'The 100': 'Grey's Anatomy's' Isaiah Washington in a grim sci-fi existence

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It's 97 years since people managed to do the inevitable -- detonate enough atomic bombs that life as we know it was obliterated.

Earth's survivors exist in a hodgepodge of space stations, and 100 miscreant youth are shot back to the home planet. What sort of world they will find and what sort they will create is the basis for The CW's "The 100," premiering Wednesday, March 19.

The dystopian sci-fi show, which is pronounced "The Hundred," is believable. Set in the near-enough future that viewers are not required to suspend belief that aliens have taken over, the series begins inside the space stations. After the nuclear apocalypse, 12 nations forged their space stations into one.

It is a pretty grim existence.

Chancellor Jaha (Isaiah Washington, "Grey's Anatomy") is the tested leader, who makes very tough decisions that include sending his son down to Earth.

"It is not a morality tale," Washington tells  Zap2it. "It's a cautionary tale. Hey, we can comment on this show and what needs to change. To show the world we have to take a look at how we treat one another, and if we don't, this is what can happen."

"It doesn't mean it will prevail, but without it you have nothing but chaos," he says.

This show, Washington says, "is a drama pretending to be a science fiction."

When you have a bunch of teenagers and a few in their early 20s creating a new society, comparisons to "Lord of the Flies" are inevitable.

"I was actually looking to do a 'Lord of the Flies'-like story at the time that this studio sent 'The 100' my way," executive producer Jason Rothenberg says at a press conference. "And it sort of touched all those creative erogenous zones. I love 'Lord of the Flies.' It was one of those books that I could blame for the fact I'm a writer."

The pilot sets up two camps: Clarke versus Bellamy, and they need to figure out how they are going to live. Clarke (Eliza Taylor, "Neighbours") is an artist, tough and in juvenile detention, though it's not clear why. It seems no one has to commit too great a transgression to be considered a threat.

And punishments are fast and final: People are ejected from the space station, instantly killed in deep space.

Clarke is skilled in many areas; she seems to have learned healing arts from her mother, a doctor, and exudes a natural sense of leadership. She believes in a more structured society.

"She's got it going on," Taylor says of her character. "She's smarter than me, and I'm 25. She is such a cool character to play."

Shortly into the 13-episode season, viewers are likely to decide if they are "Team Clarke or Team Bellamy," Taylor says. "They have to lock heads only to see who will have any sort of leadership. They have to come together and build this new world and do it well even though there is so much to do."

Bellamy (Bob Morley, "Home and Away") is slightly older than the others and has a bit of the bad boy swagger. He has always been very protective of his sister, Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos, "Cult"), because she was essentially illegal.

No one is allowed to have more than one child aboard the space station. Octavia spent her life hidden, and now on Earth is determined to be as free as possible, so she instantly takes risks.

The action hearkens back to the adults on the space station, who grow increasingly worried because their progeny are losing the ties that bind them -- they remove the ID bracelets that track them.

"It is almost like two stories," Morley says. "The adults in their arc and the 100 on the ground. In a lot of parts, it's about humanity and survival and hope and human intention. It is about survival and band together and survive or fall apart."

"The characters are complicated," Morley says. "The writers have written in so much gray, and they take it where I didn't think it would go. Bellamy is such a very strong character, but he is weak in so many other aspects."

The 100 are quickly tested. Water that is too green contains what could be the radioactive mutant descendant of the Loch Ness Monster. Skulls that are not quite human are found. There are definitely other creatures there, and they're adept at hiding. 

There's also a two-headed deer, most likely another victim of the nuclear disaster.

Even main characters, or characters viewers would assume would have significant or lasting roles, do not have long life spans.

Ultimately it will come down to how do the 100 -- or 99 and sure to be dipping -- govern themselves and how they will live.

"A lot of the fun is in the world building and the creation of it," Rothenberg says. "We're trying to ground it in real science as much as possible. Obviously there's some fiction in our science fiction. But really, we made a decision early on that it was going to be about what the people do to each other more so than what the world does to the people."
Photo/Video credit: The CW