The 100‘s resident outlaw Emori is one of those polarizing characters who causes divisions among the show’s passionate fanbase. Some love her cunning wits and determination to survive, while others can’t get past her self-centeredness and morally dubious choices. Still others identify with her tragic backstory and resultant distrust of humanity. But no matter what you think of her, we can all agree she’s had it rough. Her painful but vague backstory as a mutant cast out by Grounder society was further explored in season 4, though it left us with more unanswered questions. Thankfully, actor Luisa d’Oliveira was kind enough to give us some time and answers in our latest installment of the Ladies of Sci-Fi interview series.
d’Oliveira has recurred on The 100 since season 2 and has seen her role grow each season. Since season 4 ended with Emori as part of a small group of survivors on the Ark (informally dubbed Spacekru), we’re bound to see a lot of her when the show returns in April. Though she’s wary of leaking spoilers, d’Oliveira has expressed excitement for Emori’s upcoming arc as well as the development we’ve seen thus far. She mentioned at Unity Days that she loved the moment where Emori wanted to wait for Clarke and said she saw it as an indicator of Emori’s character growth. However, it is difficult to fully appreciate this growth without the context of Emori’s past, which d’Oliveira opens up about below.
The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Lisa P: Let’s start off with a question that’s been bugging me since season two. Do you happen to know which clan Emori was cast out of at birth?
Luisa d’Oliveira: I think it’s Sangedakru, but I couldn’t tell you for sure. We haven’t officially acknowledged it so I could be wrong on that.
LP: When Emori told Jaha back in season three that she would correct her defects if she had any, that was a really powerful moment of disability positivity. Is it fair to say Emori has no problem with her deformed hand aside from how society treats her because of it? Or does it restrict her physical abilities in ways that bother her?
LD: That’s a safe assumption. To me, the only thing Emori had a problem with was the way Grounder society treated her, but she was able to see it as their problem, not hers. She could care less about the actual deformity. I do think she has a dark place inside of her full of pain and anger because of being cast out, but she’s a survivor and rarely falls into that dark place. Personally, I think her hand has super strength, but that’s just my wishful thinking.
LP: Emori’s most defining physical feature (other than her hand, perhaps) is her facial tattoo. It’s quite unique. Was there a particular inspiration behind the design?
LD: I’d have to ask Joyce Tu, she did the original design under the guidance of Tanya Howard who was our key makeup when I was introduced in season 2. I can say there’s been a lot of thought and craft that goes into our makeup department’s work throughout the seasons.
LP: We know that the guy Emori claimed was Baylis was actually not Baylis, but Emori talked vaguely about why she hated him and what he did to her. Can you give us any more details about that aspect of her backstory?
LD: Nothing is for certain, but I gathered that Baylis was a cruel and manipulative man who wove himself a web of cast-out grounders. I’m not sure if he was more like a charismatic and manipulative cult leader, a cruel slave master, a terrifying war chief, or one of the many options I haven’t thought of. I believe he used and abused cast-out grounders to the point where Emori wanted him dead, so her history with him must have been terrible.
LP: On that note, you had some pretty great grappling-style fight scenes in season four. Did you have a favorite?
LD: Obviously episode 7! Had to be. The ‘Baylis’ fight was a lot of fun to do, and I found it unexpectedly emotional too. Bradley Stryker who played ‘Baylis’ was an all-around great guy to work with, and Marshall and the stunt team are always awesome. Although we were pretty stressed shooting stunts in that location because it was such an expensive house. If we broke anything it would NOT be cheap to repair.
LP: What would you say is Emori’s greatest fear?
LD: Being abandoned. It’s what happened to her when she was young, it’s why she has a hard time getting close to people, why it’s almost impossible for her to trust anyone. If she doesn’t get close to them, they can’t abandon her. John brought her out of the darkness and showed her what it is to trust again.
LP: The contrast between Echo’s terror and Emori’s excitement in the season four finale was hilarious. Emori seems really taken by technology, and she used to scavenge it for A.L.I.E., so can we expect her to have turned into Raven Lite in the past six years?
LD: Raven Lite! I love it. I can’t confirm anything (April 24th get here already!). I’ll just say she’s a fighter and a survivor.
LP: John Murphy is the only character Emori has spent much time with so far. Clarke to a lesser extent, but she’s on the ground. Are there any other characters on the Go-Sci ring you’d like to see Emori develop relationships with over the six-year hiatus?
LD: I’m curious about her relationship with all of them. She would have heard about them from John, and her preconceived notions about them all will be coloured with his opinions of them. I’m really interested in her potential relationship with Raven and Monty because they understand the tech she would scavenge, and Echo as the only other Grounder in space. Also Echo because they had such opposite lives, Echo went from being in the deep inner circle of Azgeda society to being cast out, and Emori went from being cast out to finding a home again with John, and being sort of accepted by Skaikru.
LP: Emori’s always been an outsider and she has the mindset of one. How easy do you think it’s going to be for her to mesh with the rest of group on the ring? And what kind of role do you see her playing for Spacekru?
LD: If I bite this hook, I’m going to end up giving you much too much story! I can tell you what my thoughts were before I read the scripts for season 5. I thought it would come down to whether she was able to overcome her suspicion and fears. If she could, she’d adopt them as her new family and put her whole heart into it the way she does with John. If she couldn’t, it would cause all sorts of problems in a secluded environment with limited resources… and no escape from the same people day after day after month after year.
Many thanks to Luisa d’Oliveira for her time and thoughts on her elusive character. She and the rest of the cast will be returning to our screens soon; The 100 season 5 is set to premiere on April 24th on The CW. Until then, you can find d’Oliveira on Instagram and Twitter.
For further reading on The 100, check out my interview with Tasya Teles, who plays Emori’s fellow Grounder outcast Echo. And stay tuned for an interview with Caitlin Fryers, writer and story editor for Wynonna Earp.