Stars Masi Oka, Greg Grunberg and Creator and Executive Producer Tim Kring tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the new show

Recently we had the pleasure of sitting in on a conference call for NBC's much talked about drama Heroes. The story of the show follows a bunch of different people across the globe as they realize they have special powers. Speaking during the conference call was series star, Masi Oka and Greg Grunberg as well as Creator and Executive Producer, Tim Kring.

This is for both Greg and Masi. I just was wondering if you guys ever, you know, thought you had a superpower as a kid or what superpower you did want growing up? Did you ever imagine yourself being a superhero?

Greg Grunberg: This is Greg. That's a great question. My superpower was given to my imaginary friend... Growing up. I always had like this buddy of mine that, you know, no one else could see. So, but I always dreamt of invisibility, that was like a really cool thing for me. And you know, right now on the show, I get to read people's mind which is incredibly cool and I'm learning throughout shooting, you know, and sort of becoming this character that it, at times, can be sad and really enlightening at the same time. You don't always want to hear the thought.

The way Tim is writing this character and all these characters is in a real personal way and what would actually happen if you woke up and you had this superpower, that superpower. It wouldn't necessarily just be an incredible thing; it would also be something very difficult to deal with. And at times, you know, it's just - the way they're writing it, it's just so interesting to play and it constantly surprises me and makes me relate it to, you know, my everyday life as hopefully everyone else will as well.

Masi Oka: While I was a kid, growing up with superpower I would have wanted is probably kind of Midas touch, the ability to turn anything into gold, you know, because my allowance was I think about a quarter every week and that wasn't enough to go to the arcade and play more than one game. So I would have to be really good at playing arcade or have a bunch of rich friends.

But if I had the Midas touch, then I could have just picked up a stone and turned it to gold. I'd play a lot of arcade games.

Greg Grunberg: I would love to know the future of the show. Right now, I'd love to be in Tim's head.

Tim Kring: He would never stop screaming.

Greg Grunberg: That's true. Why is this episode entitled: "Farewell Parkman"?

Tim, I was wondering, I just have to ask if maybe you got the idea, the germ of this idea for the series, back when you were a writer from Misfits of Science.

Tim Kring: Actually, no. But I wrote one episode of that show... And I sort of - I actually fondly remember the chaos of that experience. But, you know, the germ of this idea came about, I guess, just about a year ago now, maybe a little it longer. And, you know, I can go into detail about that if that's what you want. I was supposed to develop a show for NBC and I became fascinated with this idea of a new paradigm of the serialized large ensemble show. That was something - that was very interesting to me and I started to think about what would make an interesting version of that show. And I happened to see two movies back-to-back in two consecutive days that sort of melded together in my mind. One of them was The Incredibles. And the other was the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Charlie Kaufman.

And I started to just sort of blend those two things in my mind over the next few days because I so loved both of these movies. And sort of mixing the idea of people who had superpowers and trying to struggle with their everyday lives with these sort of Kaufmanesque characters -- these highly hyperreal, anonymous kind of characters, people that you would pass on the street and never think twice about. And so in my mind, those two things started to come together and that was sort of the genesis of where the idea came from.

Greg Grunberg: And didn't you also really want to work with Greg Grunberg and Masi Oka?

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Tim Kring: And then of course there was Greg Grunberg actually which is, until it happened, I was going to - I'm not going to be a happy man.

If there's been one criticism of the pilot is that it lacks a little bit of joy that aside from Masi's character, you know, no one's really particularly excited to be discovering these abilities. And that's something that we're going to start to see more as the series evolve?

Tim Kring: Well... Yes, exactly. I mean the idea was - and you're right, Masi's character here was actually created for just that reason because I was very interested in the idea of what would really happen if you or I woke up and discovered something extraordinary happening to us -- the ability to hear people's thoughts, or a sense that you could fly by you weren't quite sure how would you really react to it.

And the truth is, it wouldn't be that was, you know, with great enthusiasm. All of us would find it somehow burdensome to do with, you know, keep a secret or we would go to the doctor or we would go to a shrink. But most of us would not embrace it as something that was wanted. But as these characters continue to sort of accept these and grow in their use of these abilities, they then can fold them into their normal lives. And their normal lives have obviously, you know, all of the ups and downs and the travails of normal life.

So, exactly that as it goes on, we will see them gain an acceptance and it'll be less burdensome for them.

Masi Oka: Masi, I'm forever indebted to Tim Kring for creating Heroes.

Tim, Creator of the show, did you have a superpower that you're wishing that you'd had or have?

Tim Kring: Well, yeah. You know right now, I wish I could be in more places than one... I mean that would be a very good one. But no, I was never really one of those people who was really fascinated by, you know, or fantasized about having superpowers. Although when I really started thinking about it for the show, I sort of decided that flight might be the best one to have, just seems like it would be the coolest.

Greg, given that you seem to have good runs in series where you didn't do the pilot, yet in the Lost pilot, you got gobbled up by the monster.

Greg Grunberg: Yeah.

Is this a good omen for this show that you're not in the pilot?

Greg Grunberg: You know, I really do think it is, you know, I was joking about that but you've got to kind of go and run with your track record and that's been the case. After watching the pilot, the one-hour version, I think Tim originally had a concept of doing a two-hour version, after watching the one-hour and the pilot that's going to air -- it's so satisfying -- you really spend quality time with Masi's character, you spend quality time with the Peter character, and Ali's character.

To try and squeeze all of these characters into the pilot and give them enough time that you can really relate to them, get to know them, and enjoy them, it's just - it's too hard to do. And so, Tim and I had a conversation and he was like, "Well, we're going to try," and I think the editors did try and pepper my character in and Leonard's character into the pilot. But it doesn't do it justice. So the way that I'm introduced in the second episode is just fantastic. And I'm just really, really happy. I'm so excited about the premier. And it's just one of those shows that I've been incredibly fortunate to be a part of a couple of them; Felicity had a great buzz about it when it started, and of course Alias and Lost.

So I'm just really, really lucky to be working with this cast and with these - we have like five, you know, show runners running the show. I mean Tim is, you know, obviously at the top, but the people that are working with Tim, it's just unbelievable. We have the greatest front office that any, you know, baseball franchise could have and we don't even play baseball.

So it's, you know, I'm really, really lucky and I'm excited and I - if, you know, if my path is any indication, hopefully and, you know, knock wood, this runs like the other shows have.

Masi Oka: And Greg is just absolutely amazing in the second episode. I got a glimpse of him. Absolutely wonderful, so...

Greg Grunberg: I have to say I really am.

Masi Oka: You are?

How does Matt feel about keeping his mental power a secret? Is it a hardship keeping it a secret from his wife and friends or does it feels better to keep it to himself?

Greg Grunberg: Well at first, you know, this, like all the other characters, it's right at the very, very genesis. It's right when this happens. I mean this guy wakes up, he's an LAPD cop, he's got dyslexia, he can't advance and become what he really thinks he should be which is a detective/SWAT guy or something more important, be where the action is. He can't do it because he's got dyslexia and he can't pass these tests and now suddenly, he's hearing voices.

So to tell anyone, especially his wife, they've, you know, they've been, not at each other's throat, but it's been a constant, you know, a conversation that they've always had where she says, "Hey, why can't you be satisfied with our lives?" And he wants more. And so now, to add to that, if you just think about the complexities and everything that's going on in your life and suddenly to open up that can of worms, people would think you're crazy.

So what I love is how - is that - it's not so simple as to just tell people, "Hey, this is what's happened." People aren't going to believe you, they're going to think you're nuts, how do you handle it. And when we come into this, so when my character first realizes that he can't even control it, he doesn't know it himself, so especially with his wife, it's really -- it's an amazing thing.

And we've just shot something where I'm about to tell her and something else comes up. So, it's again, the scripts are just so great. When I read them - when I get an idea of how I think, you know, what I think a cool idea would be to use the idea of being able to read people's mind, I'm like, "Oh, this would be great." It's on such a simple level compared to what, you know, I read and it's just like, "Wow, that's the greatest way to use it."

I was just saying, we were shooting last night and I was just saying to Jesse Alexander, one of the executive producers who I've known for a long time, I said, "Man, it's just so great to read these scripts and to discover how best to use these powers and how best to deal with them, you know, in someone's everyday life."

It's going to be constant struggle for my character to reveal it, but I think once he - I can't wait to get together and like work with Masi so the two of us can get excited. His character is already excited about it.

Greg Grunberg: I've already shot a little bit where I'm using it to satisfy my wife -- the ability to read her mind, which, you know, take that as far as you want because we did. And, you know, it's a great thing.

Masi, will you have a love interest possibly within the group? I mean will Hiro have a (unintelligible)?

Masi Oka: That would be my dream come true. That would be more of a question for Tim because I can't read his mind. Maybe Greg can for me.

Is there a particular one you would want?

Tim Kring: This is Tim. And we are in the works on a love interest... And the spoiler is that as of now, nobody in the original group.

No one we've seen yet.

Tim Kring: No one you've seen.

And Tim, can you (unintelligible) in general if there will be more interaction between the characters such as the national team format?

Tim Kring: Well, there is not the idea of a team format that is not what is going to happen. But the pilot sort of points to the idea that these characters are going to cross in a sort of subtle way it points to an (unintelligible) closely (unintelligible). And then very soon after these characters do start to cross in sort of interesting and coincidental and unexpected ways, which is one of the things that I was most kind of fascinated with, with this idea. And I think that the audience is going to be really fascinated with participating in trying to guess and predict how these characters are going to cross paths.

So you take a character like Masi's character, who's an office worker in Tokyo and Hayden's character, who's a cheerleader in West Texas, and the idea of how those two characters will ever cross paths seems impossible and yet that's what the fun of watching the show is -- to see how it continues along or what path it goes for these characters to actually come into contact with each other.

Greg Grunberg: You what I think - this is Greg. I think it's so interesting because right now everyone is assuming that or, you know, they're thinking, "Okay, so it's going to be this great team of superheroes that will come together and do good." Don't assume that every one of these characters is good, that's something so interesting. Like we're all - as actors, Masi and I have had this conversation where we're thinking, "Are we going to be good? Are we going to use these? Are we going to realize, wow, these powers, they empower me in such a way that I can use it for evil purposes?"

I mean we have no idea whether we're going to go good, go bad, it's just so interesting, you know, to see what somebody would do if given these abilities.

Masi, I've never met before someone who is both an actor and did special effects. Those always seem like different worlds, right? Do you still sometimes get a chance to work on special effects?

Masi Oka: Yes, I still kind of consult for my company, Industrial Light & Magic.

Mike Hughes: Okay. In all the roles you've done up until now, I don't see any that have been special effects. Here you're in a show that needs special effects from time to time, do you end up looking over people's shoulders or are you really fascinated or do you start asking them what they're doing or talking to them or anything?

Masi Oka: Well absolutely. I mean anytime you could, you know, these special effects are created, it's just wonderful. Our team, our special effects team has done an amazing job with the pilot and all the episodes coming up. It's really wonderful.

And it's always fascinating, you know, because special effects is part of what makes, you know, the magic behind the movies. And, you know, it's like a kid that's watching all these things - cool things happen and oh wow, cool. You know, even the green screen excites me, even that, you know.

Mike Hughes: And just - and (unintelligible) for a minute because people often think of those as opposite worlds. I mean sometimes after seeing all the special effects or the villain that take over the movie and special effects people that have little regard for the actors and so forth. You appreciate both ways. You think people are wrong about seeing those two as enemies of each other?

Masi Oka: Yeah. I don't think there is any - there should never be any kind of enemy or animosity between our groups because with - what makes a project special is everybody, you know, the weakest link is what defines the show or project. Everyone should have an appreciation for, you know, every side.

I mean, you know, by having this background in special effects, I have a lot more appreciation and patience and understanding of what, you know, the visual effects people have to do and, you know, how the directors have to set up shots, you know, how the writers have to visualize anything.

I think it just rounds you out as an individual and as a human being to be able to appreciate and understand everyone's point of views, you know, because this is about respect and, you know, being able to respect each other's work.

There's no way I'm going to say I am a master at doing anything, but just having an understanding of it allows me to communicate with the other members of our fantastic crew. And also, you know, it keeps me humble as an artist because I understand what they go through and the troubles they have to go through, so...

Okay.

Masi Oka: The idea of, you know, being you have to use the left side and the right side of the brain in harmony has always been, you know, a consistent struggle for me growing up and it's something I always wanted to do and I'm so exhilarated that I have the opportunity of using them both in my professional career.

Tim, I have a quick question for you about some of the online digital stories you're going to be doing in conjunction with the show.Is it going to be limited to the online comment, which I don't think has started yet, or will you also be doing film Webisodes?

Tim Kring: We have no plans now to do Webisodes. Our particular, you know, venture - foray into that world is through the idea of the online comic that will run concurrently with the show. And so, you can log - people can log on and view and sort of interact with an online comic book every week with - in conjunction with the episode.

And the comic won't be necessarily about that episode, but it will further enhance your viewing of the show. It will be sometimes an alternative look at what you've seen or the other side of what you've seen or a story that just sort of enhances, you know, your appreciation of the character and the story.

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And will that begin on the day - when will you first be able to see those comics? On the day it premieres?

Tim Kring: I don't know exactly, but the idea was either on the day or the next day. I don't have that information right in front of me.

And that's at 9thwonders.com?

Tim Kring: Well, it will - if you go to 9thwonders, it will take you there. But I believe it's through nbc.com, through the Heroes' Web site on NBC.

Okay. And one last thing, in terms of your involvement in that...

Tim Kring: And I would like to sort of add the actual details of it maybe later on for the transcription so that I can clarify that.

Okay. In terms of your involvement with it and your staff's involvement, how much time does it take? Are you guys the ones coming up with the stories and then giving them to the artists...

Tim Kring: Yes.

To do the drawings?

Tim Kring: Yes. There are a couple of sort of designated people here on the staff who are overseeing most of that. I see the - I sort of am involved with a little bit of the breaking of the stories and I see the finished script and then they go off to the artist. And, you know, it's a very time-consuming process to try and launch 22 of these along with the show.

Well, that was going to be my question is how much more difficult does it make it when you're not only making a show, but you're also making kind of a mini-show for the Web?

Tim Kring: Well, we sort of allotted for this early on so we knew that this was coming. The show was always sort of designed to have a large online and Internet component attached to it. So in the development of the show and the preparation of launching the show, we took a lot of that into consideration. So we try to carve out, you know, time and money and personnel that can sort of handle that.

Greg already sort of addressed the question I had about the evolution of the pilot from the two-hour to one-hour and he said something about trying to squeeze all the characters into a single hour which made me think how are you going to do this every single week? And once you introduced all of the characters, are you going to take an episode and focus on one character at a time?

Tim Kring: Yes.

Will they come to the forefront and back?

Tim Kring: Yes. I mean the idea was to - the pilot sort of equally launches several, you know, several of these - all of these characters and you lope between each of their stories. And which sort of locked us into the second and mainly the third episode of being somewhat the same format. But after the third episode, we are able to sort of start to settle down into sort of less and less story.

And so, the idea is that once you are fully invested in these characters and knowing who these characters are, we can sort of trade off and tell three stories a week instead of six stories. Also, as these characters begin to cross, you no longer have to tell as many stories because you have two people in the same stories.

So story just by, you know, by evolution of coming together, it's there's less story to tell, you know, the pilot posits the idea that this is happening all over the world kind of simultaneously. So it was very hard to imagine how these stories are to come together. But three or four episodes in and we have figured out ways to get these people seem to across.

And as a follow-up, will you be bringing in other people with superpowers? And it's called "Heroes" so it made me wonder at some point we're going to meet villains?

Tim Kring:Yes, absolutely. And those two questions are actually connected to one another. We are bringing in other people with superpowers and that they are not necessarily heroes. The show does introduce the concept of a major villain in the second episode and that villain becomes sort of a linchpin, central character for the first, you know, for most of the first season.

For all of you, what's been the most surprising aspect once you've gotten into production either about how it works narratively or how to play your character or just the physical - something in the physical aspect of production?

Tim Kring: Who wants to...

Masi, do you want to take that?

Masi Oka: Well, I mean surprising and exhilarating at the same time is always the script. You know, every week we get something, you know, it's - as many, you know, for every question they ask, they answer it but they also ask another question and it's a constant rollercoaster going up and down, up and down.

You know, you read the script and think, "Oh my God, wow. Wait a minute, that's how it ends? No wait, come on, where's the next script?" You get the next script and it's like, "Oh my, that is just absolutely brilliant. I would have never thought - wow, wow, wow. What? At the end, it's (unintelligible). What? What's going on here?"

It's a constant rollercoaster. And that's always been like surprising at how brilliant, you know, and genius the minds of, you know, our writers are to be constantly be able to top themselves week after week after week.

Greg Grunberg: I think - this is Greg. The most surprising thing for me is just how good I really am -- just amazing on film. It's just incredible.

Masi Oka: That's not how to talk to me, Greg.

Greg Grunberg: That's true. For me, the most exhilarating thing has been, and has been a challenge, but it's been fun too, is to play, you know, like how do you play, visually, a guy who can read minds? Do you, you know, what does it look like when you do that?

And I've made a choice that I hope - and it's really subtle and it's little and it's nothing. But, you know, like Greg Beeman, one of our producers and director, he was directing me and he said, you know, is it a third eye like when you kind of - it's just a physically thing to sell it and to make it believable and keep it really, really grounded. That's one of the things that I love about the script when I first read it.

You know, first of all when I read the pilot, it read not only as a pilot but it read as a show and a series and it had a past and a future. And it's just like Masi said: it constantly surprises and entertains me. When I get the script, it's nothing like what I thought.

The same was true for Alias and Lost. I always thought man, the writers are really painting these characters and these stories into corners that you can't get out of this -- there's no way. And if they do, it's going to be in a really predictable way. And sure enough, you know, the next script comes along and it's nothing like I thought and it just kind of solidifies the fact that I'm not as smart as anyone in the writers' room -- but enjoying this ride nonetheless.

Tim Kring: This is Tim. And to sort of add to that idea, the one thing that has been so fascinating is how easily the stories do spin and generate one another.

By having these sort of constant reveals in stories and the big plot points and twists and turns and revelations in the stories, I think the audience may feel like well, they're going to run out of it because there's just too many of these coming along. It's one reveal after another. But the truth is for us as writers, these twists and turns are actually the engine that are allowing us to generate even more story. So it's a very exciting way to tell stories.

You don't have to, you know, one of the challenges and one of the things that we all wanted to do on a show like this because we looked at other to serialized shows that the big complaint with a lot of the sort of larger saga shows is that people get frustrated that they have to go two and three and four episodes at a time where not much happened.

And we try to set out to do a show where we were going to make a different kind of pact with the audience that if you watch our show, something is actually going to happen each week. And so far, we've really been able to do it and that's been both rewarding and exhilarating to be part of.

And without giving away too much, does anybody have any draft that changes the look in the episodes you've shot so far? Once they get their superpowers do they start dressing differently or growing beards or something?

Masi Oka: You know, Tim, I wanted to ask you, what's with the leotard I was wearing?

Tim Kring: I think you - this is Tim, you can expect to see everyone growing in different in very different ways. And I will give a little bit of a spoiler that one character actually has a very different look for an episode. And I'll sort of leave it at that.

Greg Grunberg: I have to say one of the things that I, you know, we all have things in life that we want to do and/or, you know, aspire to, and it takes a kick in the butt sometimes to really, whether it be a change in location or a new job or something, and we've been putting it off, putting it off, we know we should do it.

For this character, I think getting the one ability for my character, you know, this is Matt Parkman. He's an LAPD cop. He wants to be a better cop. He wants to investigate bigger crimes and be where the action is. Suddenly, he gets the one ability that a cop needs which is information and he gets it in a way that no one needs to know he's getting that information -- it's exactly what a cop needs to solve, you know, crimes as quickly as possible and be the best you can be.

But that I think then changes the rest his life because now -- and what I've been doing and Tim keeps telling me to eat more doughnuts and don't lose so much weight -- but I think, you know, and that's what I'm running with, I want to get into great shape. I think this would - this for me, I mean, you know, for health reasons, I think it's great, but I've always wanted to just get into a much better shape and I'm going to take this opportunity to do that with this character.

Tim, I apologize if this has already been asked, I joined the call a little bit late. But you said that the TCAs this summer that you were not a big comics fan or an avid reader prior to this.

Tim Kring: Right.

Is that - can you just talk about sort of the pluses and any potential minuses of telling the sort of story without that?

Tim Kring: Well, I think, you know, definitely the show launches off of certain genre-type platform. In other words, these characters do gain kind of special abilities, have been associated with comic book characters. But at the heart of it, the show is so much a character drama -- really how these characters deal with the abilities that they have suddenly discovered and they're on a journey of discovering, and so for me, my sort of past in as a writer has always been about character and always been about character development.

So I came at this idea from that angle. And I've had several people, you know, who are in the comic book world talk about how they've always wanted to see a show like this but they felt that nobody who had a very strong background in comic books could have come up with it in the same way as somebody who didn't have a strong background in comic books.

Now that's not to say I haven't given myself a sort of crash course in it as I've been going along here, I certainly know more about it than I ever thought I would just by sort of immersing myself into the world and surrounding myself with people who know a lot about it.

There are several people on staff, one in particular, Jeph Loeb who is basically a rock star in that world.

Right.

Tim Kring: And I've sort of surrounded myself with lots of people who can guide me in directions that, you know, I may be - one of the things that I found was I kept reinventing the wheel, you know, and I finally decided that well, this has been done 90 times already and I can either not do it or just try and do it in my own way. So I chose the latter.

Right. And I also wanted to ask that at least in the pilot there's sort of that recurring visual theme of the eclipse and is there more to that than it sort of implied that...

Tim Kring: Well...

That might be...

Tim Kring: You'll have to - the audience will wait actually a fairly long time before that stuff is ultimately revealed. But I think for the audience and for the pilot and the watching of the pilot, I think it's best to think of it as just a unifying global event that's able to tie these stories together and tell the audience where people are all over the world under one unifying event.

And I was also trying to sort of make the world feel like a smaller place and...

But you're not...

Tim Kring: Thinking about what the visual, you know, representations that would be.

But you're not necessarily implying that this is a thing that triggers these abilities in people or...?

Tim Kring: No, in fact the pilot actually posits another theory.

Right.

Tim Kring: And for the time being, I think people should take that theory to be what we're - what show is actually saying.

That it's just sort of the next...

Tim Kring: It's an evolutionary...

I wanted to ask - you guys have touched on this a little bit in the call already, but one of the most interesting things I found about when I talked to Tim before was that as actors, Greg and Masi have no idea of what's happening from episode to episode until you get the script. So I was wondering if you guys could talk a little bit about what's that like as actors to not know where your character's going next. And Tim, if you get a little bit - kind of a perverse glee from messing with your actors a little bit and letting them - holding back from them some of the information?

Greg Grunberg: Well, this is Greg. I enjoy it I have to say. Over the years, it's always been the kind of thing where, you know, JJ would call me, JJ Abrams on this other show, he's really a good friend of mine, he would call me and say, "What do you think of the script?" and I said, "Well, I just read my stuff," because I don't want, I mean, in this case, I'm reading everything and loving everything, but I don't want to know too much. I want to discover it as, you know, as my character discovers it.

And if I do know too much, it might indicate how I approach other actors. And, it's a weird thing. It's like - and this doesn't really answer the question, but I've noticed that on some shows, you know, the star of the show, the one single star of the show, sometimes in scenes, other characters and other actors will cow down to that character because they're the star of the show and it's like, well no, you're both cops in this world and you shouldn't act that way towards each other, you know, you're peers.

In this situation, I enjoy not knowing too much, and - but, you know, it's really hard to not ask these questions. And every time I, you know, email Tim or email Jeph and I'll say, "What's coming up? What's coming up?" It's just little nuggets that I get and I get little suggestive things like: "We have incredible stuff for you in five, you're not going to believe it" and that kind of satisfied me for a little bit, you know.

My Uncle (Paul) in Palm Springs, I don't have any answers for him but, you know, and all these other relatives that want to know what's going on. And once we start airing that's just going to get crazier and crazier.

Tim Kring: This is Tim. There is kind of immediacy to the performances because people don't know what's going, you know, going to happen next.

Greg Grunberg: Yeah.

Tim Kring: There is a kind of honesty and immediacy that we're finding. The other thing that we all are, you know, we're on, you know, a giant sort of freight train here and while we are projecting fairly far into the future, a television show is a very organic thing, it's like an organism and you have to pay attention to it because it's a living, breathing thing and it will tell you where it wants to go. And if you try to impose your will on it, it can really bite you. And I'm thinking specifically in terms of things like the chemistry between two actors.

You plan in the writers' room for two characters to get together. And sure enough, you first get a lead and those two characters have no chemistry between one another. You realize well, we don't want to go there. That character actually has chemistry with her over there. Let's go that direction.

And if you are paying attention to the show and watching what it's trying to tell you, you can bend and shape it. And so, that all helps to the idea of not revealing too much to everybody.

All right. And I want - this is question two because I got to check out the first issue with the print comic. And Hiro is like a really a big character as far as the comic goes right off the bat and I was wondering what it feels like to not only be on TV and have millions of people see you perform but then have them be able to go and pick up the cartoon version of you as well and follow that along.

Heroes Interviews
Masi Oka: Sorry, I just got disconnected. I'm back on. I think it's just absolutely wonderful. When we went to the comic con, we had a screening of the pilot episode and we knew we had something absolutely special and magical way when seeing the fans' reaction and we knew we, you know, we hit it right on the head, you know, and we served the community really well.

And you know, in particular with Hiro being, you know, the comic book enthusiast as he is, you know, he's kind of somewhat the representative for that voice of comic con. And to have him part of a comic book too is just absolutely thrilling, you know, both in support of the character and for myself.

I think it is surreal, you know, because like when you're growing up, you know, you go to bar mitzvahs and you have caricatures of yourself but rarely you have to get a comic book. So to see that in its actuality is absolutely - and (unintelligible) is an amazing artist.

Yeah.

Masi Oka: You know, so...

Tim Kring: And just to give a little spoiler to everybody, the audience should look to the idea of the comic book to play a huge part internally inside the show as well.

I just wanted to ask I really enjoyed the pilot and I'm just wondering is there going to be - you kind of set up this mystery with the professor's father who's gone missing or died perhaps, I'm wondering if the writers have an answer to this and it's something that will be kind of peppered throughout the first season.

Tim Kring: Yeah. That's a very large sort of, you know, thread that's going to kind of go through the show. With the one character, Suresh, Mohinder Suresh, who plays the professor's son, he's on a quest to discover what happened to his father and by extension, what his father was up to. And his father was obviously seeking out and looking for information about these people. And so, it is through that path that the audience gets a tremendous amount of information about what's really happening.

The Suresh character is the one character or one of only two characters show that doesn't have powers. And so, his story is the story of discovery and the story of trying to avenge the father's death and discovery what happened to him and all of that. So that's the big part of the show.

And you mentioned earlier just you're wary of kind of you don't want fans to get frustrated. Is that something that we're going to - fans are going to get sort of at a good pace or is it something that you're really going to be stretched out over a few seasons?

Tim Kring: That particular storyline?

Yeah.

Tim Kring: Well, that particular storyline has, you know, a lot of twists and turns in it. So the idea is that the twists take you, you know, they answer certain questions that open the door and reveal something else. And no, we're committed to the idea that people are not going to be too frustrated, I think.

There's so much happening in each episode that one of the things that we're really finding now that we're putting these shows together in the editing realm of just what a huge meal each episode is -- tonally and story-wise, you're sort of getting everything. They're filled with drama and suspense and humor and melodrama and romance. They're very satisfying. And laced into all of that are these larger plot twists for that greater story of the show.

I was wondering if you could expound a little about what are the joys and the rewards and the perils of writing a serial show for such an ensemble cast. Do you have like the whole story mapped in your head and just paste the narration in chapters or so how will you go about it?

Tim Kring: One of the, you know, the challenges is obviously to keep a lot of stories going at the same time. That's a very, very big challenge. But, you know, one of the fun things is again, we do know where we're going but watching characters develop and taking them in places that even you didn't expect because the room is a very - the writers' room is a very interesting place because ideas morph and bend and become very different things when you start filtering through lots of people's ideas.

And the one frustrating thing about writing a big serialized show is that any change that you come up with has a kind of domino effect so you - it forces you to be very diligent about what you're trying to tell. And balancing how much story with how much character development is also a challenge. But so far, we seem to be finding more sort of treasures out of this than pitfalls.

I've got actually a few questions. I'm wondering first for Tim, how do you balance trying to tell a story that's of interest to a general audience and one that's of interest to comic book and genre fans?

Tim Kring: Well that's, you know, that is something that we've thought a lot about. My feeling is it if you are coming to the show as a pure genre, you know, that's all you want to get out of it, you will be disappointed because there is just sort of too much sort of character and slice-of-life stories to sustain you. So I think that is not going to be as satisfying if you're looking for a heavy-laden special effects show with, you know, purely comic book kind of feel. That's not what the show is. We are, in fact, aiming for a broader audience.

And one of the things that you notice on these larger ensemble shows is that you don't necessarily like all or connect to all the characters. There are usually a couple that you do connect with and that's what keeps you watching. And I think our show probably will have the same effect for the audience that people will find one or two or three characters that they really gravitate toward and they will be watching it for those characters.

And so, my hope is to sort of teach some people who are purely genre viewers, sort of, you know, appeal to them to get on the train for connecting with these characters and their lives and their struggle.

Tim, my second question is you mentioned earlier that you had sort of a crash course in comics and I'm wondering if you can talk more about what comics you might have read as you have been getting the series ready.

Tim Kring: Well, the truth is, the absolute truth is that I have a lot of trouble reading comics. I have a particular type of reading disorder that makes it very difficult for me to read comics. My eye doesn't go in the direction that the dialogue wants it to go and I can't tell whether to go up or down or left or right, and so I find reading comics very frustrating and that is actually, probably at the heart of why I never got into comics as a kid.

So I sort of, you know, learned about it more from talking to all the guys here who are just involved in and have, you know, grown up with them. So, you know, I learned about, you know, all the Frank Miller stuff and the, you know, the Watchman and comics like that we talked about.

But mainly it was sort of what to sort of veer away from, you know, and, you know, well that was done a little too closely in this comic. And I sort of realized that I had ventured into the same territory of somebody else's ideas. It was more just the cautionary stuff, let's stay away from that because that's kind of too much like this.

And then, finally Greg, I've got a question for you. You've mentioned JJ a couple of times in this call and I guess I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about what it's like to work for Tim as opposed to JJ.

Greg Grunberg: Well oddly enough, it's very similar and that started right when I got the - when I read the pilot. I just - I couldn't believe how similar, you know, the quality of the writing was. It just felt like a story, like JJ's stories are just so layered, the characters are so interesting. And just like JJ does, Tim starts with character as the most important thing.

The visual effects, you know, no offense to Masi, but the visual effects only last so long. And, you know, if anybody shows how a character - how you can really care about a character, I mean I love all of these characters, mine especially, but Masi's character is, and the way he plays it, is so honest and so wonderful and you just have a smile on your face watching how excited he gets and that's just how the script is written and how JJ's scripts are written as well.

It's just - it deals with character first. And then, once you, you know, you latch on to these characters, you want to take this ride with them wherever they're going to go. And, you know, JJ amazes, like I said before, you know, those scripts always were just so much fun to read and to, the characters were so much fun to play and that's exactly the same experience that I'm having.

You know, I get a little sentimental and JJ too when I talk to him on the phone. I said the only downside to the show -- the only downside -- is I'm not working with JJ because we would love to work with each other on everything. But then, I get a call from JJ every day, I mean I talk to him all the time, he's my closest friend.

I talked to him this morning and he's like "I'm telling you Heroes is going to be a huge hit." You know, he is just as excited about this as I am. And, you know, I'm again, so incredibly lucky to be a part of a project that has just the same level of quality as the stuff, you know, that JJ writes and that I've been fortunate to be part of before.

What are the chances that you might go and do a cameo on either both of his other shows, Six Degrees or What about Brian?

Greg Grunberg: Well like Tim said, you know, all these characters on the show are connected somehow and there's got to be some sort of cross... Promotions to Six Degrees, maybe we run into each other in New York or something. JJ, you know, has always said that I'm his good luck charm and which is so sweet and that he wants me to be a part of everything.

I had a cameo on the pilot of What About Brian -- a tiny, tiny little almost invisible cameo, if there's such a thing. And I'm not in Six Degrees but they've asked me to possibly do like a radio commercial or something that plays in the background. But I am completely engrossed in this show. I love working on this even, you know, and the quality all around top to bottom.

This crew - Tim's been doing this awhile and like JJ, he's got people that he can count on, people he loves working with, and from Crossing Jordan and Providence, this is one of the best crews I've ever worked with -- all around everybody...

Masi Oka: I think I can second that as well.

Greg Grunberg: Yeah, they're just amazing. It's a machine that, you know, you can count on everyone to do the best job that they possibly can do and they're doing it. And so, you know, right now, I have no interest in doing anything else but this but, you know, you never know. If I can pop my face in and get killed again in Lost, hey, who cares, why not?

Tim Kring: This is Tim, you know, as far as being - Greg being seen on other shows, my feeling is the more people that see Greg, the more people that are going to watch him on Heroes.

Greg Grunberg: Uh-huh.

And Masi, I still haven't had a chance unfortunately to see the pilot, can you tell us a little bit more about what your character story is and what his powers are?

Masi Oka: My character is Hiro Nakamura. He's an office drone in Japan and he's a big comic book enthusiast. He learns that he can bend time and space, so teleportation and chronokinesis, and he's just absolutely exhilarated with the fact that he can do and he believes, you know, that he's - it's been his dream all along.

So he's finally vindicated and he's so happy that he's been chosen. And then, at the end of pilot, he uses - he finally - you finally see him use his power and you see him up here in New York. And that's the beginning of his journey.

I would like to know, first for Tim my question, that the show has many similarities with other shows like Lost or the 4400 and the mystery that took the audience's attention, Lost in that story of ordinary people having special powers like in 4400. And I would like to know what's similar between the shows and what is different, what Heroes brings up new?

Tim Kring: Well, I'm not real familiar with 4400. I'm more familiar with Lost. It becomes harder and harder to create something that isn't similar in some way to something else that's out there. It's just too many things to compete with. But I think once people begin to see this show that question will go away fairly quickly because you'll see that there's a whole other set of questions that are being asked.

Unlike Lost, we don't posit a central questions of, you know, how we're going to get off an island. They're - this show is much more about what it means to each one of these characters to develop these abilities and how they cope with them and what they're meant for and what their purpose is. So it's sort of hard to speak to the show as being similar to other things because I'm so immersed in it being its own thing right now.

I can say that if people compare us to Lost, which is, you know, one of the biggest shows of all time, that's a very, I will take that flatteringly. I know that one of the co-creators of the show, Damon Lindelof and I worked together for three years, worked very closely with one another and talked often about the types of shows that we would want to do. And so, I have to believe there's some cross-pollenization there.

And I would like to know how do you see this show or just think of saving the world, maybe these people that are there who are doing something good for the world and your opinion about this and Greg's and Masi's opinion too.

Tim Kring: Well, I very much wanted to tap into a feeling that I think everybody in the world feels these days that that the world is a very scary and very confusing place for all of us. And I think there is a kind of wish fulfillment out there that somebody, some people among us and could it be you or could it be me or someone you passed on the street who may have an ability to actually do something about these larger problems and I think that's something that people will connect to with.

Masi Oka: Absolutely, I felt... Well, you know, these characters wake up one morning and find out they have superpowers, you know, you really don't need superpowers to be a hero; it is just that realization that you can make a difference in the world. And, you know, it's about ordinary people getting extraordinary abilities and whether that extraordinary ability is just a belief in yourself or, you know, a desire to help others, it's just waking up and realizing that you can be a hero and make a difference for others and I think, you know, it's a great, you know, the show is a great metaphor for what is going on around the world and how, you know, anybody, you or I or anybody, can make a difference in the world.

Greg Grunberg: This is Greg. You know, I'm, I think, one of the fortunate characters or fortunate actors to play a character who, just by definition of what he does, is a hero. I mean he's a cop. Cops, firemen, they're all heroes to me. And so, he's got that under his belt.

And now, but on a bigger scale, I think, you know, to talk about what Tim was talking about is I think people in the world today -- I certainly do -- I want to know at least that there are people out there that you can count on or something out there that you can count on that's not going to disappoint you. I mean there have been so many idols or, you know, people that you look up to and then eventually something happens or, you know, government officials or countries or whatever.

I mean without, you know, being too grandiose about it, I just - I love the aspect that, you know these are ordinary people that hopefully will do good in a way that people can count on them and now okay, everything's going to be fine because there are these people out there protecting us. That's a really great idea.

Tim Kring: Yeah. And this is Tim again. This is their journey from very ordinary to extraordinary people. And so, this particular show, I was very interested in doing a show that started at the very beginning. Most shows start, you know, if you're watching a cop show or a medical show or a lawyer show, they start with people already being cops or already being doctors. This show I wanted to start from the very, very beginning of when people would discover these abilities.

And so, it's very much a journey and the journey of the hero in the classic sense of the term, and we watch their growth and their journey through the course of the show and ultimately, gain this, as I said, kind of wish fulfillment that you or I could be these people.

I would like to ask a question to Tim. In the pilot of the show, the pilot (unintelligible) mentioned that this is first chapter, Chapter 1 or Volume 1 of an ongoing storyline. So how much chapter, how much volume do you plan to do if you have all mapped in your mind and does that mean that the show will change focus with a new chapter?

Tim Kring: Well, yes. The idea is that again, it was to call attention to the idea that this was a saga that starts from the very beginning. And a lot of us in the writers' room talked a lot about borrowing from the idea of Charles Dickens who wrote most of his, you know, most of his great books were done in one-chapter installments for a newspaper and - so readers were sort of forced to read it in small installments.

And this same idea was very fascinating to me -- the idea of doling something out very slowly and deliberately -- the idea that each series, I mean, each season would be kind of its own volume with a bit of an ending, enough of an ending at the end of the season, to launch you into a second volume and a second season.

Now how many volumes we get to do is sort of up to the audience and up to the network. But there is no, I don't have an ending. I have a place where I think it could end but that ending could be stretched if I need it to.

Yeah. And then a question to Masi too: you are working with special effects so I assume you are a big fan of fantasy and science fiction, does that interfere with the fact that your character is a science fiction fan and especially a Star Trek fan, mentioning anything you can about Star Trek, does that influence the writers about making your character a science fiction fan?

Masi Oka: I believe so. I mean I am definitely a big enthusiast of science fiction, special effects, and grew on the stuff. I personally grew up with Japanese manga, =so I know a lot about the manga world.

I'm not as fluent in the comic world. So X-Men references I actually had to do research to make, you know, to find out who Kitty Pryde was and how, you know, what she is in terms of the X-Men world.

So, but, you know, Heroes is a big extension of who I am, you know, as a grander and more, you know, a lot more fun, energetic, you know, persona of an extension of who I am. So I really, really love the character and I'm, you know, I believe the writers are definitely doing an amazing job, you know, writing to Hiro and kind of bringing who I am into the character as well and extending me in terms of being a big comic book enthusiast.

Tim Kring: Yeah. This is Tim. And the character of Hiro, as said earlier, was sort of - it's developed to give voice to, I think, a huge segment of the population in the audience who are watching, not only people who are comic book fans but people who sort of feel themselves trapped in lives that are may be too mundane and too boring for what they feel their purpose is.

And so creating an office worker in Japan who works in a sea of cubicles on the 24th floor of an office building who sees himself as having - or has a fantasy life of himself as a hero with greater purpose, I think it's something that a lot of people can relate to.

This is a question for Tim Kring. Can you tell us about the characters that we may not have seen yet that premiere in Episode 2 or beyond?

Tim Kring: Well, you know, the main one to talk about is Matt Parkman, Greg Grunberg's character who appears in Episode 2, originally intended to appear in the pilot but it was determined that we would shorten the pilot down and air it as a normal hour of television rather than a two-hour so it pushed Greg's story in to the second hour.

And, you know, Matt Parkman, you know, I'll let, actually I'll let Greg talk about that. But let me just say that we are introducing through a (feedback) character, another character into the show, who is an FBI agent played by Clea DuVall, who is on the hunt for a serial killer and this is serial killer is actually going to become a major villain in our show.

Okay. And the question for Greg Grunberg is has your role changed at all from what was in the original pilot that screened at the Comic-Con?

Greg Grunberg: Well it's changed - it's evolved I should say, it hasn't really changed but it's evolved into, I think, a much more critical character in storytelling.

What I love is that he's recruited by this FBI, you know, by the character that Clea plays, Audrey, and they become this team sort of like Mulder and Scully of the X-Files. And what's great is that this side of story, investigating this - the villain and trying to figure out who he is, what his motives are, why these people are being affected, and what's going on, what's great is that the audience will have a lot of these questions and my character is going to discover them and hopefully answer those characters - those questions and be the eyes of, you know, the audience and be just as curious as the audience.

Some of these other characters on the show, most of them, they don't have the ability to really investigate the way mine does. So I love the idea of discovering that I can use my power, you know, for good and exactly how to use it. In a way, what's also great is that this FBI agent is using me, you know, she knows more than she's leading on, she doesn't reveal everything to me and I can't control my powers yet, yet still, you know, we're on the seventh episode and I'm still having a hard time dealing with it. It really plays into exactly what, you know, what Tim talked about which is these people don't, you know, they're dealing with it like anybody else would, waking up and discovering that they have these abilities.

So it's far from being mastered yet. I hope we don't master - I hope my character doesn't get to master his power for a long time to come.

And then finally for Masi, there's an episode coming up entitled Hiros, can you give any hint on what that might be about?

Masi Oka: Hint? Well, you mean what the title is referring to?

Yeah. What is the title referring to?

Masi Oka: Maybe it's like multiplicity where I clone myself like six times.

So I'm from France and I just wanted to know, it's a question to Tim, I'd like to know, Tim, if you ever had the idea of writing a French character for the show with superpowers? Could you please not write him as a villain?

Tim Kring: You know, this is one of the wonderful things about this show is, not to scare and Greg and Masi here, but characters can rotate in and, by extension, characters can rotate out. And we are positing a world where these people are arising all over the, you know, all over the planet. So the thought that one of them can be from France is an absolute possibility. So we are really looking forward to sort of, you know, to creating characters that are (unintelligible). One of the things that I'm fascinated by is the origin story, the beginning.

Tim Kring: And this show allows us to fold an origin story into the show any time we want to. We can literally drop into someone's story at any point along the way and we have plans of doing just that, so...

Greg Grunberg: Hey Tim...

Tim Kring: It's a big possibility.

Greg Grunberg: It's Greg. Don't get any ideas. I'm not going anywhere.

And I'd like to know as well if Greg was as a child a comic book reader.

Greg Grunberg: Actually no, not all. I love the idea - well, I mean I appreciated all of the extensions of comic books, like I love watching TV shows with superheroes and movies with superheroes but I never - I didn't collect comic books and - I mean, MAD Magazine was the closest I came to a comic book. And now I've been, a couple of times, they've done caricatures of me in MAD Magazine both for...

And for Alias. And it's not that flattering at times when you got a big round face. But no, I kind of wish now, seeing how interesting, you know, these stories play out, I kind of wish I did have that as a hobby but I didn't.

I just wanted to ask, you mentioned earlier that it's about a hero's journey? And this reminded me about Joseph Campbell, so I wanted to ask if he played - if his work on mythology played an important part in this and what other historical and mythical motifs will be coming out in the show?

Tim Kring: Well, I did study Joseph Campbell and I chose not to refresh myself on it too much when I did this show. I didn't want to lean too heavily on things that - I didn't want the crutch of leaning too heavily on that. But I was definitely influenced by that. In the writers' room, there's a lot of discussion about Joseph Campbell and a lot of discussion about Greek myth and a lot of discussion about what the journey of the hero is and how they're tempted and why they are tempted and the duality between good and evil and all of that. And it's one of the things that we're really fascinated with.

And Greg brought it up, this idea that all of these people are - they have free will, they are just like any of us. If you find yourself in a part of - in a time in your life when you are desperate or destitute and you have the ability, you suddenly discover that you can walk through walls, well then you may walk through the wall of a bank and rob it and steal money. If you are inclined to do good and you have the ability to hear people's thoughts, then you will do good with that. And it really becomes about free will, which is also a part of the heroes' journey of what do they do when they are suddenly tempted by darker forces.

So yes, the short answer is that we are borrowing sort of whenever we can from larger mythologies, just feeling like those archetypes or something that really connects with (unintelligible).

Heroes Series Premiere will begin Monday Septmember 25 at 8pm on NBC.

Evan Jacobs at Movieweb
Evan Jacobs