Being trapped in a cage, strapped to a gurney and drilled to the brink of death is just an average day in the life of Harper, a character on the hit CW series The 100. Many of the characters from this cut-throat dystopian series have been faced with daunting realities. To say that their worlds have been completely shattered since being sent to their deaths to a nuclear soaked planet would be a minimization of the hardships all of them have faced since their rocky landing on Earth. From Grounders hell bent on executing them the moment they set foot on their land, to an isolated society held hostage by their failing bloodline in a hardened nuclear war shelter determined to get to the surface at any means necessary, it seems the hundred have had their fair share of misery.
Imagine being a small pawn in an extremely large game, where you’ve been kidnapped, tortured and all for someone else’s personal gain. Chelsey Reist, a fan favorite on the show, has become known for delivering one of the most blood-curdling screams on The 100 while being tortured for bone marrow inside of Mount Weather. Now, a lot has happened since we first saw that timid and scared young delinquent… she’s a guard now in Arkadia, and she, along with the others are faced with new challenges within (and beyond) the walls of their settlement. Will Pike start an all-out war with the Grounders that will end up getting everyone killed? Will the City of Light become their only salvation? Will Harper even survive this season? All questions we’re asking only six episodes into season 3.
Reist took to the time to chat with me about Harper’s journey, how she’s blossomed into the fighter we see now and hints at hardships ahead for the group. We also dished about the fans who ship Harper and Monroe together, and if she’d be so keen on popping that City of Light pill in real life. There were a lot of giggles, talks of donuts topped with bacon and an all around concern for peace between rivaling civilizations.
Is there hope for Harper? Let’s see…
MCKENZIE MORRELL: Your character on The 100 has been through hell and back, from being held captive and tortured to now where we’re starting to see her having to choose sides as this war is brewing both internally and externally– do you think the life or death experience at Mount Weather has changed Harper for the better?
CHELSEY REIST: I guess that depends on who you’re asking. If you were to ask me, she’s changed. Whether it’s for the better, I’m not sure. My heart goes out to her, she’s been through so much. She’s not the light-hearted teenager that did some bad things on the Ark, ya know. She’s been in life or death situations and tortured. I don’t know if people would immediately deduct that those experiences were for the better [laughs]. I would wish no one go through them but, she’s still being proactive and she’s engaged with the group and now she’s one of the guards. She’s trying to defend her people. She rose to the occasion, when she could have faltered, so I would say it did leave her for the better.
MM: I would agree. I think she’s handled herself really well considering everything that this poor girl has been through.
CR: I know, I mean everyone is going through stuff, which is what’s so interesting on the show. Every character has had horrible things happen to them. I think it’s been an interesting ride for her and I was definitely shocked about everything she’s been through. Every time I got the script I was a little blown away. I kept saying ‘oh my God, this is happening to her!?’ But I’m so grateful that the writers have allowed her to be a strong example of recovery.
MM: I bet. And Harper was supposed to die during your first episode on the show!
MM: But much to your surprise Harper had more story to tell. What was that experience like, being kept on after you thought you were gonna be doing a death scene?
CR: Well, I guess picture any job when you’re going to lose it and then all of a sudden you get to keep it, that’s pretty phenomenal. Let alone in an industry where it’s so damn difficult to get work. I really hit the lotto there. It was amazing and I always thought I was going to die. Every script we would get, I always turned to the back page because I thought ‘Harper’s dead for sure. Harper’s dead for sure.’ [Laughs] But here I am, she made it to season 3 and I’m thrilled. I couldn’t be happier.
MM: Much like Murphy, Harper is someone that clearly the writers saw potential in. Even though you were getting drilled for your bone marrow, we’re glad you got to stick around! [Laughs]
CR: [Laughs] Yeah, Harper’s arc and storyline is obviously nowhere near Murphy’s and how friggin great is Richard Harmon this season? His scenes are so meaty and he just chews them right down. It’s so fun to watch. Wouldn’t that be fantastic, I would have loved for Harper to get big scenes like that but in her own way, I hope they see something in her. That’s why they kept her on. It’s funny that butt drilling happened. [Laughs]
MM: That must have been an interesting scene to shoot.
CR: Yes, and my mom said ‘Oh Chelsey, I guarantee the writers googled you.’ And I’m like ‘what do you mean?’ and she said ‘well, you’ve died in every project you’ve ever done. You have blood-curdling screaming on your resume. There’s no way that’s a coincidence.’
MM: [Laughs] Oh my gosh.
CR: And weeks later, I was hanging out with Aaron Ginsburg, who I believe you’ve interviewed already. And he said ‘oh yeah, I was just bored searching one day and we investigate our actors, if you will, and I saw that and I went into the writers room and I said did you know Harper can scream?’ So that happened.
MM: That’s so amazing for things to kind of transpired that way. In terms of kind of the character, do you see any of yourself in her? Are there any qualities that you admire most?
CR: I can tell you what I’d like to be more like, is her resiliency. I consider myself a strong person, which Harper is. But I think she’s more resilient than I am. I can really take things to heart and it can be very hard for me sometimes to see the positive side and to keep on trucking valiantly. She’s able to do that, so that’s something I admire in her. In terms of something I think I can relate to… I always laugh but I think I’m just very stubborn. Harper really cares for people and she’s willing to go with the group, but when she has a belief she’s stick to it and I definitely have that. I don’t know if that’s a fault, a good trait or a fault.
MM: I think it’s a little bit of both. I think we all have that potential to get into trouble or taken advantage of. But I think in both cases it can go good or bad, so we’ll take it!
MM: We saw Harper in fight training at the beginning of the season, does this mean we’re going to get to see you kick some butt soon?
CR: [Laughs] Yeah, I think Harper is always kicking butt in my mind. It was fun, between seasons 2 and season 3 I started a new goal for myself to be the strongest I’ve ever been, so I’ve been weight training five days a week since season 2. I’m doubly as strong now as I was in that first episode we filmed for season 3. I really enjoy getting physicality thrown my way, and I was super pumped to have a little sparring scene. I had a scene with Monroe, played by Katie Stuart, we were fighting each other in the background and got to throw each other down on the mat and beat each other up. That’s really fun. Of course there are so many storylines going on that things like that just inevitably have to get cut. I guess what I can say without spoilers is that Harper will have a stunt double for a few of these episodes.
MM: Oooh! That’s exciting.
CR: Is it? I do as much as I can, because I love doing the physicality of it, certain things obviously production won’t allow us to do.
MM: They’re sticklers for that, don’t want anyone getting hurt! Your character has kind of taken an interesting turn, if you will. What are your thoughts on Harper choosing to back down from the gate when Bellamy and Pike stormed it? I’m sure you can’t say if she supports this new regime, but any insight would be great.
CR: It’s interesting because the way I saw what would have happened and the way the script played it, versus what I saw on TV was a bit different. I think the way it looks was that Harper said ‘sorry Lincoln’ and chose Bellamy’s side. I guess we’re just left to assume she started chanting ‘Pike’ with everyone else. But in reality, in the script, originally yes she says ‘I’m sorry Lincoln’ and sides with Bellamy, but after hearing that Sky crew has become the 13th clan that they’ve joined the coalition and for a few other reasons, she decided ‘no.’ She’s sympathetic towards Lincoln and she doesn’t think Pike and his proactive need to start another war is right. She doesn’t chant Pike, she doesn’t support him at the end of that scene, she stays behind with Lincoln and Octavia and Kane and Abby.
MM: When we first met Harper in season 1, she kind of had her sights set on Jasper– any chance of that being rekindled moving forward in season 3, or are Harper’s relationships up in the air at this point?
CR: I’ll never say never. But I think they were just different people at that time, and the way they were living gave them an opportunity to have a moment to crush on someone. Now the stakes in season 3 are so much higher and death is just imminent at every turn, so Harper’s priorities are less at getting the butterflies and more at just getting safe.
MM: I received a lot of questions regarding Harper and Monroe– do you have any thoughts on that? Even Miller has a boyfriend! We need to get Harper some lovin’. [Laughs]
CR: [Laughs] Harper needs some lovin’, I expected you to ask that because I saw the fans were asking that on Twitter, and I thought maybe it would be funny if we just texted Katie right now, that I’m doing an interview and what does she think. Because I have no idea what Katie thinks.
MM: Right? That would be really interesting, I approve of that!
CR: Okay, let’s do it! I’m going to shoot her a text. Because Katie and I are friends in real life and I don’t think I’ve ever asked her what she thought about the pairing. Okay! [Reading text] I’m doing a phone interview right now with McKenzie, and she asked about Monroe and Harper. What are your thoughts on Harpoe homie. [Laughs]
MM: While we’re waiting for that response, I mean, it has to be interesting for you guys as actors. Obviously Alycia [Debnam-Carey] and Eliza [Taylor] have the romantic scenes on screen, and everyone is friends in real life. Is that every like odd for you guys or are you just like ‘hmmm, I would just go for it.’
CR: It’s never odd, if anything it’s fun. If anything I would be jealous of characters who get to develop those types of relationships and by no means is it awkward in real life. I’d say go for it. The Harper and Monroe thing is interesting to me, I’m shocked first of all at the amount of feedback that I get because let’s face it Harper isn’t one of the biggest characters so when I get contact from fans, I’m humbled. It’s so cool in itself. Then to see people shipping us, I don’t know, I’m with it. There’s this whole controversy, people are either on one side or the other of the ship wars, but I think, hey just go for it. If it gives you butterflies when you’re watching on screen, and if it’s something that would make you happy, just go for it. I welcome those comments and they make me laugh. Oh, she just texted back!
MM: Oh! What do we got?
CR: Essentially she says ‘hey, I love the idea of us having a history, like we were together at one time. In my head canon we are exes who are on decent terms.’ That’s news to me that she feels that way!
MM: That’s perfect, I think that’s pretty interesting.
CR: She’s just such a cool chick, I just have way too much fun with her on set. We were together on 304, at the memorial and we have to be so sad on camera and whenever the camera’s cut and she just makes me want to pee my pants laughing.
MM: That sounds like a lot of fun. For your character, you’ve grown a lot and you’ve been through these experiences. Since Mount Weather is no more– do you think that despite it taking out some of her people, Harper is relieved that the place she was tortured is gone for good now?
CR: I think Harper is just sick of all the death. To hear that more deaths were caused by this explosion at Mount Weather, it’s not a happy ending. It’s an ending. It’s not a happy one. In some sense, it offers closure, but it’s just another reminder of the dreary circumstances that are her life now. I think she’s more focused on trying to find peace and a resolution between the clans. And she’s willing to move on.
MM: That kind of ties into my next question. The idea of finding peace and finding a resolution. The City of Light is going to be a pretty big storyline this season, where that takes us– we don’t know, but if you were in that same position would you choose to be unburdened by your hardships, or live with the experiences that you’ve had throughout your life?
CR: Oh, that’s really interesting, I don’t know do I answer that from a Chelsey perspective or a Harper perspective. I think the idea of the City of Light is fascinating. It’s something that we have currently, people can escape their problems and escape their pain with drugs or alcohol or whatever outlets. Good or bad. But to have an entire existence, where the City of Light offers no death and no pain, I can see why that would be alluring, and I’m sure at points in my life I would have chosen to go there, but having been through those painful moments and survived and learned from it, from the stance I am at now, no. I would chose to go through the pain and the good and the bad. I really think that’s what I enjoy about being an actor most is being able to experience several different emotions from different characters. I really feed off of it and it energizes me in life to have a variance in emotion. So no, I would never choose to dull them down or delete them.
MM: I approve of that message! To throw things totally off and throw in a strange question, I hear you’re a lover of bacon, now I tend to ask this eccentric question during my interviews about what kind of donut you’d be based on your personality, have you ever had a donut with bacon on it?
CR: A donut with bacon, absolutely! I have donuts with anything on it. I had a lavender bacon donut at one point.
CR: Oooh, is right, right? It’s delicious. The lavender was sweet and tangy, the bacon added the saltiness. But I say don’t screw with the originals. I like a good plain donut with chocolate icing on it.
MM: A classic, I can get behind it. I’m a lover of all donuts.
CR: Oh good. I think in America you guys have better donuts. With Krispy Kreme, it’s dense and it’s moist and I just drooled.
MM: Since we both need to run and get some donuts now, to wrap up can you talk about any of the other projects coming up?
CR: I’m actually a part of a project right now, I’m fascinated by it, it’s called Limina. It’s a film that follows a transgender child and the gift that they have to offer. It was with two dear friends of mine, and they’re a couple and one of them is transgender and they wanted to film in Europe for the beautiful scenery, among other things and the film was met with over 12,000 signatures against its production. Tons of transphobic people said ‘no way’ and they refused to let the film be made there. They refused Limina to seek crowdfunding. So after various hard decisions they ended up coming here and they filmed here and they trusted me with one of the lead roles and I’m among several other amazing actors. We’re just now in post production and I think it’s fascinating to be a part of such a project with such brave creators with such an important message. It’s such a current topic right now, the idea of equal rights and being transgender seems to be more of a common term in more recent years and I’m hoping it becomes completely accepted and acknowledged. I think it’s a really neat project to have been a part of and I’m excited to see the reaction when it’s released.
MM: Well, we’re excited to see it come out so be sure to keep us updated on Twitter. Chelsey, thanks so much for chatting! We’re excited to see what’s in store for Harper and all the other projects you have.
CR: Aw, thanks for talking with me. I love the show and I just rewatched the episodes and I’m just blown away. I’m a fan of it too and when I’m live-tweeting sometimes I miss things. So when I rewatch them there are some key moments, and amazing shots that I just think ‘this is a good show!’
MM: To be a fan of something you’re working on has to be great.
CR: It’s pretty cool. I’m so happy to have my tiny little role in such a huge production. It’s fun to watch my friends work and watch them fill out the scenes. I only ever see them read the scenes in scripts and to see them flesh it out on screen, I’m a fan of their work, I’m a fan of the show– so it’s nice to talk to you when you enjoy it as well.
MM: Oh, yes I do! I enjoy the show so much, I rave about it to no end, so I do appreciate all of you guys talking to me and hopefully we get the word out and people watch live and we get many more seasons!
CR: Yeah, of course. Take care McKenzie. I’ll write you on Twitter.
MM: Thanks so much!
The 100 airs Thursdays at 9|8c on The CW