This past Tuesday, GeekNation was invited to NBC Universal for a special early screening of NBC’s hit show “Revolution.” Included in this visit was a nice little lunch…which was cool. But even cooler was the hour long conversation that followed the episode viewing with executive producer Eric Kripke and the man who plays Tom Neville, Giancarlo Esposito!
We watched an early cut of the third episode of this new season, and take it from me – this one packs a punch. If you viewed last week’s season 2 premiere and last night’s episode, you probably noticed a change in the show’s look and tone from its first season.
The question was posed to Mr. Kripke about this noticeable shift and he explained.
Eric Kripke: I can’t say that I’m the smartest showrunner but I can say that I’m the hardest working. For me, I’m a bit relentless about figuring out what doesn’t work and how to make it better. So it was about, in the war that last season sort of exploded into…well for one, there was a lot of power in a show that was about no power. And then two, the war format didn’t allow us to slow down and focus on what good television is about which is character and relationships, twists and some reveals.
When you’re telling a story that’s about war in every episode, you’re about action sequences and smashing into each other and then you don’t have time to talk about the thing that really television runs on which is relationships and turns. So we really looked hard at creating something that still gave us tension and intrigue and adventure…and reset the chess board back to a world without power. Because that’s what I think people relate to and that’s the hook of the show. We gave up our own hook for that season, which I don’t suggest. But I’m glad that we found it and we got back. We got back to a more realistic and grittier version of what the world would be.
And beyond that, with the move to Austin came a new team. I miss my team in Wilmington, they were wonderful and worked heroic hours and did great work. But this gave us an opportunity because we had a lot of new team members who are coming to the show with a fresh eye so you could have a lot of long production conversations about everyone looking too clean. Like, they’re showering too much. They should have dirt on their face. Where the f*ck are they getting that conditioner? And we can reflect that into the show and also into the production design. When you’re in one town, you can really layer it and make it weathered because you’re spending time in one place. When you’re moving from city to city, it’s hard to mount as lived in of a world that we’ve been able to create this season. So it all serves story and production to create a reality that I hope the audience sees that we’re really working hard to improve it and create a really credible world.
Next, the question was asked about the show’s new direction and the introduction of this season’s new “big bad,” The Patriots.
Eric Kripke: I sort of grew up and got trained on “Supernatural” and through other stuff. I’m basically a fan of the Joss Whedon school of show running and that’s how I learned, which is: you organize a season around a big bad. Then you unveil more and more about the “big bad” as the season goes on. You live in the first half of the mystery wondering who are these people and what do they want. And then you live in the second half of the season with the purpose of – okay now we gotta stop these sons of bitches. So, the season will be organized around a villain who is scary and the drive of trying to defeat somebody, to understand who they are, what they want and ultimately how to stop them. It’s been really refreshing for us in the writer’s roomto tell the stories about whether or not you flip a switch. Because it’s a very binary position.
I think ultimately the movement of the show is that you can’t go back to the way things were. You ultimately have to work forward. One of the reasons it’s called “Revolution” is it’s got to become something else. It’s also by design that it says “Evolution” before it says “Revolution”. There needs to be something new that has to grow out of the ashes of the old. When you return to the old, it’s stasis and stagnant. So ultimately that’ll be the grand sweep of the show.
For now, we’re just sort of enjoying taking a break from the drive for the power and every conversation being “We should turn the power on!’ and “You can’t turn the power on!” It’s nice to take a break. But that will inevitably come up again. Ultimately, they have to let that go and build something new which is what Charlie and Jason and sort of, you know, this new generation represents.
A discussion soon began about the use of the America Flag to convey the American Government as something more villainous and sinister.
Eric Kripke: There’s been a lot of hard swallows in the writer’s room because you know, obviously we’re Americans. I’m a proud American. We’re taking a lot of the patriotic iconography of The United States and we’re twisting it to something ominous and malevolent. And obviously, you’ve got to stop and take a gut check and think seriously about what moves we’re making and what we want to do.
I think the important point to make and what we really discussed at length was this idea that they’re all the more hateful for draping themselves in something pure. They take these symbols that have such honorable origins and they use them for their own selfish impulses and it buys us a couple things too. You have bad guys that don’t look like bad guys to the rest of the world. You could start using like…there’s elements of Body Snatchers, there’s elements of invasion stories, there’s elements of the public relations face. The public relations face, who is all, “God Bless America” but the things that are happening behind closed doors are truly awful. So it let us have a certain amount of mystery because, you know, our bad guys aren’t wearing Evil on their sleeves, they’re hiding it and there’s more subterfuge.
If you position it as a bottle for the soul of America and who will ultimately take control over it, will it be a country about freedom, democracy, equality and opportunity? Or will it be a country that is about consumerism, fear and oppression? Once we started phrasing it in those ways, then it became really clear that The Patriots represent all of our negative impulses and all of our selfishness and our heroes are all of our better angels.
It lets us really tell the story of the soul of America and it’s a conflicted soul where hopefully the light side wins out. So, it’s given us layers of commentary and it’s also given us more conspiracy and mystery to play versus last season, which if I have to criticize it, I’d say was a little too straight forward. It lets us twist and turn a little bit which is nice too.
Giancarlo Esposito was then asked about the possibility that Tom Neville’s wife may still be alive and how that affects his performance as the character.
Giancarlo Esposito: As Tom Neville, I think he has given up hope in many ways and believe she’s dead. Whatever Eric and the writers have in store, I certainly love that relationship because it’s a true one for Neville. It’s one that is truly from his heart and he really loves her.
Obviously there’s always the possibility, if you don’t see someone die…but right now, look at that guy. He’s a broken man. So she’s dead to me and all I can think of is to avenge that death in some way and find out exactly what happened. I’m currently enjoying this quite a bit even though I’m dusty and dirty. It’s okay. He’s a man who’s coming close to his end right now as he’s ever been which I do love because out of the ashes rises something new. This season seems a little more of a comment on our society in the political world.
Eric Kripke: You know, it’s complicated for me. I’m from the Midwest and I’m from a red state so for me, it’s a mix. To me, it’s not about Republican or Democrat. I’m liberal about some things and Republican about other things. To me, it’s about individuality and that we all have our own beliefs and if there’s anything that I find distasteful about our government that is currently shut down, it’s this insane gridlock of everyone firmly holding on to their dogma and…by the way, this quote is the most political I’ve ever been.
So, to me it’s just what happens when you don’t question. It’s what happens when you accept a line without debate. To me, that’s the stuff that’s dangerous. That’s Nazi Germany. I think what’s great about America, no matter what your political leanings are, is humanity and freedom and loyalty and family. But when you’re motivated out of fear and obedience, dangerous things happen.
Giancarlo Esposito: I’m always amazed that the writers do such a great job because they’re here and we’re there. I’m always amazed that in television, we have 22 episodes, many times directed by a different director every episode. We’ve been blessed to have some very special directors who come back to direct more than one so that you can form a relationship with them and they get to know your character and get to know what you would and wouldn’t do. I don’t think there’s much Neville would not do. He is a survivor…there’s nothing he wouldn’t do at this point because all bets are off. This is a dog eat dog world. He would love to be compassionate and somewhere in him is that old Neville – the guy who wanted to help that family, write that check and lost his job. He does care but that’s beaten down. He can’t honor that guy because everyone’s out of line. So I would say right now, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to be able to preserve some kind of road that would guide and lead us to know what the hell happened. And how do we fix it?
An observation was made that so far in this season’s story, the characters are spread out a bit throughout the country. The question was posed regarding their possible future reunion.
Eric Kripke: If we had a thematic this season, it was that the events of the finale shattered everybody and everything proverbially and literally. So now we have these shards of people who are all smashed and strewn across the world, across the continent, and yet slowly but surely they have to find each other again. These little flares of light have to find each other in the darkness. And if they can reunite, if this shattered family can overcome their issues and become whole again, then they have a chance at winning.
When we’re in the writer’s room, I always say to them, “Okay, but what’s the family story?” And that’s where we begin. It’s not about the action. I mean, it’s all wonderful but it’s not about the spectacle. As brilliantly as our team pulls it off, it’s about what is the emotion and heart of it which I hope separates us from a lot of genre shows. We have a lot of focus on making sure there is a lot of heart in every episode and hopefully that comes across.
Speaking of family and heart, Giancarlo Esposito was asked about the relationship between Tom Neville and his son Jason.
Giancarlo Esposito: Neville wants to survive and he wants his son to survive as much as he does. He wants his son to share some of the same ideals that we now have to find out. We have to right what’s wrong. So if Jason doesn’t follow that trajectory, then he’s going to be lost.
Yes, people ask is Neville good or bad? I get all these questions. Is he right or wrong? What side is he on? He’s always been righteous in some ways since the very beginning of his depiction. He just had to get strong enough to follow that. He does think for himself and he does ask questions. He doesn’t believe what everyone wants to just push down his throat. So I think that is the mark of someone who is inquisitive and someone who is wanting the world to be somehow in order again, even if it’s an insane world that can never quite be righted. He wants to be on the side of that order.
I’m enjoying this season because I’m watching this kid JD Pardo and last season, all the young bucks came to me asking, “Would you work with me? Would you coach me? Would you read lines with me?” You know, I’ve become a little acting guru or a self guru and JD and I have gotten very close. I have all girls and I almost feel like I now have a son. I started to really care for him and I see it! I see it now!
Would I throw him to the wolves? Hell no. Would I want him to think I would? Hell yes! Because that would get him in line. Because a whole different thing is happening. This kid is stronger and stronger and stronger and last week I went, wow…I’m passing this gauntlet to this young man! I looked at him and said, the stronger your work is alone or with me and the stronger my work is with you and without you, then the stronger we are together. The more we render this man’s (Eric Kripke’s) work and the writers’ work stronger, more realistic. So, you know, I’m having a blast with this. It is all a journey and every time I see an episode, it gets stronger. It’s fabulous.
The topic of the nano technology was brought up and Eric Kripke further explained the thought process behind the creation and existence of these “fire flies.”
Eric Kripke: Well, I can say it’s certainly an ongoing mystery of the show. I think the nano tech this year is what I’d like to call the Bad Robot glaze of the season. Which is, the majority of the show is family, the struggle to survive in this world, fighting The Patriots and Titus’ guys and then there’s just this level of mystery that I think is another layer to the world.
For us, that mystery is the nano tech and it really came out of what we established last season which is you really have this infinite power everywhere that was just used to keep the power off. As we started talking in the writer’s room, we thought about the limitless possibility if you could take the leash off of it and it could then do more than just keep the power off. It’s positioned to do anything which adds a real interesting level of unpredictability.
And the nano research that we’ve done, based on what they already say of what is theoretically possible, it is astounding. Like, truly you wouldn’t believe it if MIT scientists weren’t saying it was possible. So, you know, we’re taking that and we’re adding our writer’s license to it and I think it’ll be a really exciting through line to this year. You know, this has kind of always been my American Lord Of The Rings and now because of the nano tech, we sort of have our magic. So if we play it right, and in its proper percentages, it’ll never be a show that’s just about all that but again with this thin glaze of mystery on top of it, I think it just adds to the whole picture.
With his character’s true intentions still not fully known, the question was posed to Mr. Esposito regarding what one thing he’d love for Tom Neville to get a chance to do on the show.
Giancarlo Esposito: Oh my goodness, now you’re appealing to my ego and I’m trying to get rid of my ego! At the end of last season, I was like they can go a thousand different ways but ultimately I’m going to take over the Monroe Republic! I’m going to change the M to an N and it’s going to be Neville World!
That didn’t happen. And thank God it didn’t! Because what’s happening now is way more interesting. But certainly in my television couch potato self, I want to rule the world! And for good reasons! When Eric starts to talk about the mythology of the show, I get goosebumps because I see it all through the show. I see it in a way that’s layered in so beautifully, if you’re looking for it. But that’s who I am. I very much like what comes up from that writer’s room because it takes me beyond just my ego self and allows me to dig deeper.
In actuality, it’d be really easy for me to be at the top. The journey is where it’s at and I’m already back at the beginning of my journey again. I mean, yeah I’d want to be f*cking President! But not right now because I don’t think the President I want to be would be allowed to do what I’d want to do because of the way the system is structured. So I’m very cognizant of the fact to be here now and be present. That being said, when I put on that Tom Neville mask, I’m going after it with complete, full and utter focus.
With the Winter Olympics coming up in February, the question was posed to Kripke regarding this season’s episode count and how the story will take shape through to next year.
Eric Kripke: We’re doing nine in a row and we built to that. We knew that we were doing that. So we built nine as a story line that culminates with the mid season finale in episode nine that takes you into the hiatus. Then we look at 10 through 22 as sort of the next chapter of the story. For now, we’re just focusing on making that nine and telling that story coherently and answering some questions.
Like many of you out there, I was excited about “Revolution” when it premiered last year only to have my interests slowly wane as the season progressed. But after seeing the first three episodes this season, I can honestly tell you that I am back on board. Here’s hoping the show remains on track because this season could shape up to be a pretty amazing one.
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