Looking Back On The 100: Aaron Ginsburg Explores His Writing Journey on the Show, His Favorite Scenes to Write, and More!

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A show like The 100 is only as good as the people who work tirelessly both in front of and behind the scenes.

Throughout the existing six seasons, each episode has stood out, and yet one thing has remained. The impact that writers have through their work will always be its legacy.

Aaron Ginsburg is a perfect example of that, with his hard work (alongside his writing partner Wade McIntyre) leaving behind a long-lasting appreciation for the episodes he created and the voice that really made those episodes their own.

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It was a stunning adventure whenever Aaron took over an episode, a guarantee of action and emotion and boundaries being pushed at every turn. You would never know to expect of an episode if Aaron Ginsburg and Wade McIntyre were in control, except that it would stay with you long after the episode aired.

Aaron's vision got to shine through not only in the way his words left their mark on the audience but also because of the visual aspect of his time on the show. It was through his beloved set photography (and writers' room doodles) that Aaron supplied a different lens into the wonderful world of The 100.

The audience had the chance to see the sets, the actors, and the atmosphere in a way they never had before. And it was Aaron's photos that kickstarted the famous episode countdown to which fans look forward to this very day.

In short, Aaron's time on The 100 defined a lot of what the show continues to be today. It was an honor getting to see the way storytelling would exist when Aaron and Wade got their chance to add to the season, and it only solidified the love for the characters and the series.

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Taking some time out to answer our questions, Aaron Ginsburg looked back at some remarkable episodes that he helped create, the process that went into raising the stakes on The 100, and the impact that the show had on him as a writer. 

Aaron also shared some of his favorite photos of his from the set of The 100 with us.

What was it like spending four seasons on a show, especially a show like The 100?

It’s interesting, because I’d been working in TV for a long time before I joined The 100, and I’d never been on a show that had survived longer than one season. So, getting to evolve and build a complex story over the course of multiple seasons was… huge.

Of course, when we were on the show, we never really knew we would get another season pick-up from year to year. So we lived each season like it might be the last — and crossed our fingers and toes that we’d get renewed. 

But the complexity of storytelling you can play with on a show like The 100 is immensely gratifying. You challenge yourself, and your fellow writers to push all the boundaries and reach for narrative choices that are scary and uncomfortable. 

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And another great thing about The 100 is that Jason insisted that the show should always be changing, the world always evolving. So it was endlessly interesting to walk down those new roads with characters we had grown to love.

A perpetual thought experiment where the walls were always closing in and the clock was always running out. 

What was your favorite part of writing for The 100? What were some of the challenges that came with writing for the show?

My favorite part of this show was that Jason encouraged us to push the borders as far as they would go. And sometimes, even further than that. We were always reaching for new twists that would blow people’s minds, or more emotionally devastating moments that would leave viewers breathless.

There was a boldness to the show. A fearless passion that was thrilling to work on. I loved getting to write a story that was so deeply shocking and yet somehow inevitable, it felt very special.

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The challenges go hand-in-hand with all that. The 100 is a show that grinds the story down, taking ideas and working them and reworking them and reworking them again. We would throw things out all the time. Or blow up ideas and dissect them and put them back together.

We would challenge each other at every angle, and that made the show stronger (and allowed us to find some truly incredible moments).

What was the experience of writing episodes for The 100 with a partner? How did you and Wade organize your individual contributions to each episode? 

Wade and I had been a writing team for many years before The 100. We’d gone to college together, we’d run a theater company together in LA, we’d written features and produced reality shows together and everything in between. By the time we started on The 100, we functioned like a true partnership. Intuitive. 

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I love Wade’s writing, which is why we were such a great team. And I suspect he feels the same way about my own. And we would usually divide up the work — one would take this scene, one would take that scene. And once we were done, we’d polish each other’s scenes.

But after many years, our process was pretty fast and seamless.

What was one of your favorite scenes to write? What was one of your favorite scenes to see filmed?

Great question. I do have fond memories of writing on this show. Each scene took real work and careful thought. Regardless of the episode. So, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. But here are few fun memories that pop to mind…

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I remember the first big Murphy scene I tackled — in Season 2 —where he was telling Bellamy and Finn what it was like being tortured by Grounders — and I still remember exactly where I was sitting when I wrote it, what the weather was like, and this tangible feeling of excitement as I stumbled through the words.

I could tell I was working on a show that was going to change me as an artist. From the very first script. The scene transformed a great deal by the time that episode was actually filmed, for the better, but I still love my memory of first writing that scene.

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I remember I viscerally loved working on the big Clarke/Lexa debate during The 100 Season 2 Episode 12  — trying to make sure both sides of that tricky argument about whether or not they warn the village of the impending missile attack were valid and defendable.

Thinking about that now, it reminds me of how much fun we had as a group of writers in the writers' room — with Jason — coming up with these impossible, horrific choices. And as a writer, you have to make sure both sides of each argument are equal, as best as you can. 

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I loved working on the big bunker debate in The 100 Season 4 Episode 12 … The horrific lottery… So fun, so moving, so awful.

When it comes to seeing scenes filmed… This cast is incredible, as you know. And our sets were ridiculous. So immersive and fully realized. I used to love to wander around Mount Weather and just snap photos of random set decoration.

Little details left by the incredible set and prop departments. Wallace’s office, in particular, was a treasure trove of lost artifacts from a world destroyed.

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But a few scenes still stick with me. The bloody battle in the snow at the end of The 100 Season 4 Episode 12 was so cold and epic and insane. We knew we only had so many takes before all the snow would be coated in blood and continuity would start to fail.

And at one point, Echo’s horse just ran off into the woods, escaping, and the horse was all white. And it blended in with the snow. And it took us hours to find it.

There’s actually a bit more to that story, but that’s for another day…

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But my favorite would be the epic three-way fight between Octavia, Roan, and Luna at the end of The 100 Season 4 Episode 10. Choreographed by the brilliant Marshal Virtue, and shot by Dean White. We filmed it on election night, 2016. And it was pouring rain in Vancouver.

But the rain was not heavy enough to be seen on camera. Rain is weird that way. But the script, as you know, called for black rain. So we had to add in these huge water towers that just doused the whole area with these huge, freezing cold drops that can be picked up by the camera lens.

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And so for hours, Marie, Zack and Nadia slashed and fought each other in the absolutely freezing rain while we dumped more and more cold water on top of them. I was soaked, they were soaked.

And it took us all night long to film that scene. Got back to the hotel at like 4 am. And then, for the rest of the night, the four of us just texted back and forth from our rooms talking about everything we’d just experienced. It was like we lived it. So amazing.

Which character did you enjoy writing for the most? And why?

Trick question, Yana! Nice try!

What makes The 100 so incredible is that all of the characters have such distinctive voices. Bellamy would respond to a situation one way, Clarke would respond in another.

Octavia and Raven and Murphy. Monty and Harper. Jasper. Kane, Abby, Jaha, Alie, Echo. Emori. Indra, Pike. Lincoln. Ilian. Roan. Lexa. Madi. All have such incredibly unique POVs, and specific voices.

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So I don’t pick favorites. Never have. As a writer, you have to drop into each and every character while you are writing to find the moments, to find their truth. And these characters wouldn’t be as memorable as they all are if not for the actors bringing them to life. All so good. So grounded. So raw and real.

Each season of the show definitely would take on a different tone, a lot of the time getting quite darker. What was it like for you as a writer to evolve with the show season to season?

It was spectacular. And I give Jason so much credit here — because the show was always pushing itself to transform as the story unfolded. Actions had consequences. And those consequences could not be walked back — regardless of the destruction, they left in their wake.

It makes the storytelling electric. Powerful. Knowing that anything you pitch could happen and have long-lasting effects.

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I think it was my first week on the show, and Jason and I were talking about things we’d like to see during The 100 Season 2. And I remember saying, “I think we should kill Anya right off the bat.” And Jason looked at me, smiling, and asked why?

And I recall saying that Anya was this incredible character in the story, but while she was alive, Clarke’s journey to unite the grounders and the Arkadians was still very much possible. But kill Anya, and the mess that follows will take a long time for the characters to sort out. And the next thing you know, RIP ANYA.

Your first-ever episode for the show was The 100 Season 2 Episode 3 and was titled "Repercussions." How did you approach writing an episode that explored some very horrific revelations and dark themes?

TV writing is a team sport. Writing is hard, and working with a talented group makes it, you know, slightly less hard. We had spent the first few weeks of the room working on the full season arc as a group. All of the writers. And we collectively came up with the nuanced backstory of the Mountain Men and the Reapers.

The 100 was always very collaborative in that way. The big season-long arcs were always a collective effort, mapped out from the beginning of the season. Everyone played a part, everyone helped shape the world you see.

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And Wade and I were lucky because we got to write a storyline that I still cherish: the moment where Finn first goes too far — where he kills the grounder, Delano, and chooses to believe what he wants to believe about the whereabouts of Clarke’s captivity. It is so rare in TV to get to write stories where the audience is deliberately ahead of the characters.

It causes this sense of overwhelming dread as you watch the heroes march the wrong direction, march towards a mistake that will change the course of the show forever. So much fun.

During The 100 Season 3, you wrote the fan-favorite episode Wanheda Part Two.

I was wondering how you found the balance when it came to exploring emotional arcs like Bellamy trying to save Clarke and Jasper struggling with the loss of Maya, while at the same time having the job of introducing new significant characters like Pike and Roan?

For whatever reason, Wade and I were always writing one part of two-part episodes. We did "Blood Must Have Blood - Part One," "Wanheda - Part Two," and "Perverse Instantiation - Part One."

And it is really tricky to write those types of episodes because if anything big changes in the other part, those changes trickled down. Or trickle up. Or over. Or whichever direction, but there is always trickling.

So I recall it always being a moving target to lock those scripts down while we all tried to make sure both parts showcased the best version of the overall story.

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Again, always a team effort. So all of those storylines and arcs were developed with Jason and the room of amazing writers. And everyone had a part in shaping the show. That collaboration is what made the series so fully realized. 

I distinctly recall we all crafted the idea of who Pike should be, as a character, in the writers' room… and then Michael Beach walked in and just grabbed that role with both fists. It was like Pike formed before our very eyes.

And I remember Jason, Wade, and I worked for hours to meticulously craft the monologue Pike gives about what happened to his people when they first landed in the Ice Nation. And the horrific events that shaped his mindset and outlook on the new world.

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And Roan — Zack McGowan — I mean, how did we get so lucky? Roan was a character who evolved even as we wrote him in those first few episodes. We had initial plans for this rogue king, and Zack just blew us all away. And definitely changed the course of his role in the show. He felt like such a part of the world, so organic, so grounded.

One of your most iconic episodes is Die "All, Die Merrily" during The 100 Season 4. It was so memorable because of how much it explored, specifically with the conclave style challenge killing off quite a few fan-favorite characters.

What was it like writing that and then watching it get filmed? And what was it like having that responsibility of killing off that many familiar characters? 

I remember, Wade and I orchestrated things so that we could be the ones to write the final conclave. We knew from the beginning of the season — when the writers all sat around and figured out the big arcs — that one of the big tentpoles was going to be this bloodbath. And, I won’t lie, I wanted it. Badly. Call it writer bloodlust.

It was this episode where we got to finally reveal this epic ritual that had existed in the world of the show — but no one had ever seen play out.

And we got the distinct honor of breathing life into the traditions, the prayers, the opponents, the rules. It felt like writing a feature — massive, violent, shocking, heartbreaking, complicated. Endlessly enjoyable.

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It’s funny because I had written Roan’s death once before. At the end of The 100 Season 3 Episode 15. Kane was under the power of Alie’s chip, and Clarke and the group had just snuck into Polis… and Roan gets shot. Remember?

Well, originally, in the script, Zach’s character got shot point-blank in the face by Kane. Out of nowhere. And Roan was dead. Just dead. Over in an instant. It was shocking and upsetting and scary.

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I remember in the room, we all talked about how it would be so truly The 100 to have a character like Roan be killed without any fanfare. A casualty to the story. Snuffed out like a candle.

And we rehearsed it that way — the amazing Ed Fraiman was directing, and we had blocked it all, and cameras were about to roll… when Jason called me up in Vancouver and said he was having second thoughts.

He didn’t want to lose Zach just yet. Because Roan was such a powerhouse character and Jason said he thought there was more story to tell with him.

And he was right, but the clock was already ticking — production never stops — so Ed had to quickly re-work the cameras and re-block to only wound Roan in the edit. So glad we were able to make it work!

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So… come to The 100 Season 4. The conclave. I told Zach, "this time you can’t escape the knife…” We are friends, Zach and I; I adore him. And Zach took it in stride. I recall I had a long list of characters tacked to the big corkboard in my office: People who we wanted to kill in this one episode. 

Because this is one of the things that The 100 does better than almost any show on TV. It lays out an impossible problem, it tells you what is going to happen, and then it delivers on that promise, uncompromisingly. We told the audience — 12 people enter this conclave, only 1 will live.

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And the audience heard these words. They knew the rules of the conclave. And yet, the whole episode, the audience couldn’t help but pray that our characters would find a way out. Some loophole. Somehow, some way. Pray that they would change destiny. But sometimes… destines can’t be changed. 

The network, I recall, made us un-kill one character from the original script. Not gonna say who it was. But there was originally one more death in this episode… 

One of my absolute personal favorite TV episodes of all time is your Season 5 creation, "Sleeping Giants." So much went into seamlessly creating that movement from space back down to Earth, paving the way for some incredible reunions.

How did you approach writing that episode and having it be both action-packed and emotionally driven?

We spent an exhaustive three weeks in a remote writers' room — not our usual offices, due to outside circumstances — to craft the world of The 100 Season 5.

We knew it was going to be different because we had separated all of our characters into three distinct spaces and jumped in time five years. And we had so much to unpack. And Jason wanted to really explore what it would be like to bring people from, essentially, “our world” into this one. These prisoners.

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So we worked it all out — how they would talk, who they were, what their backstories were, and how the hell they got there. And Jason kept adding to their tone, their speech patterns, their nuance. Some great stuff. 

And the challenge with those early episodes in a new season, you are trying to best capture the pent up emotion from these unlikely reunions, things that have been building and compounding for five years (thanks to the time jump), while still setting up a bunch of dominos that won’t really start to fall until much later in the season.

It was a tricky one, The 100 Season 5 Episode 3, but I think it came together really well. Glad you love it! 

With the relationship and the bond between Bellamy Blake and Clarke Griffin being very much the heart of the show in many ways, how did you approach each season when it came to mapping out their development? 

They are the heart — and head — of the show, certainly. But, as we’ve discussed, there are so many amazing characters in this world. So we wouldn’t focus solely on one relationship when we would discuss the larger season arcs.

We would definitely talk about how we wanted to challenge Bellamy and Clarke — how we wanted to see their characters evolve and change each season. But we also did that with the other characters, as well.

The 100, like its title, is about a group of survivors, all doing the best they can to make it through one brutal day at a time. And, hopefully, learn from their mistakes.

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So Jason and the writers' room would take each season and ask how can we challenge these characters in such a way as to learn more about them. Force them to make choices that will define them. Or change them. Or break them. Or unite them. 

As we approach the last season, what would be your version of the perfect ending for the characters and the show? Do you believe, as someone who helped create the journey for everyone for so long, that doing better is possible?

I am now watching as a fan. When I left after The 100 Season 5, it felt like the right time to transition to another story. It felt like the end of a chapter. And it was incredibly hard to say goodbye. I’m close to so many of the cast and writers.

It was such a profound experience in my life and definitely contributed to my voice as an artist.

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So, I’m excited to see where The 100 Season 7 is heading. I’m excited to see where the show lands. And, if I know Jason and the talented folks writing the show now, the result is going to be murky and interesting and shocking and satisfying. And bloody. Oh, so bloody. 

Your writing has truly left a mark on the fans, with so many of them still missing your unique approach to each of your episodes with Wade McIntyre.

But at the same time, so many of the fans have followed you to your next project. What is it like having that support from the fandom even now that you have branched out? 

It’s great. The fans of The 100 are some of the most vocal, most engaged viewers I’ve ever experienced. From the recaps to the reviews (that read more like literary criticism essays than reviews!) to the reaction videos.

And I still have a huge folder of fan-art on my desktop. Amazing illustrations from talented fans of the show. And I’ve kept them all.

I loved being able to connect with so many fans on Tumblr and Twitter. And if they follow me to my next shows, I couldn’t be more thrilled… Come by and say hi! 

Your wonderful The 100 episodes have their own legacy with the fans, but at the same time, so do your extraordinary BTS photos on set. What was it like for you as a creator to be able to offer both written and visual work during your time on The 100?

I am someone who endlessly uses visual elements in all my work. It is how I see story, how I see the world. I love photography, I love the energy a photo can capture an on-set moment. And I have always taken BTS photos. From the very beginning. 

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With The 100, it was like a kid in a candy store. The sets were incredible. Artwork themselves. The actors were always game, and we had so much fun doing mini photoshoots in the middle of the Vancouver-woods.

So many fans have reached out to say how much they loved my BTS shots, and I couldn’t be happier about that. I share them for that reason.

What did you learn from your time on The 100?

I learned so much. But as a writer, the biggest lesson was how to take the big swings. How to pitch ideas that are seismic, that are scary, that seem too crazy to be spoken aloud. How to write scenes that cut deeper than you expect. That hurt. That scar. That move you. That change you. 

I doodled this index card — I wonder who has it now, maybe I do somewhere — that I pinned above the main board in writers’ room… It read: MAKE IT BRUTAL. And it was a constant reminder to all of the writers, myself included, to never let our characters off easy.

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Never let them off the hook. Whatever the scene, whatever the debate, whatever the situation, make it even harder for everyone involved to accomplish their goals. Then, make it even harder than that. And if you do, the scenes suddenly come alive. Because the fight becomes real.

You tweeted late last year that you would like to work with Bob Morley and Eliza Taylor again. What would your idea of an ideal project for that be? 

That’s right. I’m quite close to Bob and Eliza. Our friendship really developed over the course of the show, and I cherish it. And right now, we are planning some big things.

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Starting with… we’re going to save the world together. Yep, you heard that right. Save. The. Freaking. World. We are about to start playing the board game PANDEMIC remotely. During this quarantine.

We figured, hey, we’ve all survived one apocalypse together, surely our skills will be well suited to doing it again, in board game form. I’ll make sure to keep Eliza away from any levers.

As for actually collaborating, I would love to work with them on a project again. We are looking for the right one. Who knows what the future will bring.

Since The 100, you have moved on to the beloved TV show New Amsterdam.

What has it been like writing on a show so vastly different from The 100 after so much time? And this is a project that you aren't working on with your writing partner Wade McIntyre, so how has that transition been? 

Yes, Wade and I branched out on our own after Season 5, although he and I have still been developing a series together. We have a big sci-fi show that we’re about to pitch, that is awesome. Can’t say more about that right now…

But yeah, I joined New Amsterdam solo, and it has been wonderful and so very different. The 100 is a show about survival and impossible decisions and struggle, and New Amsterdam is about hope and idealism and change. Night and day, both incredible shows. Very different outlooks and structures and energies.

And it has been really fun to be writing in a new vocabulary, a new tone. Keeps you on your toes, as a writer. I strongly recommend it — constantly stray from your comfort zones to find new worlds to explore and watch how your own artistic voice evolves. 

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For The 100 fans still looking for some more nostalgia, TV Fanatic will continue a new ongoing The 100 interview series. "Looking Back on The 100" that centers on monumental cast members and characters from the show that left their mark. 

We recently spoke with Eli Goree about his time on the show during The 100 Season 1 and the legacy he left behind. Then we also spoke with Michael Beach and the journey he had when it came to The 100. 

And we had the chance to take a walk down memory lane with the iconic Christopher Larkin, as he talked about his time playing Monty Green.

Keep checking TV Fanatic for more upcoming interviews with surprise cast members from seasons past. 

The 100 returns on Wednesday, May 20 at 8/7c on The CW.

Share all your thoughts with us in the comments section! Stick around TV Fanatic for more features, slideshows, episode previews, interviews, and reviews of the upcoming season, 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.

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The 100 Quotes

Lexa: My fight is over.
Clarke: No, I won't accept that.
Lexa: You were right, Clarke. Life is about more than just surviving.
Clarke: In peace may you leave the shore. In love may you find the next. Safe passage on your travels until our final journey on the ground... May we meet again.

Don't spit in my face and tell me it's raining.

Nikki