'The 100' Star Paige Turco Reflects on the Life & Death of Abby Griffin
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The 100 Season 6.]
Since Doctor Abby Griffin's philosophy was one of finding hope in the cruelty of The 100's brutal world, it's perhaps fitting that actress Paige Turco's favorite on-set memory is one of joy in an otherwise sad moment: A behind-the-scenes blooper while filming Jaha (Isaiah Washington)'s death scene, which she says she liked because it was a lighthearted time on a dark show.
There's a good reason Turco would cherish that memory, since there isn't much happiness to go around on The CW's sci-fi series. Season 6 saw two of the most upsetting deaths so far with almost back-to-back losses of Kane (Henry Ian Cusick) and Abby. With their exits, the trio of original "adults" from Season 1's Ark storyline is gone, marking a heartbreaking milestone for the show.
And Abby's loss was devastating in ways that will undoubtedly reverberate through the final season; Clarke lost her mother, Raven lost the woman she thought of as mom, Jackson lost a close friend and mentor, and all the survivors lost a talented, kind doctor. But in spite of the ever-present sadness, there existed moments of light — Abby was able to tell her daughter she loved her one last time, and, after a difficult and sometimes-upsetting journey, she made amends with Jackson and Raven.
We talked with Turco about her character's uniquely tragic ending, whether she'd star in another sci-fi show (The 100 was her first) and what legacy she thinks Doctor Griffin left for the people she loved.
How did you learn about Abby’s fate?
Paige Turco: I kind of knew [what might happen to her] with the change in the show. When (Henry) Ian (Cusick) left, I had an inkling I might be going soon as well. I don’t think anybody expected the “oldies” to have such a great response. And I’m very proud of that—for a CW show, it was interesting that people responded to the adults having a mature, romantic relationship. So when Kane died, I thought, “Where does my character go from there?” Our relationship was so strong on the show: What do they do with Abby after that? And I hate to say that, because I’m a feminist!
But I think that’s kind of what happened. And I don’t think it was intentional, but sometimes characters can be written into a corner. When you have such a strong, loving relationship, it can buckle. So then, where do you go? And it was fun, but very weird, to play Simone. After six years playing Abby it was like “whoa, I don’t know how to do this!” [laughs] But it was fun to wear a gown.
I thought Abby’s ending was unique because she had two deaths—she had the mind-wiping fluid, and then Simone. Did you feel like you were saying goodbye to her twice?
I felt like I said goodbye to her once, as Abby. That was an intense scene to play. When I was Simone, I guess as an actress, I was able to disassociate from Abby. So I was Simone, and it wasn’t as painful as when I died as Abby, emotionally. If that makes sense?
Oh no, it does. Because you weren’t really playing Abby.
Right. And it would’ve been fun to have been Simone, but it kind of lessened the blow for me, as an actress. But I sent out a Tweet, and I really meant it—it was such a great cast, and a great crew. Everybody really had a heart. So when I died as Abby there was a piece of me that was saddened, because they’re my family. Sometimes I try to articulate to people that when you bond that way, as actors, they do become your family.
Yeah, you spent so much time together.
Yeah, and [saying goodbye] is very sad. But I’ve been in the business a long time, and you find a way to try and find some light. Maybe that’s what I brought to Abby; you have a little bit of hope, and you find light, and you go, “This chapter is ending, and a new chapter is beginning.” That doesn’t mean you’re not sad about the chapter ending! But I stay in touch with everybody, so on that level, it’s great. I got beautiful text messages from Sachin (Sahel), and even Ian and Isaiah (Washington).
The 100 was your first sci-fi show. Do you think you’d do anything in that genre again?
Of course I would! Now I’m headfirst into it. I really didn’t know sci-fi at first. There’s a famous story [about that] that I still find delicious. It was in the Pilot, and they were trying to float me, and I walk away from Jaha and… I so didn’t know sci-fi. Evidently, the doors open on their own, right? But I walked up to the door and tried to open it! [laughs] I heard Jason Rothenberg and the director holler to me across the set, “You’re on a spaceship! It’ll open on it’s own!”
I had a lot of fun with the transition into sci-fi, to be honest with you. I didn’t know much. I had to call Jason and go, “Okay, I don’t know what an AI is, so could you explain that to me?” And then, in the fifth season when I was taking pills, I was like, “Can you tell me what pills I’m taking?” “Oh, they’re sci-fi pills.” I’m like, “I need a little more information than that.” So, what does it do? Am I going to morph into a robot?
Yeah, "sci-fi pills" could be anything!
Yeah! But I love that sci-fi fans are so detail-oriented. I, as an actress, do a lot of research and am very detail-oriented. I became that way in Season 5, especially, with the sci-fi pills—I was really trying to be conscious of what those fans needed. Sci-fi is a little crazy, but I put my feet into the ground and figured it out. I appreciated the attention to detail that the fans had; I became very conscious of that and felt responsible for that.
At the same time, what I loved about my character is that there was such a human quality to her, even if it’s sci-fi. And that’s the part I really enjoyed: the hope Abby brought. The humanity. Whether or not she took a different path toward the end, I still believe she had hope, which is very human even in a sci-fi world.
When characters die on this show, they tend to leave behind some of their ideologies: For example, everyone wants to be a better person because of Monty. What legacy do you think Abby leaves for the people she loved?
Not to be afraid to stand up for your humanity, your hope, what you know is right. Not to be afraid to be rebellious and stand up for that, which is how my character started. It’s okay to save your humanity by sacrificing a certain amount of yourself. I think that my character actually gave her daughter a lot of that; the whole dichotomy of making a difference for the whole world as opposed to one person, which is what [Abby’s] struggle was in the past two seasons, though never with her child. Do you save the Ark, so that many people can live, or do you save the one person that you love?
I do think [Abby’s legacy] is hope. I do think it’s enlightenment and that it’s okay to make mistakes. Maybe not eating human beings, but, you know! It’s a natural soul and humanity.
Are there any characters that Abby didn’t spend time with that you wish she would’ve?
Yes! I never had a scene with Monty. Not one. I think he’s the only character I never had a scene with. But, listen. The talent on that show: Devon Bostick, Richard (Harmon), the list goes on and on. I loved working with Richard as well, and Sachin, of course. “Where’s Abby?” “Where’s Jackson?” [laughs]
I was hoping to see more of Madi and Abby. I hoped they’d form a bond, and then it didn’t happen. It kind of happened in Abby’s last episode, but…
Well, she couldn’t help it—Madi had Sheidheda in her head!
It’s interesting because in the beginning I kept thinking, “I have dark hair and dark eyes, my daughter has blonde hair and blue eyes.” Usually on television that doesn’t happen, and in the first season, Eliza (Taylor) and I didn’t really work together. When I went back and I watched it, I went, “Oh my God, we have a very similar energy to us.” So when you’re talking about Abby’s legacy, Clarke’s relationship with Madi is very similar to Abby’s relationship with her child in terms of empowerment, and strength, and love and comfort.
That’s what I enjoyed with Abby and Clarke—Abby never took away her daughter’s strength. She encouraged it, and that allowed Clarke to find her way. It’s a beautiful thing. But yeah, it’s a shame it didn’t work out [with Abby and Madi]. She had somebody living inside of her. Again, sci-fi!
The timing just didn’t work, for them.
I think that eventually it would’ve worked out. But there were a few moments where, I don’t know if anybody noticed it, but [Abby] was very proud. I think that’s why she turned herself into a Nightblood. To honor that, generationally. But gosh, poor Abby. She loses the love of her life, she thinks she’s lost her daughter, then she hasn’t lost her daughter. But I think it was very Abby to [turn herself into a Nightblood].
I was also hoping you’d have some resolution with Octavia. That somehow you guys would come full circle, that there would be some kind of forgiveness…
I think they tried, but it’s a huge ensemble show: There were so many stories. I think my character did love Octavia, but Abby had so much guilt and she felt as though she created Blodreina, unintentionally. The scene in the office was hard. I tried to change some of those lines, because I would read them and go, “Abby would never say that!” “She would never do that!” But you’re right: We never came full circle.
But making up and apologizing doesn’t always have to be a big hug and a kiss at the end. And I kind of feel like that scene [with Abby and Octavia in the Eligius cafeteria] with Abby walking over and going, “Do you want me to taste it first? I know you’re terrified you’re going to get poisoned”—which is kind of motherly, in only the way The 100 can do it—was a way of telling her everything was going to be okay.
When people Clarke loves die, they tend not to really stay dead…
Oh, I know where this is going! [laughs]
Would you be open to returning in a flashback or a hallucination of Clarke’s, if it happened that way?
Yes, I would be open to that. These people were my family for six years, and I love Abby so much. Now whether or not I’d be available, that, I can’t answer. But in terms of me being connected to the show in the way I’m connected to the show, and them being my family, and me loving Abby? Of course I’d be open to that. Of course.
The 100, Final Season, 2020, The CW