[03/12/07 - 06:26 PM]
Live at the Paley Festival: NBC's "Heroes"
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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7:06 p.m.: Festival mainstays Barbara Dixon and William C. Paley are back once again to greet us and intro tonight's moderator, the very chatty Tony Potts ("Access Hollywood").

7:14 p.m.: Hey look - it's creator/executive producer Tim Kring! He quickly intros the episode he's brought along - "Homecoming" - and teases that he's also brought a clip from the yet-to-air 19th episode! I wonder how long it's going to be before somebody here finds a way to put it on YouTube. He also shares the origins of the "Save the Cheerleader. Save the World." campaign: "I think it was probably late October [when] the promo department of NBC came up with a very clever, one line phrase that created something of a phenomenon. And it was never intended by us internally to be a phenomenon. It was literally just a line of dialogue from an episode that we were trying to figure out, when the Hiro from the future comes back and talks to Peter, trying to figure out what it is he was going to say. It was actually one of our writers, Adam Armus, who said, 'Well, basically all he says is - save the cheerleader, save the world.' So we decided we would have to pay this off at some point because it was getting to be quite a big deal... So we decided that it would be episode nine where we would do this rather than waiting 'til the end of the first pod of episodes."

7:57 p.m.: Hooray, it's new footage time! I'll spare you the spoilers - I'm sure they're everywhere at this point if you really want to know. Kudos for Tim and co. for bringing it along.

8:02 p.m.: Tony returns to bring out the panelists - Tim Kring, Santiago Cabrera (Isaac), Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder), Jack Coleman (H.R.G.), Greg Grunberg (Matt), Hayden Panettiere (Claire), Masi Oka (Hiro), Milo Ventimiglia (Peter), Adrian Pasdar (Nathan), Ali Larter (Niki), Noah Gray-Cabey (Micah) and Leonard Roberts (D.L.).

8:05 p.m.: Grunny on upcoming episodes: "I just read episode 22 which just absolutely blew me away and I feel with all confidence that I can say it's going to blow everyone away [and] that's not even the season finale."

8:06 p.m.: Milo describes the "Heroes" drinking game, which was started by their own prop guy. Instructions: drink if Milo fixes his hair, Hiro adjusts his glasses or Mohinder says "my father's research."

8:08 p.m.: Tim on the various twists and turns of his career, which began with an episode of "Knight Rider": "I've had kind of a long career where I've reinvented myself along the way several times. And I think it just comes from a natural kind of, sense of a short attention span. I do something for a while and I start to feel like I used that muscle too much and I want to try something new. And when I did my last show 'Crossing Jordan' it was sort of before these new sort of serialized shows started making a real comeback. There hadn't been serialized shows since 'Dynasty,' 'Dallas' and those shows... But anyway, I was looking around at what was not on this particular network and they didn't have one of these big ensemble serialized dramas. And so I was very interested in trying to tell that kind of storytelling rather than the closed-ended storytelling that you normally do on procedural shows. I was really fascinated by the idea of digging in and telling a much longer story that unfolds slowly and allows you to dig a little deeper into the characters."

8:10 p.m.: Tim on how the show avoids frustrating viewers: "Well we did have the advantage of coming along after some of these shows and seeing some of the frustration level that the audience had with those shows. So we were able to kind of maneuver our show in a slightly different way. We also did not start with a single premise and a closed sort of idea [like] being on an island. Ours was a much bigger premise and much broader premise which I think allowed us to avoid some of those pitfalls."

8:16 p.m.: Ali on her landing the role of Niki: "I remember reading it and it was, it said, 'Niki Sanders - internet stripper with a heart.' And I was in! No, this was, it was a new process for me and you know, I read the script [and] I loved what a complicated woman she was. And I hadn't had a chance to play that kind of character before so I was really excited just to get the chance to go out for it. And when I actually went through the process, I had the stomach flu. My mother had to drive me to the audition. So I just put all of that in the role and had to work for it."

8:17 p.m.: Adrian on his casting: "I signed on for this, I thought it was called 'Heroes.' I found out through the course of it, it's turned into 'Survivor.'" Tim later adds: "Both Milo and Adrian were [cast] late in the process. That particularly pairing of brothers was probably the most difficult part to cast because of the chemistry and because of the dynamics between them. So it was a complicated role to [cast]."

8:18 p.m.: Masi on how he came to be Hiro: "This is a guy I could totally relate to. And you had to be fluent in Japanese, it was comedic and had ample like, extended experience in American television. I'm like, 'This is such a niche role. If not this, what else am I going to do?'"

8:20 p.m.: Grunny gives us his story... hey, he already told it to us back in October!

8:24 p.m.: Jack on his H.R.G. audition: "I did wear glasses, my own real glasses. They were not horn-rimmed..."

8:26 p.m.: Tim on how Sendhil's casting led to changing the role of Mohinder, which was originally conceived as much older: "This is when casting is really fascinating. When somebody comes in and they're able to change the whole sort of dynamic of what the character is. And what it ended up doing was allowing us to have a much more I think interesting trajectory for the character - making it about his father's death, the avenging of his father's death and his relationship with his dead father and all that stuff. We were able to add all that because of, basically a fluke of the wrong guy walking in at the wrong time." Jack eggs Sendhil on to say, "My father's research." He does, and sure enough the cast all drinks from their water bottles.

8:30 p.m.: Grunny on his initial reaction to the completed pilot: "I remember watching the pilot with [D.L.] And the two of us were like... okay... [Laughs.] And you know, by the way, you do a pilot and the pilot gets picked up, you know, it was nerve racking. Like because we thought, 'Well, okay we're cut out of the show.'"

8:31 p.m.: Jack on the transition from pilot to series: "Pilots are often weird though. They're often not the best episode even though many times it's the most time and money spent [on it]. And the writing was of course crackerjack but the actors often don't sort of find their legs until the third, fourth episode, where you sort of stop auditioning at some point. Almost any pilot, go back to any pilot you can think of and you will see a bunch of nervous actors trying not to get fired."

8:33 p.m.: Ali on playing Niki and Jessica: "When I read the pilot I didn't realize though that there was going to be kind of two personalities. So when we first, when I went in with the writers we talked about it. I was really struck with this fear because I was thinking I was... I wasn't sure it was something I could handle. And when I started reading the scripts and I felt like I was really surrounded by a team. And that I think was the most incredible thing is that, you know, I put myself out there. I feel protected by these writers and by the forces that really take on our show. So for me originally it was very scary but I feel like they're really taking care of me. So I put myself out there. And I also really believe on this show, if it's not working it's not going to make it on the air. And as an actor that gives you so much freedom because you can go for it and know that if that something doesn't match, it's not going to make it. So for me it's just been incredible - it's pushing me, it's scared me, it's challenged me and it's really, it's been great."

8:35 p.m.: Adrian on his inaugural flying - and landing - experience: "The first time I did it out in the desert I did land like that and I think the director kind of looked at me like, 'What are you doing?' I said, 'I don't have super feet.' I wanted to have like bugs in my teeth. They said no to that. But I got away with my feet skidding on the ground and hurting. I thought that was... you know, any time in a show like this, the writers will tell you that first and foremost - you want to counter the unbelievably aspect of it, the superhero aspect of it with reality."

8:38 p.m.: Time for Q&A. Someone asks Tim if there's an endgame in place should the ratings go south and the show is prematurely canceled: "One of the things that you will see when you watch the rest of the first season is that the sort of shape of the show and structure of the show is fairly different from a show like 'Lost.' We set up kind of a central dilemma or a prophecy, this apocalyptic event that's going to happen and we address that in the course of this first season and wrap up that story and move on to volume two of our series... and it will have its own set of, you know, dilemmas and questions and all that. It'll have, you know, maybe some different bad guys, some different ideas attached to it. But at the end of volume two, you wrap that one up and you can move on to volume three. So there is a sense that you can jump on or jump off, I guess if you want, after you've seen one of these sort of closed-ended stories. There's continuing, obviously continuing characters, continuing ideas and continuing stories. But a central theme and a central idea and a central storyline will be wrapped up within the course of each one of these."

8:40 p.m.: Tim on creating the show despite having limited influence by comic books: "I actually sort of came at it just from the idea of character. I thought of the characters first and then backed into what I thought their power would be. And I sort of stumbled around on some of them until I landed on an idea but, you know, you take for instance, in terms of that, Niki Sanders' character. I wanted to do a story about a single mother that was stretched really thin. She was trying to make ends meet, had a husband who was not in the picture, raising a child who was an extraordinary kid who she couldn't quite sort of keep up with, trying to make the rent and in trouble with people that she owed money to. And I literally started thinking about, that power originally was the idea of being in two places at the same time. I had this idea of a kind of doppelganger character. So that's sort of a classic example of how I back into the character. Masi's character for instance, I wanted to do a character that was trapped in a life that was not of his own desire, so much so that he's, when we first meet him, he's in sea of cubicles that just goes on forever and ever. And I thought that an interesting power for somebody who felt trapped and confined in a life that they didn't want to be in was the ability to transport themselves out of that life somehow, which lead me to the idea of teleportation. So I sort of came at each one with the idea of who they were and what their need was, what their desire was."

8:43 p.m.: Tim on mapping out the show's storylines: "I had big kind of tent pole ideas of what I wanted to do in the first season. I knew what the main story was, how it would resolve at the end. But in terms of the intricacies of where it's going, the one thing that you realize pretty quickly when you do any television show is that you can eat through story really quickly. 23 hours of story is actually a lot of story to tell. And sometimes if you know exactly where you're going, the chances are that you will actually a lot sooner than you think you will. You can eat through what you think is 18 episodes of story in nine episodes. So you also want to, when you do series TV, is you want to leave yourself open to the organic nature of the process, that things speak to you and the show starts to sort of speak to you in a way and tell you which was it wants to go. Things like chemistry between characters you have to be very fluid with. You'll cast two people to have some sort of conflict, some sort of romance or some interaction and you'll realize, well, that's not really playing now. They're not playing it as conflict, it's playing more like romance. Let's go with that direction with them. Anybody who says they know exactly where they're going, especially on a story as big and complicated as this, is either lying or a fool."

8:46 p.m.: Jack on what H.R.G.'s real name should be: "I always like the idea of Anthony because then I could be Tony Bennett."

8:52 p.m.: Tim on why he decided to not have Isaac's character saw off his hand, as was the case in the original pilot: "Because each story was pretty much leaving off where the other one left off, or [picked up] right where the other left off, we realize that we weren't going to span that much time in the course of a series in terms of, you know, real time for these characters. And the chopping off of a hand was such a giant injury that we thought the character wouldn't be able to do anything else."

8:53 p.m.: Someone asks the cast the million dollar question, as in it's been asked a million times - if they could have a real superpower, what would it be? Ugh. Wake me up when this is over. I think the cast feels the same way. Jack gives a great answer though: "I always thought being invisible would be cool but I was invisible for most of the '90s."

8:59 p.m.: Tim on the, at times, gorish aspects of the show: "We have sort of, kind of self regulated internally on the show for all sorts of reasons. One, you know, when you make these episodes you make them very quickly, especially the post-production. By the time we got to this episode, episode nine, we were running 11 episodes in a row and so the post-production on this episode was insanely short and you're looking at special effects literally days before or hours sometimes before you're actually locking and airing the episode. And one of the things that can happen is in that process it can become more violent looking than you had thought because special effects guys love to make things gory. So it can end up looking more violent than you really thought. What ended up happening was we didn't realize that as many families would be watching the show, with kids, with their kids. And just looking at it I think internally a lot of us started to in the editing room just begin to think that well, maybe we have to pick and choose when we want, you know, our violent moments. I kind of like the comic book aspect of some of the violence and we try to do it with that wink and that nod to the audience. But the answer is that we're sort of self regulating internally."

9:01 p.m.: That's it folks! The marathon continues tomorrow.


  [march 2007]  


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