‘The 100′ Executive Producer Jason Rothenberg Has Motor City Roots

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L-R Actors Isaiah Washington, Henry Ian Cusick, and Executive Producer Jason Rothenberg of the television show 'The 100' speak onstage during the CW portion of the 2014 Winter TCA tour. (credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

L-R Actors Isaiah Washington, Henry Ian Cusick, and Executive Producer Jason Rothenberg of the television show ‘The 100′ speak onstage during the CW portion of the 2014 Winter TCA tour. (credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

(credit: The CW) The 100
Ninety-seven years ago, nuclear Armageddon decimated planet Earth,...
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By George Fox
@georgejfox
CW50 Detroit Blogger

He’s not a household name yet, but it’s early in the game for Jason Rothenberg, executive producer of “The 100″, a sci-fi series set to premiere on The CW, March 19. Based on an upcoming book series by Kass Morgan, Rothenberg played a lead role in bringing the series to light. 

He’s excited to achieve an elusive goal. He worked for many years in the entertainment industry in California being paid to write feature screenplays, but they were never made for one reason or another. Now he has something to hang his hat on when people ask, “What have you done that I’ve seen?”

Detroit Background

Jason Rothenberg was born in Detroit at Sinai Hospital. Growing up in a West Bloomfield suburb he developed his writing skills at Cranbrook. He went on to study communication at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He started out as pre-business, “I figured out that I wanted to be a writer to my parents’ dismay.” Although Rothenberg tells me, “mom and dad are very supportive.” We can’t all be doctors and lawyers right?

What does a successful TV writer/producer miss about Detroit? Coneys. He frequented Lafayette and American Coney Island, but ended up at American because they served beer back then.

Rothenberg’s Description Of “The 100″

The show is set 100 years after a nuclear holocaust, when 400 survivors reside on a patchwork space station called The Ark. Three generations have been born in space. The space station is dying and in a hail mary attempt to save the human race they send down one hundred juvenile delinquents to see if the earth is livable. Due to limited resources, the teens are seen as somewhat disposable to The Ark community. These “canaries in the coal mine” find out that Earth is survivable, but it’s very different.

The CW brass, including network president Mark Pedowitz, are encouraging the writers to push the limits of dark and edgy themes and Rothenberg is thrilled.  “These kids are dropped into the situation with no authority and they have to figure out how to survive,” said Rothenberg. “There’s this division in the group of wanting to go wild or create order.” he added.

“The 100″ is a first-of-its-kind show living in two worlds, one on the ground with “the kids” and one in orbit on The Ark with what Rothenberg calls “the seasoned actors.” He laughs about how the cast on the ground may be teenagers, “but there won’t be any dances.”

Cosmic Adam & Eve

The drama on The Ark becomes compelling as the decisions get more difficult. They lose communication with their “lab rats” on the ground. They don’t know that Earth is indeed survivable and leadership begins to consider euthanizing all but one man and one woman to sustain the future of the human species.

Yeah, I told you. It’s pretty dark.

Detroit Success Story

Rothenberg’s success didn’t come overnight. “The first five things you write won’t be good,” he said. At Cranbrook, he had a teacher who told him exactly what he needed to hear to stay motivated. “He read some of my writing and said I had a talent,” said Rothenberg. That teacher was John Rinka, also an NCAA basketball phenom who became inspiration for a character in a story Rothenberg wrote.

Detroit Or LA Sports?

He’s a Pistons’ fan, but “It’s hard to be a pistons fan as of late” he admits. Rothenberg was also the guy “… throwing Nerf balls at the TV,” during the ’84 Tigers season. He’s also not alone being disappointed with the Lions, “Growing up we always had these great running backs like Billy Simms and Barry Sanders but they would always end up with an eight-win season.”

He does get caught up in the Lakers hype having lived there through six championships — although “Going to Lakers games has been rough lately.”

Fan Q+A

A YouTube comment on “The 100″ trailer asks why there are there no foreign accents on The Ark.

Rothenberg knows it’s a good question. They decided in pre-production, although they had actors from all over the world including Australia and Scotland, that since the cultures would have melded and after 100 years, culture would drop away. It’s a theme of the show on Earth and on The Ark that if you’re going to survive, people need to overcome their petty issues. Language barriers would have to be the first to go.

“Arrow” Lead In

Scheduled to air after the hit show “Arrow” is a nice perk. “It’s a great lead in for us,” he said. “If I had to choose it would be ‘Arrow’ for sure.” he added. While Rothenberg says “The 100″ isn’t more male-oriented it is a little less “soap” and “people who like “Arrow” like sci-fi action storytelling.”

Would You Survive?

If put in the place of “The 100,” would Jason Rothenberg survive? “I think I might,” he said. “… having written the show, I would know what to do.” he laughed. “I’ve found myself in a few situations and you find reserves that you didn’t know you had.”

What skill would make him valuable to the community? He admits that he could “mix it up” with the soldiers even though his friends will laugh at him for saying that. He assures he wouldn’t be a cook.

Detroiters can find out what is actually happening on “The 100″ starting on CW50 at 9 p.m. on March 19.

George Fox is a Spartan, a Michigander, and Web Producer for CBS 62/CW50 in Detroit. When I’m not working on content for the CBS Local websites, I’m probably hanging out on the boat, at deer camp or spending quality time with the fam. Follow George on Twitter @GeorgeJFox.

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