Richard Harmon speaks to Hypable about Murphy’s journey so far in The 100 season 5.
A third of the way through The 100 season 5, most of the main characters have been reunited after their six-year separation.
The only two characters that remain separated from everyone else are Raven (Lindsey Morgan) and Murphy (Richard Harmon), who stayed behind on the Eligius mothership, ready to pull the plug on the 300 sleeping prisoners if Diyoza and her crew aren’t willing to negotiate with Bellamy.
Originally it was just Raven who planned to stay behind, but Murphy decided to stay with her — believing, at the time, that there would be an escape pod — offering to be the one to kill those prisoners if it became necessary.
At Copenhagen Comic-Con 2018, I had the opportunity to speak to Richard Harmon about Murphy’s journey so far this season. This came on the heels of another interview with Harmon done ahead of season 5, where he spoke more generally about his time on the series and his hopes for Murphy in the future.
This episode is specifically focused on Murphy’s arc in episodes 1-4, extrapolating some of the choices the character made, and some of the choices Harmon made as an actor. Enjoy!
Hypable: Have you been watching The 100 season 5?
Richard Harmon: Yes! I’ve seen the first episode many times, and then I just watched the second episode. I’m all caught up.
What did you think about the first few episodes?
Incredible. Episode 2 is the one I was very curious to see, because it had none of our storyline in it. It was such a brave decision by the creative team to do two episodes like that in a row.
The first one was almost all Eliza [Taylor] the whole time, and the second was just the bunker, no other storylines. It was two very brave episodes in a row, and I think they pulled them both off wonderfully.
Which storylines do you find the most interesting this season?
My own! I think the space story is great. But it’s all gonna be very interesting. There are three very different storylines, and when they come together, it’s gonna be pretty explosive.
One thing that happened in the second episode, obviously, was that Jaha died. And I know you’ve talked about Jaha and Murphy being one of your favorite dynamics.
Yeah. I was sad that Isaiah [Washington] was leaving the show. Isaiah became a friend of mine — and we still remain friends, so I’m not losing a friend — but he was one of my favorite scenes partners on the show. I learned so much from him. And Murphy and Jaha was actually one of my favorite relationships, in that complicated, fucked up way that they were.
And to have him go without Murphy saying goodbye… I actually think Murphy not being able to say goodbye is gonna be hard for him. Not that we ever really touch on it, but in my own mind, I think it’s tough for him. Jaha did mean something to Murphy, in a weird way.
In the four episodes we’ve seen so far, what part of Murphy’s story have you found the most challenging or interesting, as a performer?
I mean, it’s all challenging. But the one I had the most fun with was the scene in episode 3 where Murphy, Echo, Raven and Bellamy talk about killing the prisoners, and Murphy says that they should just float everyone and just go down to Earth.
And they would solve everything that way. But as they explain to me, they don’t wanna do things that way anymore — they don’t wanna be the killers that would do that. And that’s when I say that line, ‘What the hell, let’s be good guys.’ I think that was one of my favorite scenes of the whole season.
That was a great scene. And great for Murphy, too. Even though they didn’t end up agreeing with him, Bellamy did make a point to listen to his suggestion.
And that meant a lot to Murphy. Bellamy specifically taking a moment to go, ‘Stop, I wanna know what Murphy thinks about this,’ was his way of bringing Murphy back into the group a little bit. Like, ‘You’re a part of us, your opinion should matter, what do you think about this?’
And then Murphy chose to stay behind with Raven! That felt like a huge, character-defining moment for him.
Yeah. I like that moment a lot. Him trying to be useful in any way he can, and kind of trying to gain back some trust. Murphy understands that, if they’re gonna make this happen, everyone’s gonna need to be all hands on deck.
So his thinking behind making that decision is: ‘What am I actually contributing, in terms of going back down to the ground? Not a lot. Can I help Raven in any way? Yes. I probably can. And she shouldn’t be here by herself.’
Everyone else needed to be in the rocket: Emori needed to be there to pilot it, Echo needed to be there for fighting purposes, Bellamy needed to lead… but Murphy isn’t needed. So he could stay behind, and win the hand.
There was one particular line that he has, that I thought was really interesting: ‘I thought I was doing it to impress Emori, but why do you always have to be the one to sacrifice?’ What does that mean? What did you layer into that?
That was a tough one. I don’t think he was doing it for Emori. I understand why Murphy would say that, but I always saw it as something different. I think it was always for Raven. Not that he didn’t do it for Emori, too, but it didn’t have to be for Emori. It was okay that this was a decision he made for Raven the whole time.
I think Murphy has gained a lot of respect for Raven. And he understands what staying behind, and offering to be the one to pull the lever, means for her. This was such a major moment for him, because he finally sees that this is the one thing he can do.
Once you kill people like that, once you kill in cold blood — which he has already done — you are no longer the same. He already has that on his soul, he’s had that for a long time, and he doesn’t want that for Raven. He knows the difference.
So essentially, him offering to pull the lever here, and kill all those people in cold blood, was his way of saying: ‘I’m not good at a lot, I can’t offer a lot to the group, but I can save you from this fate. That’s the one thing I can offer here. And I can do it for the right reasons.’
It almost feels like this is one of the first purely selfless things Murphy has ever done.
Yeah. He can spare her from that fate that he has already gone though — that a lot of people on the show have already gone through. He can do it. It’s the one thing he’s certain of. Being a monster right now is something they need, and it’s something he has to give.
Would he have gone through with it if they hadn’t had to change the plan?
Yes. God yes. I have no problem saying that. We just couldn’t kill them, because then there would have been no plot!
Also in that episode, that soccer scene you and Lindsey [Morgan] did–
Fun! That scene was purely fun, just me and Lindsey joking around. Which never happens! The amount of times I missed the area where I had to kick the ball in was astronomical.
I love that this season makes room for that. I feel like there are so many little moments for the characters to just have fun, just be human.
Moments for the characters to expand themselves, yeah. Which was great to play, and I think it’s a very important thing to have. The show is so action-packed, but we need to have more scenes like that. Just them being people. Those are important scenes for the audience, too.
So now that the season has started, we can stop may-or-may-not-ing the Memori breakup…
Yeah. We’re broken up. It didn’t work out!
When I spoke to Luisa [d’Oliveira] about that, she said it caught her a little bit off guard, because it was such a huge development. And you had to talk it through a lot, to figure it out. What was that process like? How much did you have to work out yourselves versus how much the writers gave you to work with?
We weren’t given a lot. I think me and Luisa created most of it. Later in the season, you do find out a little bit more about why we broke up, and that actually ended up being similar to what me and Luisa had created.
But the great thing about that is that it gave me and Luisa even more reason to talk things through, which is exactly how we’ve always done scenes together. Everyone works together differently, but the way me and Luisa work together is that we talk it out, a lot.
We don’t talk about the choices we’ll make in our scenes, because we want that to play off naturally. But we’ll speak as our characters. We’ll talk about what we’re going through, what’s happening between us, and it allows us to understand each other a lot better, and respect each other’s process.
So the breakup was kind of great for us, in the sense that we got to work through it. We would just have conversations, sitting on the steps of our trailers, just talking to each other, getting into these serious conversations with each other. Like we were the actual people, and were just talking it out. It was awesome.
And we learned so much about each other, not even as our characters, but as humans. Luisa knows so much about my personal life. She knows a lot of secrets about me! Which is good, I trust her with them. She’s a one-of-a-kind, truly. Luisa is a gem of a human being and an unbelievably professional, adept, incredible actor. She really is. She’s so good.
When we spoke in London, you said that Emori represents hope for Murphy. Is that still the case in season 5?
No. It’s the opposite. She now represents the void of hope in his life. She was the one hope, and now she represents the absence of hope for him. It’s hard to be around her.
The Clarke, Murphy and Raven reunion over the radio was amazing.
Oh, was it? Good. We had no idea. E.J. wasn’t even there!
It turned out really well! What went through Murphy’s head in that scene, when he realized Clarke was alive?
Well, I don’t think he’d missed her. I don’t think he missed anyone, really. I don’t think her death weighed all that heavily on him. I’m sure he was sad… but not really. I don’t think the sadness of her death affected him too much, but I do believe he had a respect for what she did for him. He really understood the weight of it.
So to hear her alive is to hear this person that he respects. It’s not that he is happy that she’s alive, it’s more just, ‘goddamn. I like it. Good for you.’ It’s a respect. It’s a return of respect.
And you gotta respect the player. Murphy is better than anyone at that game, at survival, and he’s like, ‘you just might have got me beat. You did good.’ So I think it was a happy moment for him, which is rare for Murphy. Especially this season.
I know people on the show always say that Murphy is so defined by his survival instinct. Do you think anything could break his will to survive?
I think Emori had the capability of doing that. In fact, I think he broke his survival instinct many times to save her. Not that she’s like a damsel in distress or anything; she is not, she is incredibly capable.
But in order to protect the woman he loves, I think he broke his survival instinct on many occasions. I think he breaks his survival instinct all the time, to be honest! Like when he’s angry, he does stupid things. In the face of danger, he doesn’t care.
Everyone, Jason Rothenberg and myself included, talk about his survival instinct being a defining thing about him… and I think his survival skill is incredible, but his survival instinct is actually horrible.
Because, in my mind, he doesn’t fear death. Really. He’s stared it in the face so many times, and I’ve made a really conscious choice that, if he’s had a knife at his throat or whatever, I never show fear with him.
If you look back, every time he’s had a knife at his throat, he’s smiling. Every time. ‘Cause it’s a challenge for the person holding the knife: ‘I fucking dare you. Do it.’
He has so much belief that he won’t die. ‘Just try it. Nothing’s gonna happen. You’re not gonna kill me.’ His survival ability is second to none, but his instinct, I think, is a lot worse than we give him credit for.
I mean, so far that has been a good strategy for him.
Yeah. He comes in, and bullets just keep missing him.
I know you’ve been talking about wanting to dig into that poison inside of Murphy, kind of taking him back to season 1…
If the show ever did that, do you think there would be any coming back from it, for Murphy? Do you think there would come a point when Murphy was just gone — when he would just be like McCreary forever?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. If you spill that vial of poison completely, I think there would be no coming back from that. I think that would be a lethal dose.
What would be that tipping point for him?
We haven’t seen it yet. There may come a point in this series that we do. I don’t know if we ever will, but there absolutely could be a point where that vial inside of him tips over completely, and there will be no bringing him back from that. I’d be interested in seeing that.
But if you do that, you gotta kill him. You gotta kill him, or he’ll take out everybody. I honestly believe that he has the ability to do that. He’s not the best fighter, but I think he has the ability to take out everyone.
Because of the lack of morality he has when that vial of poison tips, he is capable of anything. You can manipulate people with good morals so easily because of their rules, and I think he knows that. As we’ve all been manipulated in life.
And Murphy has this poison tongue — that is his true gift. Some people have a silver tongue and can use it to get anything they want, but Murphy just causes shit whenever he opens his mouth. That’s a skill that I’m proud of, too. And that comes up later this season, which is great.
Eventually, when The 100 ends — or when Murphy’s story ends — when you look back at your time on the show, what do you think you will have taken away from it? What has the show given you?
Family. A belief that I can do this. There are really no words to describe everything this show has done for me, but I’ll always be very grateful. I’m already very grateful. For all the ups and downs, I’ll look back at this as something really special. It represents an opportunity that I’ve never taken for granted.
Thank you to Richard Harmon for his incredibly insightful answers. And thank you to Copenhagen Comic-Con for facilitating this interview!