The stars of the NBC show “Revolution” seemed surprised to be on a red carpet in the United Nations Secretariat Building on Tuesday night. That was where they found themselves, however, celebrating the U.N.’s new partnership with Bad Robot Productions, the J.J. Abrams company that produces “Revolution.”
U.N. officials hope to use the show, a post-apocalyptic drama about humanity losing all electricity and energy, as a platform to educate viewers about the living conditions of the billions of people around the world who still don’t have regular access to power.
“The main reason behind the collaboration between the United Nations and the creative community is that the United Nations works on many issues around the world—in this case, power—that are relevant to a large number of people,” United Nations Undersecretary-General for Communications Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, said. “What we may take for granted in New York—simply switch on the lights or the television—it simply does not correspond with hundreds of millions of people out there.”
The executive producer and co-creator of “Revolution,” Eric Kripke, was awed by the United Nations’ interest in the show.
“I’m just a nerd science-fiction writer,” he said. “I have no idea what I’m doing at the U.N., but it turns out that they’re fans, and they see a message in ‘Revolution’ that they wanted to broadcast because one in five people live without power... a situation that we thought for our show was science fiction but actually is reality for over one billion people.”
Others involved with the show were equally surprised by the partnership, but they said they welcomed the conversation and the challenge of depicting powerless circumstances in a more truthful way.
“The U.N. is going to be working with the show to try to create some circumstances that are a little bit more realistic and kind of educate all of us as to what goes on,” said Tracy Spiridakos, who plays the show’s protagonist Charlotte “Charlie” Matheson.
Several of the actors said that being on “Revolution” has changed the way they think about power in their own lives.
“This show has changed my life completely,” Giancarlo Esposito, who portrays Tom Neville, said. “You can’t help but think about it, and I can’t walk out my door and leave a light on. It’s a great thing to be conscious, because we can all help and conserve.”
In return for using “Revolution” as a platform to reach the American people, the United Nations has offered the writing staff full research access to U.N. resources. The results of the exchange are already appearing in season two, which premieres Sept. 25, in the form of new characters—including a politely vicious warlord—and a handful of throwaway lines.
In the past, United Nations officials have forged similar relationships with popular television shows, but the results can often feel forced. Their collaboration with “Ugly Betty” culminated in an episode that featured the titular character writing a magazine story about “Nothing but Nets,” a program working to prevent malaria. But officials stressed that their relationship with “Revolution” would be particularly poignant because the show revolves around the very issues about which they hope to raise awareness.
“Now we can not only sit around the set talking about the what-ifs, but about the what-can-we-dos,” Billy Burke, who plays Miles Matheson, said.
“If people are able to work more with the U.N. on giving power to some of the powerless, that far exceeds my wildest expectations,” Kripke said.
"Revolution" airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.