After an extended hiatus, the NBC drama series Revolution is back with more action, heightened emotion and even higher stakes. At its heart, the story is about a family struggling to stay together in an American landscape where every single piece of technology – computers, planes, cars, phones and even lights – has mysteriously blacked out forever, or so they thought. Having harnessed the power of the pendant, militia leader Monroe (David Lyons) sets out to obliterate the Rebels, and if they don’t do something fast, they won’t stand a chance. From executive producers Eric Kripke, J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk and Jon Favreau, the show also stars Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, Giancarlo Esposito, Elizabeth Mitchell, Zak Orth, JD Pardo, Daniella Alonso and Tim Guinee.
During this recent exclusive interview with Collider, actor Giancarlo Esposito talked about wanting to make sure that Tom Neville is nothing like his Breaking Bad character, Gus Fring, how exciting it is to be a part of one of the biggest hits of this last season, how worried he was about viewers returning after such a long hiatus, just how pissed off Neville will be now, the inevitable clash that’s coming between Neville and his son (Pardo), and that he hopes the show will get people to think about who they are and where they’re going. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
GIANCARLO ESPOSITO: I was worried because I had played a bad guy who was gonna be the quintessential bad guy of all time, on Breaking Bad, and I didn’t want to mess with that. I got this role immediately. I had to read for it and I thought I would have to test, but I didn’t. Everyone signed off and said, “You’re the guy, period.” And I said, “What am I going to do?” I never see movies when I’m working. I never make any comparisons. I want it to be organic. Captain Tom Neville, who is now Major Tom Neville, was written as a gentile Southern gentleman, and I thought, “How are you going to do this? How are you going to be so different than what you’ve already created?”
I had to allow myself to be open and have fun. And what I saw with Tom Neville was that he did live in the grey area. He wasn’t as buttoned-up as Gus Fring. He was able to take care of his own business. He could kill, if he had to. He was well-trained. We hadn’t gotten to Episode 5, where you saw why, and I wanted that. I’m so happy that [Eric] Kripke’s brilliance allowed the audience to see him as that guy. I thought it was great that he was an insurance adjustor. I loved it because he could tell people a lie, and I ran with that. My idea was that he was the best in the company, because there’s my personal ego. And when it came to fruition that he wasn’t the best, I went, “Oh, this is brilliant for me!”
He really was a guy that got fired for allowing a claim to go through that shouldn’t have because he wanted to help the people, and he was meek and mellow and mild. That was like, “Oh, I get it!” And he was a guy who built himself up to be a survivor, a leader and a solider. That was absolutely fabulous! I continued that idea and played with the idea that he has a goodness inside of him, but you can’t see that. I want you to see it, but he’s gotta be strong and a survivor. I really like the layered, complicated nature of who he is. He’s thoughtful and caring, he has a family that he desperately and deeply loves, and he’s guided by the opinion of his wife, and that’s so very real to me. I’m happy that it’s coming across, truly.
ESPOSITO: Are you kidding me?! I’m over the moon! Shows come and go. Networks are known for throwing shit against the wall and hoping it sticks. It’s why I never wanted to do TV. Cable was a blessing for me. Thank god, I’ve done a show that’s going to be iconic. So, if I screw up, it’s all right because I already have something that’s going to be iconic. But, to be a part of something that I think is fresh, new and original, and is a hit, by creators that are truly proven is great, and even then you don’t know if you can trust that. I realize that I can’t control all that. I can only control what I do. I can try to suggest and be open, but trust is the key. I am over the moon that this show is being received the way that it is because it gives me the opportunity to work every day and to do something a little bit different. And I finally have the ability and openness to have some fun. For me, this show is high-level fun.
How much fun is it to also get to live out childhood fantasies, riding horses and fighting with swords, and all that stuff?
ESPOSITO: I watched Wild, Wild West growing up. I loved the train! To do my episode on that train was amazing. They shipped the train out of a museum. It was a miracle that they got an actual replica of a steam engine that worked, and had it shipped to Wilmington and put on tracks. The whole fight scene on the train was a dream. I couldn’t be more excited about the show being received the way that it is, and about my position within it.
ESPOSITO: I’ve been very worried about whether they’ll come back or not. I am less worried now because I feel like it was a wise decision that needed to be cultivated. Somehow it didn’t work for NBC before with The Event, but I’ve just been on a show on cable that has the audience waiting a year before it comes back. That was the template for the network’s ability to trust that it would work. It was a courageous and brave move for [Robert] Greenblatt, Peter Roth and the team and the network to attempt it. You could have rerun us, in between the time, but I think their decision was better. If people like the show, they’re going to wait for it and come back. They’re going to be titillated at what they might find, when the time comes. So, I trust and believe that it was the right move to make.
With where your character was left in the last episode, having gotten locked up, how pissed off is he going to be when things pick back up?
ESPOSITO: Oh, so pissed! Miles (Billy Burke) went to his home and grabbed his wife (Kim Raver), who he loves and who he also wants to please. Certainly, the decision before I went into that room was, “Do I sacrifice her to kill him?” That was viable. She tells me, “Yes, sacrifice me!,” but I love her too much. Things do play out to be worse between my relationship with Monroe (David Lyons) and my boy (JD Pardo) and my take on what I’m going to do and where this world is going to lead me. Through Neville’s eyes, you will be lead, more than likely, to a whole other existence, which is a little bit frightening because it doesn’t put me in a comfortable position. But, I have great aspirations, so for me to be under Monroe’s thumb forever isn’t going to work either. The real truth of it is that he feels like he could probably do the job much better than Monroe could. But, he’s a soldier and a soldier follows orders, even if he thinks he can do it better. You can never lead unless you follow. I do believe that, one day, Major Neville will be the leader, and it may cause quite a problem for the world of Revolution.
ESPOSITO: Absolutely, it does! And that will be explored in the history that hopefully will come up. You’ve seen the history between Miles and Monroe, but you haven’t seen how Neville plays into it. Obviously, they’re known each other a long time. I can’t wait for that history to be explored because there is a double-standard. Absolutely! And Neville will probably confess to that. But, it’s because Miles was a militia soldier and once knew what the dream was and what had to be done. Miles is stuck between a rock and a hard place. There is a dream that the world could be at peace, but that requires that all the folks with arms disarm, or take over all the arms and allow us to trust them. Will that day come in our world? I don’t know. Why do we need arms, anyway? It’s because of the threat. We feel fear and we feel threatened.
Miles once knew what that dream was and so did Monroe, but power corrupts us and it has us think that we’re someone different than we really are. We’re in that world, right now. People can’t be fed and we spend incredible amounts of money on arms, and we arm all these people, like Noriega, Iran, Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi. They all went to school in America. We armed them and taught them, and then we send them back to their countries with the intention of being able to work through them to own their countries. Oh, what hubris! What absolute ridiculousness! And then, they turned and we spent all of our money on arms and men and lives to go find them or kill them, over and over again.
At what point do you and I see, as human beings, that this is crazy. It’s trying to be in control of a world that we can’t be in control of. At one point or another, we’re going to realize that it’s completely the wrong tact. We’ve had all these school shootings. We had the postal shootings before that. There’s no reason for us to have access to these kinds of weapons of destruction or war. We’ll put our money into that, but let our people starve. It doesn’t make any sense. I’m hoping that Revolution will have people saying, “What about guns?”
We’re a show that’s subjective, but we’re morally telling a story. We’re entertaining, but we’re playing upon certain elements that say that we’re connected to family and we’re trying to reconnect to each other, and we’re dealing with major issues at a time of darkness. That’s all coming. We’re already in that. So, I’m praying and hoping that the effect of the show will give us the ability to have people think about who they are and where they’re going.
What can you say to tease the conflict that’s coming between Neville and his son?
ESPOSITO: I have four daughters. I have been longing to know, because of my relationship to my father, who I love dearly, how I might interact with a son, and it’s really been illuminating for me to work with the wonderful actor JD Pardo. My father taught me a lot, but in teaching, you also are taught to have your own mind. The big question is about brutality. Now that the Monroe Republic has the power, you’re pitted against people who are still fighting with bows and arrows. Is that fair? I say, “But, we’re at war and the enemy is the enemy. If you’re weak, you will die, so you have to stay strong. They’re insurgents. They must go.” It gives you a really clear sense of the question, “When does humanity intercede?” My relationship with my son is deteriorating and it’s not going to last long, but is he weak, is he in love, or is he thinking for himself, as I’ve taught him. We do have choices. It’s very interesting, and I love doing this show. And I think it’s going to get more interesting, very, very quickly.
Revolution airs on Monday nights on NBC.