The Ice Queen is dead but her plan to take over the coalition might not be. When we finally met Nia, a character on The 100 played by none other than Brenda Strong, we were elated to find she was just as ruthless as promised. Though we merely caught a glimpse of the frigid ruler of the Ice Nation, her impression was long-lasting. It shouldn’t have come as a shock that things didn’t quite go her way after she challenged Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) to a fight to the death. Perhaps we just didn’t want to see Strong’s character go so soon, but questioning the Commander’s authority or even insinuating her strength was wavering seemed like a big no-no within grounder politics, and it was bound to end badly. But still, her coup went on as planned, and Queen Nia offered up her son, Prince Roan (Zach McGowan) to fight her battle (a decision she’s probably kicking herself over now) and she was ultimately executed by the Commander with a spear to the chest in a twist of fate none of us saw coming. Talk about getting the wrong end of the stick.
Now, in the world of The 100, there are no coincidences, everything is somehow connected, and introducing such a pivotal character only to be killed off an episode later means they have something meticulously crafted for the future of Azgeda and the coalition. With Roan the new King, Night Bleeder Ontari (Rhiannon Fish) nowhere to be seen, and Lexa’s reign undoubtedly still in question by participants of Nia’s coup, we’re all left wondering if this is really the end of Strong’s character. Ontari will return to the Capitol eventually, but in what context– will it be to finish what Nia started? The fate of such a character is unknown, but we won’t rule her dark motives out just yet.
With the Spoiler Police always watching, Strong wasn’t too forthcoming with indicating what’s in store for this particular storyline, but she did hint at possible flashbacks for Queen Nia. Which makes perfect sense, if you think about it. I mean, we have to find out Ontari’s origin story sooner or later, right? What earned Roan his banishment from the Ice Nation? Plus we’re still unsure of what initially transpired between the Commander and the Ice Queen to create such animosity. Strong offered some insight into her character’s intentions, overall purpose on the hit CW series, and of course her wardrobe.*
*Spear to the chest not included.
MCKENZIE MORRELL: Hi Brenda, thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with me about The 100! For starters, what attracted you to the role of the Ice Queen?
BRENDA STRONG: I love the way that Jason Rothenberg has created strong female roles in The 100, whether they are the protagonists or antagonists, they are fully formed, morally ambiguous roles that I was very attracted to.
MM: Your costume and makeup is pretty awesome! I love the headpiece she wears. What would you say was your favorite thing about playing the Queen of Azgeda?
BS: I was very excited to collaborate with both the makeup and costume departments to find the look and feel of Nia. There was such care taken to incorporate the mythology of the show, the Ice Nation, and yet set her apart as the leader of her people. Jason was very involved in the process, and both makeup/hair and costumes led me to find a rawness in delivery that is very different from more recent roles that I’ve played and that was really exciting.
MM: Was it hard learning Trigedasleng? I hear a bit of an accent here and there, was that intentional?
BS: When I speak Italian, people think I am French, so no, I am afraid it wasn’t intentional! Probably just something to do with my ear and how it comes out with the intent. It was a pleasure to learn, albeit, time intensive as it is with any language. The more you practice the easier it becomes.
MM: Why do you think Nia despises Lexa so much and doesn’t want her to have this power. Do you think it has to do with age?
BS: No, I don’t think it has to do with age. It has to do with acquiring power and protecting her people. To go more in depth, that is a good question for Jason.
MM: Did Nia know that Lexa cares for Clarke and that’s why she went after Wanheda… or is it more just the fact she wanted to “get” Clarke’s powers?
BS: It’s difficult to ascertain what Nia knows or not as her presence on the show was so short lived. Perhaps if there are flashbacks, we will all learn more about the origins of this intense feud between them. I know she has a hidden natblida up her sleeve, so I don’t think we can assume anything about Nia’s agenda.
MM: Will we ever find out why Roan was banished?
BS: I’m sure when the time comes you will.
MM: Nia clearly feels disappointed with Roan for being banished, was it difficult to play that digressed maternal bond with Zach McGowan?
BS: Zach and I worked really organically together and it wasn’t hard at all to feel connected to him in a maternal and mentorship role, ironically, we found out while filming that his mother’s name is Brenda, and my son’s name is Zak. (actor Zak Henri) That was one of those coincidental moments that make you feel assured that it’s great casting.
MM: What character traits in Nia do you admire the most? And which ones do you think she can do without?
BS: I admire her leadership, strength, fierceness of purpose, and power. I am not sure I am in alignment personally with her blind ambition and ruthlessness. But somehow it works for her in the arena of kill or be killed.
MM: If you could play another character on The 100 for a day, who would it be and why?
BS: I think Paige Turco as Clarke’s mom is doing an amazing job. I know the kids get a lot of attention on the show, but some of the depth and complexity brought to the show by the adults really grounds it, no pun intended!
MM: The Queen made a play at Lexa’s throne and had her son fight Lexa to the death. Obviously, Lexa was triumphant and Nia met her untimely fate. Were you shocked that your character was killed so quickly?
BS: Surprised, certainly. However, I seem to have this fate historically where I play really important pivotal roles that die too soon. (Desperate Housewives, Everwood) Maybe I am the female Sean Bean? haha.
MM: With that said, any chance we’ll be seeing flashbacks of Nia in coming episodes? I mean, she seems like she’s going to be important to Ontari and the Grounder politics storylines.
BS: Agreed. We will see.
MM: In The 100, characters usually have reasons why they’re the way they are… did you invent a backstory for Queen Nia, or was it kind of laid out for you before filming?
BS: The important things were told to me in order for me to fulfill my function as Nia, but you always have to find your own way in to care deeply about what your character wants and what motivates them.
MM: How different was it working on a show like The 100, compared to some of the others you’ve worked on? (ex. Dallas, Desperate Housewives, Blood Relatives)
BS: They are all very different tonally and texturally. But quality television is quality television and that always comes from the visionary at the top.
MM: How was it working with Rhiannon Fish and playing off that character on the show?
BS: She was lovely. We both had to find our place in this world very quickly.
MM: Do you see any similarities between Nia and Lexa?
BS: Definitely. There is an understanding of what it takes and the sacrifices of leadership. Both have to weigh their emotional loyalties against what’s best for the good of the whole, and of course those aren’t always the same, which is where the juicy conflict arises.
MM: How often do you use social media? How much of the fan feedback is good and bad?
BS: I use it mostly when I have a show to promote. I don’t need to tweet what I had for breakfast. Although I do like to educate about health and wellness via social sites, so never say never. The 100 fans are AWESOME!
MM: Can you tell us about any other projects that are coming up that we can lookout for?
BS: I just produced a short film called “I DID NOT FORGET YOU” that is a piece about destruction leading to hope with a special ops officer returning from Afghanistan that is getting some festival play and I have a new movie coming out in April called By Chance which is a mother daughter story with Beau Garrett from Girlfriends Guide to Divorce and Ben Ayres from Saving Hope.
The 100 airs Thursdays at 9|8c on The CW