The 100 Season 6 came with plenty of surprises when it came to Sanctum, but it was characters like Gabriel Santiago that really made the story as interesting as it became along the way.
So it was a wonderful and pleasant surprise that these new faces get to stick around, going into Season 7 with as much intrigue as when they got introduced.
At the heart of that transition is Gabriel Santiago, played by the extremely talented Chuku Modu, and his journey to continue to do better in a world that is destined to throw obstacles in his way.
Chuku Modu took the audience by surprise, first taking on the role of the mysterious but intense Xavier when he came across Octavia and Diyoza in the Sanctum woods.
That quickly became the well-executed revelation that Xavier is actually the iconic Gabriel, the person behind much of Sanctum's destructive ways, and teasing the potential for something more hopeful in the future
Gabriel Santiago is as fascinating as he is scene-stealing, with the character and the actor who portrays him winning over the support of all the fans of The 100 in just a few episodes.
Taking some time out to talk with us, Chuku Modu shares his thoughts on where the story goes from here for Gabriel and how the experience of Season 6 touches on the character's state of mind.
He also touches on who he thinks Gabriel could form a bromance within the upcoming season if given a chance.
How much did you know about your role in the beginning? Were you aware that Xavier was actually Gabriel in those first few episodes?
It was all a mad rush actually. Jason and I go back; I think I met him the year before I had started The 100 when he was casting another pilot, and I was testing for it.
So we had a relationship prior, and I auditioned for The 100 a few times throughout my career, I think this was the fifth audition I had. This tip came by, and I got a call saying that Jason wanted to talk to me and he said, "I love what you did."
So in the half an hour that we spoke he gave me a simple breakdown of the world of Season 6 and Xavier's arc, which as you can imagine is a lot to take in in half an hour. I was like,"Wow that's interesting. I don't know how much of that information is going to be retained, but it sounds great."
Then the dates were quite hard to make work because I was waiting on news for something else, but we finally managed to make it work. And within that time I found myself on set, it was all very rushed, but I kind of knew what was happening but at the same time I had no idea.
It was that kind of experience where I kind of just had to jump in headfirst and take each episode as it comes. But after episode one, I had a sit down with Jason, and we broke it down a little bit more for me.
So initially I had no idea what the hell was happening, but I quickly caught up with it.
How did you approach playing essentially a wolf in sheep's clothing?
I didn't really have the luxury of talking to the previous Gabriel, Ian Pala, where we could sit down and talk about the idiosyncrasies and the characteristics.
But I was kind of okay with that because I knew that Gabriel/Xavier had a massive transformation, so I wasn't really worried about being in sync with the other actor. But what I did want was for the audience to see Xavier and be like wow there's something going on here behind the eyes.
In The 100 Season 6 Episode 2 Russell tells Josephine not to toy with Gabriel because he doesn't want a broken-hearted geneticist. Do you think Gabriel has an obsessive tendency, and if so, did that now translate into his obsession with the Anomaly?
I think so.
First of all, being one of the few people on the planet with Josephine, I think it was quite hard for him not to fall in love with her.
But I also think the Anomaly was something he couldn't quite put his thumb on, he couldn't understand it and he's an intelligent man and scientific so he's obsessed with working things out and pulling them apart.
And with the Anomaly he spent lifetimes trying to study it but he couldn't quite understand it, he couldn't quite put his finger on it.
Obviously, once he started messing around with the red sun toxin that opened up a whole aspect of it. Because then he could go there to visit Josephine, and he could go there to live out fun fairytales in his head even if there was a bit of self-sabotage there as well.
I think he knew that it was probably not the best thing for him but the love and the pull from it, he just couldn't quite help himself.
Gabriel has been so focused on this Anomaly even though for so many years he had no answers. During Season 6 filming, did you have any of your own theories on what the Anomaly was?
I had no idea. I think no one had any idea and I think Jason didn't have any idea. But it was kind of working out along the way. I just imagined it to be a portal to another dimension, a black hole of some sort. But no I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I'm very much intrigued to find out what happens.
And going on to Octavia I think that's why Gabriel respected about her so much. Octavia has the heart of a lion and Gabriel didn't really have the courage to go in there at all and then met this young woman who kind of dove in headfirst and managed to come back.
So I'm very excited to see what happens on the other side.
Many of Gabriel's scenes were opposite Octavia in Season 6. What was it like working with Marie Avgeropoulos?
It was lovely, Marie is so cool and she's such a badass. It was really fun to play opposite her and what I really liked about their relationship is that it's very much a cat and mouse thing, where the pendulum is constantly swinging.
In the first two episodes, she was hunting me down for her own needs and then there was a nice little dynamic shift when the Anomaly happened because suddenly Gabriel really needs something from her.
It was just nice to play into those transitions, and she's super cool and so fun.
Marie just doesn't mess around which I really loved and respected because there's a lot coming in during Season 6 and hearing all about these cool characters for so long, it was a lot to finally play opposite them, but she was very forgiving, and she was very kind.
Do you think Octavia's current involvement with the Anomaly will make Gabriel even more focused on it in Season 7?
I think the fact that there was another human being who came out of it now opens a whole new Pandora's Box to him. Also, I hope Octavia's rubbed off on Gabriel because I think he's been isolated for so long that he got used to the loneliness and used to studying things from afar.
Octavia just came in and like I said, she jumped in headfirst, and I hope she's given him a bit of courage and a bit more of a kick up the ass.
Gabriel and Bellamy formed an interesting friendship in Season 6, especially since Gabriel shared his cardigan with Bellamy in The 100 Season 6 Episode 11. Would you personally like to see a bigger friendship form there next season?
I'd love that.
Bob Morley is such a cool guy and he's so welcoming and such a friendly and lovely actor. I really cherished all our scenes together.
And yeah, I'd love that. I think Gabriel needs more friends, he's been alone for God knows how long and he could do with a bit of bromance.
He's the same size as Bellamy as well, so they get to share clothes all day every day. They can even go shopping together. It would be lovely and Bellamy's such a headstrong character, a lot like his sister, and I think Gabriel could learn a lot from him.
That would be fun, let's put that out there in the universe!
Trust me, I am very heavily trying to put that out there and make it happen.
[Laughs] I'll try as well! We'll do what we can.
What was it like shooting that ending scene of The 100 Season 6 Episode 10? In it, we saw Gabriel having to say goodbye to Josephine, a person he really loved, and close the door on their journey.
Meanwhile, Bellamy did the exact opposite, yanking that door open to save Clarke, someone who he loves. What was the experience of shooting that emotionally heavy episode in such a close-knit space?
I think it was just that it was a very tight close-knit vibe that day on set.
Also I guess for Gabriel and for me as an actor, I haven't shared many scenes -- that episode was the first time actually that he sees Josephine through Clarke, so I knew I had my work cut out with that whole story and especially Gabriel's arc based off this love and this chemistry between the two characters.
When I saw that scene, my heart kind of skipped a few beats. I was like, "Cool, cool. This is going to be intense, and we are going to have to bring it."
But it was lovely. I've done those scenes before, in a lesser relaxed environment and it's always a struggle.
I had to play off Eliza as well, that was one of our first scenes together, which was absolutely phenomenal. She gave so much and when an actor gives that much you don't really have to do anything back except to be there present and listening and just react off them.
It's always a pleasure when an actor gives off that much because it's not work, you're just in that moment and you're living which is lovely.
And then to see the back end of that scene, Clarke and Bellamy the chemistry between the two. He does everything he can to save her life; it was lovely. I'm glad I got to see that moment.
Gabriel is kind of sitting back and watching, not knowing what's happening and there was probably a small part of him that was hoping that Josephine was still there.
But it was just really powerful to watch them do that, to see how well they both work together which was really eye-opening and amazing.
Then I found out that they [Bob Morley and Eliza Taylor] are married, and I was like, okay that makes a lot of sense.
There's a great chemistry there and in real life as well.
What was it like playing off of Eliza Taylor in your shared scenes as she was both Josephine Lightbourne and Clarke Griffin?
Amazing. Because up until that moment I hadn't quite seen what she was doing with that. So to see how those transitions were absolutely seamless was just brilliant.
Like I said before, going back to playing off her, it wasn't work at all and it was so easy because she gives so much.
As I mentioned earlier, the fans of the show have fallen in love with the character and are so excited to see more of you on the show. So how is approaching the role of Gabriel in Season 7 different from when you started to portray him in Season 6?
I definitely feel like I know him now. I think I spent the first half of the season battling to stay afloat, but I feel like I'm floating know and I feel like I'm moving forward knowing his backstory a lot more.
Like I said before, Jason gave me a breakdown of Gabriel, but there were so many other small intriguing details about his life that I didn't know, and I think they sort started to add up throughout Season 6.
So I'm really excited, I'm in Vancouver now and I'm actually itching to go dive straight in. I'm also excited to play the new Gabriel, the Gabriel that is going forward, the Gabriel that has let go of some of his demons and is taking on new ones.
The show talks a lot about doing better, and Gabriel is actually the perfect example of actually doing exactly that. Do you think he can continue to do better in Season 7?
Yes, I do, but at the same time, I understand that he's human.
As we do, all humans mess up every now and again. So far in his life, he's always chosen the higher path and he has a history of always doing the right thing even when the circumstances in front of him sometimes should lead him to do something that you wouldn't think was right.
I hope he can move forward, but at the same time I know he's human so I'm looking forward to those challenges. As an actor that's all you can hope for.
Where do you think Gabriel's head and heart will be in Season 7?
I know what I hope, as morbid as it sounds I hope he gets his closure with life. I think he deserves a good end and a part of him even though he's so fascinated by the Anomaly and the mythical that surrounds it, I hope that he gets his closure with death and the unfinished business there.
Heart wise, he deserves some love as well at the same time. Going back to his isolation and his loneliness, I'd love for him to fall in love again or care for love. That would be nice. There are so many things that I'd love for him to do but I have a lot of hopes.
Who would you like to see Gabriel spend more time with in Season 7?
I'd love to share scenes with Jordan actually, with Shannon Kook. They are like the opposite ends of the spectrum, he hardly lived life, and he was sheltered in that spaceship.
Then on the other side, Gabriel has been alive for centuries, that could lead to some sparks and to some fun scenes between the characters. They have a lot to teach each other.
I don't know if that could ever happen, but I'd love to do some stuff with Jordan.
Stick around TV Fanatic for more upcoming interviews, features, slideshows, episode previews, and reviews, and watch The 100 online if you need to catch up on the adventure.
Yana Grebenyuk is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.