EXCLUSIVE Giancarlo Esposito Talks Revolution

The Revolution and Breaking Bad star on living without electricity and playing the bad guy.

Any show aspiring to greatness needs a guy (or girl) you love to hate among its characters, and Revolution has Major Tom Neville. The Monroe Militia's finest has made a name for himself as one of the most ruthless soldiers in the Republic (he's even come down hard on his only son), but he's much more than just some two-dimensional bad guy – before the blackout he was a lowly salesman who decided he needed to toughen up if he was going to survive in a world without power. We spoke to star Giancarlo Esposito [who also played Gus in Breaking Bad ] about what makes Tom tick...

What attracted you to Revolution ?
Storyline. Completely the storyline and the folks that were on the team. I thought this story was very topical and this is a show that could really gain some attention because of social economic scientific things it was saying. And because we’re in a place in our world where this is a story that could really happen. This “what if” challenge that our wonderful writer Eric Kripke has posed is something we could really think about. So, that was my attraction.

Also my attraction was that we had such an A list group of creators. When you work in the business for a while, you do a lot of things. Some things you do for money, most of the time I’ve been very blessed to do things for their creative nature and their depth. So, I looked at the list and Jon Favreau was a guy I thought was just at the top of his game. JJ Abrams obviously being connected to the show gives the show an incredible credibility and brings his incredible talent to our project. And Kripke. Put all those together. I also didn’t think that I ever wanted to be in a sci-fi show, because the reality of that is that they are very big, and sometimes it becomes about the sci-fi and not about the drama. And I like that Revolution is about both.

So you wanted a sci-fi show that tried to say something rather than just being flashy?
Yeah, precisely. I think that when there’s integrity underneath it; the integrity of story, that’s important because that’s what I relate to when I see something. It's not the spaceships flying around or the explosions or all of that, it’s what is propelling that story? It interests me to know if this happened, how would our world survive? How do we get the power back, and how do we get the water into the Guinness factory underground? It takes that water from those mountains to make that beer. That to me is fascinating. You know, what kind of contract did they make for 9000 years to get that water? What kind of contract do we have with our universe that we’re going to keep getting electricity? We don’t have that contract, you can't get that on paper. So for us to think about solar and all these different kind of energies, it's important – because when our contract runs out, it runs out. That’s Revolution .

The big theme of the show is that we rely on technology far too much. Is that your feeling too?
It is my feeling. We rely on things that make things easy and we’ve gotten a bit lazy. I remember 20 years ago, I remembered 50 telephone numbers – my mother, father, best friend. I didn’t have a phone to call them on, I had to go to a box! But I remembered them. It was just second nature. Now, I remember about five numbers because I’ve become lazy. This is something to think about. What parts of ourselves do we use? Now we rely on all these things [referring to SFX 's dictaphone]; like, if I turned this off are you going to remember this interview? Hell, no! I try and find ways to keep myself somewhere in the realm of a world that I can rely on me, it’s the world of Revolution . Which way is north?

[SFX makes a wild stab in the dark and points somewhere]
That way? Do you really think that?

No...
This is what I’m talking about! We have become lazy. Let’s get sharper, we can do it. Let’s just return to our older values and get a little sharper about what we do. Close your eyes.

When Gus Fring from Breaking Bad tells you to close your eyes, you close your eyes]
What colour are my boots?

Erm, brown...?
Nope, black! That’s what I’m talking about. This is the world of Revolution . To be aware, to be connected. I think the show is fantastic, it has so many places it can go.

Do you think Tom is an inherently evil character, or just a guy pushed too far?
I don’t judge any character I ever play, because it has to come by the writing. Tom is a good guy. Episode 105, Tom is a guy who worked for the man, the company man, but he tried to help a family, and the guy said, “That wasn’t right. That claim you wrote up, no no.” And then he fires him, and that hurt Tom, and then he comes home and the blackout comes and his neighbours are trying to steal his stuff. Something clicks over – “If I don’t become tough and brutal and ruthless, I’m not surviving. So am I going to give up?” When Tom stands up from beating his neighbour who’s trying to steal his silverware, Tom’s a different guy. So he’s not inherently evil. I have to love him, I want to love him, I want him to do the right things. There are so many moments where I make choices in my acting to look at somebody with compassion, and then I kill them. I’ve got to do my job. I have to keep all these people safe from themselves and each other. I’ve got to say, “Look if you’re carrying a firearm that’s against the law, and the penalty is death, you cant let anybody slide, not when the world is at risk." I don’t think he’s intrinsically good, but he does what he has to do. But! He may go too far. And that’s something we have to look at too.

Given that you're so good at doing that whole “evil with a smile” thing, are you concerned with being typecast?
Look, when you do something good, they’ll ask you to do it again. I want to bring this level of depth and I want to bring this kind of villain - if you wanna call him a villain - to the forefront, so that it’s so big, that it’s done. So yeah, with Gus I didn’t wanna play the guy with the evil laugh… You’ve seen all that, I want to do something original. Which is why I feel like Tom is different. He’s a storyteller, he’s in service, he’s not top dog… All these things I wanted to do, and I still want to make him vulnerable and allow him to be many different things, because I think that’s human. But eventually, I don’t want to do a Tom character again after this; I want to do a comedy and tap dance on the table. I want to grow in a different way.
Stephen Kelly

Revolution airs on Sky1 HD on Friday nights at 9pm.

Come back next Friday for our interview with Tracy "Charlie" Spiridakos.