The current season of The 100 wouldn’t be as memorable if it wasn’t for a character like Josephine Lightbourne, hallowed be her name, defining it.
The twist though came from all the different takes that the audience got on the character, with multiple actors taking on that role.
But it was the original scene-stealing actress, Sara Thompson, who first introduced the ruthless and fascinating Josephine that would inflict total chaos on our favorite female lead.
Sara managed to intrigue us with a simple flashback, and from then on we got the privilege of seeing her grace our screens in a unique portrayal of Josephine in her shared mind-space with Clarke Griffin.
And while Josephine was killed by the joint effort of Clarke and Bellamy (and Gabriel) during The 100 Season 6 Episode 10, her legacy still likes on and so does the hope that we will see her again.
Taking some time out to talk with us, Sara Thomspon shares her view on Josephine’s humanity and how she tackled playing this character. She also touched on her collaborative effort on portraying Josephine with Eliza Taylor and offered some insight into whether there is still a chance Josephine will appear in the upcoming last two episodes of The 100 Season 6.
How did you approach playing a character like Josephine Lightbourne?
There were many things that went into it. Josephine is pretty clearly the villain of this season, however, that’s not really how I looked at her at all. I didn’t want to focus on her necessarily ruthless behavior and focus more on her goal.
Another aspect of this character is that Eliza and I shared her, so that was a really fun process that we got to work together and create this character with the help of the writers.
We would hang out, and we would send each other voicemails back and forth. “How would you say this one?” or “What do you think she means by this?”, that was a really fun and interesting way to grow with the character with someone else.
What was it like trying to find and balance a humanity in Josephine when she seemed so clearly sociopathic?
A really easy way for me to find her humanity, to find a human in Josephine was through her humor. She’s very cheeky and although what she was saying was so heavy and pretty hard-hearted, she found a way to say it in such a funny way.
To me, that really brought her down to Earth and humanized her.
Did you believe that Josephine was a sociopath like the narrative said she was?
Gosh no. I think Josephine is definitely ruthless, determined, and she’s dedicated to what she wants the outcome to be. Similarly to Clarke, she will do anything to get that. Although the definition of a sociopath is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome, she didn’t see it that way.
She just wants to help her people and help herself.
And another human thing about her was that she was in love with this guy, everything really did come back to that for her.
Through Josephine’s journey, did you think she was driven by a fear of dying or the thrill of living forever like a god?
She was willing to do whatever is best for her people, no matter what the cost was. I think her past drove her for sure and she definitely wanted to be immortal.
That was her goal, and that was her goal for her people.
It was driven by all that trauma that she had been through, as what happened through Gabriel and Russell’s experimentation with the drive and bringing her back to life failed over and over again. It took away pieces of her humanity; she was really just a product of her environment.
How did it feel to get some backstory for Josephine? Did you ever create more in your mind for the character?
It’s interesting. When I started with Josephine in The 100 Season 6 Episode 2, I had no idea that she was a sociopath because she had no idea she was a sociopath.
She was just doing whatever was best. She was living her life and using her brilliantness to help her family with Sanctum; she just wanted the best for her family.
In the beginning, I did start to think as actors do, why did she do this? Why would she say all these things that she’s saying to Clarke? Why does she speak in such a positive way even when what she is saying is so very twisted?
But once you see her go through the suicide of her stalker, then to see her father not only kill her but to kill her mother right in front of her eyes. Then to have her come back to life just for a glimpse of a moment, just to be terrified and see your father’s face, that is actually what helped me with the sociopath side of things.
That is when I finally was like, okay I understand now where it all comes from and you kind of have to put yourself in their shoes.
How was it like in general to play off of Eliza Taylor in so many of your scenes, specifically ones like the mind-space focused episode?
It was a blast, to say the least. Actors work together all the time, and you can only really work with what you’re given and she gave me everything.
It was really cool of Eliza, when I was being the character, she never went in and was like, “Well you know what I think Josephine would say it like this”.
She respected all my choices, and she took stuff from what I did, clearly applied it to her playing Josephine. She did such an amazing job, and we had so much fun just hanging out on our own time and roleplaying as Josephine and just bringing her to life.
It was so fun, and at the same time Eliza and I were both a little bit sick, and we were working together through that. It just felt so so natural. I was so impressed by how she could turn Clarke right back on and have so much disconnect to the character that she’s been playing for so long as Josephine.
As the original Josephine, was there any added pressure knowing there were other Josephine’s this season?
I wouldn’t say that there was pressure because you only know so much about the scripts to come or where your character is going to go as you’re filming.
So I feel like the pressure would have just killed the performance, instead of feeling pressure, I embraced all that she was. I figured go big or go home.
The writers were the biggest help with it, they wrote such a specific character, and they made it quite easy for us to say the least.
There’s a scene where Gabriel (Chuku Modu) sees Josephine on the way to the Anomaly as both his greatest fear and desire. What was the experience like filming with another actor’s take on Gabriel?
That one also can go out to the writers. Gabriel still felt like Gabriel so in my mind as Josephine I was thinking, well I’ve seen Gabriel in so many different bodies. Or I’ve seen him in two bodies.
Later on, you see that scene of us together dancing, and you can tell that it is just so much more than a physical thing, it is truly their minds and their hearts that are connected.
That was the number one thing you had to think about going into it.
I’m sure the other actors acting across Eliza, seeing Clarke as someone else, you have to put all that preconceived notion and preconceived work that you’ve done and bring it down and put it onto someone else.
I don’t think it was too much of a challenge to see someone else as Gabriel, it was really important to portray everything still being there, all the love, the way she looks at him and the way she smiles at him.
It was important for Josephine and Gabriel and the audience to help understand that no matter what body, no matter where they are, that love and that intimacy will always be there.
Was there any actor that you wanted to share more scenes with or any character that you think would have been fun to see Josephine engage with?
I love working with JR Bourne, who plays Russell. He is so amazing to work with, such a joy on set and I would have loved to have more scenes with him.
Eliza as Josephine got to work with Murphy a lot, but I think the dynamic between Richard Harmon and I — we are friends and have been friends for a while — I think it would have been really funny to see my version of Josephine face him.
Although it would be impossible, I think it would be quite funny for the audience to see those two characters interact.
What was it like coming into such an established show and playing such a core character for the season?
It was wild.
It was for sure one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my career thus far. You know you’re walking into such a well-oiled machine and six seasons, it is like clockwork they just know.
But it was really awesome to see even after so many seasons how everybody adjusts, and I was welcomed with more than open arms. Everyone was so supportive and helpful, what seemed so intimidating to me in the beginning just worked itself out, and I felt so at home on that set. They made me feel like I had been there the whole time.
What was your favorite version of Josephine to play?
I would have to say, I like to be angry, and I loved the fighting scenes, and I loved that she was very passionate and scary but there’s nothing better than playing the ruthless, cheeky, kind of evil and cheerful villain.
It gave this dimension to the character, and it was so fun to say such intense things to someone who is so scared for her life and teetering literally on the edge of eternity and she is just laughing about it.
I’m a big fan of the original Josephine getting her own spinoff show. What would you have liked to explore more as Josephine if given the chance?
I definitely think that’s a great idea.
I would have loved to explore Josephine’s relationship with her parents prior. I know we got a glimpse in the beginning and you could tell how close she and her dad were, she just loves him and looks up to him and vice versa he sees her brain and her heart.
I think that is such a beautiful relationship and the amount that you get from that one scene, you feel like you get her whole backstory and it is really cool.
Another thing that I have thought would be cool is more of Gabriel and Josephine and why they are so in love and how that crazy whirlwind love came to be. It is an over 200-year romance, so you want to know more about that.
That’s why the fans loved that storyline because there’s so much more, you get a little taste of it but you don’t really see it.
I think it’s fun for the audience to create that in their own minds, it relates to their own life. Those are two things that would have definitely been fun to experience and portray.
If you could play any other character on the show, who would it be?
That’s a good question.
I watch the show, and everyone is so phenomenal, I watch the show in awe at everything coming together. Since the beginning of the show, Murphy has had such a crazy arc, and he does the wildest things and survives the wildest things. He is so determined and driven, you see him want to give up, and he never does.
We’ve hated him, we’ve loved him. So he’s loved in spite of that and I think that would be such a fun character to play.
You announced recently that you are going to Unity Days 4 in January. What are you most excited about with this being your first The 100 convention?
I’m so excited to meet the fans and the audience and the people who got me there. I see everything on Twitter and Instagram, and they are so passionate. I just can’t wait to hear what they have to say and see them face to face and just all of that.
Honestly I can’t wait.
Is there a chance for us to see more of Josephine, perhaps in flashbacks, in the last two episodes of this season?
Josephine always has all these tricks up her sleeve so who knows? She’s a trickster. Everyone will be on the edge of their seat. We will see.
The 100 airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on The CW.
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Yana Grebenyuk is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.