With a show like The 100 starting to wrap up, so much nostalgia is returning one last time.
It isn't easy to leave behind a legacy, especially in just a few episodes, but Eli Goree proved it was possible when it came to Wells Jaha. A character like no other, who is still beloved and discussed today, Wells represented a rare example of peace, forgiveness, and hope at a time when it felt like so much was dwindling on Earth.
Eli Goree was able to capture everyone's attention, with not only a memorable presence but also an unforgettable one. Wells Jaha lives on in The 100 world because of Eli's ability to exist onscreen.
As the show nears its seventh and final season, it felt like the perfect time to look back on what made The 100 so unique and what has stayed with fans all this time.
Checking back in with a memorable cast member like Eli means traveling back to The 100 Season 1, when he originally captured so many hearts.
The space that Wells took up for himself was intense, caring, and full of potential. The relationships that Wells had with those around him were chaotic and full of emotion, everything submerged with a promise of something more.
So it was truly an honor to get to take that trip back with Eli, as he shared his thoughts on his time on the show, the memories he still loves to this day, and the way The 100 left an impact.
What was it like being on The 100 and playing Wells Jaha?
It was a really cool experience. I remember the audition experience, which was my first pilot summer in LA and it was me doing like three or four auditions a day. And I remember that one went well. I had just come from Vancouver, I had a lot of connections with some of the casting people up there, and I found out that the show was shooting in Vancouver. So right away I was like, "Oh, this is going well."
Then I saw that they had cast Isaiah Washington, and my character was supposed to play his son, and I knew that we favored each other enough that it would be a good cast.
So usually you get a feel in that whole process of if you're the guy, like things start to narrow in and more factors start to add up. You can tell these other people start kind of getting crossed off -- maybe there's another actor, but he doesn't look anything like as Isaiah Washington or he can't work in Canada. Or maybe he's not going to get a tax credit and so it starts becoming apparent like, "Oh, I think I'm going to get this, you know?"
It was like my first major lead on network series role and I remember the pilot script was really good. Jason Rothenberg did such a great job writing it and it's still to this day one of the best pilot scripts I've ever read.
I think everyone who read it instantly knew that it was something so different and so creative -- everyone knew it was going to be a hit.
I knew it was gonna be a hit as soon as I read the pilot, because I haven't seen anything like this. And that was kind of back when the dystopian future, that whole kind of Hunger Games genre, that whole thing was popular. So just the audition process was really cool.
Then when we got to set they invested so much, it was like a $10 million pilot. They had this huge spaceship that they built, it was all set up on hydraulics, and then also with the cast it was just a really amazing experience. With getting to shoot the pilot, going through the audition process, and then when we found out we got picked up pretty much right away.
From there I knew I wasn't, going to be staying with the show, but they told me they had plans to make it something memorable in terms of how I left the show. It seems like that was true.
How did you approach playing Wells?
I just remember thinking about his backstory. I did a lot of work on that script, because there was quite a few auditions. And I just remember I'd meet with my friend Angela every day, she worked in casting and she's an actress as well, and we did a lot of work on his backstory.
We just thought about like, "Who is this guy?" He's upper class, he's essentially kind of a regal, like a royalty background or like a political family. Consider like a Kennedy or someone like that, who has a lot of high expectations of themselves, high standards, and who expects things to operate with a certain level of ethics.
So I think for him being tossed into that world, it is like this Lord of The Flies type of idea, that none of the social standards are left in place. When they all go down there, all bets are off, and he's trying to maintain this social order.
I think essentially when Wells dies, it symbolizes the idea of the end of civilization. It's like the anarchy wins kind of thing.
I'm not sure if you know this but Wells really did leave behind a legacy and he is still so loved by the audience six years later. Everyone still loves the character and talks about your time on the show. How does it feel knowing Wells and the way you portrayed him has resonated so much with the fans?
That's been the best part, honestly of the whole experience, has been the reception I got from the fans and the way that they responded to my work. It's more than I could have imagined.
I was there, and I felt like I was really proud of the work that I did. I knew how much time I had spent building the character, how well I felt like I fit the role, and the purpose of that character in the story. I just felt like there was something that really resonated for me when I was on set doing the work.
So to have that come back to me in the form of the fans, their reaction, and their continued connection reminds me of my own experience. I remember there was a character I watched on The Walking Dead, he became a lead character later on and was a phenomenal actor. He was just in the pilot, and I remember thinking, he did great work. Then, later on, he did come back and then he became the lead of a spinoff.
But it was one of those moments for me where I was just really proud about the work.
I think the ultimate validation for an actor when it comes to whether or not your work meant anything is how the fans receive it. So that's definitely been the best part of it. Like when I walk in an airport, kids come up to me -- often Wells is one of the characters I get more than any other and it was only for a few episodes. That means a lot.
What was your favorite part of The 100 or favorite memory of filming?
You know what? It was honestly like a real intense experience. The whole time, whenever you're shooting a pilot, you don't know if it's going to get picked up. Then once it did get picked up, I knew I wasn't going to be staying,
But I think I'd say there was a speech that I gave in front of a bonfire in the pilot, it was this long monologue speech. And then they had these water towers that dumped rain on us afterwards, and it was just one of those like epic monologue moments that like actors always want to have.
For me, just being able to do that and prepare that and deliver it, that was one of my best experiences.
Then also the crash scene with Eliza (Taylor) in this huge ship that they built just for that one scene. They built an entire space ship to scale and it was set up on hydraulics.
It was crazy, because we're all sitting there tied in and we were the screaming over the sound of gas and all these crazy things that are going on around us. I learned a lot. I'd never been on a set like that before and the sci-fi environment of it.
I learned a lot from Eliza because she's such a phenomenal actress. It was cool because it was just something different, like with all the wardrobe and pyrotechnics and all that stuff. It was cool.
The 100 is a show that works well as a binge-watch. A lot of fans are watching and rewatching right now and are picking up on that easy chemistry between Wells and Bellamy (played by Bob Morley). How did you approach those scenes with Bob where Bellamy and Wells had all this tension but also potential?
Whenever I think of Bob, I just start to laugh because he's such a funny and great guy.
He does such a good job, like when he at first was playing the villain on that show for a while. But we had so much fun off set; the scenes reflected that, and it was fun. It was cool to be on set with him, but I spent much more time offset with him than our scenes onset.
He's a big rock climber and indoor rock climbing, so he taught me how to go rock climbing since I'd never gone before. He would tell me stories about his dad. He had this catchphrase that his dad would say when they were just little kids.
Because Bob was obviously into working out, he had great physique, and I was just starting to get into lifting weights. So I'd ask him questions and he would tell me when he was like six or seven years old his dad would grab his arm and be like, "Look at you! No bulk, no definition."
He was such a joker and such a fun guy. The fact that his name is Bob Morley and obviously that's a pretty famous namesake. He and I spent a lot of time joking. I called him even after I was off the show, we would talk and just joke. I haven't spoken to him in a while, but whenever I see him, it's just like seeing a good friend or a brother, you know?
Was there anyone you wish Wells had more scenes with or any cast member you wish you got to film with more?
No. Maybe some of the people that came later, once I was off the show. But no, I had great scenes with Bob and obviously with Eliza. I didn't get too many scenes with the two guys ...
Monty and Jasper? Chris Larkin and Devon Bostick?
Well, I already knew Devon because we're both from Canada and we were friends before. So I knew what a great actor he was and I'm a big fan of his work.
No, it was the two bad guys. He's going to kick my butt when he finds out I forgot his name.
Yes! There we go! Harmon! I know Harmon, we hang out all the time. I just couldn't remember his name for some reason. Anyway, I had great scenes with him.
I was not surprised when he ended up becoming a regular from that character. Because just the second he stepped on, he was doing amazing work and just had something about him that stood out. I think he had a really great couple of years there because he was on quite a few great shows and he had important roles on all of them.
I have no regrets. Obviously, Isaiah and I had great scenes. All the people that I wanted to work with, we got to work together, and we had great scenes.
During Season 1 and beyond a really important relationship exists between Wells and Clarke. And one of Wells' last scenes with Clarke is where she asks him to forgive her. It's been a while, but do you remember what it was like filming such an emotionally heavy scene?
Like I said, for the fans and for the actors, different scenes mean different things. That scene was an important scene to hit the notes for in that episode, and Eliza did an amazing job. I think our emotional connection as characters was really deep, but when I think of Eliza, I always think -- it was such a simple scene, but for me, it was so much bigger just because everything that was around it, and that's the crash landing.
Then also the stuff on the ship, like the flashbacks and when we played chess. Like those all those scenes, for me, stand out more.
But that emotional scene, I do remember it. I remember, she just did really great work. She was so well prepared for that. I mean, just fresh from Australia and she's carrying the show. She was really well prepared and took it very seriously. We would often meet, we all stayed at the Sutton Hotel, and we would often meet at the hotel after we shoot and run scenes and go over stuff for the next day. There was not a lot of sleep while shooting that pilot, for sure.
What is something that you wish Wells had gotten the chance to do on Earth?
When I first left the show, it was like, you hate to leave a show that you know is going to be successful, and you're like, "Man, I'd love to be a part of that ride."
But in retrospect, when I look at the things that I've done since and look at the show, I think my time for that show was meant to be where it was. It left an impact because it's like when something ends at just the right time, it doesn't go past what it's supposed to, it resonates more, and it has more of a lasting impact.
Sometimes you see that with shows, where like people will often say the British version of The Office is better than the American version of The Office.
Well, that's because really it's that the American version of The Office went for like 12 seasons, and the British version was just long enough to where you're like, "Oh, I love that."
Or Chappelle's Show, it's just long enough to be like yes. Like Key and Peele doesn't necessarily have the same impact because it goes off for so much longer. So as much as I love Key and Peele and the American version of The Office, when something ends at the right time, it has a different kind of feel to it.
That was the case with me and The 100. I think, in retrospect, I can say it ended at the right time.
That's actually really true.
Before I move on, I just want to say another example.
This is kind of funny since everyone's in this quarantine, I've been watching all these old movies, and I watched the original, the 1968 version of Planet of The Apes. It's the one with Charlton Heston, and so the sci-fi and everything is totally outdated. Like it was laughable. But the story was really good! I was like, "Yeah, this is a great story!" Then I saw that there was a sequel, so I watched the sequel, and it was just terrible. Like just garbage, you know?
So it's another example, but sometimes it's like The Matrix or so many other shows -- just leave it when you hit that note.
What did you learn from Wells Jaha and from your time on the show?
I learned a lot about the business side of acting. I learned about contracts, about understanding business, and understanding how things operate.
I learned about just really being convicted. I'm a Seventh-day Adventist, and one of the main things for me is I don't work on Sabbath. I was still figuring out a lot of things as a professional, at that point in time, in my career. I learned a lot from that experience about just how to operate, how to be a professional, how to make sure you are taking care of the things you need to take care of off of the set.
I think that those are the best lessons that I learned and are things that I definitely still carry today.
Sadly Wells didn't survive too long on a post-apocalyptic Earth. Do you think you, personally, would have survived longer?
I don't know. Maybe we'll get the chance to find out?
Maybe! This question is just too timely.
I'm kind of prepared. Like I do some things where I'll make sure I have extra food, and I wasn't one of those people running for toilet paper. I had lots of toilet paper when things went bad. I definitely could be more wilderness savvy.
But if I found a band of people that were like-minded, I think we could make it. I don't know if I'm going to be able to go at it alone.
It was mentioned that last season you almost made an appearance during The 100 Season 6 Episode 7, which would have been five years later. I know it sadly didn't end up happening, but how did you feel almost coming back to a show after so much time?
It would have been strange, It's such a different place now, and I get the feeling it probably would've been one of those cameo things, like more than anything big. So I don't know.
For me, I got to run into those guys when I was shooting a show called Dead of Summer. We were at San Diego Comic-Con and had an interview with the whole cast, right after The 100 was finishing their interviews. I got to run into everybody, hug everyone, and we got to do the kind of reunion that we never really got to do because everyone was doing their own thing.
So for me, even though the fans didn't get to see it, that was my moment where I got to just say thank you to everyone I got to work with and show everyone that I'm happy that they're doing well and they're happy that I was doing well. That was kind of our moment.
I think for the fans it would've been nice. That's the one thing I wish for the fans if we could've done it, it would've been cool.
Jason did tweet a photo, so we got a glimpse of some of it.
Exactly! That was really cool, and then I ran into Jason when I was up shooting Riverdale.
I ran into Jason and his family, they told me that they're happy with how my career is going and I told them how proud I am of how the show is going.
When we see each other, it's all good now.
You are familiar with conventions for The 100 and were slated to attend a few, but there were some bumps in the road along the way. Hopefully, you will be able to go to your first The 100 convention soon. So what are you looking forward to with your first time at a convention and meeting the fans?
Wow I mean, you do your research. I didn't even do the convention, and you know!
I know! Trust me, I know. People were really excited, and I heard all about it.
Yeah. That's cool!
Again, it's one of those cliche things, and actors always say it. I think when you watch it on TV, and you hear actors talk about the fans, you're like, "Oh, sure. They're all about the fans."
But when you actually are a part of something that strikes a cord with a group of people, and they connect with you, and they let you know what it meant to them, it really is all about the fans.
I get a lot out of it. I get a lot out of meeting people; I get a lot out of especially meeting kids. But just meeting people that say that they liked what I did and in some way, it inspired them, in some way it helped them to think about things differently, or it motivated them.
That's what I get that gives me the positive reinforcement to let me know that I'm doing something worthwhile. For me, I'm always just excited to meet the people. That's it.
Since The 100, you have worked on a few other projects like Riverdale, Pearson, and my personal favorite, Dead of Summer. What is it like for you getting to explore all these different worlds as an actor?
That's been the blessing of my career.
The plus and the minus of it is that not all my characters make it. I think there's a meme out there somewhere of me where they're like, "If my character doesn't die in the script, I'm not taking the job or something like that."
But the great thing about not necessarily going with shows for the whole run or having shows that don't do 10 season-long runs, it is that I've gotten to play a lot of really unique, very interesting, and powerful characters.
I got to play Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) over the last few months for a film that's going to be coming out. I got to Wells, and I get to play Mad Dog. All of these characters that if people remember, that are recognized, and that had some meaning, had some depth, and that allows me to be an artist.
They allowed me to express something and to say something through this story. It's been the blessing of my career that I've gotten to play some really great characters and a lot of them.
What can you share about some of your upcoming projects?
Well, Mad Dog is still out there in the Riverdale universe somewhere, so we'll see where that goes.
As far as other things, I just was shooting in New Orleans on a project called One Night In Miami. I'm very excited about it.
Leslie Odom Jr., Aldis Hodge, Kingsley Ben-Adir are in it, and it is directed by Regina King. She just won the Oscar two years ago for Best Actress. She did a phenomenal job in that movie. Also shout out to Stephan James, because he did a great job as well in If Beale Street Could Talk.
So yeah, there was a great script for this, and it's a true story that was turned into a play that is now being turned into a film about the friendship and relationship between Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown, and Malcolm X. Basically, how certain things around race and history that were happening right when Cassius Clay decided to change his name to Muhammad Ali.
It's a really powerful story, and I'm really happy with my character. I loved the script, so I can't wait to see how that looks and when that comes out.
The 100 returns on Wednesday, May 20 at 8/7c on The CW.
Yana Grebenyuk is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.