J.J. Abrams' 'Revolution': Elizabeth Mitchell talks the premiere
Lost fans, Juliet Burke is back. Or at least a J.J. Abrams-Elizabeth Mitchell collaboration is on the air again.
Mitchell has reunited with the Lost mastermind for Revolution, an NBC event series that Abrams is executive producing. The show, which comes from Supernatural creator Eric Kripke, takes place 15 years after all sources of electrical power have ceased working — no light bulbs, no batteries, no cars, none of that. Mitchell plays Rachel Matheson, the mother of the family at the heart of Revolution. In the 15-years-post-blackout time when most of the show takes place, (SPOILER ALERT!) Rachel is dead — or at least her family thinks she is — but the actress will appear in several episodes during scenes that flash back to the first days of the blackout.
Mitchell took on the role this summer, replacing Rescue Me actress Andrea Roth who was in the original pilot. Ahead of Monday’s on-air premiere of Revolution (it was released online last week, so watch it here), EW talked with Mitchell about starting a new show via reshoots, working with costars like Tim Guinee and how the show has gotten her thinking about her chances in a post-apocalyptic world.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When you sign up for another J.J. Abrams-produced, high-concept show, is there a point when you think, “What have I gotten myself into?”
ELIZABETH MITCHELL: Oh, sure. I do that all the time on every project though. I had watched the pilot with Andrea in it, and I thought that it was extraordinary, so when Eric called me, I was really excited. I was like, “Everybody’s okay? Everything’s good? It’s just a different direction? Yes? Okay, awesome.”
So you got to see Andrea Roth’s performance before taking on the role. Shooting your scenes in the pilot, is it at all difficult to separate her performance from your own take?
Oh no, I loved watching her. I did theater for 15 years, and I spent a lot of time as an understudy. That’s what you do. And in this particular case, it was one of those wonderful things of getting to watch a lovely actress perform the part that I was going to get to perform. No, I’m just really grateful to her. It’s an amazing gift to be able to watch someone else do the same role.
Tell me about that process of reshooting those night of the blackout scenes. Is a lot of it matching up to what’s been previously shot and edited?
It is. We did a couple new ones just because we changed the way that it was a little bit. And Tim [Guinee, who plays Rachel’s husband] and I — I really liked him so much. What an adorable man he is. He’s so much fun. He was so kind and helpful and talked about the process that he and Andrea had kind of gone through. He also has done a lot of theater. We matched up a lot of it and we changed some of it. I think some of Tim’s are different. We definitely [re-]shot his side as well.
It’s clear from Supernatural and the Revolution pilot that family is important to Eric Kripke. Tell me about any conversations you’ve had with him or other people on the show about this theme of family.
I actually was talking to an actor the other night who said the perfect thing: After the end of the world as we know it, family is all that you have. You don’t have anything else. You have what is right in front of you. You survive and you have your family. That’s the whole world. And I thought that was such a great thing to say because it’s true. Ben and Rachel keeping their family together during those 15 years — that was their world. That was all that they cared about. That was all that they worked towards.
The great thing about that is it’s not like fuzzy family. It’s like unbelievable, deep emotion, survival, willing-to-do-anything-for-you family. Willing to go against everything that I am, willing to go against everyone just to keep my family safe. It becomes very primal, and it becomes very plausibly dramatic because the emotions are so high. It’s family. It’s protecting the ones that you love. It’s mother bear time, which I love because after having a child I realized that I was capable of violence. I never thought that I was before, and then I realized that I would do anything to protect him. And that was fascinating to me.
So you were talking with another actor on Revolution about this?
Yes, another actor on the show. He was absolutely terrific. He plays one of the dudes in the past, which I unfortunately can’t talk about because I think we only find out about it in episode 6. But yeah, his take on it was so interesting. The breakdown of society and what happens when we no longer really have frivolous pursuits — we become different people. Much in the same way that in a survival situation, whatever kind of excess bodyweight you carry around is gone. You’re down to the lean muscle for the most part. And I think it’s the same way emotionally. You get down to the lean muscle of emotion. You get down to the heart of things. There’s really nothing else to do.
Has this show gotten you thinking about what you’d do if you lost access to electricity?
Yes, it has! I bought my son a first-aid kit for his birthday. He’s seven. He probably looked at me like I was insane. I was just like, “Just keep it somewhere safe, bud.” He’s just like, “Oookaay, Mom.” So I do think about it. We live in a tiny little house. We have a wood-burning fireplace. We could conceivably survive there through all seasons. Also, my husband put [forth the question,] “What happens if all the power goes out? Who goes to who first [if we’re on opposite ends of the country]?” and he goes, “I’ll of course be coming to you,” and I was like, “Oh my gosh, you’re such a guy!” I was like, “Whoever has CJ, [our son,] stays put, obviously.” He’s just like, “I don’t want to think about you walking across the country by yourself,” and I was like, “Who has more training? You or me?”
You’re the one who’s played characters that have gone up against aliens and had to survive on a remote island.
I know! It was good to put that in perspective. [Laughs] So I guess we’ve had some of those conversations now, and we’ve done it in a laughing way because he’s a comedian, and that’s how we do it, but there is an undercurrent of “What if?”
Are you going to be in any scenes that aren’t flashbacks?
I am not allowed to say one word. I’m not even allowed to tease.
Is it worth hoping that Rachel is still alive?
I love that hope. She’s a strong, resourceful woman. Let’s hope. Absolutely. She survived for so long. I think it’s absolutely worth hoping.
The pilot of Revolution airs on NBC tonight at 10 p.m.. Also starring in the show are Billy Burke, Giancarlo Esposito and Tracy Spiridakos.
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