Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Heroes" - The Season One Commentary

I'm posting this even though I haven't watched the whole season of Heroes yet. Yes, call me very VERY slow...we've only watched until Episode 7. We just don't have the time to watch this, what with work and the other stuff we need to do, but I know eventually we'll get to watch the series in full sooner or later.

So I'm just posting this here...this is from Wizard Universe and was also printed in the recent Wizard magazine, but I have NOT read anything because I don't want to be spoiled. :p

Series creator Tim Kring, cast and crew spill the beans on the biggest shockers, cliffhangers and secrets behind the making of Season 1

By Kiel Phegley

Posted August 27, 2007 8:55 AM

It was never supposed to happen like this.

Even in an era where large ensemble casts and high-concept dramas dominate network television, NBC’s “Heroes” was far from a sure hit. Built on the archetypes of the comic book genre and accompanied by a large cast and special effects that screamed “expansive budget,” the series leapt from risky venture to commercial phenomenon almost overnight, thanks to a reputation for constantly delivering shocking payoffs along with its ingrained, season-long mysteries.

“I think people in my position would love to be able to say, ‘Yeah, it’s all worked out in my head, every ounce of it, but that’s really being disingenuous because you can never really be prepared for how much story a show like this can eat up,” explains creator Tim Kring, on a brief break from his intense days of scriptwriting and casting for the show’s second season. “In a lot of ways I have to admit, looking back at Season 1, there was a tremendous amount that went right.”

But while fans will have to wait until September to see if Kring and company can top perfection in Season 2, the DVD collection of Season 1 will hit on Aug. 28 with a slew of extras and features. In the meantime, Wizard got the creative forces behind “Heroes” to reminisce on some fan-favorite Season 1 moments, revealing how there was a method to their madness, why fake blood is really, really nasty and teasing a little about the next season!

(Episode 1, “Genesis”)

With one strained look of total concentration, mild-mannered Japanese office worker Hiro Nakamura is teleported halfway across the globe to Times Square in New York City. Hiro’s elated cry was a refreshing moment of joy in the pilot, making Masi Oka a superstar overnight.

KRING: We filmed this on the same day we shot Peter [Milo Ventimiglia] falling off the rooftop. We did it on top of a parking lot in downtown Los Angeles with a green screen, and it was done late in the day with just two very quick shots that took only about 15 minutes to do. We could only do a limited sort of size on Hiro against the green screen and then with that, we put a composite of footage from Times Square that we had gone out to shoot, a 360-degree plate of Times Square.

(Episode 1, “Genesis”)

In one of the series’ many first-episode fake-outs, sultry website stripper Niki Sanders (Ali Larter) is revealed to be no mere adult entertainer but a struggling single mother with a super secret.

LARTER: [Stripping on camera is] absolutely difficult and makes you completely uncomfortable. You worry about your dad, your grandpa. But on the other side, it’s sexy and it’s fun, you know? There are two sides of the line you have to balance: One side is serving the character and the other is making sure it doesn’t get gratuitous.

(Episode 1, “Genesis”)

In the first of many head-spinning “Heroes” cliffhangers, Peter Petrelli jumps from the roof of a Manhattan building convinced he’ll fly—only to be saved by the aerial abilities of his brother Nathan (Adrian Pasdar)!

KRING: We hung both Milo and Adrian [Pasdar] on these harnesses and shot them while they were about 10 feet off of the ground. We shot up using wide-angle lenses to make it look like we were shooting really high up. Then it wasn’t until after we got picked up for a series that we went back and did one day on a green-screen stage and we got close-ups and performance stuff there. So a lot of stuff like that was added literally two months later.

VENTIMIGLIA: I love doing that stuff. There were some things they wouldn’t let me do for insurance purposes, but I would have been jumping off that 15-story building into an airbag the size of a Volkswagen if I could.

(Episode 1, “Genesis”)

Comic fans know Tim Sale as the award-winning penciler often paired with “Heroes” writer/producer Jeph Loeb for hits like Superman for All Seasons, but the show introduced his work to millions of viewers every week as he “ghost painted” for Isaac Mendez (Santiago Cabrera).

LOEB: [Kring] called and asked whether or not there was an artist who could do the things he required, which was someone who could work quickly and who could draw on a large canvas and work in various mediums—pencil, ink, paint. There really was only one choice, and that was Tim [Sale]. So that was sort of my first real contribution, finding Timmy, and putting the two Tims together. The world will never be the same.

SALE: I’d never been asked to do anything like this before and thought it was exciting. I remember telling Jeph it’d make a cool comic, and depending on how that was set up, it could be something I’d really like to draw. It reminded me a lot of his scripts with some of the dialogue.

(Episode 1, “Genesis”)

At least four of the main characters are tied together when they each observe a solar eclipse as it occurs in the daytime sky. Referenced even in the show’s logo, the eclipse has significance in the “Heroes” universe, though it hasn’t yet been revealed why.

WRITER/PRODUCER JESSE ALEXANDER: The eclipse is one of those secrets that we’ll hold onto. I wouldn’t be surprised if Season 2 started with an eclipse. There’s a scientific and spiritual significance for the eclipse to the specific “Heroes” storyline.

(Episode 2, “Don’t Look Back”)

“Heroes” took an early gamble in content by centering the thrust of its entire first season on a possible nuclear explosion in New York City, an undoubtedly sensitive subject in the post-9/11 world.

KRING: You never know in your mind how it’s going to look, and then you get the special effects back. When we first saw the explosion roll across New York, we all sat around and looked at it and then we looked at each other and said, “Man, I had no idea it was going to look that real.” When you come up with it in the script it’s just an idea and you don’t really have to embrace it that much, but when you actually see it done and done well you realize how chilling it is. There is a little bit of a sobering quality about it. Suffice it to say, though, that I don’t know that we want to skew it that close to reality from here on out. That kind of an event is charged for people.

(Episode 2, “Don’t Look Back”)

The first “appearance” of the show’s main villain Sylar was no more than a bloody skullcap found by Hiro during his first sojourn to the future, but before long the “Heroes” baddie would be heralded by bloody scribblings and stuntmen in shadowy baseball caps to ratchet up the suspense.

KRING: I knew [Sylar] would be a better character if we built him up off screen for several episodes so that you were waiting and waiting and waiting. It was a little bit of a logistical nightmare to try and hide his identity, but we knew the character didn’t appear until Episode 8, so that meant we really couldn’t start casting until close to that.

(Episode 3, “One Giant Leap”)

Quickly earning a reputation as a show chock full of shock endings, “Heroes” seemingly killed off unbreakable cheerleader Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere), only to have her healing power revive her on a morgue slab—with her chest opened up mid-autopsy!

PANETTIERE: It was a freezing-cold steel table. I had this piece on top of me that was really heavy and they kept spraying it and it was wet. The [fake] blood was trickling down the sides and it’s made of corn syrup and so you can imagine how sticky it gets—It never fully hardens and it’s ripping the little tiny peach fuzz [hair] off your skin. It’s not pretty. But that scene [in the autopsy] I was in practically nothing, just a bra and underwear on this cold metal table. There was gobs of blood and it was not fun. My hair was pink for a while.

(Episode 3, “One Giant Leap”)

The mystery of Sylar is heightened when Mohinder (Sendhil Ramamurthy) discovers the bloody scrawlings in a closet of Sylar’s apartment, then later in the episode, when Parkman confronts Sylar and shoots him several times, the shadowy figure (his identity has still not been revelead) rises unharmed and escapes.

LOEB: Sylar was still evolving, and we liked the idea of keeping him hidden in the shadows. The big plus was that Sylar became even more larger than life by keeping him hidden. Viewers started to speculate that it was a cast member. There were lots of votes for Nathan, some for “Niki’s other personality” and even Claire because she could regenerate after the bullet wounds—ha! Fun fact: The bloody writing on the wall was, in fact, from the pilot and we restaged the scene to make it look like it was happening with Eden [Nora Zehetner] there. If you look carefully the clothing that Mohinder is wearing in the apartment changes slightly when he goes into the closet. Clever us!

(Episode 5, “Hiros”)

With the series’ first truly surreal use of Hiro’s time-travel abilities, a samurai warrior-fied, badass, future version of Hiro appears to Peter in the present to explain he must “save the cheerleader” to save the world, sparking fan interest and a national catchphrase.

WRITER MICHAEL GREEN: This idea of Hiro from the future coming to motivate Peter at this critical moment, it felt so right, just insane enough to work. We spent a lot of time talking about exactly what Future Hiro could say to Peter to get him on the right track. We knew it needed to be tied to rescuing cheerleader Claire from Sylar. The actual line came from Adam Armus, a wonderful writer/producer, who was going over the scene again and sort of shorthanded Future Hiro’s message to Peter using those words. We all heard it come out of his mouth and sat there digesting in silence. We realized that was it. That was the message.

(Episode 8, “Seven Minutes to Midnight”)

Zachary Quinto makes his first official appearance as Sylar, albeit in shadow as he sits in the corner of the Burnt Toast Diner, closely observing Hiro and his next intended victim, Charlie (Jayma Mays).

QUINTO: For the first couple of days when I showed up to work, people were like, “Wait, you’re the real guy? You’re really playing this character?” I was like, “Yeah, I really am.” I think there was a fair amount of expectation of like, “Who is this going to be?” They set that up for the audience, and I think that was also built in for the cast and the crew as well. It was like, “Who is this shadowy figure who is going to emerge and try to kill us all?”

(Episode 8, “Seven Minutes to Midnight”)

Viewers who were cheering at the introduction of Hiro love interest Charlie Andrews got a gut-wrenching reality check when the time-traveling salaryman was unable to save the waitress from her fate as a victim of Sylar.

KRING: It was less about “dead is dead” and more about the time travel aspect of it. We introduced this idea of time traveling into the show, and if done wrong that could be something that could be a real crutch and lead us to basically lazy storytelling. So we wanted to say pretty emphatically up front that the laws of time travel were not going to allow us to be able to go back and just undo things. It had to be done with a character you really cared about to drive the point home. I have to admit that people were really shocked that we killed off this character that was so lovable.

(Episode 9, “Homecoming”)

One of the major turning points for “Heroes” in terms of plot and sheer action, the producers had to juggle delivering thrills as Sylar and Peter square off over the life of Claire and delivering on the promised visuals teased in Tim Sale’s “Isaac” paintings of the event.

SALE: This is an actual high school in Valencia, Calif. It’s this very Nazi-looking building with lots of angles. As soon as they said they wanted an overhead shot, I could see this sort of Nosferatu look and it was really freaky. I think it came out well.

PANETIERRE: I remember having to hit the perfect turn for this pose that [Tim Sale] had me in, which was not the most comfortable thing.

(Episode 10, “Six Months Ago”)

In an episode full of cool reveals, viewers learned Niki’s raging alter-ego “Jessica” was more than the stripping mother’s second personality—she was her dead sister!

PRODUCER/WRITER ARON ELI COLEITE: We always knew we were going to use this episode to reveal where the name Jessica came from. There were lots of incarnations of the story. We even got pretty dark at times. The original pitch was that Niki was abused by her father and Jessica was the fractured split personality that took the abuse. We felt Jessica being Niki’s dead sister added another layer the previous story didn’t have. It was a happy solution that came out of many discussions.

(Episode 11, “Fallout”)

Eden’s plan to kill Sylar backfires as the villain gains the upper hand, intending to kill her and absorb her power of persuasion. But Eden shoots herself in the head before he can get to her, shocking audiences.

LOEB: When we created Eden we knew she was going to go the way of Sylar. But it was always a question of when. I actually had the good fortune (or bad depending on how you look at it) of writing that scene and I have to hand it to Nora [Zehetner], she was really great about being the first really big death on the show. It’s never easy to lose cast, but it was important to build up Sylar’s threat. Her death was intended to be heroic and I’m glad it played out as such.

(Episode 11, “Fallout”)

Fans felt the romantic heat when Claire Bennet met with her own personal hero Peter Petrelli, but little did anyone know the cheerleader was crushing on her own uncle! Eww!

KRING: That was fairly intentional. Now, what we didn’t know was that Milo and Hayden would have that kind of chemistry on the set together. I mean, you never really know that going into it. Listen, from day one I knew Nathan was Claire’s father, ergo, Peter was her uncle. I always found it a little creepy the audience thought they were going to get together, not only because he was her uncle, but also because we’re playing Claire as 16 years old and Peter is somewhere in his late 20s! Just internally here, there were a lot of people who were like, “We’ve got to get them together.” I was like, “We can’t do that. There are laws against that.”

PANETTIERE: What is it with Claire and Peter Petrelli? I’m sensing some bonus scenes on the DVD. Dream sequence.

(Episode 12, “Godsend”)

In an attempt to find a method for controlling his empathic powers, Peter forges a friendship with the invisible hero Claude (“Doctor Who’s” Christopher Eccleston), who reluctantly agrees to mentor the younger Petrelli.

KRING: I said I wanted [Claude] to be British. I don’t know why I kept seeing him in my mind as British and why he lived in New York. I thought we could figure that out later on, but I wanted this kind of misanthropic, Fagin kind of character. He’s this creature that walks among us, but really isn’t among us and has disdain for all of humanity because he can see all of their foibles because he’s invisible. As soon as I said “British,” our casting people said, “Well, Christopher Eccleston happens to have just moved to Los Angeles and has relocated from London and looking into working in America and is available.” Then it just happened that he had this whole “Dr. Who” past I had never seen before. That happens all the time with casting though.

GREEN: Christopher Eccleston gets all the credit for making Claude the badass he is, probably because he’s a ninja in his own right. We were already hoping to get him around the time his scenes were getting written, so we definitely had his voice in mind. Luckily, his voice can make anything sound cool.

(Episode 13, “The Fix”)

After shadowy hints and an intense kidnapping of his own son, Hiro’s father was revealed to be played by “Star Trek” star George Takei, who dug into the part of disapproving patriarch with a steely cold attitude.

KRING: The joke in the writers’ room was, “Wouldn’t it be great if George Takei could be Hiro’s father?” But then we never officially pursued it at all, and we put out a call for the part, and George actually just came in on a casting call and read for us! We were all prepared, when we heard he was coming in, to be sort of disappointed that our idea was probably not going to work. We didn’t know whether he spoke Japanese and all of that stuff, and sure enough, when we looked at him on tape with all of the other guys we were like, “Wait a minute, he’s not only the guy we wanted, but he’s absolutely the best guy for the part.”

(Episode 16, “Unexpected”)

Claire discovers her father, H.R.G. (Jack Coleman), has been erasing the memory of his own wife, Sandra (Ashley Crow) through use of the Haitian (Jimmy Jean-Louis) all along.

LOEB: It was such a horrible thing to do, but that’s the power of H.R.G.’s character, and in particular, Jack Coleman’s perfomance. You love the guy, you hate the guy. We brought a lot of that back in [the next episode], “Company Man,” because it was a chance to explain himself. In the end, he really is a sh-- for doing that to his wife, but we hoped folks would understand he never intended to hurt her. The Haitian’s power—like all of the cast—has to be used sparingly, and never as a writer’s crutch. It has to feel like it’s used only when needed. Look for Season 2 to shed some new light on the relationship between H.R.G. and his wife.

(Episode 16, “Unexpected”)

Stan Lee makes a surprise cameo as the driver of a bus on which Hiro is riding.

LOEB: I had written the script for [this episode] already when [fellow writers] Jesse Alexander, Joe Pokaski, Aron Eli Coleite and I went to see “An Evening with Stan Lee and Joe Quesada” at UCLA [last December]. I had met Stan a few times and introduced the other writers. By the end of the night, we were all so charmed by how quick he was and we’re such geeks, that we all had the same idea: Let’s get him in the show. I knew that “Unexpected” had a bus driver so I hoped Stan would do it. I talked to [Tim] Kring that night and he said, “Set it up!” I called Stan the next day and all he said was he couldn’t do it if it was nine pages of script! I told him it was one line with three words. Somehow, he turned it into six words and two lines, but that’s Stan! He was sensational and a real thrill for me.

(Episode 17, “Company Man”)

In an episode that provided a lot of insight into Noah “H.R.G.” Bennet, it was revealed he used to be partnered with the invisible Claude, that he works for Hiro’s father and “the company,” and that he’s actually a good father who’s just trying to hide his daughter Claire’s ability for her protection.

KRING: The great thing in retrospect is that it was Jack Coleman’s ability to play both sides of his personality with the same amount of passion. So, he was equally a loving and caring father as he was a hardened, immoral killer. He did both of those things with an equal amount of passion and that made it easy to flip that character once we got there.

COLEMAN: I love the fact [that H.R.G.] could be playing any side at any time. That just makes it more fun to play. I think it makes it more fun to watch, even though people feel like, “I need to know!” You don’t need to know really, in a way, and it’s kind of cool to see that like any human being, you can be good and bad. I think that’s also more fun anyway.

(Episode 18, “Parasite”)

The final piece of the conspiracy surrounding the infamous “company” that had been pulling so many strings fell into place when it was revealed one of the chief conspirators was Nathan and Peter’s mother, Angela Petrelli (Cristine Rose).

ROSE: It’s like a surprise package every time I open up that script. I got a little bit of a clue in the fall when it was alluded to I would be a little more interested in Nathan’s political career than might normally be expected from a mother, and I went to the back for a while. I didn’t know if I was going to come to the forefront, and then it was terribly exciting that I am in fact in league with Linderman [Malcolm McDowell]. At the beginning, I was thinking it was my husband who had the powers. I don’t think we’re evil. I think we’re really out to save the world, but we’re just a little misguided.

(Episode 20, “Five Years Gone”)

The event fans had been waiting months for hit with head-spinning moment after moment. When Hiro travels five years into the future, he encounters twisted versions of the Heroes, each one adversely affected by their dangerous new surroundings, including Sylar’s usurping of Nathan as president!

KRING: It was logistically a very difficult episode to break. Once we started thinking about the odd pairings of people—the idea that Hiro was now working with HRG and that Peter and Niki were now a couple—it made it a lot easier to figure out how these people would suddenly fit in. That helped the whole idea that the future has to be stopped.

(Episode 20, “Five Years Gone”)

Just when the writers of “Heroes” had fans thinking that maybe New York did indeed have to explode to save the world, the rug was pulled out from under them when it was revealed Nathan’s future presidential self was a shapeshifting Sylar all along.

PASDAR: I thought it was a great opportunity to play another actor’s [role]. I’ve always loved to do that, and that morning was the culmination of a lot of work Zachary [Quinto] and I had done up to that point. He came to the set. He wasn’t on call, but he came anyway and talked to me in my trailer and just whispered the lines in my ear for about a half-hour and then I just watched him walk around and I followed him. He blocked the scene and so to be able to take on his mannerisms and such, it was a real joy.

(Episode 21, “The Hard Part”)

The catalyst for the “Heroes” season finale epic comes alive when Sylar accidentally kills his mother before realizing his own destructive potential. Gaining visions of blowing up New York and the presidential switcheroo of “Five Years Gone,” Sylar becomes more than a threat to the Heroes—now he’s a threat to the world.

COLEITE: This story sparked a lot of internal debate. A lot of people wondered if Sylar, the ultimate killer, could have a shred of humanity left, a hint of regret. For me, this story was about Sylar ridding himself of that last spark of humanity. He sought redemption. He thought maybe he could be normal. But the monster was stronger than the man, and he killed the last thing grounding him to his old life: his mother. With her death, Gabriel Gray was dead, and Sylar was the only one left.

(Episode 21, “The Hard Part”)

Molly Walker (Adair Tishler), who was targeted by Sylar earlier in the season, was almost an afterthought when first introduced. However, young Molly’s role proved integral when she was unveiled as the hero “tracking device.”

KRING: To be honest, we actually thought her re-entry into the show was going to be a lot sooner, and it got pushed back. While we knew she was coming back, in all seriousness and candidness we didn’t know it was going to be that late in the series. I would pay some attention to Molly Walker and what she represents as an important clue as to where [Season 2] is going. That’ll be revealed pretty much in the season opener, but this idea that Molly Walker and Suresh’s [Sendhil Ramamurthy] sister had similar ailments is a key part of where this story is going in the second season.

(EPISODE 22, “Landslide”)

When Hiro encounters his father again in the intense buildup to the season finale, Mr. Nakamura gives his son a crash course in swordplay that makes the timid office drone so badass it had fans asking, “Did Hiro freeze time to train for months?”

KRING: In reality it was a kind of crash course in swordplay. You’re buying the filmic conceit of a long montage that takes place over a day or however long they actually spent in there when he was learning the moves, but the continual training of Hiro takes place in the beginning of Season 2. We see a lot of that. That idea is deepened and played out much more at the beginning of the second season.

(Episode 23, “How to Stop an Exploding Man”)

In the season finale, young Molly Walker alluded to a heretofore unseen and unheard of “boogeyman”—who is worse than Sylar!

LOEB: Molly’s “mystery man” will be dealt with right in the first episode of Season 2. As to revealing who he is and what his power is? Sure! He’s…hang on, there’s someone at the office door! Oh, look it’s the Haitian! Wonder what he wants? Uhnn...What were we talking about??

(Episode 23, “How to Stop an Exploding Man”)

Viewers caught up in the Sylar square-off to determine the fate of New York City at season’s end may have missed the fact the finale marked the first time that a large number of the main cast appeared together in the same scene.

KRING: [The main cast] were pretty much very isolated from one another [since] the filming of the pilot. I mean, they all met before and they all met at press events, but they didn’t really have a chance to work together. In fact, it wasn’t really even until [this episode] that most of the cast was there together. Even the ones that weren’t there, a lot of them just came down to the set just to hang out with their friends. But you had moments in that season ender when people had scenes together for the very first time.

LARTER: It was great. I mean, we all love each other, and I think it’s really rare that you end up getting this quality of a show and a lot of people that really love coming to work. We’ve all found an amazing synergy. Every actor is coming to the set and bringing it. I just feel like everyone is really on their game.

ALEXANDER: [The ending] will allow us to reset for Season 2 in a way I think will let people access the show in a fresh way and get to experience the incredible ride we’ve given them with this [first] season.

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