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'Lost's' Henry Ian Cusick tries to save humanity on 'The 100'

Curious about what Earth might look like 97 years into the future? The CW’s new series “The 100” has a decidedly dark view of where humanity might be. Loosely based on the novel of the same name by Kass Morgan, it turns out we nuked the planet, and what’s left of the world population now lives on a rapidly deteriorating space station known as the Ark. Creator Jason Rothenberg defines it a
Image: Henry Ian Cusick "The 100"
Joe Magnani/The CW
Henry Ian Cusick's Kane will take some dark turns to ensure humanity survives on \"The 100.\"Today

Curious about what Earth might look like 97 years into the future? The CW’s new series “The 100” has a decidedly dark view of where humanity might be. 

Loosely based on the novel of the same name by Kass Morgan, it turns out we nuked the planet, and what’s left of the world population now lives on a rapidly deteriorating space station known as the Ark.

Creator Jason Rothenberg defines it all essentially as a “more global” “Lord of the Flies.”

With resources on the Ark running dangerously low, the adult leaders — including Isaiah Washington’s Chancellor Jaha and Henry Ian Cusick’s Councillor Kane — eager to have humanity survive, send 100 juvenile delinquents to the planet to see if it’s inhabitable again. But while the kids are on Earth, the moral and political landscape gets combustible in space.

“What’s really interesting to me is there is a duality on the Ark and a duality on the ground,” Rothenberg told TODAY about the conflicts the series explores. 

Teenage exile Clarke (Eliza Taylor) “interestingly starts with all heart and has to harden herself, to a certain degree, in order to lead these 100 people, to do some dark and horrible things to make that happen,” he said.

In counterpoint, Kane starts out tough: He’s willing to sacrifice the kids on Earth, and even cull the lives of those still on board, to ensure humanity will continue.

Cusick, who played Desmond Hume on “Lost,” told us that he’s happy to be back in sci-fi because of “the high stakes life-and-death situations” that the genre affords him to play. 

“For me it brings up those questions about whether we deserve to survive," he said. "If the human race has gone so far off that we would do anything to survive, do we deserve it? I love all these questions! What does make us human? If we lose our compassion and forgiveness, do we cease to be human?”

Regarding the mercenary nature of his character, Cusick said he understands Kane's point of view. “If you have a position where you have to make very difficult decisions, and they are hard decisions, and you are a pragmatist, so you see it as your duty that the human race will not fail on your watch, what an awful position to be in," the actor said. 

Rothenberg teased Kane may start out heavy, but his character will get a moral wake-up call as the 13-episode season progresses. “Some tragic things happen up there as a result of his agenda," the show creator said. "He goes the other way, and by the end of the season is trying to figure out how to balance the book of his life. He has all this blood on his hands and what can he do to reverse that?”

Rothenberg confirmed a sort of “Upstairs, Downstairs” vibe to the storytelling as the Ark and the ground stories will stay “connected even though they are separated by space.” And the obvious glue is the emotional part of the tale.

"The kids are down (on Earth) but the parents are up (in space),” the creator pointed out.

And eventually, the tale will turn to how everyone on the Ark can return to Earth. “They are on a dying spaceship, and we do really play that story all the way to its really dramatic conclusion,” Rothenberg said. “I think people will be very surprised with what The CW let us do. It’s very dark territory in this show in a great way.”

Cusick concurred and teased, “We make some pretty drastic decisions to stay alive. We go to some pretty dark places. ... I’m excited about it.”

"The 100" premieres Wednesday, March 19 at 9 p.m. on The CW.