Billy Burke's face lights up, his trademark smirk turns into a full-wattage grin, and his hands go electric to further illustrate his excitement the instant he starts talking about "Revolution," a tad ironic considering that the NBC thriller follows a ragtag group of resisters trying to survive the new world order after an instantaneous global blackout of all things electronic. It's especially so, considering the fact that the dark past of his character, Miles Matheson, includes helping install the oppressive military dictatorship that now holds his nephew and sister-in-law hostage, drafting child soldiers, murdering protesters, and misleading his only niece to believe that her mom abandoned her and died horribly many moons ago.
"This is the best job. I'm having more fun doing this than I've ever had, and I've been in this business for 20 years," Burke enthused over a lunch of calamari and charcuterie earlier this week at a busy L.A. mall. "To have this much to do and have it be this much fun and see the kind of success it's seeing right now, you can't ask for anything more. Cool doesn't even begin to describe it. It's f---ing amazing."
Watch a preview for Monday's all-new episode:
Burke stopped beaming long enough to shed some light on the final two episodes of 2012 (warning: spoilers ahead!), which of his "Twilight" co-stars he'd like to cameo, how he'd fare in an apocalypse, and why he thinks the show is so successful.
There have been an increasing number of films and TV shows that revolve around an apocalypse of some kind (zombies, Mayan prediction, alien invasion, out-of-control government weapon). Why are people obsessed with this idea?
It's [not] a new thing. The end of times has always been a fascination. But post 9/11, pretty much everybody will admit to having it on their minds more frequently than when they were a kid. You can't stop technology or science, and it is snowballing quicker than ever. Something's got to come to a head. How? Who knows? But it will. Shit can't last forever. That's why these shows are so popular.
What made you say yes?
The show is really about what choices you are going to make in these extreme-adversity cases. How would you reconnect with the people you love? When I first met with [series creator Eric] Kripke and [executive producer Jon] Favreau, that's the stuff I found most tasty. The beauty of the show is that the whole thing's hypothetical. Anything can happen, as we saw when Maggie died. Nobody would have ever thought we'd kill her off.
Did you jump at the chance to play a character so central to the story?
It's nice to be involved. I've never had a series that's gone past 12 episodes. On things like "24," I was a peripheral character. On the "Twilight" movies, I literally would show up for two weeks, go in, be oblivious, and go home. My character on this show is in the thick of everything. I've never experienced a workload like this in my life. But it's fantastic.
He's also physically pretty badass.
I have never been this physically active in my entire life. I'm not a guy who has ever seen the inside of a gym. I'm in shock. I'm in a lot better shape than I thought I was.
[Related: Burke on the premiere's big fight scene]
And flawed. Between him and the villains, there's plenty of material on the dark side of human nature.
The thing about the evil characters, if they are not psychopathic like Strausser, is that they became that way because they believe in what they are doing and they can't stop hanging on to that belief. Not hard for me to believe that those guys like Bass and Neville became that way. It's so much fun to try to figure out what that objective ever was that made that guy this way. It helps that they're played by great actors. I love working with Giancarlo Esposito and David Lyons from flashback sequences on down.