Billy Burke is perhaps best known to movie audiences as Bella Swan's cop father Charlie Swan in the "Twilight" series. But he's found another audience on TV with the sci-fi series "Revolution," which enters on the Matheson family’s struggle to survive 15 years after a mysterious worldwide blackout. Their post-apocalyptic world is juxtaposed with bucolic, overgrown cities and a journey of hope, rebirth and retribution. "Revolution's" second season (which premiered on NBC on Sept. 25, 2013) picks up six months after the first season finale with ICBMs speeding toward Atlanta and Philadelphia.
Rachel Matheson (played by Elizabeth Mitchell) is on a relentless quest to avenge her son’s death sent her on a heroic journey to the Tower, where she could turn the power back on so the Rebels and the Georgians could wage war against Gen. Sebastian Monroe (played by David Lyons) and defeat his treacherous Militia. Aaron Pittman (played by Zak Orth), a major player at Google, joined her on this suicide mission with the hope of restoring the world’s technology. Miles Matheson (played by Burke) discovered that Monroe was waiting at the Tower for Rachel and mounted a rescue mission with Charlie (played by Tracy Spiridakos), Tom Neville (played by Giancarlo Esposito), Jason Neville (played by J.D. Pardo) and Nora Clayton (played Daniella Alonso). But our heroes soon discovered that former Dept. of Defense Secretary Randall Flynn (played by Colm Feore) had outwitted Monroe and hijacked the Tower for a sinister “Patriot” scheme.
With help from a very reluctant Aaron, Randall turned the power back on and used the surge to deploy nuclear bombs at the Eastern seaboard. For four minutes, the power came on across the globe creating what is now known as the Surge. But something mysterious happened to our heroes during this surge. Season 2 of “Revolution” returns to its powerless roots and settles into Willoughby — a small town in the great nation of Texas. We flash forward three months to find Miles, Rachel and Aaron licking their wounds and lying low, aided by the town doctor, Gene Porter (played by Stephen Collins,). Charlie sets off on a vision quest in the Plains Nation and a desperate Neville and Jason search the Georgian Refugee Camp for their beloved Julia. Though our heroes are scattered around the continent, one thing is clear: That harrowing trip to the Tower created some peculiar circumstances and altered the political landscape of the continent. Here is what Burke said about "Revolution" in a May 2013 conference call with journalists.
Will the lights being on and off going to continue to be what the show’s about, or is the next season more into being about the revolution and going against Monroe and his people?
To answer your question as honestly as I can, I have zero idea. I’ve not seen one line of one script for next season so I don’t have a clue what we’re going to be going into. All I can say about the end of this season is that it all comes down to everything we’ve been fighting for comes into question.
What do you find the most challenging?
I’m not sure that I find anything particularly challenging. I’ve had more fun doing this than I’ve had doing anything in a number of years actually. It’s been sort of a joy every day. It’s hard work. We work an average of, you know, 14-, 15-, 16-hour days and it’s a very physical show and I’m getting sh*t beat out of me all the time, whether the character is or not.
The actors are going through a lot of physical stress. But I don’t find it particularly challenging at all. I kind of like the way it works. We don’t know much more ahead of time what’s going to happen than the audience does. So it’s kind of a good system for me. We kind of make it up as we go.
Randall’s been a bit of an enigma. So what can you tell us? Will we be finding out anything about his intentions, what he wants?
The short answer is yes. I can’t go into detail about it but yes, you’ll sort of find out Randall’s MO.
Two main characters died in the first season of “Revolution.” Should we be prepared for any deaths?
The nature of the show is this, we’re all in precarious situations and all in the same precarious situation collectively together. And the nature of the show is people are going to die in this scenario, in this the world being the way it is and the battles that we’re fighting. So I can’t speak to particular characters one or the other if they’re going to be around or not. But as the show goes on and moves into the second season it’s my guess — and I don’t know this for sure — but it’s my guess that we’ll see new people and we might be saying goodbye to some others, yes.
Can you talk about theoretically if Miles would actually be able to kill Monroe if the opportunity presented him? Or would their friendship still get in the way?
To answer the first part of your question, it’s pretty safe to say that I don’t think that we’re going to end this season without some sort of final showdown between those two characters. And to answer the second part, I mean we’ve seen that conflict go on for so long. And the nature of these two guys is that, yes, they’re both fighting different sort of pathos within themselves. And each one thinks that they’re doing the thing for the common good and for the overall right. So that’s the struggle that we deal with. The brotherhood between them seems to be so strong that it’s kind of overcome a lot of those moments. But I don’t know how long that will continue.
One thing about Miles that’s been really obvious is that his relationship with Charlie has really softened him and changed who he is. But he’s also watched her get harder. Can you talk about his fears for her and if his changes are going to stick with him?
That’s been sort of the fun dance to play with throughout this entire first season. We didn’t know it was coming any more than anybody else did. But as the scripts kept coming in, we kept making the show, what I realized is is that yes, there was sort of a do-si-do going on. He was taking on her characteristics and -while she was taking on his. And naturally, his fears for her becoming everything about him that he wouldn’t want anybody to be, those are boiling to the surface, yes.
The interesting thing about this Miles character is that he’s kind of half-reliable and half-unreliable. He really seems to be a natural leader but a truly reluctant leader at the same time. Is the internal struggle with him the sort of line you’re walking as an actor with this guy?
Yes, those are the fun things to play with. And the question that does arise quite often and quite frequently while we’re producing these episodes is that question of what’s going to be too far, what is going to actually be redeemable in the end and does it need to be redeemable? I still am not even clear on what the whole term anti-hero even means. We’re making that up for this character as we go.
When we first met him at the beginning, yes he wanted nothing to do with this fight. So yes, you’re absolutely right, he’d rather not have the responsibility on his shoulders. But as we all know you get pulled back into things in life that you just kind of have to deal with. And that’s been his struggle.
When you get home every night and you turn on the lights and they come on, do you breathe a little sigh of relief?
I don’t think about it that much when I’m home, but we do think about it quite a bit on set. We talk about it a lot. It’s a big part of everyday conversation all the “what ifs.” And I suppose if I had to think about it when I came home yes. If I couldn’t open the refrigerator and find something cold in there, I’d be pretty pissed off, yes.
So what do you think about the move to Austin? Are you all looking forward to it? Is it going to be a little jarring or bring a lot of possibilities?
Absolutely looking forward to it. Austin, it’s one of the coolest cities that we have here in the United States of America, I got to say. That being said we will all miss Wilmington. North Carolina was really good to us. We loved everybody there. I couldn’t have imagined at the time a better place to be making this show. So although we are all looking forward to Austin, we’re going to miss where we were last season too. But Austin’s got a lot of great stuff to offer. I was just down there a couple days ago as a matter of fact.
Was there any particular reason behind the change? Was it financial?
Yes, it was all administrative stuff that I’m sure we’ll never know very much about. But the other thing about this show is that it’s not only nationwide but it’s a global event. So I think it sort of enriches the show the more territories we visit and the more landscapes we see.
You’ve done a lot of stuff, even before “Twilight.” And you have a really, really vast career. Would you say that “Revolution” is one of the highlights of your career or are you still looking for that big highlight?
I would absolutely say that this is. I’ve been having a great time making this show. When I think back to my childhood and looking ahead to what I wanted to do, and there was never really any question with what I wanted to do. And then I look at this gig, I can’t see it getting any better than this in terms of stuff to do and fun to be had. It’s a pretty rich role and good thing to be doing as your job every day.
On paper, it looked like “Revolution” could go either way. But once you all got into doing the show, was it obvious it was going to be a hit?
I appreciate you saying that. I don’t know if anything’s obvious in network television these days. But yes, as far as what it looks like as you say on paper I would agree with you. If this isn’t an entertaining show then I’m not sure what is, you know?
The second half of first season really seemed to have taken on a different kind of energy and a different feel. Was it an intentional change or just something that we’ve all kind of picked up on there?
Yes, we as actors talked about it during the little break that we took, the hiatus that we took. And then as we came back and started to see the scripts roll in we don’t know if that was intentional from the get go or if it was just lucky happenstance.
But we are all in complete agreement with that. We feel like it almost became a heightened version of the show it already was. We’re all looking forward to that climbing the ladder even more for next season.
How much of Miles did you know about when you took on the role? And has that changed a lot?
I knew what happened in the pilot because that’s what they gave me to read. And then [“Revolution” executive producers Eric] Kripke and [Jon] Favreau, who I sat down with initially to talk about it with gave me an overview of the show, but not necessarily an overview of the path that’s any of the characters were going to take including mine. So yes, I’ve been sort of watching this go as you the viewers have.
Miles is such a great character. We’ve seen him change and transform so much even just in this first season. What’s sort of been the give and take between you and the writers in creating this character?
Initially, here’s what you really appreciate as an actor: if you can be trusted. And I felt that from the very first moment that I sat down with Kripke to talk about it I felt like they were going to trust me to do what I was going to do with the material given.
That being said, I’m so thankful to him and the rest of the writers for really giving a shit about not only my character but all these characters and the precarious lines that they walk. You know, my character in particular has sort of taken a path around himself to get to where he is now. And that’s always the greatest stuff to play with. Yes, the sword fighting is fun and we’ve been having a ball with everything but I can’t think of especially for television I can’t think of anything that would be more enriching to work with.
You spent some time on “24.” There some similarities between Miles and between Jack Bauer. Keifer Sutherland has said that Jack Bauer was the kind of character who just could never be happy. Do you see Miles sort of in that same vein? Do you think that ultimately he can be happy or is he just going always sort of be fighting or crusading for something?
Happiness, it’s something that he doesn’t even think about or strive for in my mind. Lights at ends of tunnels don’t even come into this psyche at all. I think he just first and foremost like everybody in this world that we’re living in, he just wants to survive. And beyond that if he can do something to help the common good I think all his choices are based on yes I’m going to have to do some sh*tty things but in the end, is it going to help the common good? And I think that’s all he thinks about … Short answer I think it can be his kind of happy which is in tiny little spurts.
What technology do you think you’d miss the most if you were in the world of “Revolution”?
After being asked this question several times, what I always keep coming back to is I grew up a musician. I still play music. And mostly I listen to music. So the absence of recorded music that would be my biggest — beyond refrigerated food — recorded music, that would be the big one.
Did you talk with any Marines or former Marines to help get into the character’s mindset for the role?
I would love to say that I did, but no, I did not. We got this gig and the next morning, we were shooting. So and then on set, we’re working 16-hour days so there’s not a lot of time for any kind of a research.
A couple of questions. The first is regarding Sebastian or Bass and Miles. Dale now knows about his son who with Emma, who was Miles fiancée at the time. How is this going to affect their relationship?
I have no idea. You don’t often in story lines, in any story lines, television or otherwise you don’t often introduce a character like that like a son that even if we haven’t seen him yet. You don’t often do that if you don’t intend to follow through with it. So I would imagine going into this next season that that will come into play. But I’m only guessing because I haven’t seen any scripts from the next season yet.
It seems like we’ve moved from the territories to the tower. And is the focus shifted now completely from like the ongoing war with the territories to the axe role, like life or new life that has been created because of the tower and/or like versus the Battle of the Republics which is kind of what we were doing before?
You will see in this [Season 1 finale] episode that it all does culminate in the event that’s about to take place in the tower and that the sort of what happens is that we all find out that what we’ve been fighting for all along may not be physically or spiritually what we thought we were fighting for. What happens after that, don’t know. But it all comes to a big head.
Sword fighting is really one of the most exhilarating parts of “Revolution” What kind of training and fight choreography process do you go through for those sequences?
The choreography was created by our masterful Jeff Wolf who sort of from the get go made this whole thing up. How it works is we know that there’s a fight sequence coming up. He’ll talk to the writers and produces about what it means and what the content’s going to be. He’ll choreograph it with his … video. He’ll email it to me. So there’s not a lot of prep that goes into it at all. We kind of just wing it.
Were you in any way reluctant to commit to a potentially multi-year program so soon after coming after the multi-year “Twilight” commitment? Or was it just a no brainer?
Given the pedigree that this show had with Kripke and [J.J.] Abrams and Favreau directing the pilot, if I was going to make a choice like that — and this had been the first time I’d even been presented with a choice like that in years, because I hadn’t been available to do television for so long because of the ‘Twilight” movies.
Do you have like a lot of stunts that you do, besides the fighting, that you can talk about?
So far, it’s been mostly battle scenes. And there’s some running and jumping around and stuff like that, all of which I always want to do for myself. My poor stunt double Eddie Davenport, lovely guy, but he’s hanging around most the time waiting for me not want to do something. I do the large bulk of it myself, yes.
What can you say about the Season 1 finale of “Revolution”?
I think the final episode for all [is] how we all sort of get to the end of this road and now have to think about internally why we’ve been fighting for so long and that’s sort of how it culminates. And I think it’s a great way to not only cap off this season but bring us into the next.
When we see the flashbacks, Miles and Monroe had a lot in common and they were together working. What do you think it was specifically that kind of changed Miles that made him decide to go in the opposite direction?
I get a little annoyed with actors who talk about the internal struggle of the characters and all that crap. But a lot of it was exhaustion. He was exhausted with the day, struggle for what’s probably going the wrong direction. So that’s why at the beginning of the series we found him and he was he had walked away from the fight because he didn’t want to be in there anymore.
So a lot of it was his personal he saw Monroe going off in this direction that looked dangerous and for lack of better term wrong and he didn’t want to be a part of that. But he knows going now that he’s back in the fight he knows now that he’s got to do some stuff that’s ugly too.
Will we get any further insight in the love triangle between Rachel, Miles and Nora?
Further insight, maybe. I had to be vague but I mean at this point we sort of get it I think. I think viewers kind of see the overall dynamic no matter how oblique that might seem. But yes, you’ll start to get what’s happening, at least from where Miles is concerned.
Is it fair to say that whatever their romantic relationship was that it began way before she got married to his brother or do you have any signs of that situation?
You know what? I’m going to be very honest with you here. We still don’t know that. The actors don’t know that timeline and it’s something that we had asked the moment that it came up and as it continued because it’s difficult to place stuff that you don’t know. But in terms of the timeline and when it all happened, we actually don’t know. I’m determined to find out as you are though.
Tom Neville and Randy Flynn bring new meaning to the Dark Side. Does that mean that the two of then hook up to do something together or can you talk a little bit about what that means?
It doesn’t necessarily mean that, no. But I think definitely those two characters individually have their own agendas. And we will see those come to a head in the finale. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re doing that in tandem.
How would you describe the Season 1 finale of “Revolution” in a few words?
I would say “brilliantly implosive.”
For more info: "Revolution" website