Eric Kripke talks about creating new hit series NBC’s “Revolution”, which airs Mondays 10pm EST. Kripke also created and executive produced “Supernatural,” now in its eighth season. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Eric about the show and what we can expect from the first season.
Mike Smith: Can you talk just a bit about how you came up with the whole concept for the show?
Eric Kripke: Yeah, sure. Really for me it was about, I’m a huge fan of Star Wars, I’m a huge fan of Lord of the Rings, I’m a huge fan of really that kind of Joseph Campbell classic, mythic, heroes journey storytelling, you know those big grand adventures. And those are the kind of stories that are more often serviced in movies than they are on television. But, I think TV is actually a perfect format for that kind of storytelling because if so many – you know those are such big sprawling stories and you have so many more hours in TV to really explore all the different facets of a world and the characters that live in that world. And that you could give it, you know really epic scope, but very intimate character focus. So for me, it was always – I was always really interested in kind of taking that sort of big sprawling adventure format, that big quest format and putting it in television when you can really explore it episodically, and so that’s really kind of where the idea started. And, you know I’m a huge fan of Star Wars. I’m also a huge fan of Stephen King’s The Stand, and I really like the idea of rather than setting it in some fantasy kingdom to set the story line in some kind of transformed America, which is very – you know in a very strange way relatable and familiar to your audience, because it’s things that they’ve seen before, but just transformed overgrown with vines and all that. It kind of started from the idea of just where can we create this mythic quest, and then from there it was working, you know J.J. and his whole team at Bad Robot and we were sort of talking about like, “Okay, what would transform America, and would it be nuclear war, would it be disease?” We all sort of felt like we’ve seen that a million times before. And they had been kicking around an idea of, “Like what would happen if there was a global blackout?” I jumped right on that idea. I’m like, “That’s perfect. That’s the way to kickoff the show.” That’s really interesting and provocative and I think a really relatable concept, because I think everybody feels how over-reliant we are on technology, and so it becomes sort of interesting commentary to explore what would happen if we removed all technology overnight.
MS: Just going back to the pilot when the blackout happened, it looks like it was very gradual over the whole Earth, should we be reading into that, looking for clues as to the origin of the blackout, or did that just look cool to have that sweep of darkness over the Earth?
EK: You should look for clues everywhere…is the short answer. The longer answer is, you know there was a phenomenon that, you know we have up our sleeve as to what caused the blackout, and that that it – what you saw in that globe shot is an accurate representation of what we are working on. And – but, you know right now we’re currently in the writers room. We’re talking dangerously about revealing that secret before the end of the first season. So again, it’s sort of my philosophy of not being too precious with anything. So, we may reveal the secret sooner than later.
MS: Can you talk a little bit about the decision to downgrade Maggie from series regular, and then eventually write her out.
EK: Yeah, sure. You know what it really came down to more than any other decision, Anna Lise is a wonderful actress and I love that character. I’m sort of have a bad habit in the shows that I run of killing off the people that I love, and I think Maggie was one of those. I think we decided internally that very early on that it was really important to show that this world had very real stakes, and that it was truly dangerous. And because, you know you’re not close to hospitals, you’re not close to paramedics, you’re not close to help, and we very quickly realized that the scariest thing we could do was to kill the doctor among them. So it was purely a creative decision about really putting a sharp – giving the world the real charge of danger, so that as we move forward in the series we want the audience to really understand that nobody is safe, including the main characters, and just bring that suspense as the series continues because we think that’s honest to the world we’re trying to create here.
MS: Can you talk a little bit about what we’re going to see, in terms of Neville’s backstory and who he was?
EK: Yeah. You know, Neville – what’s interesting about the blackout in the show and – which – you know where we like to explore and we want to explore more and more as the show goes on is what a transformative experience it was for so many people. And who they were in the old world has nothing to do with who they are now. And – I mean, there’s like a bit of that in the pilot, which you know we were always amused by the idea that he’s this kind of violent strong man post-blackout, but pre-blackout he was an insurance adjuster. So we were really interested in exploring that backstory more and seeing how his character, who before the blackout was pretty mild mannered and maybe a little submissive, and how did he transform into the violent psychopath that he is today? And then – you know, and then meeting his wife. And right now, basically, we’re planting Kim now, and then, you know we’re going to meet here in the present day and really explore her character a couple episodes down the line. And we’re going to see how, you know a very normal suburban wife before the blackout, post-blackout, transformed into a Lady Macbeth.
MS: Tell us about how you chose Giancarlo Esposito for the role of Captain Tom Neville?
EK: Giancarlo is just a world-class actor, and frankly we were shocked that he was willing to partner up with us because, you know we were sort of like – we felt like we were like kind of, “Like, why is such a classy actor want to hang out with such shady people?” And – but, you know obviously I was a – I’m a – I was a huge fan of his performance in Breaking Bad, but I’ve been a fan of his from long before that, and we’re just honored to have him be a part of the show. He brings so much heft and depth and emotion and – to Neville, who is not obviously the same character as that character, because you know Neville’s got, you know moments of vulnerability and moments of humanity. And he’s just a really interesting complicated character that Giancarlo makes so much better than what is on the page. But yeah, and it’s true because I mean he’s the – he’s exactly the type of actor you want to work with because you can write any dialogue and he makes it about five times better than it actually is. And I’m just – like I said, I’m just honored to be working with him. And then on top of that, he’s like the nice – it’s like the government actually has designated him the nicest man in America. He couldn’t be a sweeter, more gracious, more open-hearted collaborative guy, and someone who is that talented and that kind-hearted is just is really one in a million, and I just love working with him.
MS: Could talk a little about Rachel’s motivations and the direction her character’s going in?
EK: Yeah, sure. I mean, certain ones are a little mysterious, so I have to be a little cagey, because we reveal some things. But basically, what – you know Rachel is – you know she has – she’s obviously holding on to certain secrets about why the power went out, and we’ll reveal in the next episode on Monday exactly – we’ll reveal a little more about what she in fact knows about the blackout. Monroe’s been keeping her, in a gilded cage, kind of prisoner; although, with occasional torture, so it’s not so fun. But she’s strong and, we’re so smitten with what Elizabeth is doing with the character that we’re just writing more and more and more for her, because she’s just – she’s so good. And so, she’s a very strong character, but everything changes when Danny finally arrives in Philadelphia. So, now General Monroe has Rachel where he wants her, because she doesn’t really care about he own well-being, but of course she cares about the well-being of her son. And so, he’s really able to twist her arm and forced her to reveal things that she hasn’t revealed to him yet. But she, of course, is you know smart and heroic and is, you know desperately searching for a way out of the predicament that she’s in.
MS: Are we going to see Nate and Charlie’s relationship develop more?
EK: The short answer, yes, but over the sweep of the season. He’s going to be spending some time in Philadelphia, we’re going to start to understand what his world is like within the world of the militia, but he’s certainly going to interact with Charlie again and he has a bumpy road ahead for him.
MS: Since the full season pickup mean that you were able to go ahead with some story ideas and arcs that you’d maybe put on the backburner in case NBC did cut the series short?
EK: Well, you know television showrunners are a foolishly optimistic bunch. I think we were designing our story lines in the hopes that there would be a full season pickup. And then, in my back – it was more that. It was more like I was, you know designing the story line for 22, and then in my back pocket I had a – I had like a nuclear failsafe that it really looked everything was going off the cliff I had an emergency contingency plan to wrap everything up very quickly. But obviously, I’m very thankful to the network that they gave us the opportunity to, you know be able to tell the story.
MS: You are also the creator of “Supernatural”. How much time are you being able to spend at that since “Revolution” is now also in production?
EK: Yeah, I don’t spend as much time over there as I would like, but – because this one’s got my hands full at the moment. But, I will say that, Bog Singer and Jeremy Carver, who are running that show are doing an absolutely incredible job and it’s like watching Supernatural go is like – is sort of like watching my child go off to college. I don’t necessarily have control over it, but I’m so proud of what they’re doing.