From originally being cast as ‘John No. 1’ to becoming an integral piece linking the City of Light and Grounders storylines together, Richard Harmon has indisputably risen to the occasion since we were first laid eyes on his character in Season 1 of The 100. The sidelined delinquent sure did stir up some trouble in the beginning, causing animosity between the hundred on the ground, as well as picking a fight with Chancellor Jaha’s now fallen son Wells. Remember him? Clearly Jaha doesn’t. Jokes aside, I admittedly was not an instant fan of John Murphy 1.0, and was elated to find after several episodes that there was a whole lot more to this guy than meets the eye.
Harmon, who plays the once expendable character on the hit CW series, can only be described as breathtakingly bold. The brilliant actor has truly stepped up his game since being introduced as the troublemaker outcast. Murphy might still be a part of the out crowd but he’s definitely in the know, something foreign to his character from seasons prior. From being hanged for a crime he didn’t commit, to being used by the Grounders as biological warfare, and ultimately travelling with Jaha on his deranged quest to finding the City of Light, Murphy has surely gone to hell and back.
Fast forward to now, after being captured for having the ‘sacred symbol’ on his person, Murphy is now in the sneaky and maniacal hands of Titus, Lexa’s right hand man, determined to get the most information about Clarke from one of her own people. Murphy seems to have a rough road ahead. Will he survive this predicament and join the faction in Polis? Will he make his way back to Arkadia and down one of those pain blocking pills? His fate is unclear, but whatever it may be we are so on board to see what Harmon has hidden in that stylish Spongebob backpack he adores so much.
The laid-back, but focused actor chatted with me about his intense scenes in the bunker, his journey to becoming a series regular, and Murphy’s leap of love. We also talked escape rooms, heightened physicality this season and some new projects coming down the pike.
Let’s dive right in…
MCKENZIE MORRELL: Let’s talk a little bit about John Murphy. This season you’ve got this great story arc and you’re nailing it on all fronts. What is it about Murphy that has changed from season one to now?
RICHARD HARMON: I hear a lot about that. People ask me which Murphy I like better and I always go back to the same thing. He had his growth for sure but the character himself hasn’t changed all that much. We’re seeing more of him now and these moments we’re having now have always been there but the cameras didn’t stick around long enough to see that. I always believed in the kid before his kind of redemption arc came around but I think it’s good to see the audience see him and his morals better. He’s still the same old Murphy but we’re getting to know where he stands on his morality and that was important, for that character, for everyone to see.
MM: Everyone has really great things to say about you. I spoke to several of your co stars and the writing staff. They just think so highly of you and your skills as an actor. How does it feel to know that all of this hard work is paying off and they want to keep you on and that your performance is resonating with them?
RH: It’s one of the best feelings in the world especially from this group that we have working on the show. I’m so lucky that they’re very kind and they let me know how much faith they have in me. that’s the whole reason I’m able to flourish on this show. I feel comfortable. I feel appreciated. They did such a good job of making me feel welcome, even when I wasn’t a series regular for the first two seasons, I always felt like I was one. I was there just as much as anyone else. They really made me feel like part of the family. It was a nice transition to being an official series regular this season.
MM: I heard that originally the character wasn’t supposed to stick around but they saw what you can do and decided to give you more stuff.
RH: I was a numeral. The role that I booked was ‘John No. 1’ which I took. I originally auditioned for Bellamy which I knew I was never going to get because that role did not have me written all over it at all. Then they gave me John No. 1 and he was supposed to be gone in a few episodes. After the pilot, Jason Rothenberg emailed me and said he really liked what I was doing and they were going to give me a last name, Murphy, which ended up being what everyone calls me and he wanted me to stick around. I didn’t think that would lead to three seasons later, still being around and being a series regular. Never in my wildest dreams, when I booked the pilot, could I have imagined that.
MM: Season three opened up with you in the bunker. Was it difficult shooting that? It must have taken a lot of dark, emotional, chaotic energy to do those scenes?
RH: Definitely. The first scene in the season was one of the most, if not the most fun times I’ve had on set. It meant a lot to me that they trusted me with the first scene of the season, especially with something so difficult. I remember when they pitched it to me like it’s going to be you, just a montage, it’s going to get crazy. And I was like “I can absolutely do that.” The director of that episode who directs a ton of our episodes and is also one of our producers, Dean White is one of my favorite directors I’ve ever worked with. So when you put him and I in the same scene you usually get some great stuff. He usually lets me play and I trust him as a director.
MM: That’s great and those scenes were — they blew me away. They were amazing. Kudos to you because it really grabbed my attention. Now, in terms of getting in the physical character of Murphy for these episodes, what went into getting your hair that way and the disheveled “I’ve been stuck in a bunker for months” look.
RH: The hair was all mine. There were no extensions in there. I grew it that long. It was actually that long after season two. We kind of dread locked it and then made it dirty and filthy. Then they obviously added that beard because I can’t even grow anything close to that. But apparently my 17 year old character can. It’s fun and the physicality was great. It was fun knowing in advance what my first scenes were going to be and knowing how much time we were going to have. We spent an entire day on those scenes.
MM: It really paid off. For you as an actor and your character being the first who gets to see the backstory into Alie and Becca, was it cool to be the one who unveiled that video when the season came back?
RH: Very much and going on with the season as well, it’s cool to see Murphy being the one who is in the know about a lot of things. It’s very different because he was kind of the one left out in other seasons, who was a split second behind everyone else but in this one, he’s the first guy to start seeing things for what they really are and being the warning sign like “guys you need to look at this.”
MM: Now are my eyes mistaken or do we see a shirtless, bloody Murphy in the trailer in Polis? Did you get to do some more physical stuff this season?
RH: Me getting flipped over onto the ground. Your eyes do not deceive you. I can’t say what context that is if it’s training or torture, back to the old ways of what is happening to Murphy. But it is me in that scene.
MM: We won’t pull too much. Don’t want the spoiler police coming after us. We’d love to see Murphy reunite with the gang. Who do you think he’d play catch up with first if he was reunited?
RH: He doesn’t have many friends there. He tried in season two to right the wrongs with those people but they didn’t seem to be wanting to like him. I don’t think he’s interested in going back to them. If he ever meets up with them again, it’s not going to be happy reunion. I don’t think he’s going to hate them it’s just going to be “okay, this is what we have to do. Let’s get what’s brought us together again done.” Murphy doesn’t make many bonds with many people but from what we’ve seen, he has with Emori. That’s interesting this season is seeing him care about someone in a way where he’s willing to do something he might have considered stupid in seasons before, thinking it’d get him killed but now he’s willing to put himself out there and risk himself for the people he cares about.
MM: I know the point in the show is not romantic entanglements but is there any chance for love in Murphy’s life? This guy has to get some loving too.
RH: Absolutely. Absolutely he does. I’m glad he’s getting some and Luisa [D’Oliveira] who plays that character is amazing.
MM: I’m looking forward to seeing that unfold and if she can be trusted. Do you think your character regrets his decision to follow Jaha to the City of Light?
RH: I think absolutely he regrets it but I don’t know what the alternative would have been for him. The decision made was probably the only decision he could have made at the time. He probably doesn’t like where it’s lead him but I don’t think Murphy likes where anything has lead him on the ground. It never seemed to be a safe haven for him. He’s just very unlucky with that kind of stuff.
MM: He can not catch a break. Now kind of going back in time a little bit, when Murphy was strung up on the tree, was that a difficult scene to shoot? Logistically, how was that done?
RH: That was one of my other favorite days on set. Tough day but those are the ones I like. They had me in a harness and they put it underneath my clothes and stuff. It lines up behind the rope so you can’t see the wire. You string me up. It’s very, very safe and we have Marshall Virtue who is our stunt coordinator and one of the best. He also lets me go a little crazy and play as long as it’s within safety limitations. That was fun and when they cut me down it was super muddy and gross that day. A lot of fun was had for sure.
MM: Obviously your sister Jessica joined the cast for a little stint on The 100. How was it having her on set and getting to work with her on the same project again?
RH: I was so happy to see that she’d booked the role, she had wanted to get on the show. I love her to death, obviously. Unfortunately, so far from what you’ve seen we haven’t had scenes together yet. I’d love to have scenes with her in the future, if that would be possible, but I don’t know if our storylines will ever cross. It’s so cool to have her around and it’s cool to have everyone on set coming to me like “we love your sister so much, she’s amazing.” Which I know, but it’s cool to have the two of us on the same show which is a rarity.
MM: Are there any questions I should ask her to throw her off? Little sibling rivalry or anything like that?
RH: Ask her how does it feel to be the Maggie to my Jake.
MM: Alright. I’m going to ask her. Now if you and Jaha had a lip sync battle, who do you think would win and what song would you choose to compete with?
RH: I think I’d win. Murphy is down to have a little more fun. What do I go with though? I think I’d go with One Hand in My Pocket, Alanis Morissette.
MM: The cast is obviously a little sprawled out this season. Is there anyone you don’t get to do a lot of scenes with, other than your sister, that you’d like to work with more in the future?
RH: Absolutely. I think about that a lot. I’m lucky enough that has Murphy I get to work with most people on the show. I’ve probably had the most crossover storylines. I jump from people to people. I’m always down to work with Bob [Morley] more. We have a good chemistry on set. Marie [Avgeropoulos], who plays Octavia is one of the people I’ve never had a big story with. Those two characters would mesh really well together as far as her new hardness that he’s developed and my kind of — a little bit of my bullshit. Jarod Joseph who plays Miller and Sachin Sahel who plays Jackson are two of my best friends and I’d love to get to work with them, hopefully next season.
MM: We’re hoping for many more seasons so hopefully you get the chance. You’re never really the happy dude in the projects you do, especially with this character. Will we ever see him be happy or crack a joke or not be so serious?
RH: I think he cracks a joke a lot, that kind of dry — I think he’s very funny. I think I have one of the funniest character on the show. But he is funny because how serious everything is. You’ll see him genuinely happy in moments this season but they’re very minimal — honestly my thing is, whenever I see Murphy happy I know something bad is about to happen to him.
MM: Well he did still have that chip in his pocket so you never know where that’ll take him.
RH: That’s going to get him in some trouble. It might save his life. You never know.
MM: Is it true that you’re a hardcore spongebob fan?
RH: The biggest.
MM: Do you have any other guilty pleasures or things you might not know about you?
RH: I wouldn’t say that’s a guilty pleasure because I freely admit it and am proud of it, much like most of my pleasures, I think. I don’t take much guilt in any of them. I’m trying to think of something to give you that would seem odd, maybe. Have you ever done escape rooms? I’m a giant, avid escape room enthusiast. We have about seven different companies in Vancouver that do them and me and my friends have done every single room multiple times. They know me there now and we’ve become so good at them. One of my best friends, Anna who is an actress as well, we went recently to a new one and we had just the two of us and you’re supposed to have four people and they’re like “okay you can give it a shot.” They gave us 45 minutes to do it and we got out in 30.
MM: That’s an interesting skill to have. You have a few other projects going on. To conclude, can you tell us about them or the Puppet Killer?
RH: Yes, for sure. I just finished Puppet Killer over the holidays, right after my last day on set of The 100 on hiatus and finished right before The 100 came back to finish season three. I signed on to it because one of my best friends for a long time Lee Majdoub was signed on to it and he asked me “do you want to do that? You’d be running around with a Puppet trying to kill us, you get to play my little brother” and for me, yes. I don’t even need to read the script. I get to play your little brother. It’s done. Me and him look nothing alike. That will never happen again in the future. He’s like 33 and I’m 24. He’s Lebanese, full beard. There’s no way we could be brothers but in this they said yes, we can be brothers which is very cool and I got to work with a few of my friends. Alex Paunovic was on it as well. He was on The 100 as Gustus.
MM: To get people to watch The 100, if they might be newcomers to the show, what would you say to them to entice them to watch?
RH: I’d say I don’t care who you are and what kind of show you like, this is one of the most entertaining shows on television. I’m saying that as a fan as well as someone who is on it. The storylines and the way they go is fast paced but slow enough that you can get to know the characters really well and have all this action going on. No one is safe. It’s a very exciting show to watch. To anyone new to it, I’d say please stick around, give it a few episodes, and I promise you’ll fall in love with it.
MM: Well we have. Thank you for joining us Richard. It’s been great. Can’t wait to see what happens with the rest of the season.
RH: Thank you.
The 100 airs Thursdays at 9|8c on The CW