9:00 am EDT, April 26, 2018

‘The 100’s’ Luisa d’Oliveira talks Emori’s ‘beautiful journey’ and the future of Memori

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The 100 actress Luisa d’Oliveira talks Emori’s season 5 journey, the future of Memori, and the power of evocative stories.

After a year of waiting, The 100 season 5 is finally here. Of course, for the characters on the series, six years have passed since we last saw them — and as evidenced by Tuesday’s premiere episode, a lot has changed.

Related: Choices, wolves and venom: Richard Harmon previews Murphy’s journey in The 100 season 5

One of the characters who appears to have changed for the better is Emori, who after half a dozen years locked in space with only six other people has found the family and community she has always craved.

Of course it’s not all uncomplicated joy for her, as she and John Murphy are sadly no longer together.

Hypable caught up with actress Luisa d’Oliveira to talk about Emori’s journey so far, what might happen down the line, and why she herself is such a big fan of The 100. Enjoy!

Hypable: So, season 5! Are you excited?

Luisa d’Oliveira: Yes, I’m very excited! I love this show. I was actually just reading your article on Hypable, previewing season 5.

Were you really? Then you know that Emori is one of my favorites this season!

That makes me so happy! The 100 is such an incredible show in the sense of how many characters there are — there’s so much room for interesting developments — but that also means there’s always a little less time to tell everyone’s story. So it’s cool for me to hear that you’re really jiving with what’s going on with her.

Oh absolutely, I love Emori. I loved her arc in season 4 as well. And it was such a pleasant surprise, because as you say, there are so many characters on the show, and we never really know how much we’re gonna get with each of them. But she really went through a big evolution last year.

Yeah, it was fantastic. She went so hard down the path of protecting herself, not trusting anyone, and doing everything she felt like she had to do to save herself from Skaikru and Clarke. And then she saw that, after it was all said and done, Clarke couldn’t follow through with testing her. She would rather put herself on the chopping block. That was a big turning point for Emori.

I don’t think she’s ever seen someone sacrifice themselves for her before, and it took a bit of time for that to settle in for her, but it was a big deal. She’s seen John Murphy constantly care for her and love her, and she would do anything for him, but it was different to see someone who she felt she was unconnected to do something like that.

What do you think that did for Emori — to realize that someone like Clarke didn’t see Emori’s life as more expendable than her own?

I think the first thing she realized was that there was something there — in Clarke and in John Murphy’s people — that maybe she had misunderstood. And that then set the stage for a change in her outlook on them, and on life.

Technology is something that Emori has been scrounging forever as a way to survive, but she never fully understood how to use it; she just understood that this technology was incredible, and capable, and dangerous. And here come John Murphy’s people — especially Raven, who understands it on such a deep level — and Emori’s mind is constantly being blown by their capabilities with technology.

So she’s always had a very deep respect for Skaikru, coupled with a fear of them, even though she might never admit that. But season 4 opened her mind up to the possibility that maybe there’s a different morality in them that she hasn’t experienced before.

And it seemed like maybe she also began to realize that this is a people that would in theory be willing to take her in. Because Skaikru must be the first people she’s met that haven’t immediately shunned her for being a Frikdreina.

Yeah, and when they did judge her, they were judging her on her behavior. They were judging her because she was willing to sacrifice someone else, not because of her mutation. And that took a while for her to realize. It took a while for her to let go of expecting them to judge her for that.

As you see in the first episode of season 5 and onwards, she doesn’t wear her glove in space, because over the six years, she’s obviously gotten to a place where it’s not an issue. We don’t see that change happen, but you know it did, because she’s not concerned about it anymore. Which is wonderful. It’s such a beautiful thing for her to have let go of that, because they could care less, just like John. They don’t even see it.

I love that. And I guess in that way… I don’t know if it’s quite right to call SpaceKru an ‘extension’ of Murphy, for Emori, but it’s nice that there are more people than just him now that she can now open up to on the same level.

They are absolutely an extension of John Murphy. All of her opinions of them before going up in space were based on John’s opinions of them. The complicated relationship he has with Bellamy, this undercurrent of respect, means that Emori would have an undercurrent of respect for Bellamy as well. And the same kind of complicated relationship he has with Clarke, she has with Clarke. And the rest of them.

She’s always had a deep interest and focus on them, but her fear was always overriding it. And now, after those events in the lab, now that the foundation for that fear to slowly be done away with, what’s left is a natural desire to get to know them, and accept them into her circle of trust.

To me, that’s one of the most interesting things about Emori: she puts on this front of someone who trusts no one one; she’s a fighter and a survivor. But really, ever since we met her, she’s wanted to trust people. There was Otan, then Murphy, and now SpaceKru. If they show her that they can earn her trust, then she’s very willing to open up to them. She wants to have a people.

Of course! Being alone is the last thing she wants. Her isolation or her unwillingness to trust people doesn’t come from a desire to be solitary, it comes from a terrifying fear of abandonment. Her life experience has shown her that whenever you open up and trust people, they stab you in the back and take advantage of you, and leave you in a worse position than when you found them.

It’s a defense mechanism, this solitary lone wolf-ness. Her entire life, everything that she’s gone through, has only shown her that she’s right in being afraid of people, that she can’t trust anyone, so she’s been trying to protect herself forever. And even though SpaceKru is John Murphy’s people, it still takes her a really long time to open up to the idea that maybe they could be okay with her too. That maybe they might end up being trustworthy, or even just that some of them might end up being trustworthy.

But even in season 2, she wasn’t solitary, because she had John. And in season 4, she fully trusts him, she relies on him. In episode 7, she basically challenged him to say, ‘We’re getting out of here, we’re leaving your people and the safety of this, and the technology and capability, and we’re going off on our own.’ She trusted that he would go with her and not choose his people over her. That’s how deep their relationship runs, which was really beautiful.

When we re-meet her in season 5, how do you feel like Emori has changed as a result of being a part of SpaceKru and coming to fully trust these people?

Oh my god, that was one of the most beautiful ways in which I was able to evolve Emori. It just made me so happy to see her flourish, for the second time. The first time was with John, and now she’s in space. Which she is amazed by, as we saw at the end of season 4. I loved the difference in her and Echo’s responses: Echo was like, ‘what the hell this is freaky witchery!?’ And Emori was like, ‘cool, this is amazing, this somehow makes sense and I wanna know more.’

Emori has such an intense desire to learn, and to be capable, which she always channeled into her survival. She doesn’t always do great things, but it all comes from this intense capability and this intense desire to learn. And now that she’s safe, she’s able to channel it into such an effective method of bettering herself. She just wants to become the most capable, intelligent, badass person she can be.

And her and Raven’s relationship… Raven basically took her on, she became her mentor, and I don’t think there’s anyone that Emori would be happier to learn from. She saw Raven’s morality: of all the people, Raven was the one who really didn’t want to test her back in the lab. And she’s seen how capable Raven is: when they were being chased by the drones, the only one who was able to take them down was Raven! With a super injured leg, she just scienced her way into saving everyone.

Emori had such a great respect for Raven already, and then to be able to learn from her makes her so happy. It’s just so wonderful to see her open and trusting and being a part of a group — just a healthy, functioning person, after everything she’s been through.

It’s really wonderful. I love how hopeful her arc is.

I know, it’s amazing. And it makes you feel good watching it. Because if someone who went through that much crap and who had such a terrible life — and who’s had so many walls built up and defense mechanisms created because of her history — is able to let go of her pain and the behaviors that were making things difficult for her, and become a happy, well-functioning, healthy, thriving human being, then why can’t any of us? I mean, it’s TV, but it’s rooted in truth. People do that all the time.

Image credit: Matthew Burditt

It’s inspirational. Obviously there is so much about The 100 that is applicable to real life and the way we engage with people, and every time they tell a story that is even vaguely positive, I think it means so much to the viewers.

Yeah I know, because there’s so much suffering. Which was such a nice thing about this time jump: it gave everyone a chance to calm down for a second and not constantly be striving to do the next thing to stay alive. They were able to just sort of settle, no matter where they were, and take a breath.

Sometimes I find on shows, like, say The Walking Dead — which I really love — you almost get ground down after a while, watching it. No one ever has a moment of respite, you just want to see them get a break! But it’s a TV show, and if people get too much of a break, there’s nothing happening.

On a show like The 100, you can’t really give people much of a break either, except for in a situation like this. So I think it’s nice to see these characters really healthy, ‘cause they’ve had six years in the spa, and they’re in a great mood (laughs).

Yeah, the algae spa. It’s good for you!

Yeah! We get so sick of it, but we’re so healthy.

I’m curious how Emori feels about returning to Earth, because like you said, she’s one the people that seem genuinely happy in space. Actually, I think she and Echo are ironically the only people in SpaceKru that don’t really have anyone on the ground to go back to. Their people are in space, they’re already with them.

I think because of how close she’s grown with everyone up in space — they’ve truly become her family — the fact that lot of them wanna go down is enough for her. That’s more than enough. She doesn’t need a personal reason other than her wanting to help them, and I’m sure an intense curiosity about seeing the ground again.

I don’t think she hesitates for a second when the majority consensus is ‘let’s go back, we gotta take care of everybody.’ This is what they want to do, it’s important to them, and that’s it. And that’s one of the things that’s allowed her to function so well in space: her willingness to be a team player, regardless of what she wants or doesn’t want.

Tasya [Teles] has talked a little bit about how, when Echo goes back to the ground, she might be a little worried that SpaceKru won’t be as loyal to her as she is to them. It doesn’t sound like that’s a worry Emori has?

No, I don’t think Emori has that worry. That instinct never came up in me when we were shooting. I think Emori has truly turned a corner. It’s possible that deep down there might be something, but going back to the Earth with these people is not enough to trigger that. She trusts her family, and her bonds with them. Which is amazing!

Were you surprised that Murphy and Emori had broken up in space?

Yeah! I wasn’t sure which way it was gonna go, but I get it, six years is a really long time. Her and John Murphy are interesting in that they’re both so adaptable in order to survive. As the situations get worse, when he’s under serious threat of danger, he finds ways to adapt and thrive. He becomes so much more capable, for better or worse, when shit hits the fan.

But Emori… after seeing this time jump, it makes me think that her ability to adapt and thrive is almost like a mirror image of John Murphy’s. It’s when situations are good that she is able to adapt and better herself and everything around her, even though everything in her history says she shouldn’t be able to. She really grows as a person when she’s safe. And I think that was at the root of where things got difficult for them.

It’s such a funny idea to have a couple not make it not because things got too difficult, but because things were safe. They just had to make it work as a couple! But it becomes these small fundamental differences that you struggle to work through, because maybe one of you is having a hard time. But they did make it work — they made it work for the majority of their time up in space.

I was gonna say, they were so close! They only had six months to go.

Exactly, which is crazy, they didn’t even know that. But yeah, she’s only been staying in Raven’s room for six months, so they’d been together for five and a half years, which is solid! That’s a really long time.

And I’m sure a lot of it was great. It’s never always all bad — they would have had ups and downs, they would fight and then make up and figure it out, and then it would happen more and more often… I don’t know exactly what it looked like, but I don’t think it fell apart from any lack of trying. I think they tried really hard.

And even though they’re currently broken up, it seems to me like it’s not the end of the Murphy and Emori story. In whatever way their relationship develops from here, they still feel intricately connected.

Exactly. Absolutely. He is her everything. He always has been, from when they first started to rely on each other to now. She will never not care about him. You know when you feel so intensely about someone that you love them, but you hate them, but you love them, but you hate them? It’s the opposite of neutral. And they’re both struggling. It’s very painful for both of them. So no matter where it goes… her circle is much larger now, but her world still pivots around him, if that makes sense.

Absolutely. And it’s great that Emori’s world does get to open up, and we do get to see her form bonds with people who are not Murphy. Like Raven. When I spoke to Lindsey [Morgan], she described Raven and Emori as best friends, which I thought was so cute.

Yeah, I totally see that! Those two are both fiery, they’re curious, they’re straightforward, they’re not afraid to tell you like it is for better or for worse. I think there’ll just be a natural affinity now that they’re able to be on the same side.

And for Raven, that is probably a nice role for her to step into, that of a mentor or a teacher. I’m sure she completely thrives in it. And Emori has so much respect for her. Also because of how much physical suffering she would know that Raven goes through all the time, and the strength of her mind is so great. Emori really, really respects that.

They really are quite similar characters. They have so much in common.

So much in common. I think that, along with just respecting each other, they have a hell of a blast together. They probably have so much fun.

I also wanted to ask a about Bellamy and Emori, because they share some really great little scenes as well. What has Bellamy become to Emori?

Emori really likes Bellamy, and really respects him. I think she greatly admires his ability to lead. She’s never put herself in that role, or necessarily wanted to, but to see someone do it with such grace… especially for how much Bellamy has grown over the past six years, she really admires him.

And of all the people up there, he’s one of the ones who really understands John Murphy as well, and who knows how to reach him. I think she has a lot of respect and gratitude for that, too. Bellamy has probably become a brother to her. I think that all of these people have become brothers and sisters, they’re that close.

Like, imagine having six roommates for over six years, living in the same house, and there’s nowhere to go! You know everything about everyone. You know their bathroom schedules, you know all their little idiosyncrasies. And even the stuff that you might find annoying or dislike, at the end of the day, that’s who they are, and you love them regardless. I think there’s a lot of beauty in all these new relationships she has. I’m just so happy for her (laughs).

It’s so wonderful! And we should enjoy it while it lasts, because who knows – I mean, obviously you know – but who else knows what the hell is gonna happen down the line? So seeing these characters actually be happy is just such a treat.

It really is. Oh my god, they smiled!

I think they blew their entire smile budget on this season.

Yeah, usually on this show, it’s such a relief when someone finally does smile, because it’s always because of something momentous, either within their personal relationship or something incredible that they never even thought they would be able to do to save themselves or each other.

Jumping back to Clarke and Emori, I’m really curious what Clarke has come to represent for Emori over these past six years.

After having six years to ruminate on it, I think Emori has started to hold Clarke on a bit of a pedestal. Because she appreciates Clarke’s ability to see the greater picture. Emori has been able to see her own greater picture, but she’s recognized that Clarke can see the general greater picture, and that’s something completely new that she’s never really been exposed to before.

And then with Clarke sacrificing herself to save them all, I think she holds her up almost like a martyr in her mind. There is an unattainable greatness that she sees in Clarke. And she recognizes a counterpart of that in Bellamy. Because she knows how closely those two worked, either with each other or against each other, to lead.

And now that she’s been exposed to this new idea of putting the group before the individual, seeing that quality in Bellamy — especially seeing how it’s developed over six years in space — she really admires him. She admires a lot of them.

These people have just exposed her to so many things that she had not known before. She didn’t even know they existed until she saw it. And when she first saw it, she didn’t even recognize it, because she’s never seen it before. But over time, she’s been able to understand it on a deeper level. I think this is one of the reasons she’s grown so incredibly over six years.

Was there any development for Emori that really caught you off guard or confused you, or did the ways in which she had grown and changed for the better just click for you?

It definitely clicked for me. But I definitely also had questions, and the biggest was trying to understand her and John Murphy’s breakdown. Everything else, how everyone’s bonds had grown, I could imagine and understand. But to know that a breakdown happened, without seeing the reasons why, required a lot of discussion with Jason [Rothenberg] to get insight into where he was coming from.

And then I’d talk with Richard [Harmon] as well, of course, just to really figure out the nuances of how that relationship broke down and why. We like to do that; we like to discuss not necessarily how we’re gonna play a scene, but the nature of what’s happening in scenes. We’ve been doing that for years now. I love working with him, it’s great.

What was it like to be able to develop working relationships with some of your new scene partners this year, like Lindsey or Bob [Morley] or Chelsey [Reist]?

It was so much fun! It was so fun to bring out different sides of Emori. And I was so excited for Emori to have girlfriends! She’s never had girlfriends! She had her brother Otan, then she had John Murphy, that was her deep love… and she had interactions with Jaha briefly, too, but that was another dude. And then Bayliss was a guy too! I don’t know of any concrete female she’s had any kind of relationship with, good or bad.

And it just goes to show that in her first real personal interaction with Clarke — the first female on the show that she’s done anything on any intimate level with — she’s manipulating the shit out of her! And using her own suffering to get Clarke to do what she wants. Emori doesn’t know how to have a friendship with anyone, and I don’t know if she’s ever known what it is to have a good girlfriend. So for her to have that now, with Raven and Harper and Echo…

What is Emori and Echo’s relationship like?

They’ve become close, just like everybody else. Out of everyone, Echo is the only one who understands — from an outsider’s perspective, but still — she understands the judgement that Emori’s lived with. Because Echo probably did it herself.

But that’s something Echo would have let go of now. Echo’s whole world and her place in it had been completely changed by the end of season 4, and she’s had to make a new family now. So I think she would have been very open to changing her opinions on things.

And Echo and Emori were both a representation of the world they left behind, for the other: neither of them forgot where they came from, but they were able to let it go, while still seeing a piece of it in front of them. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I’ve forgotten about it because I haven’t seen it.’ It was, ‘no, here it is, this is what it looks like. And I’m gonna choose to let it go.’

I’m glad you brought up Emori’s female friendships, because I’ve noticed that as one of the most amazing things about this time jump, too. Obviously The 100 has always had female friendships, but so often they’ve been grounded in tension and rivalry.

Yeah, it’s so wonderful to see them now counting on each other, trusting each other, relying on each other, loving each other. In such a healthy, lovely way.

Image credit: Matthew Burditt

When you interact with fans, at conventions or online, I feel like you really get a sense of — or at least, this has been my experience — how much this show really means to people. What do you think it is about The 100 that impacts people on such a deep level?

I think there’s a deeply human aspect to the show of struggle, and the desire to find your people, and to protect them. I think a lot of us, at times, might feel that we don’t fit in, and this is a show where we touch on what that means. And how to persevere under pressure and stress.

But it’s done in a really safe environment, of a TV show. It’s a wonderful sci-fi adventure, where you can kind of reflect on these big questions or deep parts of yourself that you might struggle with, that we all struggle with. And it asks really big questions: are we good? Is it possible that human nature can be good, or is it all just one big gray area? What defines us, is it our actions or our intentions? When is terrible behavior justified? Is it ever justified? These are really difficult questions.

Also, the relationships on this show are so real. The good and the bad. And I think people really respond to that. I know what it’s like when you watch a show and the characters become so important to you, ‘cause I’ve felt that too. It’s funny, when you’re sitting at home and a show comes into your living room. It sits with you and holds your hand, and takes you to this cornucopia of feelings, and challenges your thoughts. You can’t help but bond to it. I think it’s a real testament to the show that it’s able to evoke this in people.

And we have such deep appreciation for the fans, because they’re a big part of the reason why the show keeps going. It’s truly because of them. And that’s the reason we do the cons, too. ‘Cause nobody would want to go to a con if they didn’t care, and we wouldn’t be invited! They wouldn’t even be created. We’re very grateful.

The 100 is definitely one of those shows that speak to something in me that most shows don’t. So I can definitely identify with that feeling of just connecting to something so strongly.

And what is that exactly? Because I know I just gave you this long answer, but I don’t actually know. We need a philosopher here to answer that question!

We really do! But I think it’s like what you said: you see yourself in these people, you see them make decisions, and you feel like there’s enough complexity in the decisions they make to be able to follow them there, and to have empathy for them, even though you think you might have made a different choice. And as the show goes on, you can feel these characters change and grow as a result of the decisions they make. I love that.

Maybe that’s one of the things about The 100, too: the characters show such fortitude and strength. There are so many of them that I admire. Would I be able to do what they do, in their situation? I don’t know. But watching them is like a personal challenge to be stronger, more capable, better… as we sit on our couches in our cushy, comfortable lives. Grabbing another ice cream out of the freezer, saying, ‘That’s it! I’m gonna be great, I’m gonna be strong!’

Why do you think Emori in particular resonates with people so strongly? What parts of her do you admire?

I think Emori is a representation of every time we might feel alone — a stranger in a room full of people, or an outcast, or someone who just doesn’t fit in — that’s Emori. And her hand is a very physical, symbolic representation of that, but it’s not just that. It’s her whole experience, it’s everything she’s lived through.

The first thing we understand through her is that even being an outsider, even being isolated and alone and unwanted, you can still thrive. You can be capable, you can be tough, you can be smart. You can still be all of those things, even as a solitary person.

The next thing we learn from her, as she develops a relationship with John Murphy, is that you can be loved. You are loveable, you are worth loving, and you can love in return. That is such a beautiful thing.

And then the third thing we learn from her is that you can find a family. Even if your family rejects you, you can find a family elsewhere that’s just as accepting and loving as the one that you could have been born into. That has been a really beautiful journey for her.

And it’s such a great thing to see, because everyone — some more than others — goes through feelings of isolation. Sometimes we get really into our heads, or maybe we feel like we aren’t a part of any group. So this is really real, human stuff that a lot of people struggle with. And that’s one of the beautiful things about Emori being on the show.

There are so many great characters on this show that speak to so many different kinds of struggle. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why The 100 really resonates with people. You can have all this struggle and pain and damage, and you can still be tough, you can be strong, you can be capable. You can find connection and love. You can also lose that connection and love, and then you can find it again. It’s a show of hope. Even in the worst situation, the goodness can still come back. Maybe that’s why we like it.

It’s funny, because even though Jason insists that hope isn’t a theme of The 100, I think hope is definitely a very important aspect of the story, and does resonate through so many of these characters.

Yeah, it may not be a theme… I don’t know if they have it in mind when they write. They definitely have blood in mind (laughs). Not that I would say blood is a theme, but it’s definitely a side-effect of whatever their theme may be! I think the theme is ‘there are no good guys.’ It’s gotta be.

Thank you to Luisa d’Oliveira for all the incredible insight into The 100 season 5 and Emori’s journey! Catch a new episode of season 5 on The CW every Tuesday at 9/8c.

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