The legacy of The 100 exists because of the writing that defined it.
With writers like Charmaine DeGraté involved, it is no wonder that the characters and specific episodes have left such a lasting mark on the audience.
Charmaine is not only the name inspiration for the badass Charmaine Diyoza, but she has also proved time and time again how impactful her episodes are within the greater context of The 100.
Her character-driven and relationship-focused episodes always take the season one step further than it was before also manage to dig more into the characters that we know and love, even if it isn't always the way fans may want. It hurts, but it means something no matter what.
One of Charmaine's episodes' most significant connections has to be the Bellamy Blake and Octavia Blake family bond. It is a different example of epic knowing that many turning points in their sibling relationship can be attributed to Charmaine's memorable craft.
Beyond that, though, Charmaine has really left behind the memory of just feeling so much when it comes to a story that the show is telling that season.
Taking some time out to answer our questions, Charmaine DeGraté looked back at her game-changing episodes, the progression she had with the show, and the lessons she learned as a writer along the way.
Charmaine also shared some insight on Charmaine Diyoza and the magic of having such a character named after her.
What was it like spending four seasons on a show, especially a show like The 100?
It was magic. It was such a beautiful experience from beginning to end. It was such a special grouping of people across the board from cast and crew to writers, execs, our studio, and to our network. And to our fans. It was just one of those really special experiences.
I'm a little spoiled. It happened at the beginning of my career. I've since gone on to do other shows, all of which have been wonderful experiences where I’ve formed friendships that will last for the rest of my life, but there was something super special about our little band of misfits.
The further away I get from it, the more I realize how special it was. I'm a lucky girl.
What was your favorite part writing for The 100? And what were some of the more challenging aspects that came with The 100 as well?
Challenging was weather and mountain tops. So much of our DNA of the visual language of our show is exterior and forest shots and the like. So for me, the further we got into the season, and the more brutal the winters got, the harder it got on our cast and our crew. Our crew is so hardworking, as is our cast.
I was lucky early on. It was my first script. Jason sent me to set in Vancouver, which is just an unusual experience for a staff writer to have, let alone to be able to produce their own script and to travel to another country to do that.
That was such a beautiful gift for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, it was because it was on the ground in real-time. You saw how every decision you made on the page translated when it got up and on its feet.
I remember during The 100 Season 3 Episode 10, loving this stunt I had written when Jasper has the rover, and he is rescuing Raven. This was right after that ALIE had tortured her, and he was heading out of Arkadia with ALIE and Abby following him. I think Jaha was there.
They're chasing after him, and he blows through a gate, and he gets on the other side, and he obviously sees Clarke who jumps in the back.
When he was blowing through the gate, I remember writing that and just thinking, “Oh my God, this is so awesome. It is fantastic. And it's entirely necessary.”
And then by the fifth set up at four o'clock in the morning with a torrential downpour, I realized that it was cool, but is it worth the cast and crew being up at four o'clock in the morning on a mountain top in torrential downpour to get this done? Probably not.
We probably could have done something super different. It had pyrotechnics because the gate exploded, so we had these awesome stunt coordinators, and I was like, “Oh.”
So for me, that was the moment I became a producer. That was so essential to have as a staff writer.
That knowledge is: just because it sounds super cool on the page, when it gets up on its feet, is it worth it? Sometimes the answer is yes, and then you go ahead, and you do it.
Then sometimes you're like, “You know what, it's November on a mountain top in Canada, do we need to do this?” So that was my first lesson in the perils of Canadian winters and having your producer hat on at all times when you write.
You wrote one episode with Javier Grillo-Marxuach, but you wrote your other scripts by yourself. What was the difference when you approached writing a script with a partner versus by yourself?
Javier Grillo-Marxuach is a legend in the sci-fi world, so I wouldn't say we were partners.
It was such just a gift to be able to write my first television script with Javi. He is a wonderful human and mentor. He basically oversaw the project and guided me. He was very generous and brilliant.
He is everything everyone says he is. I have been locked in a room with him for a year. I've worked on a script with him. He's that amazing, wonderful, kind, generous soul.
What was one of your favorite scenes to write, and one of your favorite scenes of yours to see filmed?
There were so many! I have the biggest smile on my face. They’re all coming back, and they're all favorites for different reasons.
One that stood out was in the “Fallen” script when Lindsey was doing those pull-ups on that bar when ALIE was trying to get in her head.
She’s trying to keep her out, and she's reciting Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, which my grandfather's favorite poem. That was cool to slip that in there. That was a great scene, and there are so many.
And the teaser, when Octavia comes in, right after Lincoln's been shot, and she just beats the hell out of Bellamy.
That scene was just beautiful. And Bob Morley's performance was spectacular.
I remember being in video village, looking at that on the little monitors and seeing Marie with the fury and the pain in her eyes, and seeing Bob and him saying, “No, let her do it,” and sort of pushing everyone away who was trying to intervene and him wanting her to get it out. That was beautiful.
Dean White is magic. I was lucky enough to shoot, I think, four episodes with Dean.
One of my favorites was in season five when we were down in the bunker before they opened the door. We call it the Thunderdome situation down there.
We had the woman who was singing beautifully operatic, and was in the previous season, I think. She was singing, and then Octavia is being raised through the bunker ceiling as Gaia is leading Wonkru in song.
All of Wonkru had taken a knee, and that was during the Colin Kaepernick protests. That was in real-time and when it was very, very controversial.
Dean White came over, and they were blocking it. Dean came over to me, and we had been talking about it on the car ride up. He had it blocked out, but we'd also been talking about Colin Kaepernick and all of the protests that were happening.
We were very much of the same mind about that civil discourse.
He comes over, and he asks, “What if they take a knee?” And I was like, “What?” They’re in the rotunda at this point. And he continues, “What if that's something we can slide in there, you know?” And then he says how he wants to do this three-sixty shot, and we'll go up and up and up.
And I said, “People are gonna think that we're trying to pay homage to Colin Kaepernick.” And he goes, “Fuck, yeah. Let’s do it!” So, if you watch that, all of Wonkru was down on one knee, and that was out of respect for what Colin Kaepernick was doing at that time.
That's beautiful. I don't think the fans even knew that before.
Yeah, people now are always sort of romanticizing it and remembering it as when people were so peaceful with just taking a knee, but at the time, people were not happy and very grumpy about it. So, it was us slipping it in there.
But I have a couple of those with Dean because we partnered on a lot of stuff. It was so great to work with him, but that was a super special moment. That was our moment, particularly because it was in 2016 and during the general election.
So, seeing them all down on one knee, out of respect for Colin Kaepernick and everything that he was protesting, was particularly powerful because he was protesting police brutality.
It made sense because we were mired in this world were Octavia became an authoritarian dictator.
They were forced, for the most minor offenses, to fight in this rotunda, and to fight to the death. She wouldn't let people out of the rotunda unless one of them ended up dead.
So, it just felt like it mirrored what was going on in our world, which is obviously very intentional, but we felt like that would be a nice added story point.
Jumping off of that, which character did you enjoy writing for the most?
I hate when people ask that. I know everyone's favorite, and we all took the blood oath.
The truth is, and this isn't my way of dodging the question, but it changes from season to season and from storyline to storyline.
Octavia had such an interesting trajectory as a character. I love the Blakes just because they're all emotion. We saw in season three how that got Bellamy into trouble, and we saw season five when Octavia turned into an absolute monster.
The beautiful thing about that is a show whose theme and sort of north star, thematic dramatic spine, is: what is it to survive?
It's beautiful to see characters that did lead by emotion, and that kept that humanity alive.
So often, some of the heroes were brilliant strategists, who had to make really hard calls and had to numb their emotional attachment to things to get a job done. So, when you're doing that, I think it's always nice to have those characters that aren’t able to squash down their emotions.
But I have a lot. Who doesn't love Lola? Who doesn't love Madi? She's so great. Raven is fantastic. I don't have a favorite.
And well, obviously Diyoza because she was named after me.
The 100 introduced Charmaine Diyoza in season five. You haven't seen her full journey on the show, but from the time you did get to be involved, what was it like seeing such a badass character on the show with your name?
That was a funny story. If you look back over the seasons, you'll see a lot of back and forth between Jason and I because he conveniently likes to forget that he's the one that named her.
I helped a lot with casting for the seasons I was on the show, and in doing so, we had to put together descriptions, so we knew we wanted to bring this character on.
Jason and I talked about her a little bit, and then we talked about it in the room.
One Friday he asked us, “Can you take the weekend and just like write a bio of the person, you guys were like talking about in the room and make her the most badass woman that you've never seen on television.”
I thought that I love Navy SEALs. I've always loved Navy SEALs. I am just fascinated by the regimen, the commitment, and the skill level -- mentally and physically. So, of course, they made her a Navy SEAL.
And again, because of what we were going through in the real world with authoritarianism, like the rise of Trump and a shockingly large number of people jumping on that bandwagon, I just thought, “Well, what if we combine those two people?”
And we made her an ex-Navy SEAL and then we made her a terrorist, but a terrorist in the world that looks more what it looks like now. Now think a terrorist where a dictator and authoritarian government has come into power.
So, that's why some people applaud her, and some people think she's a hero. And then other people think that she's a terrorist or maybe started off with the right reasons, but took it a little bit too far. And that's how she ended up in jail.
And so, Jason liked it. He, of course, made it, and he elevated it and put layer upon layer upon layer, and three dimensionalized it. I gave it to him, and I think it was Monday, we came out with a script.
It was the first script she was in, and her name was Charmaine! We had always called her Diyoza, and they had never given her her first name, so he did that. So that was very sweet, very kind.
Your first-ever episode for The 100 was The 100 Season 3 Episode 10, titled “Fallen,” and you mentioned it a little bit.
How did you approach writing an episode that was so high intensity and tore at the relationships on the show such as Bellamy/Octavia and Abby/Raven?
That was a great episode, and I'm not saying that because my name was on it. We all break the episodes together, and then the writer goes off and writes them. Then Jason makes it sing and does his pass. It's all a team sport.
It’s funny because I wasn't thinking about it that way. When I was shooting it as a first-year writer, I was just trying to survive.
I think I came into a show that was beautifully layered with complicated characters that lived in the gray that, as a fan, I watched and loved. To be able to be that writer that wrote that episode where you broke some of these like sacred relationships?
Like it was always the Blakes. My sister, my responsibility. Then they had to break. Raven was definitely the surrogate daughter for Abby, and they had that break. And up until that point was a slow burn because we didn't realize that ALIE was the big bad of the season.
And until that episode, you could think, “Oh, well, this is kind of harmless. It’s a little pill that makes pain go away.” And then we were like, “Oh, we were looking at Pike. We should have been looking at this one the whole time.”
In terms of storytelling, that was fun to have that episode be the pivot of it. Now that I think about it in that way, that was an ambitious script.
If we jump to season four, you wrote The 100 Season 4 Episode 6, “We Will Rise.” How did you go about writing this episode that had so many new dynamics? There was Ilian and Octavia, and then there was Roan, Clarke, and Bellamy, and then Luna, Murphy, and Raven. All these new pairings spent time together.
That’s right. This is fun. That was another one directed by Dean White. Luna's chant came from a Buddhist chant: Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō. It is meditative. The interesting thing about that is we had to translate it from Sanskrit to English back to the language Luna spoke.
It was this interesting circular translation. I wrote that in there, and it was really beautiful. It was a chant that I had been introduced to when I was studying Buddhism, so that was fun to be able to put that in there. That was another wild ride because we were shooting in the lab.
And then the Roan/Bellamy/Clarke team-up. That was a fantastic action sequence, right?
We had a couple of action sequences. We had the fight sequence with Roan on the back of the flatbed truck, which was so much fun to shoot. I think in terms of scope and action, that was the most we'd ever done.
We had, obviously up until that season, never had vehicles. That was the year we introduced the rover.
I jokingly call it the fast and the furious episode because we were doing visually innovative things that the show had never done before in terms of action. So all of that was super fun. And then, at the heart of it, they were trying to get to the Island.
“We Will Rise” is a little shout out to the Michelle Obama initiative. But it was very much appropriate for the show too.
Then there was The 100 Season 5 Episode 4, “Pandora’s Box”, was such a fan-favorite episode. How challenging was it to return to these characters and locations after there was a six-year time jump, and did that affect how you approached writing each character?
Pandora's Box is my favorite of my episodes. It was just such a behemoth in terms of storytelling and in shooting it.
You had that six-year time jump where so much had happened. It was intentional that we didn't want to have a sort of nineties flashback, like the wave on the television screen. We wanted to piece it out. We didn't want to reveal everything at once.
Octavia, as I said, was one of my favorite characters. She was a fan-favorite. So, it was a delicate dance between taking a fan-favorite and turning her into the authoritarian dictator, being mindful of the real world we were living in, glorifying that, and really using it as a story point.
So, that was a delicate balance, but it was also the reunion episode. That's how we always referred to it in the room because Bellamy and Clarke come back together after six years. They were beautiful, and that was such a great scene to shoot.
It was probably my favorite Abby and Paige [Turco] performance. She just killed it, and she did those scenes with Kane. We shot it maybe once, maybe twice, but she nailed it and knocked it out of the park. It was such a great episode for Kane.
That was a beautiful episode for Gaia. It was so soulful.
That's kind of how I always refer to it -- as a soulful episode. I think that everyone came together. It was magic, coming back in, seeing Bellamy face-off with Diyoza like that.
We were introducing new sets, and I think it was our first time in the church and seeing the world that Diyoza had created from the ground. I think it was the first time we were humanizing them, and you saw a rift between the prisoners.
That was my favorite. And Dean White shot the hell out of that. That was great.
During season six, you first wrote The 100 Season 6 Episode 4, “The Face Behind the Glass,” and it was a very chilling episode because it lulled us into this false sense of security. There was the party, and then suddenly, Russell implanted his daughter into Clarke, and it looked like we had lost our favorite lead. What was it like for you to take on such a game-changing episode?
Well, now I’m going to say that it was my favorite. That was fun. But I think “Pandora’s Box” was my favorite.
“The Face Behind the Glass” was wonderful because Jason has such a brilliant way of reinventing the show every season while maintaining the DNA of the show. That is a tricky balance to find, and he does that very well.
I think especially with The 100 Season 6 because you don't realize, but it's a completely different kind of season, and until that episode, you don’t really know.
If we did it right, you didn't realize it because the intention was to let everyone have their guard down and think that we’ll probably be the problem because we're always the problem. We were the proud problem for the grounders.
Wherever we go, we're the invading force.
But this time, it was really interesting because it seems like we've come across this utopia. But things aren't what they appear.
I think for me, it was incredibly challenging to have the audience and the fans believe that Clarke is dead, but still not think that we've killed our lead in the fourth episode, and having that slow burn pay off.
We had never done anything like that before, having three episodes where we were laying the pipe. It really was episode four when you realize what kind of season you were in for, how crazy everything was going to get, and what a new world and new kind of storytelling it would be for the show.
I loved it, but it was also heartbreaking, seeing the rest between Bellamy and Octavia and seeing his pain around that. Every bill comes due too.
Clarke had to answer for what she did in season five. It was really about making amends.
That whole episode was about making amends for our characters. You did pass this number dead, and you're not going to get away from it. You have to answer for your sins.
One of my absolute personal favorite episodes of yours was The 100 Season 6 Episode 11, “Ashes to Ashes,” and it picks up right after that epic Bellamy and Clarke moment in the previous episode where she comes back to life. It kicked everything into high gear.
What can you share about taking on that episode?
That was a jewel of an episode. It was a jewel. It was wonderful working with Bob. He was such a pro.
One of my favorite scenes to shoot was in “Ashes to Ashes,” and it was beautiful. I think it was one of the most beautiful scenes we've ever shot on the show to this day. It was the chess scene with Sheidheda and Madi.
We were running out of time, really running out of time. We didn't even know if we would have time to shoot it. There was talk that we wouldn't be able to shoot it.
Bob and I just decided to go for it with the understanding that we had one, maybe two takes before someone finally was going to pull the plug, and we had to move on. We would have just picked it up on another episode.
I just looked at Bob and said, “Run and gun.” And he repeated back, “Run and gun.”
That is one of the best scenes, and one of my personal favorite scenes I've ever seen. It was visually beautiful. It was lit beautifully, and it was powerfully directed and acted. That was one of those things you shoot, and then once it's done, you don't realize you've let your breath go.
You had been holding your breath for like thirty minutes, and you burst out laughing. Because how the hell did that happen?
That was never supposed to have to come off so beautifully. So, that was fun, but that was a really special episode.
This may be a coincidence or not, but a few of your episodes have been huge in terms of Bellamy and Octavia’s relationship, from the episode where Octavia beats Bellamy after Lincoln dies to the one where Bellamy says he just can't be responsible for Octavia anymore beyond being her brother.
What was like for you to approach this chaotic sibling dynamic, especially pivotal points in their bond?
I go back to the question of who's my favorite, and it changes every season, but I keep going back to the Blakes. It feels like they're the emotional heartbeat of the show. Clarke and Abby for sure are, but the Blakes have so much heart.
That’s what I loved most about them. Because they were the only siblings in the history of the Ark and our world, it made them unique and their journey special.
So, it's such a specific dynamic to be able to play with, and those were the only two that we can play with like that, where they are blood.
So, you do have a little bit of leeway in the sense that they'll always be bonded no matter what. They can say awful things to each other, and they can do awful things. But at the end of the day, they are blood, so they're going to find their way back to each other.
That’s probably why there's always a poignant Octavia and Bellamy story point in the scripts that I've done.
I just love playing with that dynamic and then, Marie and Bob are so brilliant, and it's such a joy to watch them work together.
That scene when they're in the cave, when we shot that episode in season six, there wasn't a dry eye.
You also have to understand Bob was also directing that scene. So for him to stay present like that, and then we also painted the walls and had these luminescent mushrooms and flora that went out every fifteen minutes.
We had to stop and light it, and then we had to charge it for thirty minutes. So, we fifteen to twenty minutes to shoot everything.
So for it to come out so elegantly was definitely getting kissed by the gods.
We got into some luck there, but those performances -- literally the crew and the cast that was sitting around -- everyone was in tears during that whole scene.
Each season of The 100 challenges itself with a very different story. And oftentimes, it's a very different environment to tell that story in. What was it like, for you as a writer, to evolve with the show season to season?
It's great. I can't say enough wonderful things about Jason Rothenberg in terms of being a leader creatively and leading us through that. It’s always his vision.
We were there to support him and to help him, but just to have the creative balls and fearless creative energy he has that he just swings for the fences. It’s a wonderful thing to be around as he’s so supportive of us and also encourages us to swing for the fences as well.
We love the DNA of the show because of the clear vision he has. We are all in turn very clear on what the DNA and the spine of the show is.
So, everything that we create, even if it's new, it's still attached to that. That's still our foundation.
He's created such a strong foundation for us with such creative clarity that it allows us to play a little bit. That creative freedom has birthed a lot of this energy that allowed us to go into new worlds and new environments.
He’ll come in some days, and his whole thing is like freeform jazz. He’ll level off a couple of things, and I think is that what lives in your head? That is wild.
Like, what are you talking about? We have two suns, and we're going to a planet? And they’re the same people that have been there, but they’ve colonized, but they're forty? I don't understand.
It’s a fun ride that he took me on. It’s a magic carpet ride with Jason all the time.
You’re no longer on The 100, but what would be your vision of the perfect ending for the characters in the show?
Do you believe, as someone who helped create the journey for everyone for so long, they can do better in the end?
I can't say anything. These are some of my closest friends.
Obviously, we talk about the show. I know where it's going. I've asked specifically not for any details, but in terms of philosophically where it ends. I have an idea. I can tell you I hope that we can always do better. Right? And I feel like the second human beings can't do better what's the point?
What did you learn from your time on The 100?
I learned creative boldness. How to be bold creatively, how to trust your gut, and how to always go back to character. It gave me mentors, it gave me friends, it gave me creative partners. At the end of the day, it’s a bold show. It's bold, and it's special.
I also want to mention how hugely supportive Jason Rothenberg, Dean White, and Javi have been of my career after I left the show.
Since The 100, you have moved on to other projects. What can you share about your current or future projects?
I've done a couple of things. I did a project for Netflix, Chambers with Uma Thurman and Tony Goldwyn. That was wonderful. It was the first Native American lead.
That was another thing that I would say about The 100.
We were always so mindful of representation and making sure our world looked like the world that we went out and inhabited every day. That was something that I didn't even know I had a lot in life.
So that's something that when I went and started looking at other projects that was hugely important to me: having representation and making sure that I was working with creatives who felt the same way about the importance of representation and inclusivity, as well as having whatever world that we were inhabiting creatively reflect the world that we lived in.
So Chambers had the first female Native American to lead of any show on television.
Then after that, I did Daisy Jones, which is fantastic. It was a totally different departure. It’s based on a book. It's an adaptation set in the 1970s about a Rocky mentoree.
That was super fun, and I worked with some great people. And then, the Game of Thrones spinoff. So, that was wonderful.
For The 100 fans still looking for some more nostalgia, TV Fanatic has a special new ongoing The 100 interview series. "Looking Back on The 100" that centers on monumental cast members and characters from the show that left behind a legacy.
We then had the chance to take a walk down memory lane with the iconic Christopher Larkin, as he talked about his time playing Monty Green. And we got to hear Aaron Ginsburg's insight on his most iconic episodes and his writing journey on The 100.
Chai Hansen also looked back at the show with us when it came to his time on it as Ilian.
Keep checking TV Fanatic for more upcoming interviews with surprise cast members from seasons past.
The 100 airs on Wednesdays 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 was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in April 2021.