10:00 am EST, May 3, 2018

‘The 100’s’ Tasya Teles talks Echo’s season 5 journey, pursuing directing and more

The 100 season 5 is in full swing, with SpaceKru looking for a way to get to the ground. How does Echo feel about reuniting with Octavia and potentially losing her newfound family? We caught up with newly-minted series regular Tasya Teles to find out!

In The 100 season 5 premiere episode, “Eden,” fans got a taste of what life has been like for the seven characters stuck in space, with Tasya Teles’ Echo appearing to be one of the most changed from what she was like on the ground.

While her upbringing and circumstances made Echo a ruthless warrior with unflinching loyalty to her clan, her banishment from Azgeda and subsequent escape to the peacefulness of space has given her a chance to grow and evolve in ways she might otherwise never have been able to.

Related: Will Raven Reyes be happy in The 100 season 5? Lindsey Morgan teases SpaceKru’s post-Praimfaya journey

Who is this Echo kom SpaceKru that we meet in season 5? How will her new and old relationships impact her moving forward, and what might things be like for her once she returns to the ground, and re-enters the war that defined her?

Hypable caught up with the talented Tasya Teles to talk The 100 season 5, her newfound status as a series regular, and what she loves about being a part of The 100 family on- and off-screen.

Hypable: Congratulations on becoming a series regular! How has that changed things for you this year?

Thank you! I always had an affinity for The 100, right from season 2, so it’s just been absolutely mind-blowing. I don’t have to look for another job, I just get to be right where I want to be. And it just feels like home, you know? All of these amazing relationships I’ve created with the cast and crew have been solidified now. I feel very grateful.

Do you feel like you have significantly more to do this year than last year?

Definitely. I think part of the responsibility of being a regular, when a show adopts you as part of their family, is that you have to make sure that when you’re at work, you’re more of a professional than ever.

And you have to ensure that the guest stars and the new cast members feel welcome, and feel that they’re in a safe place to be open and creative. So you become a host for them as well, and that’s just been amazing.

Ooh, so you get to be part of the welcoming committee now.

I do! When you go to work on a new show, you never know what the energy is gonna be like on set. It can be good, bad, neutral, whatever. But it’s always scary in any situation when you show up and you don’t know anybody, and you have to go out there and do your work. So it’s been really fun.

Me and Lindsey [Morgan] tried to crack one of the new guys, Jordan [Bolger]. We were just having so much fun with him. We would call him ‘Jordonoghue’ [sp], and we created this whole fake talk show that he had. At first he would just kind of giggle and be shy, but by the end of the season, we were like, ‘haha, we got you!’ He was a lot more open by then. It was a lot of fun.

That’s really awesome! And I know you and Lindsey’s characters have more to do with each other this year — I just spoke to her last week, and she mentioned how cool it is that you have more scenes together.

Totally. And I think Raven and Echo actually have a lot in common. They’re very pragmatic and they’re very focused individuals. They’re good at what they do and they like to get shit done, and they’re very powerful women. So they definitely identify with each other.

It’s so nice when we get to see those uncomplicated moments of connection between the women on this show.

Yeah, and we never get that on The 100! I can’t remember the last time that happened. But it’s so great to see them, even in such a brief moment, in a state of relaxation. So they’re not just always in battle.

One thing I love about Echo in particular is that she’s one of the female characters on the show who gets to really dig into the vicious, fighting part of herself. But she’s not just blindly violent — there’s so much history that informs why she’s like that.

I mean, that was part of what made it so cool to take her on. I remember at first, there was a little bit of cognitive dissonance; I was like, why is she doing this? I wanted her to be more apologetic, and I wanted her to be more sensitive.

But when I realized the power that she had, in just being herself and not apologizing for that, and being very savage and vicious, it was really liberating, and it was so cool to play. Because we don’t see that often. And she was also a character that didn’t really get glamorized, which is great. She’s very raw, and she’s very visceral. She’s very connected to the earth, and she’s a true warrior.

What has been the most exciting thing for you to discover, or rediscover, about Echo in The 100 season 5?

The one thing that I tried to retain in Echo, which I think is part of her fabric, is that she is very stoic: there’s a way that she stands and a way that she walks. And that required a lot of research.

In season 5, I did try to relax her physicality a little bit — I tried to show in her body that she didn’t have to prove anything; she wasn’t so puffed-out anymore. But there is still an even quality to her. She doesn’t get emotional, or dramatic, she’s just super focused. So that stayed.

There’s also a playfulness quality to her, that I definitely remember from season 4, and even season 2. I remember there was a scene when Bellamy goes to grab her arm, and she flips him on his back, and then she just kind of looks at him with this cheeky smile and she’s like, ‘Ooh, look at you, trying to do things.’

I was boxing the other day, and my boxing coach was like, ‘Oh you think you’re good? Oh, look at you coming at me, oh, there she goes.’ Echo reminds me of my boxing coach. She’s so capable that she can just play around, because she knows that she’s strong and fierce. So there is some humor within her.

But one piece of conflict that I tried to weave in, without detracting from her strength, was her unease about going back to Earth, and seeing Octavia again, and seeing Ice Nation. Echo is this completely new person, so she’s a little bit scared about how to deal with everything that’s around the corner.

What has it been like for her in space, to be without anyone to serve for what I imagine must be the first time in her life?

I think there was a lot of unraveling that happened. Being a spy, and going out on these missions for Azgeda, collecting information and posing as other clans, meant that she didn’t trust anybody because she didn’t know if anyone else was a spy. She just knew it was safer to not trust anybody. So that was one of the biggest things she had to let go of. She had to learn to trust people, which was the biggest challenge for her.

So she spent all these years unraveling all of the stuff that she learned through Azgeda, and she was surrounded by technology, and she was hearing stories, and she was being educated. And all of that education was what helped change her in space. And I think she probably feels a little bit used by her former queen now that she actually has friends, and she knows what friendship is. She didn’t really have an understanding of that before.

What kind of values or skills did Echo pick up on the Ark that she didn’t have before?

Well, I don’t think she’ll ever take to technology too much. She definitely won’t take to it like Raven or Monty or Emori did, because I think she was too traumatized by what happened in Mount Weather — that was her first introduction to technology, when she was tortured, and that left some deep trauma and scars.

She learned how to do things day-to-day, you know, like work the microwave and plug in the DVD player, stuff like that. But I think she kind of left most of the technology stuff to everybody else, and made herself useful in other ways.

Which of the characters do you think that she first connected with or opened up to when they got up there?

Definitely Raven, and potentially Murphy. I think Raven would be the first. I think the first few weeks and months and days were spent just organizing themselves and getting things up and running, so she would just make herself useful without trying to make any friends.

Echo has always been of service, so especially in that first little while, that was probably what she led with. She would try to feel everybody out, see how people were receiving her, and just be really helpful. And Raven I’m sure had tons of stuff for her to do, so I think she opened up to Raven first.

And then Bellamy and Echo obviously had a really difficult relationship, but I think that despite that they probably still chatted. But I think Bellamy wouldn’t really allow himself to become friends with her until enough time had passed.

I think at first, it was all too raw — leaving his sister behind, and leaving Clarke behind — for him to open up his heart, and forgive and forget and move forward. But I think Raven, Murphy and Bellamy were probably the first few.

Bellamy and Echo feels a major development for Echo. Not necessarily because it’s a romance, but just because opening up to someone on that level — and a former enemy, even — doesn’t seem like something she’d find super easy to do?

Totally. We saw that the first time we ever met Echo, when she actually thought she was helping one of her Grounder buddies. The first thing she says to Bellamy is, ‘Quiet, they take the strongest.’ But then she finds out he’s Skaikru, and she is like, ‘oh, no, I’m not talking to you,’ and she spits in his face.

But by the end of the whole cage scene, they’d established a rapport. He won her over by showing her selflessness and kindness. Because he was making noise when they were coming to take Echo to go get tortured; he sacrificed himself, and that really surprised her.

And that was the beginning of this crazy relationship where they can reach each other. And they do. When they’re in a non-fighting situation, they are able to connect with one another in a way they weren’t able to before.

What do you think it is, specifically, that Echo and Bellamy can identify or connect with in each other?

Bellamy has shown Echo that she can be vulnerable, and he’s shown her about caring for someone else, and loving someone else. And he’s taught her a lot about friendship and self-sacrifice in the name of the people you care about and love. So she can open herself and be vulnerable in front of Bellamy, and that is huge! That is Earth-shattering for her. It’s a whole thing she’s never experienced before.

And conversely, Bellamy is someone who has a heavy heart about everything that goes on, and he’s really weighed down by some of the choices he made in the past, with Pike, and leaving Clarke behind, and being worried about his sister. So Echo offers him a strength and an objectivity that he needs.

Echo is basically like, ‘Bellamy, don’t beat yourself up too much, these are pretty tough circumstances! I’m not quite sure how it could have played out any differently. You did your best.’ So Bellamy gets his strength from Echo, and she gets strength from him by knowing that she can be herself. They help each other out.

I always got the sense that the two characters kind of reflect each other. In season 4, I remember describing Bellamy and Echo as each representing a way for the other to examine their past, and cope with it and move forward, which they both really needed.

Yes, exactly. That’s exactly how I feel too.

When you read the script for “Eden” and you got to that scene, what was your reaction? Did you approach it as an interesting development for your character, or was it more like… ‘uh-oh?’

…Umm, it was all of the above. I think you have to do your best to disengage from bringing the outer world into your work, because I did feel like it was a really important scene. I was definitely daunted by it a little bit. But it was interesting, because in the scene, Echo is daunted by going back to Earth!

When we were filming it, I was sharing my insecurities with Bob [Morley], and I was like, ‘I don’t know, have we talked about absolutely everything that we can talk about, about these characters and how they interact? I just want to make sure it’s honest and it’s real and it’s good!’ And he said, ‘you just need to relax, Tas!’

So we were joking around — and that was actually exactly what was happening in the scene. So those laughs were genuine. I remember just looking at Bob, and he takes my head in his hands and he’s like, ‘it’s gonna be okay, everything is gonna be fine.’ And I was like, okay!

That’s very meta!

Yes, yes it was.

Another interesting thing about Bellamy and Echo’s relationship is that it even further complicates Echo’s relationship with Octavia. Which Echo also seems hyper aware of in that scene.

That’s the biggest thing for Echo, I think. And also that she has to go down to Earth. Echo is really smart — if there’s anyting she’s good at, it’s taking stock of a situation and always being two steps ahead. She’s very strategic, and she’s very tuned in to other people’s emotions, because she was a spy for so long.

So when she’s confronted with Octavia face-to-face, I think she’s really fighting within herself about how to deal with what’s going on, without going back to her Azgeda self. I think she’s trying to get through it, and she’s worried she’s gonna get triggered and just unravel all the things that she’s learned. Like it’ll just implode on her. It’s like walking on eggshells for Echo.

But she’s really strong, and she’s really smart, so she is able to handle it. But she makes some crazy choices, because for the first time ever, she’s in love, and she’s back in a war situation, and she’s somewhere she’s never been before. So it’s scary for her.

That’s really interesting, that she might not only be concerned with how things will change for Skaikru, but how she herself might change.

Definitely. I mean, the whole thing with Octavia and Echo… when Echo stabbed Octavia, that was a reflexive movement. It just came from her training and her physical muscle memory. And so she’s definitely aware that there could be some danger around the corner if she gets triggered again.

When I spoke to Luisa d’Oliveira, she said that Emori has completely integrated into SpaceKru. They’re her family, she loves them, she trusts them. Does Echo feel as confident about her connection to them?

That’s a big concern of hers. These are all the emotional obstacles that Echo has to face. She can’t just live in a world of black and white anymore. Before, she only relied on herself, and she knew she could handle herself, so she was able to just be a violent kind of person who took on the world, because she was by herself and just working in the name of Azgeda.

But now, her paradigm has changed. She knows how much everybody misses their old friends, and how much they all care about each other, and so she’s fighting to believe that they care about her just as much as she cares about them. But she also got banished by Roan, and she got banished by Octavia, so she’s been abandoned before, and these are all things that sit in her soul, you know, despite herself.

I also wanted to follow up on something you said in your interview with SpoilerTV last week, that you might be interested in directing? Maybe even an episode of the show?

Yeah! Me and Jessica Harmon, who plays Niylah, were talking about directing something together, and I was actually supposed to be in Vancouver and working alongside her, but I had to stay in LA for work.

But as I was informing Echo’s persona and her physicality in season 4, it occurred to me that there is something about Robin Wright in House of Cards that is just very regal and very economical and very minimalist — and that’s who Echo is. So I started reading interviews about how she created her character, and I saw that she talked about directing, and how she started directing House of Cards. She’s a director now.

And it occurred to me, for the first time, that I could be a director. I was like, ‘WHOA!’ That hadn’t ever occurred to me. I thought it was either for guys, or for women who’d wanted to be a director from day 1. I did know that some of the actors are shadowing some of the directors on The 100, but they were mostly male.

So Jessica shadowed one of our directors, and Lindsey shadowed one of our directors, and next season I’ve spoken to Jason [Rothenberg] about shadowing as well, so I can explore it a little further. And the show is so great in that respect, and so supportive. They have something like four cast members, three of whom are women, that they are trying to set up to be directors. The support from Jason and the whole team is amazing.

That’s so great to hear. It’s so funny, in the industry you always hear people say, ‘oh, my show is like a family…’ but it really feels like The 100 is like a family.

It really is! I mean, Lindsey is upstairs right now sleeping, we’re going to Bob’s house tonight. We’ve literally become this band of rejects (laughs). We hang out together, and work together… it’s lovely though, it’s really great.

What do you think it is about The 100 that inspires such passion in its fans? What do you find fascinating about it?

Well, I remember talking to Jason and Dean [White] in season 4 about how the show really works best when no one is the bad guy. Which I think is such a genius setup. They’ve created this very heightened, politically dangerous landscape for all of the players in the show, so no one’s ever safe and things are always shifting, and the characters always have to adjust to survive in this world.

I often think about all the politics in our day-to-day lives, and how they parallel what’s happening on our show; how leaders make decisions, and why they make these big strategic moves. And the writers do try to support every different perspective, so that it doesn’t lean too heavily in one way. Even if it is for a brief moment, they try to rebalance it. Because I think everybody has a position that you can defend and that you can understand.

And, as you watch the show, you’re exploring how you’re feeling about all this stuff. That’s what creates these really cool conversations and this passion about it. You’re learning about yourself, and kind of being told, ‘Hey, everybody’s having a tough time. Everybody is fighting. in some way, for something.’

You also see in the show that listening to each other, and hearing each other instead of fighting, is paramount. If only we could all just learn how to do that better!

What has been your favorite part about playing Echo so far, and your favorite part of her journey?

Oh man. I think my favorite part about playing Echo is that she’s a character that people either love or hate — she’s like cilantro, you know? And some people can’t see past some of the things she’s done, even though other people have done equally terrible things.

But I feel like nobody is born a bad person. So part of Echo’s journey, and part of the story that I love being able to tell, is that when you do show people love — when you do accept people, and bring them in, and make them feel safe — they actually are able to be a better version of themselves. That’s something I think is really great about Echo’s growth and change over the last couple of seasons.

Thank you Tasya Teles for all your thoughts on The 100 and Echo’s arc in season 5! Echo and the rest of SpaceKru return in 5×03 “Sleeping Giants,” which airs Tuesday at 9/8c on The CW.

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