The 'Revolution' Will Be Televised

NBC ready to debut Texas-shot second season

Bartlett, Texas, stars as Willoughby in the second season of NBC's <i>Revolution</i>.
Bartlett, Texas, stars as Willoughby in the second season of NBC's Revolution. (Photo by Joe O'Connell)

Evan Cauduro, 11, heard about it from friends at school. Then his family was at a dinner party where a woman talked about the call for "weird people." At home, Evan rushed to the computer and began to sign himself up. His father Paul uploaded two photos – one of Evan in his baseball uniform and another from the boy's school science fair. Soon Evan was staying up all night in grungy clothes. He ran dangerously close to an oncoming horse. And you might just see him as a background extra on Sept. 25 when the NBC series Revolution debuts its second season, its first as a Central Texas-shot phenomenon.

The show is headquartered in Austin for a 22-episode sweep that will continue into May, says Gary Bond, head of the Austin Film Commission, but cameras have been popping up at Decker Lake and in Maxwell, downtown Taylor, Cedar Park, and elsewhere. The conventional wisdom is each episode results in $1 million in local spending. "That's the wonderful thing about television," Bond says. "It's the gift that keeps on giving. The potential for them to be here five years is there."

Or not, as learned Wilmington, N.C., the first season location for the show about a future struggle when everything electric stops working (the switch flipped back on in the season finale). The official word was a need for new, fresh locations, but Texas filming incentives didn't hurt. Revolution is eligible to receive 20% back from money spent in Texas, bumped up to 22.5% if a quarter of filming is done in an "underutilized area."

Bond's ears perked in April when he got a direct call from Warner Bros. Television's vice president for television production. "It came out of the blue," Bond says. "They were playing it close to the vest."

During this summer's Comic-Con International in San Diego, show creator Eric Kripke said the second season will be less of a road show and more about place. That "underutilized" place is Bartlett, which portrays Willoughby, a small Texas town with a large gate made of old tires leading to a partially burned-out courthouse. It's the character Rachel's hometown and the base for folks who want to bring the old United States back.

Preston Kirk studied acting at Baylor in the Sixties, but instead worked in journalism and public relations before beginning work as a serial extra a decade ago with The Alamo. He and his wife, Ronda Dale Kirk, worked five days on the Bartlett set. "All of us were impressed with the courthouse," says Kirk. His job was to come rushing through the gate toward the courthouse – actually a very fancy plywood mock-up constructed in the middle of a street off Bartlett's red-brick main road.

Extras are theoretically forbidden to take photos on the set or to discuss the script, but a drive through tiny Bartlett reveals a mass of activity, including, when the filming is active, off-duty police officers from area cities who are ready to tell gawkers to move along. It's gritty work, with sweaty extras wearing the same unwashed grimy clothing – a complaint that the first season had actors unrealistically clean has apparently been heard – often for weeks at a time in the Texas heat.

Show extras have banded together in a private Facebook group to exchange stories, including of a toe and arm broken in the rush of activity. Those "weird people" sought for the show? "They're so scary looking we began to lock our stuff up in the car," Kirk says. "But then you talk to them and discover they're regular, nice people – computer programmers and artists."

Paul Cauduro stayed on the sidelines in Bartlett as his son spent a late school night on the set for a Halloween episode. Evan, dressed in a dirty clown mask and poncho, toted a prop jar of pickled carrots as he strode by the main actors. Elizabeth Mitchell (Rachel) walked past and greeted Evan's sweaty dad watching from the sidelines. Zak Orth (Aaron on the show) stopped and posed for photos with extras.

"He enjoyed it," Paul Cauduro says of his son. "There's a lot of standing around. It's organized chaos when you're out there. I can see why people want films and TV shows in their city. Generators are running full time. You have shuttle vans, caterers. An enormous amount of money is spent."

Revolution's second season premieres Wednesday, Sept. 25, at 7pm on NBC.

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