For four seasons on The 100, actress Marie Avgeropoulos has been on an epic character arc as Octavia Blake. Initially a rebellious wild child after hiding for years on the Ark, Octavia has come into her own, evolving into a fierce, independent Grounder warrior who has survived despite an estrangement from her once beloved brother, Bellamy (Bob Morley), and the loss of her true love, Lincoln (Ricky Whittle).
Despite the long months working in Vancouver on the series, the Canadian actress has been sure to use her hiatus time wisely, acting in a variety of other projects including the recently released DVD thriller, Isolation. In it, Avgeropoulos plays an island grifter revealed to be a modern-day pilot, exploiting and terrorizing unwitting tourists along with her equally crazy partner, Max (Dominic Purcell).
Avgeropoulos recently got on the phone with us to talk about her experience playing a sandy-skinned femme fatale in Isolation, and what fans of The 100 can look forward to in the last five episodes of the season.
Let's start with how Isolation and your character, Nina, came to be. Was it a traditional audition?
Actually, I didn't even have to go through the audition process with Nina. Shane Dax Taylor, the director and producer of Isolation, and Dominic Purcell came to me with the project and thought I would be a perfect fit. Nina is a very complicated, sinister character, so I don't know if that's a compliment or not. (Laughs) But it was a very exciting, dark, dangerous character to play.
Nina is a very bad lady. When you play a character like that, do you just run with her impulses or do you need to get inside her head?
Yeah, with Nina, her psychology came from trying to please Dominic's character, Max. Really she's just doing whatever she can in order to please him. When we meet Claudia Church's character, Mary, and he tries to lure her in as well, I think Nina just wants to do that to please Max, too. They think there's something erotic about doing something that is morally incorrect.
Was this shot between the first and second seasons of The 100?
I think so. We filmed this movie a few years ago in Biloxi, Mississippi, of all places, to look like the Bahamas. We literally shot it on a bayou. In between shots, there were alligators cruising by. I even had the opportunity to go fishing on the bayou in between setups with the locals. It was a lot of fun. And after that project, Dominic and I became roommates for a whole summer. We're good friends now.
Back then, Octavia had barely started on her trek toward the warrior she is today. Was Nina sort of a primer for what you would end up playing on The 100?
Nina was more manipulative in terms of how she catches her prey. Nina is a modern-day pirate, where Octavia is about survival and standing up for her people. She's gotten lost along the way with being morally correct, and right and wrong, and how much she's been betrayed by her people and losing the love of her life. There are some correlations, but the two characters are very much different. I feel like Nina looks at you, but the things coming out of her mouth are two different things. You're always wondering what she's got up her sleeves. I was even questioning Nina's sexuality at one point. Is she into women, or men? You're not quite sure.
You do embody playing very strong, assertive women very well. What's the thing that you look for most when pondering playing a new character?
I always find it's important to play characters where I read something on the page, but then it's also important for me to find whatever her backstory is that isn't written on the page. Or if she's supposed to come across as flawless, I want to find what her flaws are because I enjoy playing flawed characters, as I am certainly not perfect by any means. That's what I think is the most interesting thing about people. For instance, if I meet an individual and they come across as 'white picket fence' and everything is fine... it's not. You're just not telling me stuff, and I want to find out what that is. (Laughs) The same is with the characters in Isolation. When you think Max and Nina are this perfect, sexy, in-love couple, but in fact they are evil, modern-day pirates who want to steal your wife, steal your passports, and trick you into thinking it was maybe the neighbors -- that's what makes an interesting story to me.
Shifting over to this season of The 100, Octavia has killed a lot of people this year. She almost got killed herself. Are you happy with how dark she's gone this year?
I'm very happy they've taken Octavia to the place that she is now, because I feel like I'm using the full capacity of my athletic abilities, at least. All of that horseback riding and sword fighting in the stunts is all me. I find that's rare nowadays for women who can do both. So I find her so much of a pleasure to play because there's also a lot of drama and emotions and crazy storylines going on there.
Is there an Octavia-centric episode coming up soon?
The episode that I am the most proud of is on May 3rd called "Die All, Die Merrily," which is a very Octavia-focused episode. It's the one I am most proud of in all four seasons of The 100 history. I can't wait for viewers to see it.
What makes it so special?
I don't want to give too much away but it's the most satisfying for me. I think it's the best all season. It's completely action-packed but there's lots of characters that you may see potentially fall. It's a very The Hunger Games-esque type war that goes on. There's a lot going on in it.
With the season coming to a close with the radiation still a potent threat to all humanity, should we expect a The 100 style cliffhanger?
Well, this season we've been fighting an intangible fight that we cannot win, which is the radiation that is going to destroy the entire Earth. We have to find somewhere to go, whether it's to run back up to space, or find the bunker. But then again, everybody is at war and we need to decide who comes, who stays, and who goes. There is only so much room, of course. We have to find a way to sort that out, because the radiation is going to come whether or not we all have time to organize ourselves and get along to do that. The clock is still going to tick and everybody will die unless we can come together and find a plan.
How are you spending your hiatus break this year?
I just finished shooting a six-part documentary in India for my charity, Food for Life Vrindavan to help girls attend school and avoid child marriage, which is a big threat in India. And I am doing a really exciting movie called Butterfly in the Typewriter and it's based on a book. It's going to be directed by David DuBos, and so far the cast is myself, Susan Sarandon, and Diane Kruger. It's got a huge cast. It's about the author of A Confederacy of Dunces. He becomes mentally ill and only after his death did his book become hugely famous, and his mother is a huge testament to that. I've been a huge Susan Sarandon since I was a child, and I really look up to her. I'm really excited. It's also a period piece, so it's not my typical rough and tough, headstrong warrior character.
Isolation is available now on DVD and The 100 returns April 26 on The CW.