Comic-Con: Billy Burke, Giancarlo Esposito, Tracy Spirikados and Writer/Producer Erik Kripke Talk the Post-Tech World of REVOLUTION

     July 17, 2012


Revolution is the latest big budget, sci-fi offering from the folks over at Bad Robot.  Produced by JJ Abrams, directed by Jon Favreau, and written by Supernatural creator Eric Kripke, the show has the potential to be the next big thing.  Taking place in a world where all forms of electricity have mysteriously shut off, the main action of the show occurs 15 years after the blackout, with flashbacks along the way revealing clues of the how and why.

The NBC pilot follows Charlie (Tracy Spirikados), a young woman in search of her brother after he is kidnapped by Captain Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) and his militia.  Despite the fact that the post-apocalyptic landscape looks distractingly clean, and the writers stumble over some of the world-building elements, the pilot showcases a strong cast of interesting characters and demonstrates a lot of potential.  We sat down with writer/producer Eric Kripke and cast members Tracy Spirikados, Giancarlo Esposito, Billy Burke, and JD Pardo to discuss their new characters, what drew them to the project, and what they would miss most in a world without electricity.  Hit the jump for highlights from the interviews and our full interview with Eric Kripke.

revolution-tv-show-imageThe cast and crew were excited to talk about their characters and the world they created in the pilot. Spirikados described Charlie as “a girl who wants to go on an adventure, she’s tired of living in the same area; confined, very confined. She wants to go, and she gets more than she asked for.  And she has to journey through to save her brother and she would go through anything, to the ends of the earth to get him back.”  Spirikados also admitted that she has a lot in common with her character, “I really relate to her a lot. I’m a bit of an adventure junkie myself.”

Billy Burke, best known for his work in The Twilight Saga, takes on a rather different role in Revolution as Charlie’s battle hardened uncle. Burke explains, “Miles Matheson is an ex-military guy. The power goes out. For fifteen years he’s been involved in the freedom fights, but has seen way too much after a bit of time, and needs to get out. So he recluses and goes to Chicago, starts a bar and makes his own booze and just wants to be away from everything. But somewhere along the way he got really, really good at killing. His niece comes to find him because she’s got a family emergency that she needs his help with. He wants no part of it, but she pulls on the heart strings and finds the chocolate-melty center in him”.

In the show Miles owns what he claims is the last bottle of single-malt in Chicago, when asked if he would have held on to the bottle for 15 years Burke acknowledged some differences between himself and his character, “After the blackout? Oh, that thing would be gone! It would be gone in the first night, absolutely. I have no shame about that.”

billy-burke-revolutionBurke said he was drawn to the project from the second he heard who was involved, “I got a call from a man who said Jon Favreau and Eric Kripke would like you to come in and talk about this new show that they’re doing. And I said ok, that sounds good. And then they proceeded to sort of pitch me on this show, and I said guys you don’t need to pitch me, I’m in. Really, JJ Abrams, Erik Kripke, Favreau you’re going to direct? Yeah, I’m done, I’m in.”

Esposito, who portrays Captain Neville (the militia leader that kidnaps Charlie’s brother), displayed excitement to be portraying a more playful character following his intense work on Breaking Bad, “at a time now after being so understated for so long I’m excited to play a guy who’s a little more fun and who you might not know which direction he’s going. He tells little soliloquies, little stories to get the truth out of people, and I like that playfulness. There’s a little more playfulness about Captain Neville that I am mining for gold.” Esposito believes his characters history as an insurance broker gives him an edge in maintain his authority, “he may seem really likable and affable …but he also knows if you’re telling the truth or not.”

Despite the militia’s ruthless actions in the pilot, Esposito describes them as a force working for the good of society, “the militia is an elite group of men who decided to be on the side of right, who decided to try to keep the world moving in a direction that is safe. Captain Neville, who is the head of this militia, is the last line of defense before there is anarchy in the world. Neville has to be the one to stand in defense of the last of the good people. Now is he completely good?  Well, we don’t know yet. He’s a guy who’s an enforcer, and any enforcer is looked at as being a person who probably is a bad guy. But, look, I’m trying to protect people from doing wrong to you, trying to protect you. If you get stopped by the police for running a red light, nobody likes the enforcer then, but yet you might like the enforcer because he almost hit you, so I’m saving your life.”

tracy-spiridakos-revolutionThe entire cast expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity to do action scenes, and spoke about how much they loved filming them. For Spirikados, her personal fascination with knives and swords has encouraged her to learn as much as possible on set. Burke said, “I have been dying to get into the action adventure stuff. I’ve played enough cops to choke a horse. So this was like nothing but excitement.”

Both Burke and Pardo spoke with excitement on working with stunt coordinator Jeff Wolf, who choreographed the fight scenes for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Pardo said, “It is so much fun; I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t. It’s like you’re a kid again, and you get to go play at work. It’s great.”

When asked what piece of technology they would miss the most if electricity were to suddenly disappear, Spirikados went with her cell phone, “because I call home to Canada all the time to touch base with my family.” Pardo also chose his cellphone. Burke claimed that he would adjust to the changes fine, saying he would miss “the razor that keeps my facial hair at this length. And we’re going to have to explain that away in the show too, because people are going to be saying ‘how come his beard never grows?’. Look, I’m not really a techie guy, I get it, it would be tough to get along without smartphones now, but it might be kind of nice.”

Kripke emphasized the danger of our techno-dependent society, “everyone feels it, I believe, deep down of how over reliant we are on this technology, and how separated we are from our food and water supplies. It’s not just about convenience, it’s dangerous how separated we’ve become from what it takes to actually survive.”

Kripke also explained that the show is at its heart a character piece about family, “the drive to turn the power on is a big part of the show, but it’s a really character driven show and a really emotional show, and so for me the drive to reunite their family, for Charlie to get her brother back is just as important as turning the power on”.

Check out our full interview with Kripke below.

eric-kripkeSo how does it feel to bring the apocalypse to the whole world instead of just two people?

KRIPKE: [laughs] You know, someone pointed that out in the interviews in the other room, just “what is it with your obsession with apocalypses?” Funny enough it never occurred to me until just this minute that I sure do love apocalypses al lot; which is clearly why I’m so damaged and broken inside.  In so many ways this one is actually the anti-apocalypse story, because I was just really interested in a show that was really about hope and rebirth. The impulse for the show was that I wanted to do a mythic quest; I wanted to do star wars or lord of the rings. I wanted heroes and swords and good and evil and a journey. Which is those movies, but it’s also the odyssey it’s also the wizard of oz. You know, it’s one of the great stories of just a hero going on a quest and I wanted to tell that story. Part of it just comes down to what’s a setting no one’s seen before for that? We were really kicking around – no one wanted to do the sort of Stonehenge-y lord of the rings thing, and we wanted to set it in American landscape. Working with Bad Robot, we were just kind of kicking around what would cause something to transform like that, we were like “nuclear war, or disease, or zombies” or whatever the usual house numbers are, and we stumbled onto – if we just flipped the power off, it would do this.

That was amazing because it brought a whole new level of a very compelling “what if”. Because, who among us hasn’t been unbelievable frustrated with a five minute blackout – much less a permanent one, or when your computer freezes; That tension you get in your body, everyone feels it, I believe, deep down of how over reliant we are on this technology, and how separated we are from our food and water supplies. It’s not just about convenience, it’s dangerous how separated we’ve become from what it takes to actually survive. A story that’s about that too is really relatable; I think everyone can picture what would be like in this world. And to answer your question in case you ask, my move would be – concubine. Because I’ve got no survival skills whatsoever, so my move is to find someone strong and to be in their harem. So that’s my plan.

Can you talk a little bit about the rules of the world in the show?

revolution-tv-show-imageKRIPKE: It’s a Richard Matheson quote that any good fantasy is 98% reality. So we only come up with one fantastic element, and that is no electricity of any kind, so that means that basically anything that throws a spark or runs through a circuit doesn’t work. Everything cascades from that. The reason car engines don’t work is any car past – I think it’s like 1966, has electric components that it wouldn’t work without; never mind the fact that even throwing spark plugs, and sparks coming from that, which is why engines don’t work. Solar panels don’t work for that same reason because they generate electricity. So anything that for whatever reason we haven’t answered, we’ll explain god will we get picked up for a bunch of seasons and will reveal. What has been inhibited is the ability for electricity to flow, and because of that rule, everything grows out of that.

For Supernatural you said you had five years planned out, how far ahead do you have this one planned?

KRIPKE: Ok, yeah, yeah I know. I’m sort of infamous for this five-year plan, which is all well and good until you get to the sixth year. So for this one, coming up with this idea was in a lot of ways a specific reaction to that, in that I wanted very specifically to tell a story about an entire world, and this is a whole world! And I have a story planned for the Monroe republic, which is the country that this story currently takes place in, but in North America, in the back of my head I know that there are five other countries. And then there’s overseas, then there’s Canada, I mean it’s wherever you want this story go. It’s a whole world and it’s nothing but horizons to explore so that there’s really endless amounts of story and I don’t shoot myself in the foot like an idiot, like I did last time.

Now that you still have two shows, since Supernatural is still on the air, is it overwhelming?

KRIPKE: Luckily, Supernatural has amazing people at the helm; Bob Singer, who has been there from the very first minute.  Now Jeremy carver who was one of our best writers, who was really one of our best writers;  who was in the family business, and then he sort of left to go off, and he came back and joined the family business again.  The show is in such excellent hands with them that honestly, at this point, I’m mostly just a cheerleader. It ain’t broke, so I’m not fixing it. It’s a little bit like watching my child go off to college and just being very, very proud of them.

In the pilot we find out that all isn’t how it seems as far as the electricity going out.  Is that something we’ll be getting answers to throughout?

KRIPKE: Yeah, it’s my style that I like a really vibrant and forward moving mythology, I like moving the ball forward.  I don’t like teasing.  I like to create a lot of mystery of course, but I also like to answer a lot of questions; somewhere riding that line of right before people become frustrated.  We have the answers and the answers will – I think it’s always fine to answer questions as long as the answers lead to new questions, so well do that.  And the drive to turn the power on is a big part of the show, but it’s a really character driven show and a really emotional show, and so for me the drive to reunite their family, for Charlie to get her brother back is just as important as turning the power on, because I can relate to “I’m fighting for my family”.  It’s a little harder to relate to “I’m going to turn on a national grid”.  It’s not that it’s not important to mythology or that the mystery isn’t really important, but at the end of the day this is a show about characters and family.

eric-kripke-revolutionCan you talk about the recasting?

KRIPKE: It’s usually when you’re watching the pilot film. It’s always a really tricky, difficult process. Because the actors who we are recasting did such a wonderful job, and were so committed. But you know, you watch the film and for whatever you realize that you’re taking the character in a different direction, or the characters going to become a slightly different person than you thought they were going to be, and therefore the actors who you originally had in mind for them don’t necessarily work out anymore. But that’s no fault of the original actor or the amazing job that they did. It’s just unfortunately the reality that television is just always a work in progress.

Are you going to reshoot the whole pilot?

KRIPKE: No I think there are one or two scenes that were reshooting, that’s it.

To catch up on all of our Comic-Con 2012 coverage, click here.