SDCC 2016 ‘The 100’: The Earth Strikes Back!

by Agent Alicia Glass (a.k.a. Pandora the Punctuation Horror)

Welcome back to what is arguably the most popular and controversial CW show, all at the same time! War with the Grounders and potentially the Ice Nation, internal strife with Pike, the AI Ally trying to take over what’s left of the world and the destruction of the City of Light, plus let’s not forget burgeoning gay romances and a whole lot of death; all make for a compelling show we just can’t seem to stop watching and commenting on!

The San Diego Comic-Con panel for The 100 featured Eliza Taylor (Clarke), Henry Ian Cusick (Kane), Lindsay Morgan (Raven), Marie Avgeropolous (Octavia), Chris Larkin (Monty), Richard Harmon (Murphy), and Executive Producer Jason Rothenburg.

The panel started off with a ton of applause for the stars and then went right in to the sizzle reel for the previous season, with a surprise twist at the end – the Earth literally strikes back in season four, with what appears to be floods and other major destruction. And that is the theme for the next season, the natural disasters to try and survive, while Clarke and others wonder, with all they’ve done to survive, do they now deserve to?

Eliza Taylor sports a charming Australian accent, and is always gracious to her fans, especially the ones who come to the mike to ask fan questions dressed as Clarke, or even Lexa. She stated softly that Finn’s death was the hardest scene she had to film thus far, and of course Lexa’s death too. She also charmingly stated that it was a good thing the filming crew were so good at their jobs, because for the climactic love scene between Clarke and Lexa, she and Alycia Debnam-Carey couldn’t help but keep giggling with each-other while in bed.

Marie Avgeropolous is right proud of the strength of her character Octavia, and promises her warrior has gone even darker this upcoming season, due to the loss of Lincoln and all. She doesn’t preen when fans compliment her on such a strong female character, saying rather, “Women have always been strong, and I’m so grateful to be on a show that values that – examples of empowerment should become the norm.”

Avgeropolous went on to laughingly tell a favorite story of a difficult, though amusing, time on set. During the scene in season three where Octavia is attempting to convince Lincoln to go get Luna, Avgeropolous was supposed to be cleaning the hoof of the horse her character was riding. And well, the horse was, how can we put it, “at attention,” we’ll say, so they had to keep changing camera angles because it looked like Avgeropolous had taken a sudden interest in beastiality. The horse trainer, who was nearby, eventually told her to flick the horsey intruder with a stick, gently, because that would make the “at-attention” go away. And the Comic-Con crowd had absolute hysterics!

Richard Harmon is forever an amused prankster, and took a few moments to himself to admire the large happy audience, before plunking down to deliver glib, grinning one-liners, like how, “Murphy is everyone’s favorite cockroach.” He gleefully displayed chipped, dark nail polish to the cheering crowd after being accused of enjoying makeup on set, drawling about he had originally auditioned for the role of Bellamy and how different that would have been.

Chris Larkin was much more lively than his character Monty on the show, trading off happy one-liners with Harmon, whom he sat next to on the panel. His scariest moment on the show thus far was learning to drive stick, as he grinned, “There’s nothing scarier than driving at night, in fog, with a huge camera mounted 2 feet away from your face on the rover, being driven by someone who’s only driven stick for an hour!”

Rothenburg dropped several surprises on the happy crowd, such as the fact that Roan and Indra are both indeed alive in the new season, and that Roan (Zack McGowan) will be joining the show as a cast regular. Rothenburg also promised that the very first episode of the new season addresses the power vacuum left in the Skycrew camp. He even stated that originally in the season three finale, Jasper was going to kill himself at the end, but that that ending, even though the crew did indeed film the whole thing, was too dark even for Rothenburg himself. And don’t think we’re not all grateful for it; The 100 is plenty lovingly dark already.

The 100 will flood its way back to us adoring fans in 2017!

SLCC 2015: Author and Actor R. J. Terrell

by Agent Sheralyn Pratt (a.k.a. The Sin-sei)

Most authors don’t look familiar the first time you see them, but if you think you recognize R.J. Terrell at a glance, it might not be your imagination. Terrell is an author who also works as an actor. In addition to writing novels, such as Echoes of a Shattered Age, you may have seen Terrell as one of Robin Hood’s merry men on ABC’s Once Upon a Time, or on CW shows that also film up in Vancouver, like iZombie and The 100. We caught up with this multi-tasking dynamo at Salt Lake Comic Con. 

Terrell’s path to writing was not direct; he always wanted to be an actor. Like many creatives, Terrell was confronted by well-meaning parents who thought it was in his best interest to embark on a more traditional career. He tripped into becoming a writer first, while taking the path his more “practically minded parents” encouraged him to live. “My dad was in the military,” Terrell explains. “And then he became a police detective, so he encouraged me to go to school, graduate, get a job, work hard, and then retire. And I tried. I tried! But it was against my nature.”

What came naturally to Terrell was writing.

“I was going to school for medical billing and encoding,” Terrell says, remembering how things got started for him. “I was ahead in my work, so my teacher says, ‘Go on down to the typing program and do some work on that [story], then bring it back.’ So I had this idea for a story in my head. I typed it out, brought it back. The next day she said, ‘You wrote this?’ and I said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘Okay, well as long as you’re ahead in your work, go down there and type. As long as I get to read it, I’ll give you points on that.’ By the time I finished that course — I think it was a nine- or ten-month course — I had half of the book, Echoes of a Shattered Age, written. That was kind of how things got started.” So started the winding path that led to a fruitful writing career. Although he may not have had doors opened to his creativity, his teacher definitely opened a window of opportunity. Terrell jumped through that window with gusto.

Terrell’s acting career took a more straightforward path; his wife suggested it after he moved up to Vancouver, or, as some people refer to it, Hollywood North. The film community is very strong there, so as soon as Terrell was eligible to work in Canada, he got an agent and started auditioning. Not surprisingly, the skills that Terrell cultivated and developed as a writer also helped in his acting career.

“One thing that writing and acting have in common is that nothing should be there that doesn’t have a purpose,” he says. “As an actor, you might go out for a small part where your main focus is that you move the story forward. As we say in the industry, ‘You’ve been given three lines, don’t make a meal out of it.’ Your job is to move things forward. You have a purpose, but don’t go beyond that purpose.” But, this statement also highlights that small parts do matter, even if they’re not the focus of the entire scene or story. However, if they get blown out of proportion they can become a distraction, pulling focus where it shouldn’t be.

“In writing, it’s the same way,” Terrell continues. “You have a small character that plays a small role, but if you make it too big then the readers are going to be like, ‘Hey, that character did something really significant. What are they going to do next? Wait … I never saw them again.’ If someone is doing something significant, then there needs to be a follow-up at some point.”

In a well-balanced set of characters in a story, no part is insignificant, but each should only be as developed as it needs to be. That balance makes both storytelling and acting compelling, though, obviously, writers and actors differ dramatically in how they contribute to the development of those characters.

“The greatest challenge with acting, on a craft level, is learning how to step in and live a character,” Terrell explains. “I find that the emotional arcs of a character can be difficult, because you genuinely have to bring those emotions. As you grow into adulthood, you’re taught to hide your feelings. For example, you don’t want people to know you hate their guts. You smile and say everything is fine. But when you’re acting, you need to bring that out. You need to have that emotion stored up there and ready to come out, when you get to the part where it’s supposed to be there. It’s a lot harder than just saying lines. A lot of people don’t understand. Some people do. But it’s a lot deeper than [saying lines]. You need to feel all those things, because if you don’t, people will know it. If you’re not feeling it, the audience is not going to feel it, and sometimes they might not even know why. They just know it didn’t work.”

Writers need to develop the complementary skill: developing characters that come to life for the reader — and, if the writer is true to his or her craft,  it’s the reader’s job to feel the part.

On the flip side, Terrell thinks one of the biggest challenges of writing is developing patience. “What I mean by that,” he says, “is that I’m one of those people who likes to jump in and get the story rolling. Having the patience to do my research, but knowing when to pull back without going too far. Yes, I’ve done my research, but I don’t want to info-dump on my reader. Balancing how much is enough, and how much is too much is probably one of the hardest parts of writing for me.”

And yet, as challenging as writing is, Terrell continues to churn out books with no intention of writing for the TV industry he’s involved with. What is it about full-length novels he prefers to movies or TV shows?

“Relationships,” Terrell says without hesitation. “There is no way any three movies — any four or even six movies — can give you the relationships that develop in books. Film is a visual medium, so there are things that film does better, but with books, your mind is playing an active role in producing the story. I like to joke that you’re looking at these words on a page and you’re hallucinating the whole thing, because you get so sucked into it that you see it! And in my opinion, that’s the best kind of 3-D, because you are right there with those characters. You’re walking right beside them, and there is absolutely nothing that can replace that.”

With a few exceptions, an unbreakable bond develops between the world a writer creates and the reader: a relationship that is stronger and far more meaningful than most movies can offer. It is that relationship that changes the reader; it may make him or her think, it may give them a world where they find solace, but regardless, a novel transforms its audience in a more intimate way than a film can. It is a deep and reciprocal connection that most cherish for life.

That’s not to say that TV and film don’t have their place, or that they’re not enriching, mind-blowing, and worthy of a full-tilt geek-out. We all have that special show or movie that moves us in ways like no other can. Luckily for all of us, we live in a world where we can enjoy all three, and R.J. Terrell will continue to bring us all three in the form of his novels, and TV and movies. And he will continue to bring us each with unique care, skill, and passion. So, keep your eyes open when you’re watching TV, movie previews, and maybe on a local bookshelf: You may just spot him!



Why You Should be Watching ‘The 100’ (No Spoilers)

by Agent Sheralyn Pratt (a.k.a. The Sin-sei)

If you haven’t given the TV series The 100 a shot yet, it’s time change your channel to the CW: Home of Thought-Provoking, Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi.

Okay, so maybe that’s not the CW’s official tagline. The CW is a little more well-known for broadcasting shows focused on pretty people navigating self-created peril each week. And with that reputation under their belt, it’s not unreasonable that sci-fi fans would look at The 100’s attractive cast and think the show has a plot of putting the pretties in danger each week, only to find improbable ways to get them out of said danger so characters can live to boink another day.

Well, curve ball, ladies and gentlemen: This is not the premise of The 100.

The premise of The 100 goes a little something like this: It’s 97 years after a nuclear holocaust on earth, and the posterity of the survivors who were in the International Space Station — referred to as The Ark — during the apocalypse are running out of time. With vital resources reaching a premium, they need to find out if returning to earth is viable. And, if it’s not, they’re basically all dead.

To learn whether Earth is habitable, Ark leaders take 100 kids who are living in the space version of juvenile prison, slap devices on their wrists that will transmit their vital signs back to the space station, then put them all on a ship and send them to Earth to see how they fare. Ultimately, this allows the Ark survivors to learn that the Earth is indeed habitable … if they can survive both the elements and the  humans already in play on the planet.

Key characters in all this include Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor), a natural-born strategist who isn’t Miss Popular among the kids; Bellamy Blake (Bob Morley), a charismatic and popular leader with dubious intent; Thelonious Jaha (Isaiah Washington), the leader of the space station who makes the executive decision to send the kids down to earth; Marcus Kane (Henry Ian Cusick), the would-be leader of the Ark; and Dr. Abigail Griffin (Paige Turco), Clarke’s mother and head doctor on the Ark.

These are the power players in the pilot episode, and everyone else is taking cues from them. But coming to the ground is going to shake things up a bit, and power is up for grabs.

Thus, the story begins.

One criticism of The 100 is that it feels a bit schizophrenic out of the gate. This is a fair critique. The show pretty much starts out being exactly what you’d expect from the CW. Then it goes a little Lord of the Flies for a while before hitting a few other themes and settling into Biblical epic in season two. Whether this migration through themes is premeditated or it’s evidence that the show writers are actually finding their voices as they go isn’t necessarily important. What it means for people looking to join The 100 bandwagon is that if you find yourself a little underwhelmed after the first few episodes of the series, you’re not alone. Keep watching anyway. This show reaches a crescendo with themes that are worth talking about.

One theme showrunners address head-on is whether or not there are “good” guys, “bad” guys, or just guys (and *ahem* girls), who do what they have to do to survive to see another day.

If one group’s evil is another group’s survival, who is right? And when everyone is doing what needs to be done to ensure the survival of those under their care, who is good? Who is bad? And does the answer to that question change depending on the day and the situation? These are deep waters you don’t find on many TV networks, in general — not to mention on the CW, specifically.

Another thing you don’t find on many other shows? An even comparable grouping of badass women sharing the screen at the same time.

The chess pieces in play on The 100 are a noteworthy conversation topics all by themselves. For example, this is not a show with one token badass chick in its lineup. It has a full cast of lady BAMFs who are arguably more dangerous than the men they work side by side with—not that it’s a competition of men vs. women. Everyone is just trying to survive, and there isn’t much room for the weak. The men are strong, but their strength is not established by surrounding them by comparably weak women who need them. Each character’s strength is established by their own actions.

Formidability has no gender in The 100. You either act in a way that allows you to survive, or you don’t. Age doesn’t matter. Sex doesn’t matter. Aptitude and actions matter. If you want to live to see another day in The 100’s post-apocalyptic earth, you need to step up. Then you need to wake up the next day and decide if what you did to survive the day before defines you as a person, or if there is a marked difference between who you are, and the actions you are sometimes forced to take to survive.

This survive-or-die theme leads to some dark places. And once you get there, showrunners don’t let you or the characters off the hook. The scene doesn’t fade to black—it actually goes there, which is refreshing in a diabolical way. It also allows showrunner Jason Rothenberg and his creative team to explore philosophical themes often skirted by modern storytelling. For every action, there is a reaction in The 100. Consequences happen. Sometimes these consequences kill; sometimes they maim; and sometimes there are internal scars hiding behind an innocent-looking face…just like in real life.

If you’re looking for fluff, The 100 isn’t your show. This show has depth. So queue The 100 up on Netflix. Let it surprise you. Let it hook you to the point that you are consciously counting down the days to 2016. Then connect with The 100’s amazing fan base and find out how fun it is to fangasm with smart, talented people who make intro vids like the one below to lure people into joining them.

Season 1 of The 100 is available on Netflix, with season 2 expected to join it this fall. Season 3 of The 100 is currently filming, although air dates have yet to be announced. Episode 3X01 is anticipated to air sometime between January and March of 2016. Stay tuned for dates and times.