The 100 finally delivered Echo’s (Tasya Teles) long-awaited backstory, and though we shouldn’t be surprised at how dark and traumatic it turned out to be, we’re still seriously hurting for the poor girl.
In an episode that was already full of emotion thanks to the ongoing sibling conflict between Bellamy (Bob Morley) and Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos), we also went through the wringer via flashbacks to Echo’s childhood, where we learned her origins as a spy for Azgeda. As it turns out, Echo’s real name is Ash, but in a loyalty test from Queen Nia (Brenda Strong), she was forced to kill her best friend — the real Echo — who’d been tasked with killing her. She then had to assume Echo’s identity for her first mission, and thus her life as an assassin began.
TV Guide spoke to Teles about this horrifying revelation and what it was like to finally get some context for why and how Echo has always related to the world and characters around her.
How exciting was it to finally get to tell Echo’s backstory and see some of where she started? Tasya Teles: I think that’s been a big part of what’s missing in her storyline, you know? Everybody has a sense of history or at least some sort of story of where they came from, and she was the only one that nobody knew anything about. We all hypothesized and I obviously didn’t develop as much as I could, but I was so curious and so excited to see how the writers were going to elaborate on this and what they were going to bestow upon her and whether that lined up with what I had researched about traumas that made sense in terms of how she’s developed as an adult. So, it was awesome and I was really looking forward to it and it was kind of going back and forth. This season has been so big and there’s been so much new territory to cover that I was worried that we weren’t going to get an opportunity to peek into her backstory but, lo and behold, we did.
How much of Echo’s back story did you actually know beforehand to inform your performance over the past few years?
Teles: Really nothing. I mean, Jason [Rothenberg] would occasionally tell me about storylines that they were batting around in the writers’ room and depending on how things go, every character has a bunch of different journeys that they explore and I guess the writers kind of crunch over it and mull over it and see what makes sense and what supports what they need to do that season. And so, I’ve heard a lot of well, we were thinking about doing this. There was a storyline with Nia and Echo at one point they were discussing, which is cool but nothing in terms of her as a youngster. [She] and Azgeda was more kind of after the fact.
And what was your initial reaction to learning her backstory?
Teles: Oh my God, it was heartbreaking. I mean, there was a moment that we filmed in an earlier episode that actually didn’t make the final cut, which is upsetting, or whatever, because it was just this beautiful moment where she goes and ceremoniously lights a candle and apologizes to her younger self and [she] and Bellamy both have this kind of — we’re starting new, this is a new planet and here we go and let’s make amends and try to move forward. And I didn’t understand she was [supposed] to write something on a piece of paper which she tied to a candle, a Chinese lantern that it floats into the sky, and I was really confused when I heard what I was writing on this piece of paper and I was like, “Whoa, are you guys going to explain this to me or are you just trying to confuse me or what’s happening here?”
I think … kids who are adopted or kids who go through abuse or terrible family situations have trouble with a sense of identity. And when they don’t have good role models and they’re doing their best, they can go through these motions of just wanting to be good and trying to be good and trying to always fit in, but they will always feel like the outsiders because they never have their home. They never know what unconditional love is. They never know what their parents were like — or are like. And so it’s really heartbreaking for me to think of somebody who not only did she go through suffering the loss of her family in a really violent way and then having to survive [that], but one of her first friends … she had to kill and assume their identity, which not only adds a layer of kind of — where you just don’t have a sense of self or you don’t have a sense of identity, right? So it adds another layer to that but it also, in that moment, taught her that this is the only way to survive. She was rewarded for doing that act of violence and then she survived and then that became a recurring theme for her throughout her childhood into her adult life.
Looking back on it, it’s pretty impressive that she was able to integrate into this Space Kru family, having that be her first experience of losing a friend.
Teles: Absolutely. I worked with an acting coach in Vancouver who’s amazing. He was like, “Nobody can go to the store [without] Echo thinking that they’re never going to come back.” And I was just like, “Oh my god that’s so sad.” To live in a place where part of you is already one step outside of the door because you are just so used to people banishing you or abandoning you or whatever. It’s just, it just breaks my heart. I really feel for her. … So when we saw last season that she changed because she met a new group of people and it taught her a new philosophy and shifted her entire paradigm, that was so important for her. But it also — I think she’s still trying to shed her guilt about all of that. That’s still something that stays with her is, do people really like her? Is she only safe if she’s useful? Is she allowed to be herself? What is being herself, you know? That is something that sits in the depths of her subconscious, but interestingly she does move forward. She’s very resilient so she doesn’t let herself grapple with those things too much, but I think it’s at the base of all her fears. Is she going to be abandoned and she’s just always looking to create and protect a family.
Do you think that she would ever tell Bellamy that story or is that something that she just always plans to keep deep, deep inside?
Teles: I think in that moment where they were doing that lantern ceremony, it made it clear to me that that was something that she was going to keep to herself. I think all these characters have secrets and their own things that they keep close to their hearts and they all have gone through so much. I don’t know. That was something that I was wrestling with over the season was, what would it look like? What would that conversation look like between her and Bellamy, and I think she would be too afraid to share that willingly. You know, whether she gets outed or not is another thing. But, yeah.
I’m just heartbroken that nobody’s been calling her by her right name for years. Poor girl and her identity crisis.
Teles: And how fitting is the name Echo? I find her a character that does kind of reflect other people’s actions or the scenario at hand. She’s someone who’s always the — she’s very steady and she’s very clear and she’s always kind of moving in a straight line, whereas everyone else is kind of jostling around her and she’s always like, “This is what needs to be done, this is the plan” and stuff like that. But behind that determination, I think, is somebody who knows she’s a scared little girl by a completely different name.
And moving forward, what’s her role going to be now that Madi (Lola Flanery) is still her commander but also very, very off-kilter?
Teles: I think Echo has a very strong sensitivity to people that start going awry. I think she’s worked under and protected the most ruthless person of the 12 or 13 clans and so now having known that there’s another way to live, I think her antenna is really up and it’s really sensitive. When it comes to people like Octavia, she sees and recognizes where Octavia is because she’s also been there and understands people really well. So I think she’s going to try to protect Madi from herself and everybody else as best she can.
Now that Echo has been turned into a Nightblood, how worried should we be that she’s next up on the body-snatching list?
Teles: I think pretty worried. Yeah, I’m not sure where to go with answering that one, but … I remember it was shocking news when Jason and I were talking about that whole thing last year as the story was developing.
Would that be something you’d like to do, departing from Echo and playing an entirely new character?
Teles: Oh, absolutely. I think that was something that was the coolest about what the actors got to do who did get the chip placed into them. They get to explore an entire different way of being within the same context of the show and within the relationships in the shows and stuff like that. That’s something that I had the privilege of doing on a different show, on Travelers, which was a similar idea but very, very different, where a consciousness got transferred through somebody, so you could kind of — I got to play various different parts within the same body on the show and that was, as an actor, so much fun. That was so interesting to be able to work on that level.
The 100 airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on The CW.
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