A nuclear holocaust isn’t exactly a new place to begin a science fiction story, but it’s what follows that makes The CW’s The 100 a unique concept.
Rather than clinging to survival in a nuclear wasteland, the final remnants of humanity flee to a space station, cobbled together from leftover satellites. But surviving in space isn’t easy, either, and dwindling supplies and energy leads to draconian politics — ruthlessly enforced population control, including a single punishment for all major crimes: the death penalty. That is, unless you’re a minor, in which your death sentence is delayed until you’re 18. Meting out that “justice” is none other than Henry Ian Cusick, who met with journalists at Comic-Con International to discuss his new drama.
Cusick, a genre favorite for his portrayal of Desmond on Lost, once again finds himself trapped, only this time in space, as the last 4,000 humans struggle to maintain the species. But their space station is failing, and humanity is running out of time, so they decide to suspend the death sentence for 100 incarcerated juveniles, and instead exile them to the Earth’s surface, to be used as guinea pigs to determine whether the planet has recovered sufficiently to sustain human life.
Dressed casually in a plaid shirt and jeans, the actor met with reporters at Comic-Con International, joking that one of them looked so young he thought it was Take Your Daughter to Work Day.
Cusick plays Councilman Kane, who while second in command to Chancellor Jaha (played by Isaiah Washington of Grey’s Anatomy) possesses a much more cold-hearted philosophy about the inhabitants of the satellite, called the Ark. Asked whether Kane’s name gives away the character’s antagonistic nature, the actor immediately pushed back, saying, “Why is that a giveaway?” The reporter pointed to the biblical story of Cain and Abel, only for Cusick to clarify the character’s name is “K-A-N-E.”
“I don’t think he’s a villain,” he said. “I think he’s someone who is doing his best to save the human race from extinction. The way he goes about it is a bit more severe, a bit more draconian, perhaps. He’s a moral character. I think if he had done something wrong, he’d feel it, you know what I mean?”
Cusick said he was interested in the moral quandary of choosing between life and death, potentially to save humanity. “For me, what drew me in was the dilemma, the idea that I could be part of a race that’s extinct, and have to think about that. … How awful that would be to let that happen, to let your race die? And the pressure that would be, I think it’s a very interesting dilemma … It’s fun, it’s a fun show that I hope that like all good sci-fi should do is ask interesting questions.”
Indeed, he began to embrace his character’s philosophy – if not in whole, certainly to show it had merit. “You gotta have big balls to make those decisions, to make those cuts, to cull,” Cusick said. “Not everyone would do that. And I’d like to see that explored more [throughout the series], you know, so hopefully people would go, ‘You know, yeah, I understand why he’s doing that, I agree with him to a certain degree.’ I think it depends how right-wing or left-wing you are, so that’s why I mean it would be an interesting question about ‘what would you do to save the populace. ”
Asked whether, given his experience on Lost, he prepared the young actors of The 100 for the media frenzy that may lie ahead, he said, “No, I think we all have our own journeys. Even though they are playing 18, they’re 25, 26, so I’m sure they can figure it out.”
As it’s Cusick’s second high-profile sci-fi series in a short amount of time, does he approach the genre any differently than his more traditional roles? “No, see, I prepared as if for any role,” he replied. “I explore any role, so I just Googled the effects of space. You do any sort of preparation. If you go to the Internet, you can find so much information, and that just leads from one thing to the other. There’s a lot of cool stuff about the effects of space, about um, astronauts, so I’d just do that type of preparation. That’s what I’d do with any role … ultimately it’s just about relationships, what is your objective, what is their objective.”
The 100 premieres at midseason on The CW.