“The 100” creator Jason Rothenberg on having a queer female lead & the Clexa dynamic in Season 3

Tonight Season 3 of The 100 premieres tonight on The CW, and it might just be the most anticipated season yet. While it took the show some time to find its footing, creator and EP Jason Rothenberg is happy to see that viewers have caught on to the post-apocalyptic drama. Queer women have especially enjoyed how the series has grown to be inclusive with protagonist Clarke (Eliza Taylor) engaging in a romantic relationship with Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Clarey), the Commander of the 12 Clans.

Although Season 2 ended with Lexa betraying Clarke and Clarke massacring the Mountain Men, Season 3 finds the former lovers reuniting early on. But things are even more complicated now, and they will have to find a way to trust one another if they are to have any kind of co-existence, much less a relationship.

We spoke with Jason Rothenberg about Clarke’s evolution and what’s in store for Clexa this season on The 100.

2016 Winter TCA Tour - CW Network PanelsPhoto by JB Lacroix/WireImage

AfterEllen.com: It’s still very revolutionary to have your female protagonist be sexually fluid or bisexualhowever she identifies.

Jason Rothenberg: I’m told that’s unusual. Unprecedented maybe? 


AE: How did that come to be?

JR: How did that come to be? Well, you know, as a show in general, I don’t try to make—I don’t label things and I try to have it be—which, by the way, gets me in a little bit of trouble sometimes. We don’t self-identify her that way. She’s definitely bi. But people don’t look at themselves—it’s a different kind of world. In our world, I understand how important that is. In the world of the show, it’s more—it’s not about what your sexual orientation is, or what your gender is, if you’re disabled or not—it’s just are you strong or not. Are you going to help me survive today or not? Nobody gives a fuck who are you having sex with or who you love or what color you are. It’s just not part of that world view based on a hundred years of really, like—if you take away all of the things we took for granted like where our next meal is going to come from and the fact that we’re going to survive until the end of the day, the fact we have a place to sleep, oxygen on The Ark, water on The Ark—these things were not a given. That becomes what you worry about. You’re not going to live or die based on what color you are, but you are going to live or die based on whether you can fight your way out of a situation. So with that sort of bigger world view in the show, it became obvious to us that sexuality, that someone’s sexual orientation would be the same; that it’d be looked at the same way we looked at race or looked at the other things.

And to make it Clarke? You know, I hate to—I don’t want to give credit to the wrong writers, but there were a couple of writers in the room—I want to say Dorothy Fortenberry and Kim Shumway—who they were definitely the first ones to pitch it to me as an idea. I said, “Let’s do that” right away and so that’s how it evolved, and it just evolved from there. And we just treated it the way we’d we’d treat any other thing. 


AE: Was Lexa created out of that or was she already coming to be?

JR: She was already coming to be. Lexa was—we talked about the Commander a little bit in Season 1. It was like, “The Commander’s gonna be pissed,” or “We gotta talk to the Commander about that.” And that tends to be what we do. We drop little nuggets about things or places or people, and then eventually we’ll meet those things or people. And then Lexa started to evolve as a character, and that was an idea that was pitched and it just made complete sense. The moment, I think I’m remembering it now, the moment was in Episode 9 when Lexa tells Clarke the story of Costia at the fire after the funeral, and she talks about Costia—that was the first reference, I think, to her sexuality. I read the script and was like, “Hmm, OK. Let me talk to the writers about this and see where we’re going” and it just made perfect sense. And I’ve obviously embraced it and run with it. I think it’s—the fact that it’s taken off the way it really cool. It’s been a good phenomenon to watch happen. You guys voted it something—


AE: Favorite TV Drama. It’s been huge. On AfterEllen, we have several returning shows that usually do pretty well in things like our Visibility Awards but this year The 100 just kind of swooped in and took some of those wins away. It’s a testament to the show.

JR: Maybe because though—I mean, I don’t know, but maybe because, again, it’s not about—I think that shows that deal with those issues in contemporary society are responsible for and owe the sort of real making it about that, perhaps. I feel like this world, it just is. I think that’s the way we’d all like the world to be. Wouldn’t you like to live in a world where nobody cares? It’s just who you are, and that’s fine, you know? Now there might not be an AfterEllen in that world—maybe there would, I don’t know.

I’m just saying, I get the need for it, completely, in our world, but, you know, I kind of like that we don’t have the need for it in that world and nobody bats an eye. Nobody says, “Oh really? She’s into girls? I didn’t know that.” It just doesn’t happen. The only time I made a choice, I think, because I wanted to be clearer about the fact Clarke was, in fact, bisexual was this season’s premiere where she has [a hook-up with Niylah]—that could have been with anybody. The thing is because she’s bi, she can fuck anybody. I know people might get upset if she is with a guy, but—cuz she’s into both. That’s the definition of bi, technically. 

But I did want to make it very clear that she was. I feel like last season, I feel like it was clear that she was, but there were definitely people I saw on Twitter who’d say, “Oh no, she’s not really into Lexa. Politically she needed to do that for her people” or whatever. And so we knew she was going through the world drinking and trying to escape and fucking and doing anything she could to escape her pain and everything she’d done, and I knew I wanted to haver her in bed with somebody in that way, in an escapist way in the premiere and so the choice to make it a woman was because I wanted that to be like, “No more discussion. It is what it is.”


AE: There’s a scene between Clarke and Lexa this season where Clarke has to make a big decision which essentially shows how she feels about Lexa.

JR: Lexa loves Clarke, probably by now. Lexa was definitely smitten—like love at first sight, probably. If you think about the time our show has unfolded over is very short. All three seasons are, like, four months of time in our lives. And so love takes a while, especially in a world where you’re again, worried about all these other things; life and death. For Lexa it was more of a thunderbolt, for Clarke, probably it grew in a different way. It grew from how sort of much like her she is, really. She sees a pragmatism in her and a willingness to do what it takes, and a strength that is very attractive. Plus she’s awesome, and, you know, because her mind is open to experiences of, in a sexual manner, of both sexes, that just happens.

And then at the end of episode 15 when she left her there and was willing to let her die and let her people die to save her own people, as devastated as it made Lexa, she did make that choice. It was an abandonment on some level. And Clarke’s fucking pissed about it, and when Clarke comes together with her, that won’t go away very easily. Lexa’s gonna have to work to get that back; to get her trust back and so it takes a little while. Whether it happens or not—I don’t think it even happens by the end of Episode 4 that you’ve watched. There’s one scene at the end of four where you’re like “OK.”


AE: You said during the panel you have a vision for how this ends, the entire series. How confident can Clexa fans be that that includes Clarke and Lexa together?

JR: I’m not gonna go there; I won’t go there. You know, the truth is I know where I want it to go, but I’m always open to a better idea. I get very excited and proud of myself sometimes when I have an idea that, on Day 1 of the season in the writers room I pitch it and say, “This is what’s gonna happen at the end,” and we’re doing that at the end—when that lasts the whole time, that’s awesome to me, personally, but the room—they’re there to add meat to the bone and come up with better ideas, and they usually do.


AE: It seems like a great room.

JR: It’s a great room. A lot of women in that room, believe me. We have eight women writers, and there are 13 writers on the show. And it’s not a female sort of kind of show. It’s a post-apocalyptic—it’s the kind of show you would think would appeal—it’s not a soap. Not that that’ the only thing that women watch, but it’s not Jane the Virgin or Crazy Ex-Girlfriend which have very female-dominated staff. These are women writers that are writing hardcore sci-fi.


AE: It’s interesting, there are a ton of male critics here that are as into the show as the women are. That can be rare.

JR: The same way we look at gender identity in the show, I look at it in the writers’ room. They’re either good writers or not. They’re either going to help me survive or not. They’re helping me survive.


Season 3 of The 100 airs tonight on The CW.