Tom Hanks breaks character with sci-fi, noir ‘Electric City’ web series

Meriah Doty
Movie Talk

"The desire is: What's going to be the interesting story?" Tom Hanks explained of his creative process on Tuesday during a phone call with Yahoo! Movies.

Hanks has launched his web series "Electric City" -- a sci-fi animation he created and to which he also lent his voice -- on Yahoo! Screen.

"I wanted to do something that was -- for a lack of a better phrase here -- somehow deadly serious," Hanks said of the animated series, which depicts a post-apocalyptic world with limited technology.

In it, Hanks plays Cleveland Carr, an operative tasked with keeping order in his city, often with the help of lawless, violent tactics.

With two Oscar wins and a sophisticated-yet-relateable onscreen persona, it's difficult not to compare Hanks to Jimmy Stewart. And like the indelible star of "It's A Wonderful Life," Hanks too likes to experiment. (Stewart's career could have easily flourished with "safer" choices than Hitchock's "Rope" (1948) and "Harvey" (1950) -- in which he plays opposite an imaginary giant rabbit, for example.)

Hanks -- who often diffused hype with self-effacing jokes during our call -- seemed reluctant to acknowledge the comparison to Stewart. But he did find a link between a Stewart movie and his new character Carr: "I just recently saw 'Winchester '73' in which [Stewart] plays a very angry guy that goes around trying to kill everybody."

"Everybody in some way has darker moods... [there are] thematically ironic stories I want to tell," Hanks further explained of his motivation behind "Electric City."

The Internet, Hanks joked, "[is] not all cat videos or guys getting kicked in the nuts." And with "Electric City," he said he intended to create something very different than what the general public is accustomed to seeing in the online original content space.

Hanks said he wanted to portray "a different brand of noir storytelling that is in... an unexplained world, as opposed to a world where we know exactly what the risks are."

His production company Playtone, which he runs with producer Gary Goetzman and was the birthplace of "Electric City," is devoted, in part, to Hanks' experimental inclinations.

Hanks jokes that Playtone is good for three things: 1) making long distance phone calls, 2) getting someone to grab you lunch and a cup of coffee, and, jokes aside, 3) being an idea lab for television, film and Internet content projects.

"Electric City" is a passion project for Hanks: "Quite frankly, this is not a movie. This is the cultural equivalent, or the work equivalent, of writing a bunch of short stories and just putting them out there for people to read."

When it comes to launching entertainment content exclusively on the Web, Hanks is the first to admit, "There's no money in it." He added, "You might be able to make the salaries of the people that help you do it. But, it's literally in order to be creative."

And when it came to deciding on what platform "Electric City" should be seen, the Web seemed to make the most sense, though, Hanks admitted, "I must confess I do not live any life online." He went on to say there are only 24 hours in a day, he's a grandfather, and he tends to read books; he does, however, share thoughts through his Twitter account regularly. "Again, there's no money in that. And if you think it's self promotion -- I don't know what I'm promoting." He quipped, "If that had worked, then 'Larry Crowne' would have made $100 million."

Watch the first episode of 'Electric City': Truth or Consequences