The power may be out, but the audience was tapped in to last night's series premiere of Revolution as NBC's Best New Show of 2012 won its timeslot by a wide margin. And like all good pilot episodes do, last night left us with hundreds of mega-watt questions about the characters' past, present and future.
To suss out some answers, I caught up with creator Eric Kripke to talk about the direction Revolution will trek into over the course of season one, how much flashbacks will play into the storytelling and when (or, rather, if) we'll find out who turned the power off!
TheInsider.com: Firstly, what was your goal with Revolution?
Eric Kripke: My goal in creating the show was to bring to a grand, sweeping epic to television. A real heroes journey. To say that I'm obsessed with Star Wars and Lord of the Rings is an understatement. I wanted to gorge myself on the heroes myth. I wanted 20 Arby's sandwiches at once. We're using the television medium to have the time to delve deep into every character and have a wide tapestry in which to create this journey that's exciting, romantic, adventurous and swash buckling while also giving us characters to love.
Insider.com: So that would make Charlie Luke Skywalker?
Eric: Charlie is Luke or Frodo or Dorothy. Miles is Aragorn or Han Solo. Although, Aaron is also half-Frodo, because he's carrying the ring.
Insider.com: The reveal that some semblance of electricity still exists -- was that something you ever toyed with holding onto for a few episodes?
Eric: We did. The discussion came down to putting it in episode 5 or the pilot. When you're making a pilot, you don't know your fate as a series, so the ultimate decision came down to this awesome piece of world reveal there. We wanted to blow people away so they keep watching. Also, it shows the audience the beacon on the horizon. Everyone knows the show is about a bunch of heroes struggling to reunite their family but they're also trying to turn the power back on. That moment gives the audience hope that they can achieve it.
Insider.com: Talk about the factions of survivors -- Grace is obviously against Monroe, but is she on Charlie's side?
Eric: In episode two, we're going to meet rebels who are fighting against the bad guys. There's a reason the show is called Revolution even though there's no talk of a revolution in the pilot. We'll start to realize there's an underground resistant fighting against Monroe – they're small, they’re disorganized, they're outmanned and outgunned. But we do get a sense of the two forces beginning to move head-long towards each other. On top of that, there's this wild card of these scientists out there -- Ben was one, Grace is another and we'll meet more along the way -- who have these necklaces that control electricity. When I was looking at the classic counterparts, I began to wonder, "Who are the witches and wizards? Who are the seers who have power but are hermits?" There's a whole other class of people out there. Bottom line, I want people to D&D this show. I want people dressed at Comic Con as the characters on our show.
Insider.com: What can you say about the Rachel character? I can't imagine you'd bring an actress like Elizabeth Mitchell in just for scarce flashbacks.
Eric: A lot of it remains as a mystery, so I can't get into a lot of it, but I will say that we'll learn a lot about her in flashbacks. And that all is not what it seems with her. She's more closely related to the people who turned the lights out than we initially thought.
Insider.com: Let's talk about the flashbacks. How much do you plan to use them, and to what end?
Eric: The overall goal is to keep them totally character based. I am interested in what happened in the days after the blackout. It was such a transformative moment for the world. Giancarlo Esposito's character, Captain Neville, was an insurance adjuster in the old world, and in the new world, he's a brutal war lord. In the beginning, we talk a lot about their origin stories – who they were before the blackout, how they handled the blackout, what happened in the initial days after the blackout and how they became the people we see in the present day. As the series goes on, and we cycle through all the characters, we can go back through them again to see what they were like in the first couple of years after the blackout. The secret with those stories is to look at them like their own character stories.
Insider.com: I'm getting a strong Lost vibe listening to you talk about the plan. Is that show a model for Revolution?
Eric: Any time you have flashbacks in a genre show, which happens to be produced by Bad Robot [laughs], the comparisons are there. It didn't stem from trying to do "The Lost thing" – but this format allows the audience to connect in a really visceral way to the world. What happens the 48 hours after, when all the food has gone bad in every supermarket? When all the standing water is contaminated because the water pumps no longer work? What if you're on a plane? We're doing an episode where it's about 25 people in an elevator when the blackout happens. For me, those moments are more the main reason to do it.
Insider.com: It's clear you've put a lot of thought into planning out this world. How far have you mapped out the show?
Eric: I've got season one mapped, I've got a good sense of season two, God willing, and I've got notions for season three. I'm not one of those showrunners who presents a mystery without knowing the answer. If a writer pitches me a great twist, the first thing I ask is, "What caused it?" If they don't have an answer, I'm not buying the pitch. If the audience is expected to make an investment in a story, it's the obligation of the storyteller to know the ending of that story. It's about having respect for the audience, and the characters. It's important to know what the mysteries are, where the stories are going so the work in the writer's room becomes how quickly do we get there. We're always riding this hypothetical wave of audience patience because they don't want answers too quickly, but they also don't want it to take too long. It's always about honing in on that target.
Insider.com: How important is finding out why the power went off?
Eric: It's a potentially controversial thing for me to say, but it's not that important. It's not that I'm not interested, but there are other things that are way more interesting. It was 15 years ago, and I don't know how much you're sweating what happened in 1987, but I'm not obsessed with it. While I know the answer, why the lights went out isn't nearly as important to me as to how they turn the power back on. And seeing if the family can reunite. And how do we reveal new and interesting and surprising facets of these characters so that they're endlessly complicated and human and imperfect and flawed and awful and heroic. How can we make it that, because that's what separates a successful genre show from an unsuccessful genre show. People like mystery and they like questions, and we'll deliver those too, but for me, you have to prioritize because in a bar fight, character wins over mystery. But it's important to say that we designed the answer as to why the lights went out to provide a reveal that will affect the present day storyline.
Insider.com: What can you tease about episode two?
Eric: You only saw the smallest glimpse of the world in the pilot. They go to this dangerous market, you see what militia prison camps look like, we're meeting new characters while big reveals and revelations are happening already. It's really a whole world to explore. We're not repeating the pilot with every episode; we're opening the door for the vista to come into focus. Hopefully, if the audience takes anything away from the show, they see this story can go anywhere. That we have limitless potential.
Revolution airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC.
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- Eric Kripke