4:06 pm EDT, April 12, 2017

Interview: Why ‘The 100’s’ Tasya Teles has ‘completely fallen in love’ with Echo and the show

The 100‘s Tasya Teles dives into Echo’s past, present and future, sharing some of her own theories and teasing what we can expect in the latter half of season 4.

Although she’s been a part of the series since season 2, Tasya Teles’ Echo didn’t become a major player until the season 4 premiere, appropriately titled “Echoes,” in which she stepped in to take command of King Roan’s royal guard.

A hard-edged warrior, Echo has remained hostile to Skaikru even during their rocky alliance, only seeming to hold a grudging respect for Bellamy after their shared experience being captured in Mount Weather together.

Related: The 100 season 4, episode 8 review: The girl who would be king

But over the course of season 4, we’ve nonetheless seen Echo begin to change, particularly after nearly killing Octavia in “A Lie Guarded.” The character certainly has come a long way since her debut in “Coup de Grâce,” and we expect there’s a lot more to come for her before the season is over.

While we wait for The 100 to return from its long and painful hiatus, let’s see what stories Tasya Teles can share about her time on the show and with the fandom, and how she hopes to see her character develop in future episodes. Enjoy!

Tasya Teles by Liz Rosa
Image credit: Liz Rosa

Hypable: You’ve just come back from doing some conventions in Europe, right?

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Tasya Teles: Yeah, I was traveling around Europe, but I’m finally back in L.A., yay! The one I just got back from was in London.

What’s it been like to go out and meet the fans?

Oh it’s one of my favorite things to do. They respond in a really funny way, I think it’s split right down the middle in that some of them hate Echo and others love her badassery. And then the ones who weren’t big fans of Echo before have been like, ‘Oh my gosh, now that I’ve met you and we’ve spoken, and you’ve told us about some of the things you think about with your character…’ they have a new understanding of her. So it’s really awesome to be able to connect to the fans at the conventions like that.

Obviously meeting the fans in person must also give you a sense of why this show means so much to people, why there’s so much passion for this story and these characters.

Oh god, absolutely. In London, it actually ended up being all women, because the boys all had to drop out for filming reasons, and we were connecting to the fans on such a deep level. We were all crying over various points of the weekend, so we made a joke that we were the CryKru. I was just so touched talking to everybody and hearing everybody’s stories. It’s so powerful, I just love it so much.

When I spoke to Chelsey Reist, who plays Harper, she talked about how great it is for the cast to bond while you’re all traveling together and going to these cons…

Oh absolutely. Some of the actors I don’t get to work with very much, or at all, or you work together but you’re focused on the work at hand. So when we all went to Europe together, we totally deepened our relationship, we had such laughs and just created tons of inside jokes. And that helps as well, I think, when we’re on set creating the chemistry between the characters. It’s lovely.

You first joined The 100 all the way back in season 2, so even though we haven’t seen you that much until this season, you are definitely part of the core of the show in a way.

I know, I know, it’s such a gift! Oh my gosh, when I got the email that they were bringing me back I nearly fell out of my chair. I was so happy, because despite only having worked with a handful of people, I just fell in love with the story and fell in love with all the actors and writers and the whole crew, so I’m ecstatic to be coming back. And I also thought Echo was a very interesting character, she had the beginnings of what could be a really interesting story, so I was really overjoyed to be able to crack that open and start exploring her a little bit more.

Do you remember how she was originally described? Does that line up with what she’s developed into?

Well, I actually found my original audition recently, and I texted Bob [Morley] a photo of it, I was like, ‘Look at this!’ And my notes are scribbled all over the page, I had all these ideas about who she was. She’s changed a lot since my original inception of her, but in the breakdown when they were describing Echo, they said that she was one of the strongest Grounders. She’d survived in the cages in Mount Weather the longest, through the torture chambers and the drilling and all of that. And that’s carried through all the seasons: she’s still a stubborn and strong character, that hasn’t changed.

How much of her backstory have they given you and how much are you filling in yourself as you go?

Um, I’m filling in most of it actually (laughs). Every time a script is released I’ve been like, how did she come to be in the royal guard, where is her mom and dad, why is she so committed to Azgeda and so fiercely loyal to them? Hopefully we get to see some of that in the future. We haven’t seen it yet. In season 4 we’re gonna get a little peek into why she’s doing what she’s doing, but I’m mostly relying on myself in creating some of the backstory. I talk to the writers and stuff like that, but there’s a lot of unanswered questions I still have.

I have a lot of unanswered questions too! There’s so much to Echo, especially in, as you said, her connection to Azgeda and her devotion to the royal line. It’s so interesting that even though she’s this hard-edged warrior, it’s really all about loyalty for her.

That is everything to her. Without her title and her role, who is she? It’s all she knows. And for that reason, it only makes sense for me to think of her like an orphan, someone who’s lost her own family. And then Nia maybe saw that she was a great warrior, and saw that she had no one else, and manipulated or used that and brought her under her wing… she definitely socialized Echo in a way that made Echo fiercely loyal to Azgeda, uncompromising and unwilling to make alliances or work with any of the other krus. Cause Echo would see that as betrayal almost, I think, to her loyalty to Queen Nia.

I was also sitting with the idea at one point that she was related to the royal family in some way, like, maybe her mother was related to Queen Nia and she had lost her mom, and for that reason she now saw Queen Nia in the mother role in her life. But that hasn’t really landed in the script yet, so… (laughs). Just me, making up stories!

The 100 Echo and Roan

That would be interesting though. Especially because, at this point in the show, Echo’s major relationship is with Roan. That’s the person she’s most closely aligned with. But at the same time, we do get the sense that she’s loyal to him because she was loyal to his mother, and he’s obviously very different from Nia. Do you think Echo is loyal to Roan, as a king, or is it that he happens to be the Azgeda king?

That’s a good question. I mean, if he wasn’t an Azgeda king, I don’t think she would be as loyal to him, I think it’s because he’s Queen Nia’s son and because he’s Azgeda. Because he was also banished for a few years, so another question is how much did they know each other growing up? Were they a part of each other’s lives? At what point did they meet? I think that Echo is really just more attached to Queen Nia than she is Roan, but because Roan is the remaining royal family member, by virtue of that, she is committed to him 100%. Whether or not they grew up together.

Right. It’s just one of the many things we’ll probably never find out but which would be so cool to explore more in the future.

Well, you never know! (laughs)

I would love that. The whole story of Azgeda, how a royalty even formed in this post-apocalyptic world is one of those things I’d really like to dive into.

I know, you and me both. Let’s write emails to Jason, make it happen.

Let’s talk a bit about all the physical work you get to do on the show, which is obviously a huge part of who Echo is. Can you tell me about doing that big fight scene with Marie [Avgeropoulos] on the cliff?

Oh, absolutely. In episode 1 [of season 4] I sliced one of the ambassadors’ heads, and it was in that moment I realized that my physicality did not respond well to holding a sword. We had to shoot that slice so many times! It was so hot out, and I was covered in furs, and we had ice packs stuffed down my wardrobe to try and keep me somewhat cool. And I just had to keep doing this slice, and I was exhausted!

So after that, we started training, especially for episode 2 where I’m training Roan, and it had to really look like Echo was a masterful swordplayer. I borrowed swords from set, I talked to all the stunt guys, I was going home and practicing in my mirror, and I was playing tennis to get that motion of combat into my body. But even with the Roan training fight, it still wasn’t reading super polished, so then I just went hardcore and trained as much as possible, because that fight in episode 4 with Marie was so epic, and there was so much pressure that day.

They brought in this huge crane, I don’t even know how they got it there, and then it was just this epic fight scene, and it was a huge moment for the show when Octavia fell off the cliff. So we trained a lot; I had two stunt doubles that day and Marie had her stunt double who’s been on the show for a while. And me and Marie just worked our butts off, we just trained and trained and trained. Hopefully it came out okay!

It did! You mentioned that all-female convention group earlier, and that’s definitely one of my favorite things about the show, just how physical the women get. There was a scene in an earlier season too, with Clarke and Anya in the mud, just going at it, and it was just so raw and brutal. You really don’t get to see that a lot.

Yeah! Also Lexa, she had this big huge epic fight scene where she was manning two swords at once. That was incredibly difficult to do.

Oh yeah, that Roan and Lexa battle in season 3 is definitely one of my favorite moments as well. I love the raw power of it.

Me too.

The 100 season 4 episode 4 Echo

What was going through Echo’s head when she thought that she had killed Octavia? It definitely wasn’t joy on her face.

Oh no, she was horrified! She was so shocked, ’cause she wasn’t trying to kill Octavia. She was trying to subdue Octavia, to bring her back, but Octavia was putting up a fight and Echo didn’t really have a choice. She didn’t know how to subdue her and bring her back peacefully, so she did what she does best, and drew her sword. And I think she was probably surprised by Octavia’s skill, and her endurance. I don’t think she expected Octavia to last that long, I think Echo thought she’d be able to do it with a lot more ease.

And what happened was the height and the exhaustion — ’cause it went on for so long — Echo’s reflexes kicked in, and she just stabbed her. And both of them had that moment when they were like, oh my god. And Echo just drew back her sword, and they just stared at each other. Then Octavia fell off the cliff, and in that moment all the air was sucked out of Echo’s lungs, because not only did she fail her mission to bring Octavia back to King Roan, which was her job, but she also hurt Bellamy at the same time. And he’s someone that she has this really complicated relationship with. So yeah, she was devastated.

There’s an interesting thing going on with Echo and Bellamy that I don’t quite know how to define, but it definitely feels like Echo has connected with Bellamy. I think it’s fair to say that she really respects him.

Yeah. I think that’s probably the most accurate and diplomatic word to use (laughs). There’s definitely respect, and there’s shared trauma and a shared sense of victory, and this shared experience of breaking out of a torture chamber together. When she first met him, she started out immediately hating him, she spat in his face. But he was able to turn that around, and he was the first — and maybe only — Skaikru person that earned her respect and that got her intrigued and curious about this clan that she doesn’t know very much about. That’s lingering, and it’s troubling her.

The last time we saw them together was in episode 5, which seems like so long ago already, when they were talking down Riley and Bellamy gave that speech. And you saw them sort of connect over his head there. It felt like a bit of a turning point, but then we haven’t really seen Echo since.

It definitely was a turning point. I think one of the things that’s happening is that she, through no will of her own, is starting to crack and change a little bit. I think when you’re a warrior you’re trained in a way that’s black and white, it’s kill or be killed, there isn’t a lot of grey areas for people that are such highly trained assassins. So she’s learning through Bellamy, she’s watching how he deals with stuff and how he untangles conflict and how he quells conflict without just killing people (laughs). ‘Cause she was ready to go, her bow was drawn, she was ready to get rid of Riley. To her, that would be simple and effective, but she gave Bellamy the time to put out that fire without using weapons. So yeah, Bellamy is an interesting character that she’s learning from, which I absolutely love.

What has been your most challenging scene to film so far?

Well, identifying with Echo was a big challenge, because I was hoping that at some point earlier on she would’ve decided that maybe the way she’d been living wasn’t the right way, and she’d try to take the more peaceful approach to things. But we haven’t seen that. She’s really scared to let go of what she knows, her truth, and what she’s been taught and what she’s been told. I think she’s just scared. But getting into the mind-frame of someone who’s just so resistant to change and so scared and always resorts to violence is very different from myself.

And she’s also very still. For me, if we ever went and hung out you’d see that I’m very ‘ahhh!!!’ I’m just very animated. But she’s very still, she doesn’t want a lot of attention, she’s watching everything, always taking in information and scanning the crowd — because she’s also a spy, which makes it very interesting. But the way that she moves and just holding stillness, and emoting through total stillness, was a very big challenge. But it was amazing to explore someone with that physicality.

In my interviews with some of the other actors and crew members, I’ve asked them which characters’ journeys were their favorites this season and Echo’s name has come up a few times. Which is cool and exciting, and I’m really curious about what’s next for her.

Oh cool! Yeah, there’s a loooot of stuff about to happen, I’m so ready for the show to start airing again! And to hear people’s reactions and to see how the editors and the whole team put together the music and everything. I just can’t wait to see it!

When can we expect to see you back on the show?

Well, they shot a few episodes out of order, so I actually don’t know, ’cause I forgot which one I’m in next. But I’m in the next one or the one after that.

I know there’s a big battle episode coming up, which sounds really awesome! And that would be the 10th episode airing according to the CW descriptions.

Yes, there’s a big battle situation coming and we’ll see her there! I’m so excited. I remember Dean [White], or maybe Aaron Ginsburg, was saying that they’ve been wanting to do this huge thing for so long, and now we’ve finally got the story to this one epic sequence! And I saw some of the edits of what we shot, and it is incredible. It’s gonna be a great one.

Looking a little ahead, what would you like to see for Echo down the line — or if there is no ‘down the line,’ what would be your ideal ending for her?

I would like to see some redemption for her, as opposed to, say, retribution. Like, let’s say Echo dies because some gang follows her and kills her. Then, yeah, the scales may be even in terms of her killing these people and then now people are trying to kill her. But I want it to come from within her, I want her to acknowledge that some of the things she’s done were bad, and then try to make amends for it, I want to see that change in her. I would really like to see her unravel a bit, you know? What’s beneath that armor? What’s at the emotional core of her when she drops the facade and when she’s just relaxed. We haven’t seen much of Echo in a relaxed state, so I would love to get to know her more in those circumstances, when she’s not always fighting or confronting or on guard.

Yeah, is she even capable of that? That’s an interesting concept!

It is!

Do you have any favorite characters on The 100, or aspects you particularly like about it?

Oh my gosh, I mean, I love so many things about the show. I love Murphy’s journey, I love that he was one of the characters I disliked the most at the top of the show, and now he’s become this cynical, hilarious guy and I just love seeing what he gets himself into and how he deals with everything that’s going on around him, I find him hilarious.

And I love how the show discusses politics and relationships and leadership in a way that’s accessible to so many people from so many different parts of the world, and with different life experiences. And I love the epic nature and epic quality of the show, I love how there’s so many strong women who get to play these amazing characters, that’s one of my favorite things about it for sure. I’ve just completely fallen in love with the show, every season, the more I get to know it and become a part of it… this has become my family, and I think it’s one of the best shows out there. So I’m really proud of it, and hopefully everyone else likes the way season 4 unfolds.

Thanks to Tasya Teles for the great interview! Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and make sure to also catch her in the Prison Break revival episode airing May 9.

‘The 100’ returns Wednesday, April 26 at 9/8c on The CW

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