NBC’s REVOLUTION, which has its first-season finale tonight, Monday June 3 at 10 PM, has been picked up for a second season. This should offer fans some relief, since right now on the show, the Earth is in danger of catching fire altogether.
In REVOLUTION, created by Eric Kripke (who also birthed SUPERNATURAL), under the auspices of Kripke’s fellow executive producer J.J. Abrams, there was a planet-wide blackout fifteen years earlier and electricity has not returned to the masses since. Power-hungry militia leader Monroe (David Lyons) has gotten his hands on some functioning helicopter gun ships. One ofMonroe’s adversaries, Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell), thinks she may be able to get the power working, but there’s some risk of planetary destruction …
At a party thrown by NBC for the Television Critics Association, Kripke takes some time to talk about the workings of REVOLUTION.
ASSIGNMENT X: Is there any sort of irony in, now that you’re working on a show where nothing electrical works, you have the budget to do anything technically that you want, whereas when you were doing SUPERNATURAL, it was set in the present, but you didn’t have that budget?
KRIPKE: [laughs] Yeah, exactly. That’s the funny thing – there’s so much technology behind the scenes of mounting this show, and so much of it is CG, that is ironic, that we spend all of this computer-crunching power creating a world that has no computers whatsoever.
AX: Does lightning work in the world of REVOLUTION?
KRIPKE: I believe that it does. What we’re talking about is the inhibiting of electricity flying over circuitry and out of spark plugs, but yes, lightning works
AX: How did you and J.J. Abrams decide on Jon Favreau to direct the pilot?
KRIPKE: For me, being a huge fan of Jon’s work, it’s an incredible honor that he wanted to do it. And then he came in for the meeting, and the first words out of his mouth were, “I get what you’re doing. This isn’t some power-turns-off post-apocalyptic show, you’re doing GAME OF THRONES, you’re doing LORD OF THE RINGS.” And he immediately went to the heart of what my secret Trojan Horse of the show was [laughs], which was that I wanted to tell a big epic saga. And then on top of that, I really want the show to feel fun. And he has cornered the market on fun, character-driven genre that has a sense of humor. So he was completely right tonally, and so I was just thrilled to bring him aboard.
AX: Were you looking to do something where the characters could use swords?
KRIPKE: Yes. Honestly, the very first image when I was thinking about the show was – sometimes these shows come to you and you have an image and my image was, two guys having a swordfight, LORD OF THE RINGS-style, but instead of some Stonehenge-y type of English scenery, they were having it in front of a vine-covered Starbucks. And so for me, swords from the beginning were so important. And I was just really interested in them, because so many of the epic stories are so based on the European aesthetic. LORD OF THE RINGS, obviously – even STAR WARS. It’s princesses and princes and legacies and Alec Guinness. And I was just really interested in, what’s the American version of the epic saga? Instead of dealing with kings and queens and kingdoms, we’re dealing with Revolutionary War meets gunslingers meets Civil War meets World War Two meets all of these different, interesting facets of an American culture.
AX: Giancarlo Esposito, who plays Tom Neville is a remarkably powerful actor, but for a lot of REVOLUTION, his character is dominated by David Lyons’ Monroe. Did you cast Esposito with an eye towards us thinking Neville may turn the tables?
KRIPKE: I don’t want to say too much but I will say – absolutely, we cast Giancarlo because of the incredible presence that he has and the amount of strength. I think we have a very deep bench of bad guys. I think we have an embarrassment of riches in terms of how good and complicated David Lyons is, how good Giancarlo is, Colm [Feore] who plays Randall – we have a lot of really interesting bad guys and seeing how they all interact with each other is part of the fun, too.
AX: You deal somewhat with the ecological aspect as far as maybe not as many people are getting sick from pollution and so on …
KRIPKE: Right, exactly. There’s a really positive aspect to what happened. It’s a dangerous world and it’s a tragedy what happened fifteen years ago, which is why we set it fifteen years later, but pollution is no longer an issue, nature is taking the world back, the Earth is healing itself – it’s a beautiful place again. And the people who are alive are healthier in so many ways. And so it’s not just uniformly this harrowing thing. I think that there’s something really romantic about it, too, that there’s even a bit of wish fulfillment about it.
AX: Were you expecting to have a break between the first half of the season and the second half?
KRIPKE: No, originally we thought we were going to run straight through. And then I would say somewhere around October, NBC let us know that they wanted to air [the second half of the season] in March. And we were really happy about it – J.J. and I were both really pleased with the idea. Things were getting, as they do in any first-season show, I’m used to it, but things were hairy. We were deep in the trenches. We were writing scripts fast, we were moving so quickly your head could spin, and when we found out that we would be able to have a later premiere date, my very first call was to production – “Okay, let’s set a new schedule, let’s slow down a little bit, let’s get the actors to take December off and give the writers the time to not be in production and we can …” I mean, the writers didn’t take any time off; we just weren’t in production. So we were able to work and regroup and really analyze what we’d done and really talk about any adjustments we wanted to make. It was really welcome. Like I said, it was a career first for me. I get why people dig cable. You do twelve episodes and then you chill out and you take a year and you think about it and you do twelve more. That is a much more civilized way to work, no question.
AX: Because you had the break, were you able to look at the first half of the season and say, “We want more of this, less of that”?
KRIPKE: I think we were very pleased with the characters. We feel like they’re all complicated, they’re all conflicted – I think we did a really good job at launching them properly and showing that each one has different colors, and there are going to be different things to play and different stories to tell. Looking back, I sort of felt like our mythology pace was a tiny bit slow, and I also felt like the scope, for such an epic show, felt maybe a little too contained with following Danny [played by Graham Rogers], and so I really wanted to make the second half of the season even bigger, more dire in stakes, larger in scope, get to the other nations in the world in North America, and really just expand the focus of the show and have the revelations come at a slightly faster pace than I think we were planning to go.
AX: Are you liable to run out of revelations?
KRIPKE: I don’t think so. I did this on SUPERNATURAL as well, where again, you know where you roughly want to go, but if you pick up the pace and you start getting your engines firing on all cylinders, it’s like, the more creatively risky and vibrant you are, generally, the more ideas you have. Not that I’ve ever run a marathon in my life, but it must be like running one, because you just get in shape and then you start thinking and orienting yourself towards it, and more ideas just keep coming. Now, I’m not really worried. I think the canvas is so vast that I don’t think we’re going to run out of big twists and turns any time soon.
At the end of the day, this is like a swashbuckling medieval show, just set in post-apocalyptic America. But it’s a feudal show, so our models are always, “Where are the kingdoms, where are the kings, where are the knights, where are the magicians, where are the wizards?” And so for us, moving in those other nations are just opportunities to see different kingdoms. And we see who is in charge of Georgia. We see what the Plains Nation is like. And just continuing to widen the scope of the show and widen the cast of characters and have them all be conspiring against each other in a GAME OF THRONES kind of way.Monroe has been trying to move his way intoGeorgia,Georgia’s pushing back, I thinkTexas is a bunch of crazy sons of bitches, who knows what’s going on inCalifornia. They all have different political systems, and they all clash against each other, and they’re all sort of conniving and – this isn’t even in the second half of the season, we just start to introduce these nations – but I would love to get to a place where in Season Two, they’re all conniving and conspiring against each other and there are all sorts of different players.
AX: So the story arc is clearly mapped out?
KRIPKE: I feel like we’re asking the audience to invest an hour of their busy week. I think it’s important that if they’re going to do that, they need to feel confident that it’s worth their investment and that the story is going to move aggressively and that there are going to be answers. And they should feel confident that they’re in the hands of a storyteller who’s telling the best story that he knows how.
AX: What would you say is the main thrust of REVOLUTION?
KRIPKE: I think the quest to get the lights back on is important, because with it comes saving the world. But again, for me, it’s about character first, and hopefully, I can have both, but if [there was] a bar fight between character and mystery and myth, I’m going to go with character, but you can play [with all three].
AX: Was the GAME OF THRONES series a validation that this type of global storytelling could work on TV?
KRIPKE: Yeah. I think the latter. I think GAME OF THRONES really demonstrated that you could have a really wide canvas, you could tell a very mature and complicated fantasy story, and that you could have it be about really nuanced and dark characters. The main impulse for this has always been LORD OF THE RINGS. I have a love of swashbuckling and heroism. I watch GAME OF THRONES voraciously, but I’m still not entirely sure who I’m supposed to root for [laughs], and I like heroes and villains, and so I’m a little more inclined toward the STAR WARS model and good guys and bad guys. But the idea of a complicated canvas where they’re all fighting and backbiting against each other is interesting to me.
AX: Are you involved in SUPERNATURAL at all at this point?
KRIPKE: They’re doing all the work, but I watch what they’re doing – I love what [current show runner] Jeremy [Carver] and [executive producer/director] Bob [Singer] are doing, but mostly, if I’m being honest, I’m a proud parent, cheering them on from the sidelines. I can’t take any credit. I think they [have had] an incredible season. I check in when they want me to check in, I answer questions when they want to ask them, but otherwise, it is every bit the experience of watching your child go off to college. It’s really grown and I’m just really proud of it and I feel proud of the job they’re doing.
AX: So would you be happy to have SUPERNATURAL run forever – which it seems like it may do, as it’s been picked up for a ninth season?
KRIPKE: Yes, absolutely.
AX: How long would you be happy to have REVOLUTION run?
KRIPKE: There’s a whole world out there to explore, and there’s a limitless amount of stories, and so, as long as it remains compelling and the audience is digging what we’re doing, then we should keep it going.
AX: Is there anything that can’t happen in the narrative, because if it did happen, the story would end?
KRIPKE: Obviously, the power coming back nationwide would cause the story to end, so I don’t think we’ll get there until the very end of the series, if at all.
AX: Are you involved in any other projects right now?
KRIPKE: God, no. It’s this and getting up and making my kids breakfast, and that’s all I have time for.
AX: What would you like people most to know about REVOLUTION right now?
KRIPKE: It’s a fun show to watch. It’s based in I think a very compelling and relatable what-if that I think everyone can connect to about, what would you do if the power turned off? And all of that stuff takes a back seat to really compelling and complicated characters, just the epic emotion of it. The size, I hope, offers something that’s like nothing else on network television. It’s just sweeping and romantic and emotional and exciting and it’s got a lot of heart and it’s about good and evil and family, and I just want people to really tap into the emotion. And stay tuned, because if you like the show, it’s only going to get better.
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