Tom Hanks' Hollywood résumé is as impressive as anyone's, with roles in "Philadelphia," "Forrest Gump," "Saving Private Ryan," a number of romantic comedies with Meg Ryan, all the way back to the classic TV show "Bosom Buddies."
But Hanks' newest project, Electric City, is a departure from what viewers typically expect. It's not on the big, or small screen. It's an animated Web series on Yahoo! Screen.
The show takes place in a dystopian future, years after an unnamed apocalyptic event has rendered planet Earth a dangerous and crime-ridden place. In addition to conceiving the idea and producing the series, Hanks lends his voice to the main character Cleveland Carr, a former police officer charged with maintaining order in the drab city.
Hanks stopped by to talk to The Madeleine Brand show about the show and his decision to dive into an animated Web series.
Watch the first episode of "Electric City:"
On the dystopian theme of "Electric City":
"It's a long arc, hopefully a never-ending story, about what the world is like in the 4th or 5th generation after whatever the great dystopia that is created and for whatever reasons that it is created. So rather than dealing with the nuts and bolts of how bad things got, we're dealing with the nuts and bolts of what happens after how bad things got. How society, not only rebuilds itself, but how it polices its own growth, but also polices the human nature that really never ever really changes no matter what the circumstances are."
On other themes in "Electric City":
"We don't really know who runs the Electric City, there are orders, there are rules, there is a social hierarchy that is adhered to because it sort of has to. But as the very scary narrator intoned in the clip that you just played, there are ghosts in the machinery of human kind and people end up doing good things for wrong reasons and bad things for good reasons, So we end up falling into the cracks of just how you maintain the social good."
On his character Cleveland Carr:
He is some brand of enforcer, but we're not really sure why. We know that he makes bad things go away. We don't know who he knows, we do know his boss is an old lady who has been around for a very long time and has seen a lot of very bad things, and has taken it upon herself along with a handful of other ladies from her same generation who have decided that for the good of society they will start deeming who and what can continue along with their lives and their contributions to the Electric City.
On his decision to produce "Electric City":
I live a life in which I always got these, some ideas are goofy and don't go anywhere, others are things that we've been kicking around down here at the office for a very long time. I don't want to overuse this because its a cheesy word particularly when it comes down to a guy who's made so many schmaltzy movies with Meg Ryan, but it is a labor of love.
On the trend of well-known actors devoting time to Web series:
I would say that there are people who are trying to make money by doing that, but I think some of the people you're talking about here are following creative paths for which there is no other way. When you're making a motion picture, its the biggest crapshoot in the world and there are all sorts of pressures on it and it becomes almost a piece of global commerce that you're involved in, no matter the budget or expenses. When I made a movie all over Los Angeles a couple years ago called "Larry Crown," and even it cost about $24 million. And you have all sorts of pressures that are put upon you simply because of the dollar figure that goes on. What the Web offers is, literally, a no-pressure atmosphere. The only pressure that is on you is your ability to create it and get it up and put it on. That's all. You don't have to answer to anybody. Even if you had a TV series that was on television, if only 800,000 people watch it, its a disaster, you know what I'm saying? It's the high-tech version of having your own small theater company. You get to come up with your own plays, you get to come up with your own cast, you get to design it yourself and if 99 people show up it's a great night.
On the freedom of producing a Web series:
You get to tell the story by way of tangents. You don't have to hit things specifically on the head. For example, We have back story on the Electric City that will probably run 300 pages. What we get to do then is take one of those tangents, a sidebar, something else that you click on, a map, some other port of interactivity for whoever's clicking onto it. And they can go back and do their own research on what this moment really means, and where Lt. Wells came from and how he became a cop. Things like that. That means you have an unlimited ability to tell as much story as you want and it doesn't cost a thing.
On his experience working on "Electric City":
It is an absolute blast. There are people doing this all over the world right now, the sit on the edge of their bed and they come up with an idea. This is the version we get to do. We're kind of like Moby, who just sat around with his keyboard in his bedroom and made music that he loved, now he's a great musician and doing fabulous soundtracks for films. That's what he kind of get to do its, a cross between Moby's music and Andy Hardy "Let's Put On A Show."
Tom Hanks, actor and producer of the new Yahoo! Web series "Electric City."