After a shortened second season and nine months off the air, NBC's hit "Heroes" returns September 22nd with a new volume entitled "Villains." With big expectations in the air for critics and fans alike, creator Tim Kring and Zachary Quinto (a.k.a. uber-villain Sylar) had a lot to tell our Jim Halterman about how the new season hopes to find the show (and all our favorite heroes) back on track.
One of the first goals that Kring discussed was the fact that with the new season "we didn't want to drag a lot of story behind us. We didn't want to feel like you had to have watched two years of this show to catch up. So we wanted to answer things really quickly so that you could move forward on this volume and have a kind of clean path in front of you." The "Villains" volume, which is thirteen episodes long, also comes with the promise, Kring says, "[that] literally 95% of the questions that are posed in the beginning of the volume will be answered by the end of the volume."
Quinto also chimed in about the new season by saying, "I think the scripts this season are just more exciting and more action-packed and more dynamic than ever. I mean, I think it just keeps getting better and... every time I open a script it's truly a thrill."
After the writers strike stopped any momentum that he was building, Kring likened the second season of "Heroes" to "watching a movie and having the projector break 40 minutes into it." He further reveals, "Season Three was really going to be contained within the body of Season Two. So the extent of a character like Sylar who spent the first volume of Season Two without his powers, in the subsequent volumes he would've gotten those powers... back and then gone on a series of adventures."
As frustrating as the strike was, Kring managed to see a somewhat positive side to it. "The silver lining was it allowed [the writers] a little of a break from the creative, day-to-day of the show that had been pretty relentless for two years. With any creative endeavor... you absolutely need some time away to reassess and to think about what to do next and to sort of assess what you've done well and what you want to improve on."
As Kring stated, Quinto's Sylar may have spent much of last season's episodes powerless but judging from the season premiere and what he does when he gets cheerleader Claire alone, he's definitely fully recovered. In explaining the dark side of his character, Quinto feels that "Sylar's evil is rooted in a great humanity and in a lot of smallness and a feeling of a sort of emptiness. I don't really look at it as how evil could he possibly get. I sort of look at it like what he has in front of him and the choices that he makes in order to seize his opportunities or... [his] constantly wrestling with the desire to feel special, the desire to feel valid, the desire to feel viable."
Quinto, who is theatrically trained and also taking on the high profile role of Spock in J.J. Abrams new "Star Trek" feature film, shared his feelings on going deeper and deeper into the world of science fiction. "The world of 'Heroes' is incredibly heightened and there's something very theatrical about it. So while I never really expected it, it doesn't necessarily surprise me now that I'm ensconced in it." Quinto also added that the fans are definitely a plus when it comes to his job. "It's really an exciting group of fans and so I feel like that's something else that is an added bonus to the whole thing. It's like probably the most ardent group of people that you could ever be working for in terms of fans and their enthusiasm for the stories that you're telling."
With the marketing campaign for this new volume touting that good will battle evil, Kring addressed the foundation of this on-going war with the "Heroes" characters. "What was built into the premise is this idea that these are ordinary people so to the extent that they... make decisions that are based on who they are and what circumstances they are or find themselves in, that determines whether they will be good or evil. If you are predisposed to be good and you have a superpower, then you'll use it for something good. If you're predisposed to be bad... then you will use it for something evil. And so it was kind of always built into the premise that... our core group of people would be tempted by the circumstances they were in."
Kring promises that the characters will not only be involved in a good versus evil battle with other characters but often the conflict will come within themselves. In initially talking about Sylar, he says, "the quest with this character is to continue to play off of the duality of good and evil that I think has been at the core of a lot of characters of the show and will certainly become more and more thematic in this volume, 'Villains,' where so many of our characters will be faced with these choices of who are they really and what is their basic nature." One final tease, without giving too much away, is "we are going to places in this particular volume with Sylar that will, I think, cause the audience to be really torn as to how they feel about this guy."
Anyone familiar with the series is aware that there are a multitude of characters to service and the fans or critics have not always welcomed the bringing in of new characters. Kring promises that, "this season we are not really introducing any new characters that have their own storylines. We are concentrating very much on the core characters that we've had for two seasons now." He adds that, "the difference in this volume is [the characters] are all feeding one big, giant story." Quinto adds that, "I think our show does a remarkable job of tracking all the characters and then sort of bringing them back around to one another and dovetailing the stories into each other. And for a cast as large as ours, I think all of my fellow actors would agree that each of us get a significant amount in all the episodes that we're in to chew on � you know, that there's never a feeling that one storyline is suffering in favor of another."
Also willing to face up to the fact that critics were quite hard on "Heroes" last season, Kring offers up his take on the begrudging. "That is always the nature of something that hits in a big way, in a very zeitgeist kind of way. It's very hard to be shiny and new all the time." Kring offered his thoughts on why things were judged the way they were last season by laying out that, "in the first season, we took about eight or nine episodes before the characters ever crossed paths with one another. And if you stuck with it, you were rewarded to see where that story went. In the second season, there were 13 episodes that will never be seen. And so I think it was obviously very hard to judge it as a whole without literally over half of it never being seen. So, you know, that's kind of all I can say about it."
Finally Quinto was able to compare Sylar and Spock and how he's approaching playing both characters. "I think there's elements of the characters that echo each other but I think they echo each other from very different, opposite ends of the spectrum. Each of the characters employs a stillness and a sort of rich internal point of view that informs the way that they behave and the way that they relate to people around them. And it's great fun to have characters that are rich and that are full of challenges and full of rewards." From an actor's perspective, then, Quinto adds, "I don't really approach a character as to whether or not it's good or bad. I just approach a character as to where it lives in me."
"Heroes" returns to NBC on September 22 at 8:00/7:00c with a one-hour recap followed by two new back-to-back episodes.