A show like The 100 is truly all about the characters that steal your heart before you even know to expect it.
The way a character becomes beloved to fandom is a rare but valuable experience, especially on a show that revolves around nothing ever staying the same.
Jordan Bolger's introduction on The 100 as (Zeke) Shaw was a unique one, with fans adoring the character before he even appeared on-screen. The casting announcement was enough to get people excited, and the character himself lived up to the hype and beyond.
It was easy to grow attached to Shaw, with his big heart making him stand out, and then the possibilities of what could be growing more with each episode.
But as much as it was about the writing for the character, it was also about how Jordan embodied that role. From the very first scene, getting to know Shaw was getting to see Jordan blow it out of the park.
There was so much care put into the interactions that Shaw had and the impression he made, so it was really an honor to find out that it all came from Jordan himself.
The newcomer grew on our screens because of how much soul Jordan Bolger poured into him, and it is gratifying as a fan to reflect on it after The 100 Season 6 wrapped.
Taking some time out to talk with us, Jordan Bolger shares his thoughts on the impact that Shaw had on the fans and him, as well as what he believes Shaw's journey looked like. He also shares what other projects he is working on, and the way fandom has influenced him in different ways since his time on The 100.
What has been your biggest takeaway from your experience with The 100? What have you learned from (Zeke) Shaw during your time playing him?
From the show, what I've learned is more about the fans. The 100 really opened my eyes to the world of fandom, how much of a community it is and really how pure it is.
I think for me, that was my first experience of that world, actually. So to interact with people on Twitter and Instagram, to see how invested people were, that just gave me a new appreciation for fans of film and TV.
The light and the brightness that they brought to my life, through the process of The 100, was life-changing and it gave me a new perspective.
And now I've got more faces and more of a feel of who it is supporting [me], and that came from The 100.
And Shaw himself, he just highlighted the best traits of people. I think he really did just stand for some great things.
But that also made me look at my own life, my own views on life and trying to take some things from him. With how caring he was, I mean I think I naturally care for people, but I guess through the character, it was highlighting the nicer traits of myself.
It encouraged me, and again that leads back to the fans, they really responded to him just being a good person. So that inspired me to want to be a better person.
On a show like The 100, it usually takes some time to get to really know a new character. How did you approach fleshing out Shaw when you first started playing him? Were there ideas that you created about him in your mind to help you get started?
We sat down to talk, it was William Miller, Ivana Miličević and me, on our first day when we started at the same time on the show. There had been a lot of confusion especially with Shaw, with McCreary, and with the actions -- we didn't know what action we were supposed to do.
So the week leading up to my first day, I was told that Shaw was American, then British, and then I'm sure we went somewhere else, and then we went back to British for a while. I had built this British backstory about how he went into the army, the RAF, but then on the morning of filming, we decided he was going to be American again.
So I had to go back to the original backstory that I was using, but it all came together when everyone sat down to talk with one another; Diyoza, McCreary, and Shaw. We were just answering questions and talking about the vibe over the years, from there it all came naturally.
When you are stepping into a show that is so strong, and that has been there for five years -- I just had to watch the show and the characters and look at where Shaw needed to come in.
I can create a character and just come in, but then I would be potentially knocking elbows with people if you are trying to sit in the same place as their character. I tried to look for the spaces where he could fit in and wouldn't be crossing anyone.
Also working with Lindsey (Morgan), that was a big part of Shaw as well. I was aware when I first went into the character that it was a potential love interest for Raven.
So I had to look at her character and what she needed, and it was about the support. If I make sure I have that there, she's going to like him and also dislike him at the beginning. It was almost when you see a mirror version of yourself.
Raven was a big influence on the building of Shaw -- because I knew they were ending somewhere closer together.
That's interesting because I know when you were announced for the show, fans picked up on that. There was an immediate wish for Shaw to be with Raven, but no one expected that to actually manifest itself on the show.
But jumping off that, personally it felt like Shaw and Raven had a unique love story, one that was cut short too soon. How did you approach your scenes with Lindsey in S6 with the knowledge that this would be some of the last interactions Shaw had with Raven?
It was really hard because I really loved what they had. I loved Shaw, I loved Raven, and I loved what they brought each other. She was everything.
It felt like for Shaw and Raven -- when I took a step back -- they were exactly what the other one needed.
Just to play that, to be able to sit in an emotional place as a character -- where they are so emotionally content, which usually you are not -- you don't usually get that on a project.
There is usually quite a lot of tension, a lot of anxiety, a lot of heartbreak, but because of having Raven in the picture for Shaw it was like, "My life has been difficult for a long time, but now it's just the same kind of difficulty but I have this angel that I have come across that is everything I have been waiting for."
She kind of sweetened the whole deal for him and made it really not a bad experience, it was a continuation I guess.
And for those last interactions, it was just trying to make sure it was solid, it was things that you could see, where maybe they didn't have so much time together, but you could see that what they had was nice.
I wanted to make sure that people had the answer because my understanding of the characters was that if Shaw was left to live, I think they would have run a good course. It's all from what I know about the characters and what they could have given one another.
And I also wanted the fans to be able to see that just from the little interactions that they had. I wanted them to just see that it was genuine and to be able to feel the purity in their interactions; it was always that way with Shaw and Raven.
He wasn’t interested in anything else. When she was there his eyes didn’t leave her, and if they did they wanted to come straight back to her, because she was the focus, that was his love.
I wanted to make sure that the fans, when they watch that direction, that they could feel that she was very important to him.
And again on Lindsey's side, I don’t know her interpretation of it, but it felt like they created this mutual energy between them. But again, I’m not the audience, so I never know.
You were obviously busy with several projects, which may have had some bearing on Shaw's untimely death. Do you personally wonder if cryosleep could have been a potential way to keep Shaw "alive"?
If I’m being very honest, I would’ve loved to have continued, because of how pure Shaw’s story was and how much I enjoyed the show.
I got to do everything that you would want to do as an actor, it was fun and I didn’t want it to end when it did.
But I was filming in Orlando, so the commute there to Vancouver, it just was not working for either of the shows. And just for my own head and my own body, it was just not doable. I hoped that cryo-sleep could have saved him, I mean you never know what could happen, I guess. There is a last season coming up.
Yes. Next year is the last season of the show.
Right. I don’t know. In my mind, I would’ve loved for him to stick around.
I would have loved for him to maybe not die. But this is film and TV land, so you really never know what could happen. But I wish that cryo-sleep could have saved him.
Also if Shaw had survived those first few days in Sanctum, what kind of ending would you have wanted to see for him?
I would have liked to see him happy with Raven. If I try to imagine what his life could have been, if he had made it, it would have been about pushing science and education further. I felt like that was something that brought him and Raven together.
They were always trying to push themselves and elevate, so I don’t think that would’ve stopped just because they got to a content place.
I would have just loved to see their love story continue -- I would’ve just loved to see it flourish.
I would have loved to see what they did together.
But this also is The 100, so life is never easy for these guys.
It would have been interesting to see how they take on whatever new challenges are thrown at the gang though.
But with having that pairing, and for Raven as well, I don’t think she’s ever had someone consistently stay with her and be there to support her. It would’ve been nice to see the effect of that.
It was also a change for Shaw to have a partner because I think he’s been on his own for so long up to that point.
We spoke with Ivana Milicevic earlier this year and discussed how Diyoza processed losing Shaw in S6. During the season, Diyoza was actually seen wearing Shaw's jacket, and Ivana compared that death to Diyoza losing almost a son to her.
How do you think Shaw viewed Diyoza after their journey with one another?
I think very much the same -- I mean parent and child relationships can always be difficult.
They are always difficult, and with Diyoza he saw what she had come from, he had grown up seeing what motivated her and changed her over the years.
So he knew what was at the core, and he knew it was a good woman with the right motivations. Going back to their scenes, yeah, she was like the mother figure who just terrified him.
He also knew that she was capable of so much, that was the one thing that we always he built up around her, even on the first day of conversations.
She was a legend. A legend of awe and of making things happen on a global scale. We built her up so big. I think he admired her, even with everything that she did, it was admirable because it was executed well. So I would agree with the mother-son comparison.
I think it was a difficult one because he was the golden boy and she was someone who did what had to be done. Whereas Shaw would choose to take the correct moral option, let’s say.
And speaking of characters who did what had to be done, Zeke and Clarke's relationship wasn't in the best place when Season 6 started, with Zeke rightfully upset.
But then Clarke rushed in to try to save him so do you think maybe there could have still been that ability for Clarke and Zeke to get to a better place with one another?
Definitely. For me, at least, looking back at it right now, there is a big comparison between Clarke and Diyoza about doing what has to be done. So I think he also understands Clarke.
That's the one thing about Shaw -- his view on every other character is with understanding.
There’s a big comparison between Clarke and Diyoza, he also understood that Clarke was just trying to do what she had to do. So as much as he was hurt and upset by what she did, as he should be since it wasn’t too nice, I still think he understood.
He is just somebody who landed on this planet that is crazy, and everybody is in survival mode, and this is somebody who is trying to survive. That’s really what it came down to.
If he had survived, I don’t think that would have been the ending. If anything, that would have been someone who had some similar traits. In his way of being with her, he might have been seeing the traits of Diyoza.
Diyoza is still that woman, she still became a monster in many ways, and Clarke seems to be a less extreme version of that. In my head right now, at least.
Who do you wish Shaw got to share more scenes with? Or maybe who do you wish you got to film more with?
Richard Harmon and William Miller. We always had fun on set, if we were in a scene together or even if I wasn’t in the same scene as them. We still would have fun that day.
I know Richard is someone who I love acting with. He is such a great actor, and he is someone that you can learn from.
But everyone that I worked with I had a really good time with, when we were working and when it was just pleasure.
My experience on that show has left me with nothing but beautiful and positive memories. If there were any way of me going back and working with those guys, I would be happy to work with any of them more.
Zeke became a really beloved presence as soon as he was introduced during Season 5, how has that experience been like playing a character that left such a lasting impression on the viewers?
It was a shock. But I noted and acknowledged who and what the character was before the show came out.
I knew that he could potentially be sort of a golden boy because he at least tries to do the right thing.
For me, just with this job, I love the craft, and I do love the opportunities it can give someone with their platform, but just the response from the fandom and how much they took to Shaw and just the support they showed me, it honestly really shocked me.
It was amazing and the most beautiful thing, but yeah, it’s a strange new world for me to have people care about the work you do or the character that you play. It was all kind of new territory for me.
It was a great experience. I loved it, and like I said that kind of spurred me on to want to be more involved and more aware of the impact that your character can have on people.
And if anything, it kind of confirms my beliefs as well, I believe that any entertainment medium can have a big impact on society because we are so reliant on it and because we're always watching it.
So Shaw was probably a really good example because I’ve met people in really random situations that watch The 100 since the fandom is so huge it’s crazy it blows my mind, but when I do meet people and what they have to say about Shaw and how they speak about the character -- in simple terms, it makes me happy.
I go, "Oh okay, so my character managed to bring a smile or help you enjoy love in these two people, that is beautiful and I really couldn’t be happier."
I played some characters that do some dark things -- they’re quite angry and as fun, as they can be, it can get tiring when people hate you. It was quite a cool feeling. In a simple way, it made me happy. It’s inspired me to keep doing characters that can teach and inspire people to wanna be better human beings.
The 100 fans are known for their passion, which gets translated often in them supporting conventions with actors from the show.
I know you briefly showed up at Unity Days one year before S5 aired, have you given any thought to doing more convention appearances in the future?
Yes, so I actually tried throughout this year, and towards the end of last year, we’ve been speaking about it, and I think I had my people reach out to some people. But was kind of dependant on where I was in the world because I was traveling quite a lot, and to get me from where I was to these places, it just wasn’t working out.
But what I’ve done, because on the daily I’m getting messages about coming to conventions and I really want to, so now finally it took a year, but I now have a personal appearance and events booker.
When I tweeted that I had a meeting it was with this woman, she was really nice, and she understands the kind of things that I want to do.
And the convention in Vancouver, that’s the one I want to do, because I’ve been there unexpectedly before so yeah she’s now been reaching out.
Even though this is in place now and I definitely feel like I’ll be at some conventions in 2020 going forward, there’s also that thing of my schedule. If I have work on the other side of the world, I might not be able to get there, but I'm hoping to be at Unity Days, although I haven't heard anything back yet.
But I have done everything in my power to make that happen, and now that I’ve got a booker, it should be good.
And if anything, you can just ask the fans to get loud and to request you at the convention. That works a lot of the time too.
By all means!
I’ll be honest, at first as much as I really wanted to do conventions, and this is a thing that now I’m more comfortable speaking about, as much as I wanted to do them -- I’m also I’m a very anxious person. So when it comes to a lot of people looking at me and focusing on me, it isn’t my thing.
I love acting, I love the craft but then the exposure that can come with it, sometimes for me it can be quite intense and it’s not something that I do the job for, not for people to know my face, I guess that’s what we’ve been talking about earlier.
I’m learning and realizing that there are some people out there that would probably have such a great effect on me as well and will teach me things that I need to know moving forward. So yeah, it’s a nerve-wracking thing is what I’m saying, but I’m willing and I’m ready to take on the challenge.
But at first, I was definitely a little too scared and a little nervous -- I just didn't know why anyone would want to see or talk to me because, in my mind, I'm just Jordan.
How different was filming "David Makes Man" -- a coming of age show heavily centered on the Black experience, as compared to your previous projects?
It was a very, very different experience. I think with filming, a big part of the experience is the location, so to be in Vancouver during The 100 -- that's a place I love, and I just really love that city. It had everything that I liked, so my experience was maybe better by being in Vancouver.
With David Makes Man, we were in Orlando, so the heat is great and there’s so much to do there as well, like going to Universal, but it was less of a stimulating place.
So my head was very into my work, which is probably what I needed because it’s an important message that we were trying to tell. I mean the main difference is, it’s hard to say.
With The 100, we were sort of creating everything in the future. We are exploring these sci-fi things that haven’t happened, and we can play with it. We have this control over the story. We have somebody making a new language for you or making your own world.
Where with David Makes Man, I was very aware that I was telling a story for the people, a community, so there was less fun involved and more research, pressure, and kind of a knowledge of consequence as well.
I guess what came from The 100 was the knowledge of how much a character can impact. So I understood that if I represent a person wrong or if I tell the story a wrong way, that can have a damaging effect on the real person out there somebody
I just think I was very aware of the story and the world that we were diving into, so I had to go to a much darker place.
Shaw was happy, fun, and loving, so there were some dark twists, but the core motivation for Shaw was love and survival.
While with Shinobi from David Makes Man, survival was definitely the first thing, and I can’t even think of another word to throw in there because his life is just tragedy. It was just a tragic, horrible experience that this character had, so to be playing that and to do that for six months, it was quite a heavy experience.
But again, I’m very glad to have gone through it because now I can talk from a different perspective and I’ve just got more knowledge to take with me.
From "Peaky Blinders" to "Tom and Jerry", how do you manage to be so versatile? How do you approach getting into all these different characters, even the ones who are far from who you are?
I’m very thankful for the way I’ve grown up.
I grew up in an industrial town, and I wasn’t necessarily pushed to be an actor, dancer, or anything creative. It was about following the normal structure of having a 9 to 5 job, and yet I’ve lived a very contrasting life.
Like I said, I grew up in one town, an industrial town, and then went to ballet school when I was 16 which was so contrasting to the life I've been living before, then after that, I started getting into acting and lived in a lot of different places around London.
I have traveled a lot through my life though, not even big distances, I’ve just met lots of different cultures and lots of different people. Then my mother from a young age challenged my perspective, put me in situations and made me meet people that I probably wouldn’t have met if I had stayed in my city.
I always say that travel is the best education and the same for acting. I think if I hadn't have been in some of the not so nice situations when I was younger, some scarier situations or some culturally shocking situations, that I wouldn’t be able to pull from all these places.
That's why I always say to people when they talk about bad things that are going on in their life at a certain time -- it’s really not that bad, it’s bad at the moment, but it’s not bad if you think about it.
If you are an actor or a storyteller of any kind, now I’ve got an even bigger part to pull from to help someone else when they go through it.
So I appreciate fans saying that I'm versatile and that I can play contrasting characters, I really appreciate it, and I think that the way that I’m able to attempt to do that is from going through lots of different experiences in my life. I’ve just lived a lot, I’m 25 but I sometimes feel like I’ve lived for 35 years.
In June of this year you released a video, with music that you wrote and performed.
What was the experience of branching out into music like? And did the simplicity of using mostly an iPhone throughout the whole visual process a unique approach that you would like to continue in future music projects?
I’m realized that with music now, people don’t necessarily listen to the lyrics all the time. Actually, it depends on the people. But music became very much like an image or an aesthetic of looking like a rapper or a pop star, and it’s just so much money on things that we don’t actually matter in my opinion anyway.
So the reason that I used the iPhone, in the simplest way it records in 4K if I wanted to and I can edit it. I just felt like the simplest thing to do, and I also wasn’t trying to impress anyone with the video.
I wanted it to be a story, and I wanted them to understand what I was talking about. Actually, when we shot that video, I had just come from an audition for something while I was in London, I ran into my friend who is a photographer, and I played him the song.
Then we spoke about the idea, and then we just took a walk, that was it, we just took a walk. It was one recording, and that was the first take that we did, then we edited it and put it out.
So it was a very simple experience.
Maybe I could’ve taken more time and added more production value to it, but again I wanted the people I’ve written a song about to watch it, hear it, and understand, and to feel like they were important to me because they are.
That's the reason I did it and I wanted to people who watch me from a place where they don’t know the real me they just see the online representation of me, which I try to keep as authentic as possible, but you can’t control how people take things.
But I just wanted them to be able to watch it and see who I really am, and that video really represents who I am as a person.
Then going to the first part of the question about the music, I've always written, and I always loved writing poetry. Then I got into spoken word, I never performed, I would just work for myself, and I found when I was driving I could flesh out ideas.
But then the music, I’ve been working on it for five years now, and it’s just a way for me to express myself. I feel like when I write things down and when I put them on a song -- if I can hear them back, and some songs I hear now I can remember writing, and I was going through something at the time -- whatever inspired that song and listen back to it, I’m so detached.
It’s like a process of getting it out of your head, onto paper, and then onto song. So then to get to listen to it now, it’s very much a kind of therapy for myself, I like writing, and I miss dance also I don’t dance as much anymore because I stopped after an injury that I got when I was young.
And that was one of my favorite ways to express myself. I used to feel so free because there were no rules.
Whether it's your own project or a song or a poem, you can do whatever you want, and no one can tell you it’s wrong.
To get that freedom, I really enjoy it.
What can you share about upcoming projects on the horizon?
Projects wise, we have Tom and Jerry coming up, which is a different avenue from everything that I’ve done before.
But it is something that it doesn’t feel real because I haven’t seen anything yet. We just did the job and moved on, but every time someone brings it up to me I’m just like, "Wait a minute, this is Tom and Jerry, I grew up on this, and my grandad grew up on this!".
So I’m excited for it, I’d say that, I’m very excited to see how it comes out and how the world takes it.
Then there is always with this actor's life, there are always things that are potentially there. There are conversations going on, but it looks like 2020 will be a really good year, and you never know this year could end up being a whirlwind of things that I’ve never expected.
Then things to expect, there is music where there are two EPs/an album there. But I’m just perfecting, I’m trying to play with it a little more before I put it out and maybe make some more music.
So there's a lot of content there, but I just got a put things out when I’m happy with them. Music-wise, I’m going to try to put a three-track EP before Christmas, just really for the people that support me, because they’ve been asking for music for a minute.
I’m in the process of picking the songs that I want to put on there, hopefully, that will be out December. I’ll just throw it up on all platforms, but I’ll keep you posted on that.
The Lazy Society brand that is still there; what I found was that it was more of a tester for me. I wanted to see how people responded to me making that venture and for the ideas -- the foundation of this company that I’ve created, and I will continue to build on.
But for anybody who was interested in The Lazy Society stuff, it has not gone away, I’m just managing things at different times.
But for right now I have been focusing on the acting work, it got crazy which is great.
The 100 circles back to the idea of doing better, which is something Zeke was searching for since the moment we met him. Do you think he got to that place by the time we had to say goodbye to him?
Yes. I'm just trying to go back to his headspace in that moment. I could still remember it.
He did what he wanted to do, in that time of him landing to that point of him denying the help, I think he did what he needed to do to rectify the turmoil in his own mind, which I think is very important for everyone.
If you’re not content with the ideas in your mind, then no one else will accept your answers. You have to believe in what you are doing, but I think it was definitely when I go back to that place that it was sort of a disappointment for him about Raven. Because that was his last thought.
It is sad to say, but that was his last thought, "I found what I needed, and now I have to let it go."
That was Shaw's last thought. Yeah, a bit deep and a bit dark.
That really bummed me out now as a fan.
At the same time, I think that’s what they wanted to do with Shaw to a degree. They wanted to make him a little bit of a martyr.
It was to show what we could do because there are humans like Shaw out there, but there are also everyday factors of negativity and people trying to tell them what to do.
So I think to have someone like that brought into our lives through the representation of Shaw and then taken away, it’s a good lesson.
He stayed himself from beginning to end -- and even with that option, it may have or may not have worked -- to keep him alive, he chose the option of, "Nope you guys keep going, I’ve done what I need to do. It's a shame but this is the ending for me."
It’s a really bitter one, I haven’t really thought about it in a while. But it really was a hard scene. You took me back.
It means a lot that you put so much thought into this, it means a lot to me and to the fans who loved the character as much as they did.
It means a lot to hear that as well.
He didn't leave in vain, let's say that.
Shaw knew that Raven was okay -- that she was alive and it wasn't her that was dying, The people on the ground with him also helped. It's been rocky, but I think he knows that he stayed true to himself the whole through.
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.