New World, Who Dis? ‘The 100’ EP on Resetting the Story in Season 6

Diyah Pera/The CW

The 100 touches down for its sixth season tonight and after a 125-year time jump, thanks to some handy cryo-sleep, our band of refugees from the now-destroyed Earth are movin’ on up to a deluxe new habitat on a moon known as Sanctum.

Of course, because this is The 100, things go wonky almost from the get-go. Here, showrunner Jason Rothenberg previews the adventure to come and explains how everyone involved had a hand in starting this new chapter.

Jordan Bolger as Shaw, Sachin Sahel as Jackson, Tasya Teles as Echo, Bob Morley as Bellamy, Eliza Taylor as Clarke and Jarod Joseph as Miller (Diyah Pera/The CW)

OK, are you ready for a whole new season of fans yelling at you?

Jason Rothenberg: You know, by the time they’re yelling at me, I’ll be working on Season Seven. [Laughs]

Well you jumped right into it in this first episode. Sanctum, this brave new world, immediately starts claiming lives!

Yeah. I mean it was obviously important to us that the world, although it presents as beautiful, is also filled with threats and mysteries and things that our characters have no idea about. And clearly part of the journey for them this season is figuring out how to survive. It was important to set the stakes for the world and it is what the show has always been and will continue to be.

Alright, so let’s talk about resetting this show, because you closed Book 1. This is Book 2. How many chapters do you see this book having?

The truth is we don’t know. When we started the show, I had no idea that we would last this long. And for me, creatively what we do every season is try and read that thing. So we’re telling a new story every season. Obviously this one much more so than in the past. We, I think in some ways, reinvented it. I sort of talk about it as a re-piloting of the show within the time schedule of a regular season, which is really hard to do. I’m exhausted. [Laughs] Our writers, everybody on our crew and the cast, as well, all had to kind of do this on the fly. And so it’s pretty remarkable what everybody pulled off together. But we’re tired, so the change between Seasons 6 and 7 won’t be quite as extreme. It will be pretty intense, however.

You production team had to go and build an entire new universe. You didn’t even get to repurpose some old sets or tweak the old drop ship or something.

Believe me, sometimes I envy shows that live in the same cop precinct that they were living in during the pilot, you know? I mean, it’s a bit of our pattern, as you know, that we do destroy things all the time. So it wasn’t completely new as far as a concept to destroy our sets and have to find new ones. But you’re right, it was far more extreme. Usually we at least have a couple sort of standing sets that are left that we can kind of like find places to set scenes. In this case, of course, everything that wasn’t on the ground, it no longer existed.

Lindsey Morgan as Raven (Sergei Bachlakov/The CW)

And you’re obviously shooting in a totally different section of Vancouver.

One of the biggest challenges for me and for all of us was—and I sort of drummed this into our whole team’s heads all season long—we needed for people to believe that we’re not on Earth anymore. We need for people to suspend their disbelief as the expression goes, that we’re not in Vancouver in the same place that we’ve been shooting the show for the last five seasons. So it was really, really challenging. Obviously one of the ways we do that is with visual effects. There’s two suns in the sky during the day. There’s a big gas giant in the sky by night, both of which tell you instantly you’re not in Kansas anymore. But yeah, I mean we did a lot of things. We changed the lighting, we changed sort of the way we shoot things. There’s a lot of creative tricks that we do to try to sell that illusion. And we did move out of the GVRD, which were the woods that we shot in for a long time.

But now you still have an area surrounded by woods and from the opener, they are not a safe place!

The new world is dominated by plants and it’s encroaching on Sanctum, the compound, all the time. It’s a little tricky because the moon and the compound are both called Sanctum. And a radiation fence keeps the plants out, keeps the forces at bay. So everything beyond the radiation fence is kind of no man’s land. There are dangers, there are threats, that is the uncivilized part of the moon, which is 99.9 percent of it.

I know early in the season, we get flashbacks to the original settlers and the first taste of what happens during an eclipse. Are we going to flashback frequently?

Not that frequently, but their story is really important and it definitely serves as a cautionary tale, for sure, for our heroes. And of course the descendants of that initial landing party have figured out a way to survive. And so the knowledge that they picked up over the 236 years that we’ve been in this world, on this planet, on this moon, rather, will be stuff that our heroes need to know. We need them way more than they need us.

And JR Bourne, talk about his character, Russell Lightbourne.

JR is amazing, love him. Loved him from the first moment he opened his mouth and spoke. He’s also just a great guy and a very calming presence. His character is complicated. His character is in the sort of tradition of Dante Wallace and Pike. And of course, when you hear those two names, fans of the show will immediately think, “Oh my God, he’s the villain.” And in some ways, he’s certainly antagonistic towards our heroes, but his job as the leader of this people is to keep them safe.

So here comes these hardened, blood-soaked heroes of ours. Genocidal in many ways, with 400 sleeping people upstairs who are warriors and obviously the prisoners from Eligius IV. Murderers and psychopaths, some of them. Whether or not he invites them to stay is really a matter of life and death for our characters because if they’re kicked out into the woods beyond the wall, that’s not survivable. Maybe they’ll figure it out, maybe they won’t.

This is the opposite of Mount Weather.

It’s a very different story from the Mount Weather story in the sense that our heroes were taken without choice and they were locked up and trying to escape. Here, it’s our heroes come uninvited. Literally, they break in and need to be asked to stay, otherwise they’re going to die.

Eliza Taylor as Clarke and Luisa D’Oliveira as Emori (Sergei Bachlakov/The CW)

Even though it’s been 125 years, we still have a lot of open wounds once people start waking up on the ship. Some very interesting dynamics. From the get-go, nobody other than Bellamy (Bob Morley) giving Clarke (Eliza Taylor) a second chance. How hard is it going to be for her to kind of regain her standing?

Yeah, it’s been interesting for me to see some of the reactions, that people are mad that nobody’s being nice to Clarke. For them it’s strange, from an audience perspective, we’ve all had like a year plus to kind of distance ourselves from the previous story. These characters, although you’re right, it’s 125 years, it’s only been a night’s sleep for them. They went to bed 125 years ago and woke up this morning as if they went to bed last night. And so everything they were feeling when they went to bed, they’re still feeling, in the way you would if you got in a fight with someone you loved and then woke up the next morning without having apologized to them.

Bellamy and Clarke obviously had, the end of Season 5 after Monty woke them both up, they had that emotional experience together. And I think they do both love and respect each other so much and understand that there’s a reason why Monty looked to them to be the sort of leaders of essentially the human race at this point, to try and do better, as he said. So Bellamy has of course gone further towards understanding and accepting what Clarke did in the previous season—understanding that she did it for Madi (Lola Flanery) and, of course, understanding that he has done some pretty crappy things himself. That said, she did betray everybody to McCreary. She did help his army. She did turn in Shaw and Raven, who got tortured, so they have a reason to be pissed at her.

Oh everybody is mad at someone.

Right, Bellamy is mad at Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos), who has reasons to be pissed at Kane (Henry Ian Cusick) and Abby (Paige Turco), and Kane and Abby have reasons to be pissed at Octavia. So everybody’s sort of dealing with, in the premiere anyway, the emotional fallout of last season’s betrayals and behavior. Which is one of the things I love so much about this episode: These characters are actually, for a few minutes anyway, able to pause because the stakes aren’t life and death for a few minutes anyway, and they are able to come talk about stuff and in some cases, just yell at each other. [Laughs]

The 100, Season 6 Premiere, Tuesday, April 30, The CW