Renowned and award-winning actor/director/producer Tom Hanks has officially thrown his hat into the world of original online content with the debut of his new animated sci-fi/dystopian/noir series "Electric City," on Yahoo! Screen. In addition to serving as the series' producer and co-writer, Hanks also lends his voice to lead character Cleveland Carr, a former police officer who now serves as a kind of underground peace-keeper/hit man known as a "grid operative."
MTV News was lucky enough to chat with the Oscar-winner Tuesday (July 17) via a conference call with other journalists during which he revealed the series' nine-year development and his inspiration for the story.
"The reason we ended up going to Yahoo! was that Yahoo! said, 'Let's do it.' We [Hanks and his production company Playtone] had this thing for a hundred million years. I wrote the first story in 2003 — on an Olivetti Lettera 22 portable manual typewriter, by the way — we were always developing it for the story and it went through many incarnations with the idea to bring it to some brand of audience," Hanks said. "It was just a matter of finding somebody who wanted to pay us for content."
Hanks explained that his inspiration for the show was tied to his desire to create something different from the mostly humorous online series out there. He wanted the themes to be serious and the stakes high.
"I didn't want to do a spoof that was going to be carrying all of those other elements, everything from 'The Man From Uncle' to 'Clutch Cargo' to 'Star Trek,' but what I wanted to do was somehow take a form that had a visual zeitgeist to it that as soon as you look at it you realize it takes up a certain place in our pop culture knowledge and yet deals with something that is much more serious than a bunch of pop culture references," he said. "There is no individual source of inspiration other than a different brand of noir storytelling that is in an unexplained world as opposed to a world that we know exactly what the risks are."
So what exactly is "Electric City" all about?
"The elusive power that everyone is trying to possess and control is information," Hanks said when asked about the series' sci-fi-esque, yet topical and relevant plotlines. "The theme that drives the plot of every episode is, 'Who is going to control the information?' and 'Are those people going to be benevolent and tell the truth or are they going to be proactively lying in order to promote their own agenda?' There is the 'Electric City' in a nutshell."
The first run of "Electric City" includes 20 four- to five-minute episodes, 10 of which are currently available on Yahoo! Screen. Hanks said that he and his co-writers/producers Josh Feldman and Bo Stevenson aren't looking to make a big-screen version just yet; they only have hopes to make more episodes.
"We always just wanted to get this thing up in order to tell a story we loved kicking around. That's it, there's nothing beyond that. Everything else has to happen organically," he said when asked what his end goal is for "Electric City."
"We don't know, we would be completely happy and satisfied just being able to pay the salaries of everyone involved just to make the next book of 20 episodes just so we can play around and explore the territory. There always could be that kind of [big-screen plan] but that's not the end result of what we're seeking," Hanks said. "We just want to be able to continue along if we could, a long string of stories that don't ever really have to come to an end. The 'Electric City' can exist in our minds and as long as that quest for the control of information is still at risk, we'll have something we can create and delight ourselves in."