We can come up with much more than a hundred reasons that we were thrilled to chat by phone with The 100‘s Marie Avgeropoulos on a recent weekday afternoon. For one thing, we are unquestionably thrilled to be able to speak with Canadian talent. Avgeropoulos, who is originally from the town of Thunder Bay and is currently hunkering down in an undisclosed Canadian location during quarantine, certainly qualifies. As well, the often dark series The 100 is a favourite of ours, and Avgeropoulos’ Octavia Blake is a kickass character throughout all her different incarnations. We also had the opportunity to speak about a number of her other projects and the multifaceted Avgeropoulos was a fun and entertaining guide to go through her accomplishments.
The following is a condensed and edited version of our jaunty chat with the mercurial Marie Avgeropoulos of The 100.
Brief Take: Hey, Marie! How is your quarantine going?
Marie Avgeropoulos: Oh my gosh! [laughs] I’m going to talk about the positives first. It’s going well, I’m healthy and I’m not alone, which is great. I’m up in Canada, which I feel like is a better place to be right now. [laughs] I’ve learned how to cook pretty much everything on the planet six times in a row now. Yeah! And keeping fit on the Peloton bike in the morning. Make sure that I get in my steps and that I can still fit into jeans once this is all over.
The outbreak kind of happened when we were literally shooting the 100th episode of The 100 on the Saturday, when the universe sort of shut down. Instead of having a wrap party, “You guys are going to work on Saturday, to finish all this up and then that’s it”, so it was a pretty anticlimactic ending after being on a show for seven years of my life, for sure. [laughs] Just to walk into a real life apocalypse.
BT: Have you been reflecting that your show is exploring themes that you are kind of currently living?
MA: Yeah, that’s a good question! At first I thought I was being punked, I was like this seems way too real. Somehow even playing Octavia all these years, I don’t feel prepared for the real life apocalypse whatsoever. [chuckles] But it was a difficult, sort of abrupt ending. I guess that it’s easier to say goodbye when it happens quickly to my fellow cast mates and co-workers and even saying goodbye to Octavia because it all happened in the blink of an eye. But yeah, I’m happy that we got to finish the show and everyone’s going to see the season seven premiere next Wednesday (May 20th) and we get to finish the job.
BT: Not sure if it was planned, but you ended up with 100 episodes of The 100?
MA: Yeah! [laughs] It wasn’t my idea, but I think that it definitely wraps it up in a nice bow for everyone, it’s quite serendipitous for sure.
BT: How do you feel like you have grown through the character of Octavia throughout the series?
MA: Octavia has been part of me for a long time. I think that I got this job when I was 23 years old and now I am into my thirties. So we definitely grew together. I grew as an actress since the beginning and as a young woman in my personal life until now, and I really think that seeing that lineage from when I was a younger girl to current really shows in the character as well. I’m so pleased that the writing was always ever-changing and always kept me on my toes and challenged me, too. I never got bored at work playing Octavia and I will definitely for sure miss going to work.
BT: Are we allowed to even say that Octavia is actually heading into season seven?
MA: [laughs] Well, the last time that we saw Octavia in season six, we left with Bellamy and Octavia finally rekindling their relationship after Bellamy had abandoned her for dead. We saw that they managed to reconnect and understand each other on a deeper level, but again, only for Octavia—classic Octavia—to disappear at the end of the last season and we met Hope, she stabbed Octavia and she miraculously disappeared, so the mystery as to where she went will be uncovered in season seven.
BT: What has it been like with the build-up leading into this moment of the series coming out?
MA: Yeah, I’m really excited everyone got to see this trailer, of course with COVID-19, the editing and everything had to be slowed down for everyone to put it together, but there’s that famous saying that “it’s better late than never”, the poster should be released sometime this weekend, I believe. But I’m really excited for people to see what happens in The Anomaly. This season is a lot more sci-fi centred than the previous ones, I find in my experience. It’s definitely going to keep the audience on their toes. There’s a lot of unpredictable stories coming their way.
BT: What’s been your favourite moment of filming during the entire show?
MA: Ooof! That’s a tough question! Since the show has been a quite serious show, I think that we’ve seen Octavia smile or have joy only a few times, for that quickly to be turned around and filled with despair [chuckles] is off-camera, the actors and I love to play pranks on each other to keep things light. Because often we’re stabbing each other, or fighting or crying or [pauses] dead. [laughs] One of my favourite moments is when Paige Turco, who plays Abby, is doing a scene with Henry Ian Cusick, who plays Kane, they’re together in an emotional scene and I got ahold of this water sprayer, and while they were very emotional with one another, I was off-camera and decided to slowly spray her in the crotch. And [laughs] around the two minute mark, it left a big, solid stain and [laughs] of course, I was quickly not allowed to use the sprayer any more on set. But Paige took it like a champ with a great sense of humour. In all seriousness, I think that it’s been really a lot of fun to use my athleticism, as well as playing such a dramatic role within Octavia’s arc to develop her along the way. This show has given me the experience to learn to horseback ride, sword fight and as well, work with wonderful stunt teams to use my body to create Octavia from this young girl that develops into a warrior.
BT: You posted a video in which you kick-boxed and I don’t think that you had this skill previously?
MA: [laughs] I don’t think I did either, when I was 23, but it’s fun to keep exercising that. Because moving forward with new projects like the one I have coming out shortly, this summer called Jiu jitsu with myself, starring Nicolas Cage and Tony Jaa, it’s very exciting, it’s centred around a lot of martial arts themes as well.
BT: Tell me about the opportunity to give back and spread good, such as travelling to India for #shemustcount?
MA: Yeah! That was a really wonderful experience to work with FFLV and be the ambassador for that charity, and of course now we’re dealing with a totally different crisis, I’m supporting frontline workers and doing whatever I can to stay home, but yeah, when I shot that documentary a couple of years ago in India, it really showed me that in rural India, like Vrindavin, where boys are considered more of an asset, and young girls are considered a liability and aren’t given the chance to option to be educated and get their own jobs and often they have to deal with child marriage and hunger and starvation and all of these terrible obstacles that get in the way of them pursuing an education and being self-sufficient, and it was really interesting and humbling. I was very honoured to explain that process to people who were willing to donate at the time. Understandably, people often want to see specifically where their money is going, and it was a really wonderful charity of which to be a part and to be surrounded by people who have literally nothing, but probably as well, some of the happiest people I’ve also ever met in my life.
BT: Do you feel like you have also developed a warrior mentality?
MA: Yeah. Look, throughout the years, I feel like I’ve had to stare fear in the face and in every character that I play, I put a bit of myself into those characters and into their bloodlines. It was really rewarding for me to spread that into Octavia over the years. She was forced to become a leader in which many decisions would potentially negatively affect others and other clans and the people she loves. But she was forced into a lot of these positions, but ultimately, it was for the greater good and did make her stronger. It’s always an important lesson I believe myself to remember that, that sometimes the best decision might not also be the easy one and Octavia was faced often with that choice.
BT: I noticed that for the 2018 and the 2019 Vancouver Whitecaps FC Legends and Stars charity soccer match, The 100 stayed all on the same side and didn’t play against each other.
MA: It was wonderful working with a bunch of other actors, but on the field, and the teamwork, and I love playing sports, I’ve been an athlete my whole life. And it was great to play for the Whitecaps, with all proceeds benefitting sick children, and they got to come and meet all of these people that they’ve been watching on these different shows and meet us and the proceeds going towards such a wonderful cause, and ultimately those kids were the heroes that day, not us.
BT: What are you going to miss about working with your cast mates?
MA: There’s so much I’m going to miss about working with everybody, especially because we really didn’t get to have a goodbye due to the COVID-19 crisis. I’m sure that everybody can relate to that and where they were in their lives where it abruptly came to a stop. I was really fortunate to be part of an ensemble cast, often though with characters that I haven’t even worked with until later seasons, [chuckles] which is pretty remarkable to shoot 100 episodes and always feel like you’re walking onto a fresh, new set, with such creative people around you and collaborating and having these incredible storylines with such a long-running show, it was a blessing.
BT: Take me back to the beginning of the process.
MA: I auditioned for the job of Octavia in Los Angeles, California. It seems like ages ago now. I remember wondering if the casting directors and producers could see the sweat pouring off my body and my hands shake. [laughs] Having to play a character that was, at the time, young Octavia was quite sassy and sort of spiteful and she had a hard time listening to authority and stuff like that, so for me to have to bury all my nerves at the time, it was incredibly frightening. But yeah, I’m honoured to be part of the pilot of The 100, all the way through in every episode until finally the 100th episode, potentially... to see it through to the end, I’ll leave it at that.
BT: There have been a lot of cast members, although few, as your creator Jason Rotherberg puts it, O.G. cast members, what does this mean to you?
MA: Yeah, it is very exciting to be one of the O.G. cast members, the first people with whom I worked on the show were Bob Morley, who plays my brother Bellamy, and Eliza (Taylor), who obviously plays Clarke. And all of us have grown up a lot over the years and I’ve watched them get married and all kinds of things. Yeah, it’s great to be one of the O.G. players. I’m sure that the writers had plenty of opportunities to kill me off and they didn’t, so I’m grateful for that, [laughs] I got to see it through.
BT: Did you have a moment in which you knew this show was resonating with the fans?
MA: I had no idea how this show was going to be received, to be honest. Often I don’t watch the projects in which I feature, to not give myself a complex. [laughs] I go in there, I show up, I try my very best and pour my heart and soul into my characters, and then I kind of leave it there. But travelling through various parts of the world, for instance, in France and meeting a lot of the fans, or being recognized in really random parts of the world, I really understand the outreach that this collaborative work that we have all been doing really had an impact on a lot of people. Especially when somebody, and this has happened more than once, they hand me a baby saying [laughs] “I’ve named it after Octavia”, or someone shows me a real-life tattoo, that maybe Octavia had or of my face, I’m like “Wow“. People are really invested into these stories that we are telling. We’re honoured to do it and we’re happy that people have enjoyed it throughout the years.
BT: What did doing a voice for Wonder Woman: Bloodlines provide in terms of a renewed crowd of fans?
MA: I was thrilled, honoured, ecstatic and shocked when I got the phone call, which came to me as an offer, to do my first ever voice gig and it having the renowned name of ‘Wonder Woman’ and I got to play Silver Swan, I could not be more excited, especially working with Rosario Dawson and all the wonderful names attached to it. It was so much fun to play my character because I got to play her starting from when she was a 13 year old girl to a rambunctious teenager, eventually developing into Silver Swan and afterwards becoming allies with Diana. For me, it was a really fun experience because I didn’t meet any of the castmates, because I recorded it in Vancouver, and the other castmates, they did their parts wherever they were in the world and we got to meet up at Comic-Con and watch it together for the first time and meet each other in person for the first time. It’s such a different experience in the voiceover world versus being on a movie set.
BT: And the shriek that you did was apparently significant as well.
MA: The Sonic scream? I told them that I think I have only one or two Sonic screams in me, otherwise then my voice sort of… because I had a large tumour removed from my chest and my throat and my vocal cords when I was 20 years old, so screaming doesn’t really work for me more than once or twice, or then it goes silent for a couple of days. [chuckles] Which might not be a bad thing for those around me, they may be like: “Oh good. She shuts up. Yay!”. [laughs]
BT: How particularly deep do you get into the character of Octavia?
MA: Yeah, I’ve had to embody her differently at different times. During the Blodreina season, it really helped when I chopped off all my hair, like: “Do it. Whatever”. [laughs] Giving her a completely different look and demeanour and that was I think one of the most enjoyable seasons because it really challenged me as an actress from Stephen King about how much he loved Blodreina, I think because she kind of looked like Pennywise to be honest. That’s why. [laughs] He saw a parallel between the two characters. I’ll take it, it’s Stephen King, I couldn’t even believe it. I don’t even think that I tweeted him back, I was so nervous. I didn’t know what to write. But yeah, often wearing any of the costumes, especially when, and big shoutout to the costume department over the years, I think that the Blodreina jacket weighed about 20-30 pounds, wearing all that stuff does make you walk differently. And the way that she had to hold herself with such confidence, even though she knew that she was going to make some very detrimental and unethical decisions. Between takes, yeah, I often do get quiet, depending if it’s really emotional or our characters are dying, you have to break down and expose all the yuckiest parts of your insides, I don’t have much to say during the day, for sure. There’s a lot of dark subject matter on The 100. [laughs] Some days we had to laugh a lot in between to make sure that everyone kept their sanity.
BT: Do you see yourself as a mentor to younger cast members such as Tati Gabrielle and Lola Flanery?
MA: Ah! I don’t know if I mentor them, but I can speak for the fact that I’ve really appreciated seeing the different flavour, charisma and dynamic that even the younger generation of actors have brought to the show. The fans always love seeing new characters, as much as they, of course, love the O.G.s of the show, but I feel as though working with kids, which you may or may not see Octavia do quite a bit this season, adds a definite nurturing, self-actualized and elevated version of her.
BT: What has the journey meant for you to this point?
MA: Being a part of something like this which has had such a long run has been such a blessing, it’s changed my life in so many ways. Most importantly, it’s given me a platform to be a part of charities and non-profits and really to use my platform to do good! And I’m really thankful for that. I didn’t even imagine when I started acting in my early twenties that my dreams would come true. And The 100 has provided that for me in so many ways and I’m thankful that I can now use my platform to help others and move forward and entertain and be able to tell great stories that people enjoy watching.
The 100 airs Wednesdays 8/7c on The CW