off screen.
Without giving anything away, how much more will things ramp up between now and the end of the season? Does it just keep getting crazier, or are there also some quiet moments?
McDONELL: No. In the first few episodes, clocks start ticking, which have to do with what’s happening with The Grounders and the Ark. In space, they’re running out of resources, so they’re either going to reduce the population or figuring something else out, but they have to do something. So, when all these clocks start ticking, it just keeps ramping up, more and more, until the very last moment of the season.
McDONELL: I think about that all the time, to do the job of being an actor on it, but I also find myself spinning out on it. I get carried away, trying to imagine what it would be like to work on the ground for the first time, or being in water for the first time. You could spend a long time thinking about things like that. There’s this constant wonderment, and then all the things that happen on Earth add even more to that. So, I think they’re doing pretty good down there. It would be difficult.
Since TV is told over the long-term and you’re working with a number of different directors, do you enjoy working with everybody’s vision of what you’re doing?
McDONELL: Yeah, it’s so cool. It’s totally not like anything I ever did before. When you work on movies, you have one concise idea that you finish, and that’s it. With this, you get to have a character, as an actor, to yourself, and then you get to bounce it off of other people’s points of view or ways of storytelling. It’s one of the cooler things about working on a TV show.
The 100 airs on Wednesday nights on The CW.