There are two types of leaders: those who lead by example and those who merely espouse on how to lead. In the new CW drama series THE 100, the entire human race has fled a dying planet ruined by a nuclear holocaust. But 97 years later and their space station sanctuary is running on fumes. There are nothing but hard choices ahead for their leader Chancellor Jaha (Isaiah Washington). The decision to send a hundred juvenile delinquents back to Earth to assess its habitability is courageous and dangerous. But with so many lives at stake, this is the time to make unpopular choices and stand behind them.
During press interviews at the Warner Bros. Mondo Television International Press Tour, star Isaiah Washington talked about the appeal of portraying a leader on the brink of human extinction and the responsibility that carries.
Why this role? Why this show? Why did you decide to take this on?
ISAIAH: Because Jason Rothenberg asked. I had the script about three weeks. I had no interest whatsoever going back to television. I was already starting my foray into producing. . .[But] I think [THE 100’s] relevant. [It] is purportedly set 97 years in the future, but we could really be talking about a myriad amount of societal ills, shortcomings, and good things that is happening here in the 21st century. And that’s an extraordinary amount of innovation and a vast opportunity to have this creative discussion, hopefully, for quite some time with the world if we get it right. If we don’t get it right, then we won’t be around for long. But if we do, we have a chance to change, maybe impact, humanity today as we know it. And for me to be at the helm of that as a character and then being a part of a mere ensemble of that, as a human being, as an artist, is an extraordinary opportunity.
Can you elaborate a bit more about the heart of the story on this show, THE 100 and the impact that you envision it having?
ISAIAH: I don’t want to complicate the issue or become esoteric, but I really feel that Jason [Rothenberg] is onto something. He’s very special: Chancellor Jaha. I mean, come on. You don’t have to hit anyone on the head to know where he’s headed — Thelonious Jaha. That’s my name. For those who are maybe under 20, Thelonious won’t resonate. But anyone else, they’ll go, “Oh, Thelonious Monk. Ah, music.” He’s very musical. . . . We work very hard for credibility because now we’ve dared to step out there and start having a say on how we think humanity should be today so we don’t end up with a nuclear holocaust and end up in the situation in which you see these characters.
Could you talk about what you like about your character and how much you relate it?
ISAIAH: It’s very personal for me because there are a lot of things that I feel about humanity just personally, and Jason is in alignment with that, that we need to work a little harder to try to get things right. That’s where my character is. He’s not just the voice of reason. He is just genuinely in love with the people. He’s genuinely in love with humanity. And he genuinely wants to have humanity go on but not make the same horrible mistakes that they’ve made. Historically, the world has been at war. It has made a lot of mistakes. But we didn’t have the technology to actually destroy the Earth.
What’s Chancellor Jaha’s background?
ISAIAH: He’s incredibly human, whatever that would mean to you. The choices that he’s making. I’m not saying he’s an Einstein. He’s not. But he’s smart enough to know what it means to survive out of love and respect and that, at the end of the day, love and respect is going to go much further than hate and disrespect.
With the adults on the space station and the kids are down on Earth, how long will storylines remain divided?
ISAIAH: That’s a very good question, and I cannot answer that. That’s a very good question. You have to tune in and watch. . . The answer is it could change. When and how, I will say this: It’s going to be dynamic. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It should be a lot of fun. It’s a special world we’re creating. And like I said, I’m really excited now because my character works on the Ark. Our younger cast, they wave the storm in what we call GVRD, outside in the elements on Earth.
To see how Chancellor Jaha braves a future where the entire fate of humanity rests in his hands, be sure to tune in for the premiere of THE 100 on Wednesday, March 19th at 9:00 p.m. on the CW.