The new apocalyptic series REVOLUTION is premised on the idea of how humanity survives in a world without electricity. Yet the teaser REVOLUTION has dangled since the beginning is that the power is not entirely gone and there are those who have the ability to turn it back on. One such person is Rachel Matheson (Elizabeth Mitchell). Just what has Charlie and Danny’s absentee mother been up to in the intervening 10 years since they last saw her is an even bigger mystery. But as Rachel demonstrated quite capably in the mid-season finale, with the right device she cannot only turn the power back on, she can amplify it. But that’s the bad news, for she promptly handed it over to Colonel Monroe (David Lyons), who immediately used it reactivate his military weaponry to use on our heroes as they ran to escape his growth wrath. In a recent press conference call, star Elizabeth Mitchell and executive producer Eric Kripke shared what thorny situation lie ahead for Rachel, her children, their uncle Miles (Billy Burke) and everyone else who has the misfortune to land in Monroe’s crosshairs.
What can you tell us about the overall mythology for the second half of the season?
ELIZABETH: My M.O. is to start answering questions and then ask more and then answer those. And I think that’s what viewers can expect in the second half of the season, which is I really favor in a really aggressive red-blooded pace of storytelling. Endless mystery is not really my style and anyone who’s watched any of my shows will know that. So for me it’s about in episode 13 how Rachel reveals pretty much every single thing there is to know about why the blackout happened and every time I watch that scene, that scene that is like — and she’s brilliant in it — but that scene’s a hard swallow every time because you’re like wow we’re just saying it. And it goes against many of your baked sure-weather instincts are not to have the scene that reveals every single thing in three minutes. But the reality is Jon Favreau was hanging out with us in the writer’s room and we were discussing the problem that as a character Rachel knew why the blackout happened and she was back in and among heroes, she wasn’t captive anymore, and we were really wrestling with the question well why wouldn’t she just tell them. And then Jon who came in and was able to provide much needed perspective, just looked at me he was like she would tell them so have her tell them. And I said, “Yes, you’re right, you’re right she would say it so she has to say.” And so she does. And so we reveal really why the blackout happened but the card I think we have up our sleeve is I think the explanation really opens the door too much greater story possibility.
ERIC: I don’t think we box ourselves in a corner. I think we open a door to a whole new world. And then we ask more questions. Because for me look for me the story was never about: what caused the blackout? I think, for me, it’s like the show isn’t just based on one particular mystery, it’s based on these characters and this world and this kind of transformed landscape that they have these adventures in. It’s risky and it’s surprising that but I think it turns out okay because there’s so many other storylines about the characters, who they were, we ask a few more questions, we pose a few new mysteries. But I will say — I’m literally turning in the season finale later today — and having now in detail seen what happens through the end of the season, I think we answer most if not all the questions that are being posed. And then we start asking new ones but that is as is my way.
We’ve heard that Grace (Maria Howell) is going to be a bigger part of the storyline in the second half of the season. Can you talk about that?
ERIC: Yes, that’s true. I mean, we see a glimpse of her or you’ve all seen a glimpse of her already at the end of episode seven and episode eight we reveal that Randall (Colm Feore) has brought her to this particularly mysterious location. And really starting with episode 11 we start to reveal what that place is, why Randall has brought her there, what he wants from her and then the story progresses from there. But the place where they are really starts to become important to story to the point where it starts to have its own gravitational pull in the story, not literally – figuratively — and every character starts getting drawn closer and closer towards it because it’s such an important location and because what Grace is doing there is so important.
We seemed to be rooting for a romance at the beginning of last season for Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos). Will we see anything develop?
ERIC: Yes, we definitely will. JD’s character is named Jason (JD Pardo). It was Nate, but his real name is Jason. Jason goes through some seismic shifts with his father, who’s Giancarlo [Esposito], with his relationship with the militia and that Charlie has a front seat to a lot of those really dramatic turns in that there is this sort of static friction between the both of them that draws them closer. And then we blow it all up because these types of relationships in these types of shows are about the push/pull and about the friction of will they get together or won’t they and what obstacles do they have to overcome.
Can you say whether we will see something more personal in this story for Rachel in terms of a romance?
ELIZABETH: Yes, we will see echoes of what has been and what could be and what might be now, and there’s definitely more passion for her in the second half, which by the way if really fun. I mean I always find it kind of interesting to see where people’s hearts lie. So we get to see that for sure. . . . I think that some things were deliberate, some things just happened because it’s the chemistry that was in the room. I mean that’s what always happens and then the writers are like, “Gosh, that’s interesting. Let’s go further with that.” But in some of the scenes, the tension is deliberately written in, it’s in the lines. And then sometimes it’s simply just there. It’s just in the playing of it. And I do think that there is, as they say, a thin line between love and extreme hate. So we’ll get to explore that a little bit more. But, yes, that tension was definitely there.
The dynamics between Rachel and Miles, clearly there’s a lot of backstory there. Can you talk a little about how we’ll be seeing that dynamic explored the second half of the season?
ELIZABETH: I can say that in my mind it’s lucky that we do explore it. I think there’s a lot there. It’s deeper, richer than I at first thought. I mean I knew there was something, but I didn’t realize how much. And there’s a theory that people come together because of shared pain. Like you think, “Oh, I have things in common with someone and that’s why I love them.” But in some ways, it’s actually what your pain is, what the worse thing is for you, where your secret fears are. And I think that Miles and Rachel are at heart in their sorrows very much the same. And I think that their tendency towards their ability to protect the ones they love is also very similar. But they’re friends. That’s a great word for them. I mean they have been through all kinds of things, which we really do get almost completely laid out for us by the end of the season. And it’s interesting. And I don’t want to use the wrong word to lead it in the wrong direction, but I would say that if you can use passionate in the way that it was intended, being filled with emotion, that is how I would describe them and the revelations that we come across. So I’m excited to see people’s response. But I’ve had a great time playing it and I really enjoy working with Billy. I think his energy is completely different than I ever expected him to do in anything. So I’ve been having fun watching him.
The promos suggest that Rachel is going to actually recreate power. Can you tell us a bit more about how she’s in charge of that?
ELIZABETH: Rachel has a lot more to do in the second half of the season, which is really fun. As the preview suggests, that’s the quest. That sums it all up for her, and trying to patch her family back together and trying to figure herself out and sending her child again; that’s the worst and all of that. So Rachel’s quest is specific and she’s incredibly proactive. She’s making a straight line towards what it is that she needs to do. And the fun part that Eric had talked about before is that she also unloads everything; the entire secret, the entire history in one crazy conversation in Episode 13. So I think that people will enjoy the fact that she has a lot to say and that her admonition or her quest is very powerful and proactive, which I love in a character. It’s always nice to see your protagonist going after what she wants full force. So I think that’s going to be fun.
How will Rachel’s stakes be raised?
ELIZABETH: With the things that happen in the first episode back I think that my character’s stakes, I mean I’m sure they probably could get higher but right now I can’t imagine how, what she wants to accomplish, what her goal is the protection of her [children]. Her family it’s operating at such high stakes that at times I’m always amazed she doesn’t just burn out and extinguish. I’ve enjoyed the shifts for her. I’ve enjoyed both her strength and her — I don’t know – sometimes sociopathic intensity, but I always go back to the mother in her and I’m fascinated by that.
How important was it for a lot of questions to be answered now at this point in time? Was there a sense of urgency?
ERIC: I certainly felt having gone back and having had a minute to go back and analyze the first ten episodes I thought our pace of mythology reveals was probably a tiny bit slow. At the time you’re so focused on establishing character and establishing world and especially on a genre show, where it’s an entirely new world with new rules and you spend a lot of time making sure that you’ve got those straight and that you’re setting it all up properly. But once I looked back at all the completed episodes, if I had a criticism in the storytelling it was that I was feeling I think the same impatience that the audience was feeling over the last couple, and they were good stories and good episodes, but I had that kind of vibe of like, “Okay get to it. Get to Danny. Let’s see what’s going on. Let’s get to the next part. I’m ready. I get it. Let’s do this thing.” And once we realized that then the writers sort of collectively looked at each other for the second half and said, “Okay, let’s course correct and let’s blow the doors off it and let’s get everybody together.” And there’s probably a lot of answers that we’re giving in the second half that probably could have waiting until season two, but we felt that we should smoke them if we’ve got them and we knew what some of our answers were and we knew that we had these big reveals up our sleeve and they’re just wasn’t any reason to withhold them. So we just started spending our coin, and I think the episodes reflect that. I think you’ll look at the second half and there’s probably no one episode that doesn’t have at least one big moment that either unveils more mythology or is a seminal moment in one of the character’s lives that transforms them and we really work hard to make sure there’s something like that in every episode.
Where’s Rachel’s mindset with regard to Monroe, the rebels and being with her children?
ELIZABETH: She wants to be with her children and she wants to kill Monroe. I think that Rachel is somewhat, in my mind of course but everyone feels that way about their own character, such a tragic figure. She’s tried so hard to do the right thing for so long and she’s possibly one of the worst people I think. I think that her mindset is on survival and her mindset is on revenge and in a horrible awkward way her mind is on good parenting, which she’s not very good at. But I think the sad thing was that she probably at one time truly was. So it’s just what this world has created and she’s a direct reflection of that. So her mindset is revenge, love and trying to do the right thing. We’ll see if it works.
How will the family dynamics and relationships affect what’s next?
ERIC: I think there will be lots of conflict. I mean I think for us it’s really how [Rachel, Charlie, Danny and Miles] are such a center of gravity for the show and of the Mathesons and the show is really at its heart a family show and the issues we discuss and the thematics we explore are much more about family than they’re about anything else and can this family stay together in the face of these overwhelming odds. And if you had to make a choice between for instance revenge or keeping your family safe, if you had to make a choice between fighting for the greater good or protecting your children, these are the types of questions and conflicts we really explore on the show. And I think between all three of them there’s a very rich amount of material to play both in the character histories and the beautiful job that the actors are doing. And Rachel and Miles have a very complicated history, which we’ll begin to unveil and explore and more and more in the second half. I think Rachel and Charlie have a very complicated present because Rachel hasn’t been in her children’s lives for years and now suddenly she’s coming back and both mother and children have expectation as to how it’s all going to go but of course it doesn’t go at all like that because they’re different people and they’re basically strangers. And even though you don’t want to feel resentment you can’t help but feel resentment and you don’t want to feel frustration but you can’t help but feel frustration and we want to play it. And the actors are beautifully playing it in a very realistic way of what this reunion would be like, which is it wouldn’t be all wine and roses, it would be actually very painful and awkward and complicated. But I think what’s really important and I think all of these characters’ saving graces are that they’re all really trying and that they really want to overcome those obstacles and they really want to be a close family and they really want to correct the mistakes of their past and they’re not always successful and sometimes they make newer and even worse mistakes but they’re always really trying. And I think that’s really important. I think that’s why I’m rooting for all of them and that’s why I love all of them because they all want to be better and they all want to overcome their pasts and for me if there’s a major thematic on the show it’s that, which is trying is the thing and it’s like we might not be able to make the world a better place when it’s all said and done but if everyone keeps trying then I think that’s what important and we try to reflect that in the characters as well.
Can you talk about the challenges of having been away for awhile. How you’re going to reintroduce things to viewers back into REVOLUTION?
ERIC: Any time you’re off the air for four months you hold your breath and you hope fans come back but we take solace and encouragement from a few things, which is I think there’s a long history of genre television really working with these large breaks in between like THE WALKING DEAD or GAME OF THRONES and also because the second half of the season is such a different mission and quest and energy than the first half that it really does feel like a natural break. It feels like it’s its own particular season of television in that the first half was the drive to find Danny was prologue to it opening up into a much larger and more epic and exciting story. So I think because there’s such a natural break in the storytelling, I think people will be able to jump right in and watch one recap and remind themselves where all the characters were and then dive in the way that — I won’t see GAME OF THRONES for literally a year and then I’ll watch one 90-second recap and be right in the middle of it. And then finally the break gave the writers and the producers and the actors like a minute to really explore what was working about the show and what wasn’t working and how to make it better so whether we were on the air, whether we were off the air, the risk that it the inevitable risk that goes along with it, I mean that’s all true but it allowed us to make a higher quality better series. And at the end of the day that’s the thing I have to put at my first priority. The show’s better because we took the break so therefore I’m glad we took the break.
About filming in North Carolina, what are the advantages of filming there?
ELIZABETH: I will say the advantages are Wilmington is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen so that has been beautiful. And then what I think that Billy and I were talking about the other day is just how lush and gorgeous the world around you is how that not a little bit, quite a bit. It’s almost another character in the show and we’ve all loved it. The cast has all loved it here. It’s been, I don’t know, beautiful, interesting to be outside, every time you are you’re kind of amazed by what you’re able to find especially in the second half. I think some of the architecture, some of the abandoned buildings it’s truly beautiful. So for us it’s been a gift.
ERIC: I second all of that. I second that emotion. The locations are stunning and haunting and we have been able to find just our production team there has been able to find just a remarkable variety of looks that we’ve had to do actually very little CG work or visual effects work or dressing them up. I mean a lot of these locations, these massive abandoned factories and power plants and we’ve been able to just move right into them and shoot them. It’s always a little challenging being 2,000 miles away from my production. It would be nice to be able to be on set and have that sort of guiding hand but we have an incredible team in Wilmington. And ironically enough on this show we are absolutely reliant crucially upon technology and we’re emailing and Skyping and sending photos and dailies don’t come as film or tape or DVDs anymore, they come on our desktops and so then we’re responding quickly in real time. And you can actually get quite a lot of producing done just by sitting at your computer, which is funny and ironic.
ELIZABETH: Yes, it is. But it was great too. I mean it’s really great. There’s a lot of talent here, which is awesome.
ERIC: Yes, yes, we have amazing producers there too that are really steering the ship quite, quite well.
Do you get to go out there much at all or are you mostly in L.A. the whole time?
ERIC: I would, except they keep me handcuffed. Part of this call was to secretly ask you all for help and to tell my story. No I haven’t been actually, which is a shame but we’re so jammed getting scripts out and in postproduction, all of, which happens in Las Angeles that unfortunately I haven’t been able to make the trip yet, but I will.
What’s been the most challenging working on REVOLUTION?
ELIZABETH: I like challenges; I’m weird that way. I’m the one who ran stadium stairs as a kid. Challenging. I always find shooting outdoors to be challenging. It’s loud, it’s dynamic and you can either raise your game accordingly or you can get incredibly frustrated so I suppose that I enjoy that particular challenge of making all of that work and shooting a show with no electricity in a very powerful world. So there’s the cars, there’s the planes, there’s the cell phones, so that’s definitely a challenge, but it’s pretty funny.
ERIC: Yes. I would say, for me, it’s the story breaks are remarkably challenging. It’s definitely very, very rewarding but it’s also the most difficult to show I’ve ever written for. There’s so many characters, there’s so many storylines. They all have to hit the targets of being emotional and true and honest and action packed and exciting and genre and it’s a son of a bitch to break this show. And I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gotten an entire story up and then I went back and read it over — we put them on these giant dry erase boards — and we’d show back up in the morning and read it over and literally just erase the whole thing and the writer’s come in and they see the empty board and their faces fall and it’s so tragic and it happens so often. And we say okay let’s go back, let’s talk about what we want this episode to be. Let’s go back to theme and then do it all over again. But they’re all in and we’re all excited to do it because we want it to be great and everybody really cares and hopefully the viewers will see that in the payoff because we really take very meticulous care with these stories.
ELIZABETH: It’s in the scripts. I mean, it’s really truly is. And I feel like we need to have a reality show of you guys in the writer’s room now.
ERIC: Yes, and then because it’s just my show-running style where I’ll act out every part as we’re working through the scenes. I’ve always threatened to have like a DVD special features, which is like a video of me acting out the part with how the actor ended up doing it professionally.
ELIZABETH: I’m going to hold you to that.
ERIC: But I will say this that in my version of the performance I would say every other word is [profanity] and so my version of REVOLUTION is much more R-rated and blue and it’s much more like as if David Mamet had written REVOLUTION than what ends up on the screen, like a lot of [profanity] in the writer’s room becomes hell and damn by the time it gets to the screen.
What do you think it is about genre shows that appeals?
ELIZABETH: I have to say I’m a huge fan of adventures. I love to read them. I love to watch them. They go on in my head. So I think anything kind of epic and adventure wise is always a huge draw for me. It’s what I like to watch and to get to actually do it, to be in something that’s “Lord of the Rings” or “Star Wars” or any of those things it’s just what my passion is, kind of where I go to escape. So that’s what draws me to it.
ERIC: Yes and coming at it as a writer it’s really fun to write genre not just because you can explore some mind-bending concepts and have lots of fun action but because you really get to discuss issues and really subversive ideas that you never would be able to get away with if you were writing a straight drama and you really get to explore some really edgy stuff about murder and death and redemption and as long as it’s hidden underneath people swinging swords at each other, you get away with it. So that’s been really fun for me because I’ve been able to say things and talk about things that I would never be able to otherwise.
Are you going to get to do any action of your own this second half of the season?
ELIZABETH: Yes, yes we are and my father will be thrilled because that’s really the stuff he likes to watch the most. I think that Linda Hamilton’s his favorite actress. I do get to do some more actiony type stuff and I have a wonderful time. I love that stuff.
ERIC: Yes, she totally kicks ass.
Do you have maybe a favorite scene or moment coming up that you can talk about without spoiling too much?
ELIZABETH: I have a scene in the moonlight next to water with Miles that is probably one of my favorite scenes as much for the silence as for the words. I enjoyed playing it, I enjoyed reading it and I just kind of got a chance to do ADR for it and I normally can’t watch myself but I liked it. So I think that’s probably one of my favorites. It was simple and lovely and exactly the kind of thing that I like to play and to watch. So just a simple little scene. I don’t know if anyone will feel the same way but that was one that I truly enjoyed and I thought that Billy was terrific and great fun to watch.
ERIC: She’s right. That scene’s awesome. And it hints at and we can spoil that part and say that it hints at a deeper more fraught and complicated history between Miles and Rachel and it’s all mostly done in looks and so much is conveyed with very little dialogue and it’s a thrill to watch them work. I would add to that that there are actually two — the ones that I’m thinking of are two Elizabeth scenes so well done Elizabeth. So one is in — and I don’t want it spoiled — but the final moments of episode 11 when we come back are just such an insane neck-snapper of a twist and it’s so awful and wonderful and you kind of can’t believe you’re watching it and there’s tears and there’s knives and it’s just awesome. And then I would say in the first run when Rachel knifes Dr. Jaffe with the screwdriver. That’s like a personal favorite in the writer’s room like we love that. She just jabs him in the chest and then says to Monroe, “Now you need me.” This like badass chick with a screwdriver and that was really funny and awesome and surprising and brutal and it was just great. We talk a lot about in the writer’s room how we want to do this — maybe it will be a webisode — we’ll probably never do it but we call it like “The short sad life of Dr. Jaffe” and how he like Rachel felt, I mean it’s just funny, I mean I love it. I love that we have such a complicated lead character and a complicated hero who basically like provides intel, gets the guy captured, gets him in front of Monroe and then to apologize stabs him in the chest with a screwdriver.
ELIZABETH: It’s really horrible. When you hear it, it’s horrible.
ERIC: Yes, but it’s what she has to do to survive and protect her children and I think people understand and go with it and I think it just makes Rachel that much more awesome.
Why do you think REVOLUTION has worked where other “event” shows didn’t?
ERIC: Well let me preface this by saying any writer who knows why his stuff works is lying. But I have my theories but mostly I’m just grateful that people seem to be connecting with it and I’m greatly appreciative that they’re watching is mostly my reaction and response to that question. As to why my theory or my hope is because it’s a genre show. But we try very hard to put the genre on the backburner and put the characters front and center. And our focus in the writer’s room is not what’s the trippy mind-bending concept although we certainly love those, our focus is well how do those concepts bring out new dimensions of our characters and how do we make it as emotional as possible and how do we make these characters as fraught and complicated and tortured as possible. Because look here’s the truth of episodic television, which is you want every episode’s storyline to be great but the reality is the sheer volume of work means that some are great and some of your stories as a writer suck out loud. But if the characters take and the actors create amazing characters, which I think they’re doing, then viewers get invested. I don’t think they get invested in any particular storyline; they get invested in the characters. And if the characters are working then the series works. And conversely it doesn’t matter how cool your concept is if the characters aren’t appealing or relatable to the audience then it will never work. I used to say this a lot to making a reference to Lost when I was talking to J. J. [Abrams] and Bryan [Burk] and all the Bad Robot guys in the beginning, we talked about it a lot and what I said to them and they totally agreed and I think it’s why LOST worked so well was we said look I’m interested in, I’m fascinated by what’s on that island but that’s not why I’m watching, I’m watching for Matthew Fox and Elizabeth [Mitchell] and John Locke and all the characters and they’re the ones that you love and that’s why that show was so successful and hopefully REVOLUTION is coming close to approximating that same formula.
How do you compare the filming process between LOST to REVOLUTION?
ELIZABETH: it’s really interesting and I don’t know if this will make sense to anyone but it is slightly different. LOST we started with wide, we’d come in the middle, we get right into tight and we’d go for the eye like we’d get in really close. And on REVOLUTION right now we’re shooting a lot of long lenses, which means that I don’t necessarily know when the camera is right on my face so it’s been something of a surprise. And what is done is that it felt more like in some ways like a play. You’re doing all of this, our operators are catching all of this but they’re not right exactly there. So it’s been really interesting, really fun. It’s been really interesting how that is because I was so used to having the camera just right there. But the thing that I have found very similar is that we as the actors are all very exciting to know what’s happening next and I love that. I love the fact that we want to sneak in and ask, “Who has a script and has anyone seen script and does anyone have a script and should we call Eric? Should we ask Eric? Oh let’s not ask him. Oh maybe we will.” Everyone’s like, “Okay I asked it.” And I was like, “Did you? What happened? You know it’s about my character. Come on!” So I love that we’re all so excited and we were that way on LOST too and that to me is a huge and wonderful commonality.
Do you see the show at all as a warning or a cautionary tale of sorts?
ERIC: Oh, yes, it is. I think we are as a culture really over-reliant on technology. I think it used to be a convenience and now it’s a necessity and I think we are dangerously separated from our food and water supplies. I think very few of us would know what to really do in any kind of calamity, and how to find your children and how to provide the basic necessities of survival. And I think this show really hopefully makes a few people think about that. But even on a more emotional level it’s a really interesting age we’re living in now because, concurrently, I don’t think we as a culture we’ve ever been more connected and at the same time have ever felt more alone. And I think it’s because everybody is sort of walking around with their smartphones. And there’s just been such a seismic shift just over the last couple of years. It’s happened so quickly that everyone has basically like plugged into like the first generation matrix and they’re so focused on the world that is on their screen, that they’re not looking up and seeing the world around them and connecting in the moment with the people who are literally standing across from them. And I’m very guilty of it too; I mean everybody is. But I’m as bad as anybody with it. But yet the other thing I think we think about this world because it’s not all about it’s not just despotic, it’s not this brutal hard scrabble. we’re not making the road here. And I think one of the points we want to make is that human connection in the absence of technology would probably flourish. And if we can make people think about that if we can make people maybe unplug from their smartphones for a minute and connect with their families and fight for your family, then that would be the best possible outcome. But that’s all like high solute and douche bag shit to say. And mostly I just hope people enjoy the characters and dig the sword fights.
There’s a rumored character death upcoming. Why would you want to kill off any of your characters at this point?
ERIC: It’s exactly the right type of shocking development that really ramps everybody up for their mission in the second half of the season and it really emotionally escalates everything. . . We looked around and we needed a massive instigating incident to kick-off the second half of the season and every character needs an intense emotional drive and wants to face down General Monroe and to not do it just for political reasons, but do it for intensely personal and tortured reasons. As the writers discussed it at length, we realized that this move would not only I think blow people’s hair back, but really mobilize all the characters to take the fight to Monroe in the most fraught and desperate way possible.
To see which if our heroes doesn’t make it out alive, be sure to tune in for the mid-season premiere of REVOLUTION on Monday, March 25th at 10:00 p.m. on NBC. Bring tissues!
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