While much has been made of J.J. Abrams' involvement in NBC's "Revolution," yet another high-concept genre show, it's "Supernatural" creator Eric Kripke who developed the concept for this new post-apocalyptic adventure series -- and fans of The CW's demonic drama will be pleased to hear how much creative DNA the two shows share.
Kripke and co-executive producer Jon Favreau, along with stars Giancarlo Esposito, Billy Burke and Tracy Spiridakos, took the stage at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour to discuss the new drama, which divided opinion when HuffPost TV took a look at the pilot.
The series takes place 15 years after all forms of electricity have mysteriously ceased working, forcing the population of the U.S. to regress to an agrarian lifestyle, some keeping to themselves and living off the land, while others find themselves terrorized by local militia. Against this sweeping backdrop, a smaller, family-driven drama takes place, with Tracy Spiridakos' character travelling to find her estranged uncle (Billy Burke), to help rescue her brother from Giancarlo Esposito's menacing Captain Neville.
Though "Revolution" hasn't yet premiered, there's been some confusion as to what the "rules" of the show's universe are, especially in terms of using technology not powered by electricity. "Stay tuned for steam engines, is the short answer," Kripke joked. "It’s about electricity -- anything that throws a spark, any circuit that carries an electrical charge, that is the simple, clean rule, everything expands from that. Batteries and spark plugs and everything that comes from electricity [won't work]. We actually brought a physicist into the [writers'] offices and we pitched him the concept and our secret of why it all happened ... His face just lit up and he said, 'That’s absolutely possible!' So we did our homework and came up with something that’s actually plausible."
Will audiences see "Revolution" just after the blackout occurred ... 15 years before this story takes place? "We're gonna have flashbacks in every episode. We call them epi-pens of adrenaline, of what happened in those first days after the blackout and how people survived, what happened, how they made their way out of the cities, how they found food and water," Kripke said. "I think it’s effective in small doses. It’s very harrowing and very dark. It was important to me and Jon and J.J. to tell this story that isn’t about death but is about rebirth and hope and adventure. [The flashbacks tell] a story about society falling apart. We were interested in telling a story about society coming together."
Though audiences are admittedly wary of investing in heavily-serialized stories only to see them unceremoniously cancelled when the ratings aren't up to par, Kripke promised that he would avoid leaving audiences guessing. "I’m not a fan of endless mystery in storytelling –- I like to know where the mythology’s going, I like to get there in an exciting, fast-paced way; enough that there’s a really clear, aggressive direction to where it’s going, to pay off mystery and reward the audience’s loyalty. You can answer the questions and ask new ones. I’m thrilled for the opportunity to have 22 episodes: that lets me reveal many different facets of these characters and make them into human, likeable, interesting people. Some elements of this show are serialized, but it’s not completely serialized, we’re populating a whole world and different towns that can have skirmishes with the militia and so forth. I like to tell stories that have beginnings, middles and ends."
Favreau agreed that audiences still have a tremendous appetite for serialized storytelling, thanks in large part to the example set by cable. "There’s always gonna be dumb stuff out there [on TV] but the audience is becoming increasingly sophisticated. But, saying that -- while there’s an underlying mystery, we still want to make it about the emotion and the characters ... so that people can miss a few weeks and jump in and still understand who the characters are."
Speaking of characters, Kripke took the time to address the female characters on "Revolution." "I think we have a fairly equal cast in terms of gender, and that was more just in reaction to 'Supernatural,' which only has two main characters and I wanted to do an ensemble with a large, sweeping cast," he said. "The real tonal touchstone for me was 'Lord of the Rings,' and that level of sprawling epic storytelling, but instead of set in a fantastical kingdom, we wanted it to be grounded in a strange, but strangely familiar America."
Spiridakos, who plays the leading role of Charlie, said she even does her own stunts. "I do kickboxing on my own," she said. "I’ve grown up with guys my whole life. The action part and the stunts part excites me and is really fun."
Esposito, who played the evil Gus Fring on "Breaking Bad," talked about playing the bad guy yet again as the head of the militia in "Revolution." "It’s delicious to play this bad guy –- every new character, I try to create someone new. I like to create a bad guy and make him someone good, doing things for the right reasons. He’s the one step keeping everyone safe, without him there’d be anarchy. Is he as bad as you think he is? Wait and see. He does something for a group of people that he needs to help."
"Revolution" premieres Mon., Sept. 17 at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.
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