I can’t stress enough how extraordinary The 100 is. Like a toddler first finding its footing, this sci fi series started off a bit wobbly, playing up the angsty teen drama in season one’s introductory episodes, but immediately proved to be so much more than young criminals being reckless getting it on while exploring the Earth with no adult supervision. Much like its premise, The 100 digs deep below the surface and boy is it nuclear. The series, now in its third season, follows one hundred teens– the rule breakers of a space station called the Ark. 97 years after a nuclear war obliterates all of humanity, it seems the only hope of the Arks survival, which is on its last leg of resources, is to send its expendable members down to Earth to see if it’s once again inhabitable. Talk about a tough break, I guess it’s better than getting floated! On Earth, they are faced with uncertain death, internal rebellion, and dicey exchanges with other ruthless survivors who don’t take kindly to newcomers. Describing this show is often difficult, as the deep-rooted storylines not only captivate audiences, but they’re downright addictive. There is such great attention to detail where the writers are concerned, and I thoroughly thank them for creating such a dynamic and intriguing world the viewers can get lost in and for executing the show with sheer perfection.
The 100, which stars the likes of Eliza Taylor (Clarke Griffin), Paige Turco (Abby), Bob Morley (Bellamy), Marie Avgeropolous (Octavia), Devon Bostick (Jasper), Isaiah Washington (Thelonious Jaha), Christopher Larkin (Monty) and Henry Ian Cusick (Marcus Kane) not only exudes a natural aptitude for theatrics but has a stunningly creative support system backing them. For The 100 it rings true that behind every great TV show is an even more remarkable production team. The people who spend countless hours brainstorming, compiling thoughts, piecing those thoughts together, and executing a vision that none of us could possibly dream of even on our best days. The unsung heroes of TV that don’t get recognized enough, because hey, without them– there is no show. So when Aaron Ginsburg, the Supervising Producer and one of the writers on The 100, aka my current obsession, hops on a Skype call to chat with you about a show near and dear to your heart, what do you ask him… Do you pick his brain about the writing process? Try and evade the spoiler police and coerce him into revealing some juicy tidbits? Finally find out if Bellarke or Clexa will come out on top? Or do you just talk about pizza and what your favorite characters might eat if ya know, pizza existed post-apocalypse? How about all of the above.
I was elated to talk with Ginsburg, who might I add has a brilliant brain, about the future of the show, its characters and the expanding world of The 100. We talk Grounder clans, Commander Lexa’s (Alycia Debnam-Carey) epic return and he even teased some surprises in store for the shows extremely passionate supporters. Without further ado…
MCKENZIE MORRELL: Our minds are still reeling from last week’s episode. “Wanheda: Part Two” is one that you wrote with Wade McIntyre. What was it like live tweeting the episode and getting the reaction from the fans so quickly?
AARON GINSBURG: We always live tweet and we love all the interaction with the fans. It’s always so fun. This year, there’s been a noticeable uptick in fan interaction. I use tweetdeck to have a bunch of columns open. Now when I look at The 100 hashtag, it spins, almost like a wheel. I can barely keep up with it. It’s so hard to grab a tweet and respond to anyone because it’s just like a cascade of people reacting. It’s pretty amazing. We knew that this episode in particular was going to inspire some Twitter activity. I joked earlier in the day that it was about reunions. And it was so funny because all the different ships imagined that it was only about their reunion but the episode was packed with tons of reunions, romantic and otherwise. Everyone got a little taste of what they’re rooting for. It’s fantastic.
MM: That’s so true. Obviously there’s the rabid Bellarke and Clexa shippers who dominate most of the time but with Monty and his Mom, Lincoln and his friend and everyone coming together–
AG: Jasper and Mount Weather, weirdly. There’s reunions that are different than your straightforward Bellarke and Clexa, although those are also in there.
MM: They are. Do you think since these shippers got a little taste of what’s to come, you’ve curbed the beast for now?
AG: I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like they can be calmed down. Which is good. We don’t want our fans calmed down. I’m hoping that it only has lit the fire under everyone because we want viewers and we want people to interact and to root for the show and feel passionate about the stories we’re telling. Hopefully it’s forced people to ask some deeper questions but onward and upward, I say.
MM: We’re getting some great insight into Alie (Erica Cerra) and her true intentions and plans this season. What made you guys want to go in the AI direction in the first place?
AG: That’s a big question that you’re asking and one that came up last year toward the end of season two. We started discussing the City of Light and what Jaha and Murphy were headed towards and for part of the season we had different answers to what the City of Light was, what it could be and where we could take the story. As the story evolved in our own minds, all of the writers and Jason [Rothenberg], we started discussing how to keep the show both grounded and sci fi which is what it is and how to address bigger questions about humanity which is the core nature of every season and every episode. The AI idea — definitely Jason brought it up at some point and it got all of our minds thinking. The more we dug into it, the more it got us to asking the questions of what it means to be human. Alie is tied in some way to what happened 97 years ago in terms of the survival of humanity. It seemed like a cool way to take the themes and expand them into the next stage of sci fi.
MM: I think you guys are doing a great job. I’m excited to see where this is going. Concerned and excited at the same time. [Laughs]
AG: Yeah. I don’t know why you’re concerned. All she’s operating is a place of peace and love with no pain or greed or envy. What could possibly go wrong? [Laughs]
MM: You guys spend a lot of time in the writing process and on set bringing those words to life. Do you prefer one task over the other or do you love doing it all?
AG: I love doing it all. I’m sure every writer has a different answer to that. There’s a lot of phases to creating a television show and it’s all I ever wanted to do really so I’m pretty happy at every turn. The phases begin with all the writers sitting in a room and debating and pitching ideas and trying to surprise each other. We have an amazing writing staff, the best of the best. It’s just great people, so that’s the first part and once the episode starts to congeal then writers go off to write it. All of the writers, on our staff at least, are hungry to dig into a script and write it and bring these characters onto the page because they’re amazing and we love them all. The next phase of that is being on set and not every writer gets to do that but it’s an amazing chance to see our crew breathe life into our ideas. It couldn’t get better than that.
MM: Obviously you love going to work every day. What would you say is your favorite part of the process whether it’s writing, post production, shooting?
AG: I definitely love when you see the first cut of an episode and it’s all pieced together. It’s a really exciting moment but I’m not sure if it’s my favorite. I remember last year on season two, there was a day we were working on an episode that had stymied the room. It was a really tricky episode. We’d broken it up into pieces to see if we could put it together and I ended up writing a scene, and at the end of the day I was on cloud nine because the writing of that scene and the discoveries that came out of it were really fulfilling and awesome. If every day can have a moment like that, that’s amazing. In season three we were trying to figure out a major plot twist, early in the season and we were debating it for probably two weeks. It was a long process and finally we figured it out. The room, as a collective was like “oh my god, it’s this.” We pitched it to Jason and he was like “oh my god, you’re right.” It’s still in the show. That day we were elated.
MM: That must be amazing to walk through the different steps. There are so many things happening on this show, whether it’s facing the demons of Mount Weather, learning about Alie, or the dynamics of the Grounders and Sky People moving forward from last season… but a very big part people are focusing on is that Commander Lexa is back. Did you think the audience would piece together that Roan was taking Clarke to Lexa? You did a great job of surprising me because I watched the screeners ahead of time and didn’t have any outside influence.
AG: The intention was a mislead in this episode but I do fear all of the press on the first few episodes spoiled it a little bit so I’m not sure how many fans were surprised. That was the intention although I don’t think it damages the experience of the episode. Obviously Lexa is a character that took the fandom by storm and she’s a character we all love too. She’s a badass and everyone adores her. When we were able to get Alycia back for this season, we knew it was a big deal and we were very calculated with where we deployed her and how we use her this season.
MM: That was my concern. I was kind of bummed out for the fans that anticipated how her arrival would happen. I liked that I saw it ahead of time and wasn’t spoiled by the presumption that that was where she was coming in. I would have liked fans to watch the show how you intended to and being surprised by “this is not the Ice Queen. This is Lexa. What’s going on?”
AG: Yeah, exactly. I think we still have quite a few surprises up our sleeves that have not been spoiled by anyone so let’s keep our fingers crossed that that continues.
MM: Obviously we found out that Roan is a Prince. Will we learn if the Ice Nation is the only clan to have these Royal titles?
AG: We definitely get more into the Ice Nation this season and more into their political hierarchy. All of the clans — I’m not sure how many I can officially say. There are twelve clans and we’ve only tapped into TriKru and a little bit of Ice Nation. We’ve heard the names of a couple others. You’ll start to see more of that. Whether we get into them being the only ones with Royals, I can’t confirm or deny that.
MM: Moving forward, off the aftermath of the Season 2 finale, Lexa is in a position of the clans clashing with her and her title. Do you think seeing the politics of it all, that unfolding as the season progresses, that her leadership skills are going to be up for question?
AG: Lexa is in a precarious situation. The alliance of the twelve clans that existed in season two was only just barely holding on. What happened in season two when Lexa and her army left and Clarke and her small band of intrepid heroes defeated the mountain, that has upset the dynamic in the Grounder world in such a way that Lexa has reason to be deeply concerned of her hold on the twelve clans and her safety as the commander for sure.
MM: Obviously you guys broke tumblr with the Clarke and Lexa reunion and the raw “I’ll kill you, you wanted this you’ll get this” kind of thing. When you wrote the episode did you have any other lines or words that you wrote for Clarke to say to Lexa before you ended up going with what we saw on screen? How did the verbiage evolve?
AG: Definitely early on in the break of this episode, we knew we were going to build toward a moment where Clarke and Lexa came face to face. There was much debate over what we should do at that moment. For a while I think it was just Clarke attacking her, getting away from the guards and knocking her down and when we got into it — if Wanheda: Part One and Part Two are one piece, in our minds, it’s an episode that begins with Clarke running from this title that had been given to her by the Grounders and on the literary side of what we do, we wanted to end the two parter with Clarke being like “if this is what you think of me then you’ve got it. You get the trouble.” Once we realized that’s how we wanted to set the pieces for the season, that line came out pretty early. It was written on a board in my office, on an index card and it did not change.
MM: Wow. That must be awesome to have something in mind and throw it up on the board and then it just is built around that.
AG: The goal is to write something that once you hear it, it feels like it wasn’t written, it was always meant to be. Like of course that’s what happened. There was no other way for it to happen. That’s what we’re striving for.
MM: I think you definitely achieved that. I was hoping Clarke would throw a punch at her but it was hard to do that with the hand tied situation. The spitting in the face and the way she exploded was a little more intimate and almost degrading to that character so it made a bigger bang for your buck, for sure. Now, there are so many great characters on The 100. I know it’s like picking your favorite child but which character do you think is going to have the most memorable or perhaps hardest journey throughout the season.
AG: That’s a great question and the nice thing is that this is The 100 and I can speak with some authority when I say that none of the characters have it easy. You can try to compare who has it worse but that’s a game of inches. It’s a really brutal season and one we’re incredibly proud of. It’s going to be a rough year. I don’t really have a favorite in terms of their journey. We work really hard to make sure all of the characters have these amazing journeys and all of the writers respond and connect with these characters which is why they’re so three dimensional.
MM: I found myself rooting for people I didn’t think I would root for which is what’s great about The 100, especially Murphy. He started out as a character that could have been killed off and you wouldn’t have thought twice about it but you guys have done a great job and Richard Harmon has done a phenomenal job of bringing this character to life and making it such a memorable journey to watch. I’m excited to see that unfold this season.
AG: Murphy is definitely a favorite of mine because we were able to constantly shift people’s perceptions of him. He also kind of is — we don’t have a shortage of these characters but I do enjoy the way that Murphy speaks truth. He’ll just say what’s on his mind and in our episode, we talked a lot about like Murphy is holding a backpack that contains a nuclear processor. What does he do? Very early in the room we were laughing at the realization that Murphy would throw it. He doesn’t actually think through his decisions, necessarily, not knowing what would happen if he chucked that thing in the water. He has a really interesting and unexpected season three coming down the line.
MM: Now the backpack got dunked a little bit. Is there any damage to what’s going on in there or is it the five second rule?
AG: It was carefully designed. it’s waterproof for a number of reasons. You don’t want to be walking around with a nuclear processor on your back and it starts to rain. The backpacks survived Murphy’s attempt to destroy it and will be around a little bit longer.
MM: Obviously it was a pretty big reveal that there’s no death in the City of Light, having people show up. Is that going to be something super important as we progress? Anything to tease that element?
AG: The City of Light has been a place that Jaha’s been looking for, whether or not he’s known it, since season two. Now that he’s found it, it’s going to become a bigger and bigger part of this show. What you’re asking is a tricky question, I’m definitely not going to talk about it. This happens to be one of the storylines this year that I think is better experienced than even teased. I don’t want to say anything that can be misconstrued. I want people to experience the City of Light and make their own call about what it means as they go. It’s going to start to ask a lot of questions that I think you as a viewer, and all the viewers will want to think about and answer for themselves. The City of Light is an interesting construct and I think people should experience it rather than try to get spoiled on it.
MM: Definitely. That kind of brings me to my next question. Seeing the pictures that have circulated of you guys filming the finale or final episodes and the speculation surrounding that, are you guys bummed out that people are trying to piece things together or that details have been leaked?
AG: That’s a two part question. I’m somebody that hates spoilers just because as a fan of television, I don’t want to know anything about it. I want to go into an episode kind of blind and experience it as it was intended by the writer and director and producers. So I’m fully against spoilers. But, on the other side of that, there’s online analysis… People who watch an episode and then screen grab images and try to analyze and predict — and that aspect I love. People trying to figure out where we’re going, whether they get it wrong or right or close or not close, I love that stuff. In terms of the people who find out where we’re filming and take photos, that’s kind of a bummer because it’s so out of context, it’s not how TV was meant to be experienced. I try to ignore all that and for those people who need that because obviously some people are so hungry for it that they can’t help themselves.
MM: That’s the position I take as well. As a fan, I want to know what’s coming up but at the same time, I want to enjoy it how you guys have intended for us to enjoy it and it spoils it for people who don’t want to know what’s coming up or want their minds reeling. I want it to be presented to me and experience that.
AG: We spend a lot of time — I mean a lot of time — hundreds of hours writing The 100 and coming up with the story. For us it’s like, you don’t want to pick up War and Peace and read the last three chapters. Not only would you be kind of confused and not understand the implications of what you’re reading, it would taint the whole book as you’re reading it.
MM: I totally agree. People are jumping to conclusions which — there are definitely two sides to the coin. It’s great that people are talking about it, speculating, getting excited and interpreting it one way or another but also there’s a lot of episodes in between and you don’t know what’s going to transpire and you want to enjoy that without knowing what’s coming. Alright, to kind of get off track a little bit, if you had to pick a favorite kind of pizza for Clarke, based on her personality, what would be on it or what kind of pizza do you think she’d enjoy?
AG: You brought up pizza. That’s awesome. When I think of Clarke there’s a couple things. One is she would need something that has many layers of flavor and some spice. I have a pizza that I make and have actually made for Eliza and have an inside scoop that she likes it — it’s a pizza that has jalapenos and fresh avocado on it. It’s a smoked gouda pizza with jalapenos and avocado topped with smoked sea salt. That’s a Clarke pizza. It’s unexpected. It’s got this layered flavor and watch out, it’s got a bite to it.
MM: I’m going to need that recipe. That sounds delicious. Now everyone is going to make #ClarkePizza so we’ll wait for that to come. Obviously, we know you have a passion for pizza. Any chance we’ll have some of that in the City of Light?
AG: There definitely could be pizza in the City of Light. I think I can say with some confidence that you won’t see any pizza in the City of Light this year, other than the pizza I was eating when I was writing it.
MM: What are the odds of us getting a season four. We want it badly. As writers, how do you guys go about that? Are you going to leave us on a big cliffhanger, will questions be answered, a little bit of both?
AG: We definitely, as the writers and I speak for Jason as well — we don’t want the series to end in season three, for sure. We have more stories to tell for these characters. We want a season four just as badly as the fans — we each want it the same amount I imagine. I’m hoping we get a season four. Right now, our ratings for the first two episodes have been quite good and the key to getting a fourth season is to keep the ratings up so we need to keep people watching it live or rewatching it on CW’s streaming on the website. That’s the key. These decisions ultimately come to money and viewership. If we’re getting ad dollars through viewers then we have season four. We want people to keep watching and spreading the word and getting excited about it. Because if we do get one, I can guarantee you we have a season four in mind and it is epic.
MM: Talking about ratings and networks, do they take into consideration the interaction on Twitter, the trends, and how many tweets come in or is the social media aspect not really calculated in terms of renewing things?
AG: I can’t give you an official answer there. It doesn’t mean nothing. It definitely comes up how they measure it, no one quite knows. We’re in a new era of television where so many people are watching it on so many different devices. It used to be that people had a television and you watched it on TV and now people have laptops or ipads or iphones or Apple TV. I don’t know what all the factors are, but I know that the fact that we have an amazing fan base and a real, electric presence on Tumblr and Reddit and Twitter, that doesn’t count for nothing. It’s something that a lot of the writers — we love being able to interact with fans and keep that going on all of those venues.
MM: That’s great to hear. It definitely gives the show an added element that you guys engage and are so present online.
AG: I don’t think it can hurt that we’re constantly on the top of these lists about social interaction. I remember early on, when we first started on The 100, I always read these articles about Pretty Little Liars and how incredible their fan base was and how much interaction was generated on Twitter specifically on that show. I would be surprised to find out that that didn’t help keep the show on the air.
MM: It’s gotta mean something so we’re going to put it out there that everyone to use social media to talk about the show. I know that, in theory, if you guys get a season four, which we’re hoping for, that you’ll be filming when NYCC comes around, but I will bribe you all with endless supplies of pizza to get you to the convention this year.
AG: That’s the thing about Comic Con that’s always tricky for both NY and SDCC, we’re filming and every year people try to guess who we’re bringing to the panel but sometimes we’ve scheduled shoot days and it’s really hard to move those around. We’re always at the mercy of what the episode is. People think if we didn’t bring this actor we’re neglecting them but no they’re acting in ten pages of dialogue that day. Obviously we want to be a part of all the conventions that we can. Often times it’s a lot of scheduling. These shows, these episodes are pretty big. We only have 8 days, sometimes only 7 days to film them. It’s just really, really hard scheduling.
MM: Do you have a message to the fans to get them pumped and continuing to watch the rest of the season?
AG: We have a lot of surprises in store, a lot of twists, a lot of turns. It’s going to be a rough season. But the fans should know that the writers, Jason, all of us, we love this show and we love these characters. Just trust us. We know what we’re doing and you’re going to be in for one hell of a ride.
MM: Well we can’t wait and as a fan I am pretty stoked to see what’s coming up. I pretty much eat, live, breathe The 100 all the time.
AG: Oh my god, so do I! [Laughs]
MM: It’s such a great ride and I’m super stoked to see what you guys have in store for us.
AG: Absolutely. Thank you so much.
The 100 airs Thursdays at 9|8c on The CW