Where other new CW Network genre shows for 2013/14 season have fallen by the wayside - The Tomorrow People and Star-Crossed - ‘young adult’ sci-fi adventure series The 100 caught on almost immediately when it debuted in the US in March, gaining respectable viewing figures and good notices from the critics and viewers alike. The series stars 24 year-old Australian actress Eliza Taylor as Clarke, one of a hundred juvenile delinquents from ‘The Ark’, a network of space stations orbiting an Earth devastated by nuclear war sent down to the planet’s surface a century later to establish its capacity for sustaining human life as resources in ‘The Ark‘ start to run down. Inevitably, what they find isn’t quite what they might have been expecting… STARBURST recently spoke to Eliza about her role in the new hit series as it arrives in the UK.
STARBURST: Tell us a bit about your character Clarke Griffin.
Eliza Taylor: Clarke grew up in a very comfortable living situation on The Ark. Her mother was the chief of medicine, her father was the chief engineer and she was good friends with the Chancellor and Welles, the Chancellor’s son. But things take a horrible turn when she and her father team up to reveal a secret about The Ark; her father ends up being executed for it and she ends up being put in solitary confinement and that’s where we pick up her story. Throughout the series Clarke is a great character. When The 100 arrive on Earth she becomes a fearless leader, kind of an unexpected one but she becomes someone that people can rely on and she always puts other people before herself which gets her into trouble sometimes but I think that makes a for a very strong female lead.
After four years in Australian soap Neighbours playing the slightly scatty Janae Timmins is it refreshing to play a much stronger character?
Absolutely, I’m really pleased to be playing Clarke. I’ve played the blonde ditzy girl one too many times. I think it’s a very good time for young women in TV at the moment, there are a lot more strong female characters coming out of the woodwork and that makes me really happy and I’m really proud to be playing one of them, setting an example and perhaps even being a role model.
So how did you actually get the role, was it the usual audition process?
I didn’t actually audition. I’d been living in LA for about a month and my credit card was stolen and all my money was taken – spent at Home Depot, which was great – and I was ready to pack my bags and go back to Australia because I didn’t know how I was going to survive in LA any longer and then I got a call from my manager to say that an audition I’d done months ago for a film had been looked at by the producers of this TV show called The 100 and they wanted me to go in for a reading the next day. So I read the script that night and loved it and went in for the meeting the next day and got the role. Before I knew it I was on a plane to Vancouver to shoot the pilot and my whole life changed.
Were you a sci-fi fan before you started on The 100?
My Mom is a huge Trekkie! I grew up watching it (ie Star Trek) so when I told her I’d got the role in The 100 she was over the moon. I sent her the script and she read it and she was so happy and it was really cool to be a part of something in a genre I grew up watching.
We mentioned your time on Neighbours. Have you found there’s been a stigma attached to having a four-year stint on an Australian soap opera on your CV?
In Australia there is a stigma. Not so much in the UK because the UK are much bigger fans of Neighbours than in Australia which is weird because it’s an Australian show. It’s not watched that much anymore in Australia; no-one much watches it there but they do here in the UK which is fantastic. I’m not bagging it because it was a terrific learning curve for me, I was in it from the ages of 14 to 18 which was a big chunk of my teen years and I did a lot of growing up in that time. But Neighbours was a very different kettle of fish and I found that, when I finished Neighbours and I was auditioning for other stuff in Australia, people couldn’t separate me from my character, I was typecast which is an actor’s worst nightmare. I was Janae and they wouldn’t cast me in anything else because they didn’t want people to see Janae. That’s why I decided to leave Australia because it was too hard. But when you’re in the States they see Neighbours on your CV and while they don’t know what it is they see that you did four years on a TV series and they think ‘Great, she’s got experience’ so it works in your favour in the States certainly. It’s not what you’ve done but the fact you’ve done it.
We’ve been quite surprised at how dark and edgy The 100 is compared to many of the shows made by The CW Network. Has that surprised you and does that slightly darker aspect appeal to you?
It has a bit more edge and I think that‘s great. I think the American audiences have been very surprised by the fact we’re showing this sort of stuff on The CW which, for the most part is a bit more tame which I think is great and it’s got a fantastic response even though the content can be gritty and dark. It’s been very well received which is fantastic.
And these days that response can be pretty instantaneous courtesy of Facebook, Twitter et al…
Exactly. I’ve been working in TV for nearly 15 years and even when I was doing Neighbours about eight years ago Twitter just wasn’t a thing and the only way fans could connect with talent or cast would be to send them a letter or to go to an appearance at a shopping mall or something and get an autograph. Now it’s instant and Facebook and Twitter and Instagram are such a powerful medium at connecting the two. It’s a whole new world for me because I was never really around for any of this so it’s cool and I’m enjoying the response I’m getting and I like the fact I can retweet fans saying nice things about the show and connect with them instantaneously.
How do you cope with the rigours of filming mainly out on location in a Vancouver forest?
It can be gruelling but it’s beautiful and it definitely keeps you on the ball because it’s cold out there. It keeps you awake and we’re shooting 15 or 16 hour days so you almost enjoy the cold because you’re not falling asleep in a nice warm studio. Working in those conditions and running around – we did a lot of running – was tough but I was in the best shape of my life! It was fantastic in that regard. Going into the second season I’m going to need to get back into shape!
Are you happy to stay with The 100 for a while and can you give us a few teasers about what we can expect from season two?
I think we’ve got a really solid show. I’m excited to see where it goes, I’m excited to be a part of it and the cast and crew are honestly the best I’ve worked with in my life and I’ve been doing this job quite a long time! They’re amazing and I can’t wait to see them again and get back to work when we start up again in July. As for the next season, they’ve kind of given us a brief outline but it’s still in the early stages of writing and they never tell us stuff too far in advance.
How would you sum up the show and its appeal?
It’s an epic rollercoaster ride. Just when you think it can’t get any darker it does, it just goes further and further down the rabbit hole. It’s an incredible story, it’s really different to what other people are doing. I know that post-apocalyptic shows are kind of ‘on trend’ at the moment but this is something else. It’s got this strange combination of Lord of the Flies and Battlestar Galactica, it’s like two very different stories going on which is what sets it apart. There have been comparisons with The Hunger Games - talk about strong female leads! - but it doesn’t bother me because I think The Hunger Games is fantastic. Compare away, I don’t mind; it’s a very successful franchise so bring it on! I don’t see it as a bad thing at all.
THE 100 begins its UK run July 7th on E4.
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