The 100 star Richard Harmon speaks to Hypable about Murphy’s challenges, friendships, and inner demons in season 5.
On March 10-11, Hypable attended Walker Stalker Con in London to chat with the cast of The 100 and learn more about season 5, which premieres April 24 on The CW.
Aside from moderating the main panel with stars Eliza Taylor, Richard Harmon and Sachin Sahel, we also conducted a couple of longer interviews during the weekend.
In The 100 season 4 finale, Murphy was one of seven characters that went to space, to ride out the five-year aftermath of Praimfaya on what remains on the Ark. In the finale flash forward sequence, we find out that six years later, they still haven’t returned to the surface.
What has happened to Murphy and the others? What has it been like for Murphy to be stuck in space for so long, with this particular group of people? What will happen when he returns to the ground?
Here, The 100 star Richard Harmon previews Murphy’s arc in The 100 season 5, what challenges he will face, how he and Emori will get along in space, and why peace time is so hard for him. Enjoy!
Hypable: You’ve been on the show for five years now, that’s a long time! Did you expect anything like this when you first signed up?
Richard Harmon: It’s definitely a longer time than I expected it to be. And I didn’t know I would go the distance with it! But it’s been the biggest blessing of my lifetime.
What part of Murphy’s development over the first four seasons has surprised you the most?
I got so used to being the bad guy in the first season. My full job was just to be as detestable as possible. As an actor, I wanted to sicken the audience. I just wanted to sicken them with who I was. And then Jason [Rothenberg] was like, “Can you get them to like you?” (laughs) That was a tall order!
So I think the part of his arc that shocked me the most was just that we were actually gonna attempt to humanize such a monstrous character. We made him so deplorable that the thought of Jason ever wanting to even remotely attempt to get the audience on my side was a pretty big undertaking, after how far we pushed Murphy into being a bad guy.
But it ended up working out. And I think because of far we pushed him, the longer and harder we had to work to bring him back to being a human being — not to being a ‘good guy,’ because he’s not a good guy. He’s not a bad guy either. He’s just a guy, doing the best he can. And sometimes not doing the best he can.
You and Jason have both indicated that Murphy is best in conflict. He’s not good in peace times.
Yeah, he’s not. Jason might have a different way of seeing it, but I had to think of a reason why Murphy isn’t good when times should be happy — like, what’s the reason he can’t be happy, if things are okay? And the thing that I came up with is that he has so many issues inside of himself that he still needs to resolve — like the death of his parents, and still blaming himself for that — and maybe even a slight chemical imbalance that sometimes people can be afflicted by, in their brain chemistry.
So he’s better in pressure-cooker situations because there’s a reason for feeling the way he’s feeling; he can feel bad and feel sad and feel all these things, it’s ‘allowed’ in situations like that. But when things are okay, Murphy is maybe too ashamed to talk about it. He can’t tell people that sometimes he just can’t get out of bed, that he can’t do these things, that he’s just not okay inside. He’s too proud. And people don’t talk about it enough in this world that that we’ve created; mental illness is not a thing people talk about.
He probably does suffer from some depression, and definitely some PTSD at this point — but what character doesn’t? So I think he might just be ashamed that he isn’t okay. He knows that there is no reason why he shouldn’t be happy right now, yet he’s still not okay. And that’s hard for him to bring up to people. So I think he’s better in pressure-cooker situations because he’s allowed to feel the way he’s feeling, and can lean into that feeling and use it to survive.
At The 100 convention Unity Days earlier this year, you said that new character McCreary–
I love him! William Miller is such a phenomenal talent, and I’m so grateful that we have him on the show. And I’m just grateful to have him in my life now. He’s become a very good friend of mine, and someone I both look up to as an actor and as a man.
That’s really great to hear! And you said that this character is kind of like what Murphy could have been under different circumstances?
Yeah, if we hadn’t brought Murphy back from the brink of completely being a monster, this is what Murphy would be in the future — and what he still could be. It’s not like Murphy is so safe from the darkness inside him. That will always be there. That poison inside of Murphy, this aggression and anger, is definitely still there, and is just waiting for something to tip it over. It’s like a little vial of poison inside of him that gets spilled and starts to infect everything.
And the thing about Murphy is that he’s better when he’s like that. You never see Murphy be more successful in getting what he wants than when he’s the ‘bad Murphy,’ as people like to call him. When he has that poison inside of him – kind of like Venom in Spider-Man – he can get just about anything he wants. But it’s usually not the right thing that he wants.
So McCreary kind of represents that side of him. He has that too, that little poison. It’s both of their addiction, but Murphy is trying to fight that addiction, while McCreary has fully allowed that venom inside of him to spread. He’s made peace with his inner demons, because they’re on the same side, whereas Murphy still tries to fight his.
That’s really interesting. Are we gonna see them kind of face off in this context?
Don’t know. Who’s to say. It won’t be me (laughs).
Well, either way, it’s still really cool to have that parallel. And kind of on the other side of that, we have Murphy and Emori, who bring out the good sides of each other… but at the same time, I’m wondering if they have become dependent on each other to maintain that goodness? When Clarke almost killed Emori in season 4, we saw what that did to Murphy, the darkness it brought out in him.
Yeah, there’s that poison vial again, being tipped.
Has Emori kind of come to represent Murphy’s connection to the ‘good’ side of himself?
Yeah, she represents a second chance for his life. When no one else would give him a second chance, Emori gave him a first chance, a fresh start. She represents hope for him. And what we have to deal with after six years in space — after I fought as hard as I could to make the girl I love safe, and make a life for us to be safe, and now we are safe — is whether that new hope is enough, when he’s still dealing with all these things inside of him that I previously mentioned. Is hope enough? Because sometimes love is not enough either.
I’m not saying one way or another what happens, but you just don’t know. Six years is a long time to either progress or regress. One of the two things will happen. And that goes for Emori too, not just Murphy. Emori is also gonna have to either progress or regress, and they’re either gonna do that together, or they’re gonna do that separately.
It seems to me like Memori is a completely unique relationship for Murphy; they found each other under such unique circumstances. Do you think Murphy would ever be able to have that kind of intimacy — not even romantic, just in terms of the level of trust and understanding they have for each other — with anyone else?
It would be tough, for sure. But again, that may not be something he needs. That’s the choice: you have the two wolves inside of you, the good and the bad, and the kind of person you are is whichever one you feed. And he has to make the decision: he’s got that poison flask inside of him, which is his other love. That is his addiction; that is his alcohol, his drug. That poison feels good when he lets it go.
That is also what happened with Ontari in season 3. She was the opposite of Emori. Ontari was the flip; she brought out the old Murphy, who just does whatever he wants to get what he wants. There is no morality to it: you see something you need, and you take it. And he loves that. The addict inside of him loves that. And on that side of himself, he doesn’t need a partner; the addiction is his partner. The adrenaline, all that.
And on the other side, like I said, is this new hope with Emori and the intimateness and the sharing with someone else, which is new for him. And those are the choices he has to make. That’s a big part of season 5.
Aside from Emori, Murphy is also up in space with two other characters that are really important to him, Bellamy and Raven — both of whom he has really intense, interesting relationships with.
Absolutely. Two of my favorite relationships on the show are Murphy with both of these characters.
Murphy and Raven was probably my personal favorite dynamic in season 4.
It was the best arc for me in season 4, I loved that arc. And getting to play with Lindsey Morgan, she’s a real star.
What do you think Murphy and Raven bring to each other?
They’re both so driven, in different but also similar ways. Murphy is kind of a hammer-and-nail, he’ll just do whatever it takes to get the job done, and Raven is so unapologetically brilliant in almost everything she does. But she also has that same drive and no-quit attitude as Murphy; nothing will get in her way if she wants something.
So the thing these two characters bring to each other is that they got in each other’s way, so early in their relationship — me obviously affecting her life in a very negative way, with the stray bullet that took away her light — and that was something we needed to overcome, which was such a beautiful moment, after so long. That happened at the end of season 1, and she forgave him and the end of season 4!
And you could see how much it meant to Murphy to have that… that was one of the last parts of his life that was still being held over him, of the person he was, and still could be. When Raven forgave him for that, that was probably one of the biggest reliefs that I’ve felt while playing Murphy. And that hug. I think they gained a lot of respect for one another, and it’s a wonderful relationship.
And it’s the same thing with Bellamy and Murphy. After they broke up that team in episode 4, when he chose to hang me and then banish me, me and Bellamy couldn’t be in the same room together without one of us trying to kill each other. Endlessly, we just wanted to kill each other. If we were near each other, the only thing on both our minds was murdering the other person, because it seemed like one of us had to die. We couldn’t both live in this world at the same time, and we both knew that the other one was coming for him.
And to come from that to now having the respect that we do for each other is brilliant. I honestly think Bellamy might be Murphy’s only friend in season 5, to be truthful. He obviously has other friends, but I think his only true friend, at the beginning of the season, is Bellamy.
Is that because Bellamy understands what Murphy is going through?
Yeah, he gets it, and he wants him to be better. Cause Bellamy’s had his own fights with the devil inside of him, so he wants Murphy to be better as well. He’s what Murphy could be, the other side of him. There’s so much untapped potential in what Murphy is and could become.
What could Murphy become, if he doesn’t go down the ‘Venom’ path?
He could be anything he wanted. He could be a leader. He’d be the best soldier you’d ever have – I don’t mean in a fighting way, I mean someone on your team who can get the job done. If he believes in something, there’s no one better. He’s willing to put himself on the line, endlessly. There’s no stopping what he could be. He has so much power, not physically, but he has this kind of relentlessness, this wild dog attitude that can’t be stopped. But that goes for both sides. I think there’s so much on both sides he could accomplish.
People keep joking that Murphy will be the last person left standing at the end of the show…
Legitimately, he could be. I don’t see any reason why not. Name me someone who’s been through closer cuts with death than Murphy and fought their way through every single one of them.
(long pause) …Indra?
Oh totally! But here’s the thing with Indra… I think she would die before Murphy, and here’s my reason: Murphy is not gonna put himself into situations where he’s gonna die. Because that’s very important to him, his life (laughs). Whereas Indra’s a pure-bred warrior, she has the most pure heart, and she’s not afraid to die. Which is what could get her killed. Because she is not afraid to go into a situation that’s a sure suicide-mission, and just go like, “this is what I need to do as a general. If this is how I die, this is how I die.” That’s how she might die before Murphy, because Murphy wouldn’t put himself in that situation. He would protect himself first.
Wildly presuming that The 100 continues past season 5, and that you survive the season, is there anything you would really like to see Murphy do before the show ends? Anyone you would like him to interact with, or any challenge you want as an actor?
If I live through season 5, I kind of want to see him take the poison more. I want to go there, and see how much of a battle it is. And that is a battle for him in season 5, but that battle is not one that’s gonna stop, and I think it could intensify. So that’s what I want to see, the battle inside himself. That or be a pacifist! I pitched that to Jason: what if he’s just a pacifist? Like, “nahhh. I’m not fighting, I’m not doing it. Why don’t we all just chill?”
Kind of like that little kitchen scene in season 4, that was really nice.
Yeah! He’s a good cook. Same with Monty though, Monty’s a good cook too.
Do we get a little bit of Monty and Murphy interaction in season 5?
I mean we’re all in space together, I’m assuming there will be a little bit. But again, all these relationships up in space have to either progress or regress.
Six years is a long time…
Six years is a long time (laughs)! These are not the same people you saw a year ago on the show. These are different people.
Would you ever consider directing an episode of the show?
I’m an actor. There is actually one movie I’d consider directing, it’s one that me and my friend wrote, that we’re producing. I would love to direct that, but I also wouldn’t stand in the way of it being made. I think I could be an okay director, but I’m an actor. I wouldn’t expect a director to step up in a scene and be able to compete with me, as an actor, so why should I try to compete with them in their world? But a lot of actors make great directors. I just don’t know if I see myself doing it.
And finally I just wanted to ask how it’s going with your movie Crypto?
We’re still in editing, we’re in the sound mixing stage right now. It’s such an indie passion-project that it will take a little longer to finish than most. But we’re hoping it will come out by the end of 2018.
That’s exciting! Could you tell The 100 fans why they might be interested in checking it out, aside from the fact that you’re in it?
Oh, it’s a great story. It’s dark. If you’re not into a sad time then don’t watch it, it’s not a happy movie by any means. But it’s a beautiful film. Our cinematographer Andy Hodgson has such a bright future ahead of him. And our writer-director Jon Silverberg does as well. But the film itself is stunning. I’ve seen the rough cuts, and even before color correction, the movie pops. They really use so much of our nature around us to our advantage, it’s such a beautifully shot film.
And see it for Philip Granger, if not for anything else. See it for my co-star. There are so many actors in this world who you don’t see in leading roles very often, but people who have been doing it forever… I thought I would be one of those guys, and then The 100 happened, and people now see me in leading roles, and I’m very grateful for that. But someone like Philip Granger has been doing this for so long, and is easily one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with. To see him in a leading role is such a blessing, so if you’re gonna see it for anything, please see it for Philip Granger doing his thing, because it’s a beautiful thing to see.
Thanks to Richard Harmon for the great insight into Murphy’s state of mind! The 100 season 5 premieres April 24 on The CW.