“Revolution”: Ingriguing Lights-Out Premise With Character at the Core

Producer J.J. Abrams, creator Eric Kripke and director Jon Favreau aim for epic post-apocalyptic adventure.

You say you want a “Revolution”? Producer J.J. Abrams has turned to a pair of colleagues who are bright lights in the adventure genre – “Supernatural” creator Eric Kripke and “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau – to show what happens when the world goes dark.

NBC’s new sci fi opus centers on an intriguing premise: set 15 years after a mysterious apocalyptic event knocked out all electronic and advanced mechanical technology across the planet, “Revolution” follows the path of a small group of allies surviving in a world without power. Led by maverick ex-military man Miles Matheson (Billy Burke), they try to reverse the phenomenon and grow closer to discovering the cause – all the while facing some serious opposition spearheded by highly motivated militia leader Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito). The storytellers behind the scenes provided a tantalizing glimpse at what to expect from the series:

Eric Kripke (creator/executive producer): It's a really compelling idea: what would happen if we all lived without electricity in this very incredibly technologically overextended little world of ours and how would we survive, how we would find food, how would we find water, and this epic journey as to how can we save the world and get the lights back on. And that's a part of it, but for me it's just a really epic, fun saga. It's this journey about this family that is struggling to reunite. So it's intensely character‑driven, very complicated and there's fascinating characters who are all just struggling to come together against incredible adversity. And so for me it's the what‑if is interesting, but characters are everything.

Jon Favreau (executive producer/director): The name "Revolution" is not really meant to stand in for what's going on today, but it's meant to replay aspects of our history from when we were going from colonial times, living under oppressive monarchies and then becoming a republic. And that was what was exciting for me, is it was a way to tell aspects of our history to a new generation – If you look at all the young‑adult novels and what's in the zeitgeist, there's definitely a sense of the young generation coming and persevering against people who serve as allegories for how they might feel powerless as young people in the world. And so you see, in a lot of the young‑adult novels, you're dealing with other worlds where the young generation is very important and being a front line of a deep struggle, much like when we grew up with "Star Wars."

Billy Burke (star):
This is one of those roles where when I saw it on the page, I immediately went back to my childhood and said, as I was growing up watching movies and television, that's what I wanted to do. I have never been given the opportunity to do things like that. I mean, I've been hanging around a long time, doing a lot of stuff, and I've been very grateful for it. But presented with this, it was the biggest gift I'd been given in a very long time.

Giancarlo Esposito (star): The one thing about this particular show and because of the interesting and creative elements that went into the writing of the show, you could think of it as a throwback to an old world, but it's returning to a simpler life. We have good guys. We have bad guys. We have guys in the middle. But there are people who want to get the power back for their own reasons and people who may not want to get it back because they can live a simpler life.

Kripke: In terms of the rules, it's about electricity, so it's about anything that throws a spark, any circuit that carries an electrical charge. That is the simple, clean rule and everything expands from that. So that means batteries, spark plugs, engines, and everything that comes from electricity.  And just a side anecdote, because the writers are a bunch of nerds: we brought a physicist into the ‘Revolution’ offices and we pitched him what we wanted to have happen and we gave him the big secret as to why it all happened, because we have that secret and we really vetted it to make sure that it was accurate from the scientific point of view. And his face just lit up! I mean, he was like, ‘That is absolutely possible. And I never even considered it, but that's amazing.’ And so we did our homework and we came up with something that actually is quite plausible.

Favreau: While there's an underlying mystery with an internal logic to it, we still want to make it about the people and the emotion. And I think you're seeing an appetite both with the audiences and therefore with the networks to try to accommodate this more ambitious style of storytelling, and hats off to NBC for giving the show a shot because we're really approaching it. When I read it, I didn't think of it as a network show, a cable show, a pay‑cable show, a subscription. I just knew that it was good writing and I didn't know what was going to happen every time I turned the page.

Kripke: I'm personally thrilled for the opportunity to have 22 episodes because that lets me reveal a lot of different facets of these characters and really make them into really fascinating human people. And that to me is what is going to attract people to the show, is really likeable, interesting, complicated characters who are on just this epic journey in this epic saga. And some elements of the show are serialized, but it's not completely serialized. It's a whole world to explore – there are different towns and different villages and different skirmishes with the militia. And I like to tell stories that have beginnings, middles, and ends, and so as they're on a larger myth quest to get her brother back and reunite their family, they're having all sorts of ass‑kicking adventures along the way. And so for me, 22 episodes per season isn't a problem. That's a gift.


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