As soon as Zach McGowan appears on your screen, it is almost your inner instinct to pay even more attention. The impact that Zach makes on projects is effortless and long-lasting.
So, it was a surprise to absolutely no one when Roan appeared on The 100, ready to win over the audience with his powerful performance of a character with plenty of unknown potential.
Roan first appeared when he kidnapped Clarke Griffin during The 100 Season 3 Episode 1, which kickstarted the journey to learning more about the king to the Azgeda throne. All it took was one episode, and the interest in Roan grew, with questions about his past and the way he fit into the future of the show rolling around in everyone's mind.
Roan was unpredictable, making fans wonder what his next step would be and even getting some humor out of it in the process.
Zach was able to make sure that Roan never wore his heart on his sleeve, which leads to some comedic timing in the middle of the end of the world. All in all, Roan was a breath of fresh air that no one was expecting.
We were all thankful that we got to spend the time with Roan that we had before the conclave, at least.
Taking some time out to answer our questions, Zach McGowan shares his thoughts on the legacy he left behind on The 100 and that surprise appearance he blessed us with during The 100 Season 7 Episode 1.
Zach also talks about Conageddon, a convention he created for fans of The 100 with co-stars Bob Morley and Eliza Taylor.
What was it like being on a show like The 100?
It was my pleasure to be on a show like The 100. It was a lot of fun to be on the show. I learned a lot and made a lot of lifelong friends.
Sometimes you get lucky and get along with everyone, and everything goes well. And that was The 100; it was a fun experience for me. It was also an experience where I got to use a lot of my skill set.
Some shows only want certain parts of you, and others only want other parts of you, but with The 100, I was lucky enough that I think Jason and everyone knew what I was good at, how to use me well. I was lucky there to just get to do some amazing work. It was my pleasure.
How did you approach playing a character as stoic and mysterious as Roan?
For me, my approach is always in the shame of that; you get told a certain amount sometimes by writers and producers and people involved with the show, which affects how you're going to read the pages.
Then they tell you stuff beforehand, you also get the pages or the script itself, and you get to read what that is and how that adds to what they're doing.
All of that kind of informs your choices moving forward with that.
I was lucky where Jason had offered me the role, and he explained everything that he was trying to do, with the introduction of the character, where it placed into the story, and all that.
So, my process was really just to see what the story was, what they were doing with it, how Roan fit into that and then make choices about the character that I thought worked. I was lucky enough that everyone liked what I was doing and that I got to have fun with it.
What was maybe the more challenging part of playing Roan?
Well, anytime you're speaking in a language that you don't speak, it's very challenging. So, speaking Trig was really hard, and I do quite a bit of it actually, over the years I was there. So, to me, that's always challenging.
I've had to do that with other languages, like Russian or Spanish, in languages that I don't speak before, and that's always challenging. So, to be honest, that was the hardest thing for me. Also, because it's not like a language that's spoken, or maybe it wasn't.
I think more people speak it out than maybe some other languages. But because of that, there wasn't much understanding of exactly what I needed to do.
Then the other things that I think would be traditionally challenging are the things that I find fun in my work. Like I think the physical aspect of the character and where they shoot and all of that, those were all just fun to me.
Some people are like, "Oh, I hate the cold." I love it. I love a good physical challenge. To be honest, those things were all the pleasures of it. But the Trig was hard.
I have heard in other interviews about that epic Conclave episode and how you do most of your own stunts. What is it like to take that on in addition to the acting portion of each scene?
The only time I ever don't do my own stunts is when someone is not allowing me to. For example, when some decision has been made based on an insurance thing where they're like, "No, he's not driving that car over that cliff." And I'm like, "Dude; there is an airbag down there. I'm going to hit the airbag, and it's going to be fine."
But I find those pursuits fun and fascinating. For me balancing the acting aspect, I don't ever have an issue with that because there are two different parts of my brain.
There's the brain that I would be learning a physical aspect, the choreography for a fight scene with, and then there's the part of my brain that would be working on the acting. So, they don't clash in any way. It doesn't really get in the way of anything.
If anything, for me, I find it a benefit because what happens with a double is that a stunt double goes in there and does stuff in between your lines. Now, as an actor, you're going to have to start the way they ended in order to make the edit work. Essentially, you're going to have to do what they did.
So, you're getting a little less freedom as an actor, whereas I'm usually not boxed in by that, where like now I'm on my right knee, and I have to stand up, turning over my left shoulder or else the shot doesn't work because it has to match what they did.
To me, the hardest part about that, though, is, generally, I have to fight both the other person's stunt double and them in the scene. So, I have to do it more times.
For instance, when I've done jobs where I'm just with an actor who does them, we might just do it once, and we do it perfectly, and then they're moving on to the next shot. Whereas if you're doing it with a stunt double and an actor, you'll have to do it at least twice, because you'll be doing it with each one of them.
The thing that is hard about that obviously is that each person is going to do it slightly differently, so you're having to adapt to all of that.
But I mean, I just love it. Like me and Nadia had a lot of fun. We got to switch fight quite a bit, even though her double was in there, Tamiko Brownlee, who was doing a lot of stuff for her. Yeah, Tamiko is badass.
For me, it's all part of the job, and I love the job. That episode especially was a fun one because it was pouring rain, and we were using all kinds of tools with the fighting. It was great.
Speaking of that conclave episode, Roan sadly didn't end up winning that competition. Do you think you, personally, would have been able to?
Like if you put me and Marie and Nadia with swords somewhere? And then you would have me and Marie tag-teaming with real swords. I don't think many people in the world would survive Marie and I tag-teaming them with real swords from two angles, least of all myself.
If I was tag teamed like that, I don't think I would live. I get the question, but in reality, a two-on-one sword fight would be a pretty difficult thing to win for anyone.
I believe that you could.
I'm pretty good with the sword. I'm going to say though that in movies and TV shows, like if you're winning a fight, that person would generally beat the hell out of you in reality. And if you're losing a fight, you would, generally, beat the snot out of that person in reality.
It's kind of a consistent thought amongst anyone who does stunt fighting.
I've also spoken with Aaron Ginsburg recently for this interview series, and he mentioned that you were almost killed off at the end of The 100 Season 3, but that then actually ended up being shifted so you could stay with the show longer. What was it like getting to film two death scenes in a show?
When I was on The 100, I was like in my late 30s, and now I just turned 40. I'm a man that has kids and a family, so for me, a lot of the emotional connection to my characters -- I'm sad to see them go sometimes, but that's also not what I'm most worried about.
Like usually, as a person, I'm like, "Fuck, I lost my job." That is usually the reality of it for me. But that first death scene, it was actually interesting because you see it happen when I get shot in the chest. And it was actually funny because Aaron was out there, Dean White was other there, and Jason was there as well and even Charmaine De Grate.
A bunch of the writers and producers were all there, so when you're doing death scenes, as I have on a lot of different shows, there is this whole emotional thing happening.
There are the people that like you as an actor, they think you're good, and they also like having you around because you're a good force on the show, and people are always trying to figure it out.
I'm usually there just doing my job, so that's how I kind of approach everything. Those things are beyond my control. Like all I can be is my best, so that is what I concentrate on. I try not to like dwell on what could have been and what should have been. I can't because I got four kids I have to deal with.
Moving from that a bit, fans of Roan are so passionate and love the character so much. When Roan did die, the fans still had a lot of fun looking for a way that he could have survived. What is it like for you knowing that you had such an impact on people?
To be honest, it really is such an honor. As an actor, so much of your life and so much of your career is where people just don't give a shit about anything. Then when people care about you and care about your work, it is just an honor. It feels great.
I'm sure for you, as a writer, when somebody likes the articles that you write, it just makes you feel good because that's what you spend your time doing. That's how I feel when it comes to acting. So, when people like it, it is so much nicer than when people hate it. Because, these days, you get so much of that too.
I'm sure as a writer, you have moments where people tell you a whole thing about what you wrote, and you're like, "Well, I wish they wouldn't have said that. Could they have not said that and just stop reading my article?"
That is so true!
Definitely. That's the way I feel too where someone is berating something I did, and I'm like, "My god. Just chill. Like if you didn't like it, you could've just watched something else."
So, when people love it, I feel the same way. Thank you. So, I felt really good about that.
Also, a lot of people ask me that at conventions and stuff, people will be like, "Come on. He was holding his breath! He pulled that same trick on Clarke back when they first met!"
And I was like, "Listen, I was actually just holding my breath down in there, so I get it, but I don't know. I don't know how that all works, and if they want to do something else, I'm an actor, so I like work. You could look at my career and see that I'm not the dude who's like, "I'm not doing that."
I'm usually like, "Oh, I can do that. How do I do that? Let's see if I can figure it out!"
That's very true. But ironically, during The 100 Season 7 Episode 1, you do end up appearing again as Roan. How was that experience of returning to the show as that Roan vision for Echo?
That was a really strange thing!
I had just been up in Vancouver shooting a guest star role on a show called Project Blue Book, and The 100 was about to go back when I was shooting there.
And some people are from Vancouver, and they are there year-round, and some people just show up for the season, so everyone was coming back for the season. I was seeing all The 100 folks up there because I was working on another show up there, and I was hanging out with them, and then I came back down to LA, and I got an email from Jason.
He was just like, "Dude; I need you up in Vancouver for an episode. Will you do it?"
And I was like, "Of course. Why? What's going on?" He just responded that there was more to come, and that followed with a call from my agents that I was going up there. So, I got back up there, I learned more about that scene, and I got to do that, which was interesting.
Going back to the show a bit, Roan had some of the funniest and most memorable scenes when he was paired off with Bellamy and Clarke on missions. What was it like getting to film with both Bob Morley and Eliza Taylor to bring those scenes to life?
It was a lot of fun. Bob and I were already friends before we were working together on it.
When Jason first pitched me the job, he was like, "Yeah, you get to kick the shit out of Bob in one of the first episodes of the season." And I was like, "Oh, nice!"
It was really fun and Eliza, and I became really great friends doing it. I think I met Eliza like once before I was like dragging her through the wilderness. You get to know people quickly in those scenarios.
So, these scenes were really benefiting from our friendships in that way since we were able to go places that worked with the story because of that. We were able to have those relationships. It's actually funny the kind of banter that they had and how snarky Roan became about it.
It's hilarious because my kids are now nine and seven, my older ones, and they, of course, have seen very little of my projects because so many of the things I've done are just so violent. So, I've always wondered at what age I would let my kids see some of my projects.
But with the quarantine going on, we're at the house a lot more, so we recently let some start seeing some stuff. We started out watching The Scorpion King: Book of Souls, which is PG-13, and they enjoyed that immensely. I got a lot of respect points around the house.
So, then they actually started watching The 100 Season 1 Episode 1 on Friday night, and they are almost done with that season because we're letting them do a little binge-watching at night, which we've never let them do before. It'll be interesting to see what they think, and I'm excited about that. It's just an interesting thing that they started to watch it. They love it.
And, of course, they know Bob and Eliza; we know a lot of people on the show, so they're like, "Bob looks so young!"
In addition to you working on the show with them, you have also created a convention with Bob Morley and Eliza Taylor. Conageddon is a The 100 focused convention that goes above and beyond for the fans. How has it been getting to create something like this?
What's so funny is that, literally, the idea for that came when we were at San Diego Comic-Con. We were chatting about how we do so many conventions, but we have so little control over anything and whether or not it's cool to the fans. We also mentioned, like, don't we feel bad because, essentially, people spend a lot of money, and if they have a terrible experience, we feel like we're part of that.
Basically, we turned that into the idea to just make one. So, we just did. It was one of those things where it just made a lot of sense. I mean, we were really hopeful after we postponed this year's to October 23rd-25th because of the coronavirus and making sure we do it all safely. We're hopeful that it will stay and be okay.
We have so much fun with it because we do get to actually say, "No, we should have a time where fans can just talk to us about anything."
So, we do it.
I have been to the convention, and I can tell you that fans really do find it to be so amazing.
We just try our best, because, in reality, we are all such down to Earth people, so we are just like, "Can't we just make it and be ourselves?"
You also have attended other cons, both before and after your time on The 100. What has it been like getting to meet the fans and to see their support in person?
There's really nothing better than that. In a world that seems so full of hatred, with all that we read in the media, and with everything that we always find ourselves bombarded with, it's really so amazing to know that there's so much love out there.
It's not even at the convention -- it's funny because a lot of my actor friends do all these big shows, but some of them are jealous of me because I'm recognizable. Probably because of my hair.
I can't go anywhere without a fan of The 100 or a fan of Black Sails coming up to me.
So, I'm constantly inundated with a little of that, regardless of whether I'm at a convention, so I am blessed in that way. Because I spent a lot of time traveling too, so it's almost like I have all these friends in the world that I don't know yet, but that are all around. It's really special.
It's actually been helpful to me in my regular life scenarios, times where I was somewhere new, and I didn't know anyone. Then all of a sudden, I was at a bar where there were a bunch of fans, and so that became me actually knowing people there.
It's never really been a bad thing; it's always just been such a blessing.
What is your favorite memory of being on The 100?
When you come onto a show as a guest star, you never know what you're gonna end up doing. But the fight between Roan and Lexa during The 100 Season 3 Episode 4 really stands out, especially all the stuff surrounding that.
It was this moment where everyone on the show was standing there watching us, and we were under a lot of pressure with timing, so it was a very unique one.
Also, everyone was like, "How are they going to do this?" Because when you read it, it felt like it was going to take a week, and yet, everyone was like, "We are going this before lunch on a Tuesday." So, it was one of those days where a lot of people were standing there and watching me.
Another really great time that stands out is a lot of the scenes between Roan and Clarke because they were so fantastic. One of those that stands out, though, is when we were in the laboratory, in that glass office upstairs, where we have a scene that was about three or four pages.
We ended up shooting it about like 10 minutes after they handed us the script pages, and the reason was that somebody had gotten sick, and something we were supposed to be shooting from a different episode was moved.
So, we had to move on, and they already had Eliza and I on set there. They knew there was going to be a scene up there in that location, but it wasn't fully written at that point.
They were writing it and trying to get it to us. I think Jason even walked in and said, "Hey, we're going to shoot this awesome scene, and it's going to be awesome, but you're going to get it like five minutes before. Is that cool?"
And Eliza and I knew we would be alright with that. I did ask if it was going to be like a 20-page monologue where I would have to say a bunch of medical terms, and Jason said that it was just going to be a good heart-to-heart.
Then literally, they handed that scene to us, and Eliza and I looked at it for five minutes, and we were ready. But it was a great moment from my time on the show.
Is there anyone you wish you had shared more scenes with?
I got to work with almost everyone at one point or another. But I didn't always get to work a lot with someone.
For instance, Sachin Sahel? We had some scenes right at the end of my time on the show, and he's really great to work with because he's just such a fun guy.
I got to work with most people. It's interesting because, with some people, you get to work with them a lot for one episode, like Alycia Debnam-Carey, but then I never got to work with her again because she was shooting another show. It's that feeling of having that fun, but then there's no more of it, which is the nature of TV and film. And life.
What can you share about your current or upcoming projects? Or maybe what you are doing now to stay busy?
I'm not really doing much right now because it's obviously still a quarantine period in California. I'm just doing my normal routine every day regardless, like workout wise, like I run 10 miles every day. So, I've been doing a lot of that, and I'm taking care of my kids at the moment because there are no schools.
But in terms of movies, Robert The Bruce is out, and it's on VOD. I also have a couple of guest star gigs coming down the pipeline, and the movie I did called Crabs in a Bucket is going to come out at some point in the fall.
As an actor, you keep working and keep going.
For The 100 fans still looking for some more nostalgia, TV Fanatic will continue a new, ongoing, The 100 interview series, "Looking Back on The 100," that centers on monumental cast members and characters from the show that left their mark.
We recently spoke with Eli Goree about his time on the show during The 100 Season 1 and the legacy he left behind. Then we also spoke with Michael Beach and the journey he had when it came to The 100.
We then had the chance to take a walk down memory lane with the iconic Christopher Larkin, as he talked about his time playing Monty Green. And we got to hear Aaron Ginsburg's insight on his most iconic episodes and his writing journey on The 100.
Keep checking TV Fanatic for more upcoming interviews with surprise cast members from seasons past.
Share all your thoughts with us in the comments section! Stick around TV Fanatic for more features, slideshows, episode previews, interviews, and reviews of the upcoming season, and watch The 100 online if you need to catch up on the adventure.
Yana Grebenyuk is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.