Recently, Masi Oka, who plays fan favorite Hiro Nakamura on HEROES was kind enough to take the time to talk to reporters in an effort to assure fans that HEROES: Fugitives is a return to form for the once critically acclaimed series.
What follows is what he had to say with regards to what fans can expect from Hiro in this fourth volume titled “Fugitives,” how the cast took the surprising exits of executive producers Jesse Alexander and Jeph Loeb and most importantly, what the return of fan favorite/creative genius Bryan Fuller means to the future of the show.
What are your thoughts on the backlash that HEROES has been taking of late from both fans and critics alike?
Masi Oka: The creative process is one that kind of builds on itself and I think with a show like HEROES, that takes risks and makes bold choices, we do ask for maybe a little patience from the fans and the audience. It’s a journey that may take a little time for both the audience and the critics to get accustomed to.
Did you personally feel that the show had lost its way or were people just being too hard on it because it came out of the box so big, so strong, and so popular?
I don’t know. It’s so hard with the creative process because we tell so much story, so fast because Tim is all about getting answers quickly and, you know, satiating the audiences’ appetite for what happens next. So I don’t think it’s necessarily lost its way, it’s just trying different paths and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work. You know, and I think Season 3 when we started Volume 3, they found a different path and they found a way to make it work.
And Volume 4, Fugitives, is also another completely, where we’re going back to the grounded characters and the central characters and about, you know, the – people trying to live their ordinary lives being hunted now. And that’s a completely different story than we’ve been trying to tell. So it might take a while to get us accustomed to the quote/unquote usual heroes, but it still has the core ensemble captive drama. So, you know, I’m not sure if it’s lost its way, it’s just always different. And, you know, some people will like, you know, some people will respond to the way the story is told in the one volume and maybe not to another.
Can you give fans a preview of what Hiro will be facing in this new volume?
For me, what’s interesting about Hiro is he starts off this volume powerless which as an actor is interesting to play because you kind of get the joy of rediscovering that power and what it means to be a hero without power. So it’s about adjusting to that and how to live that. How do you live your life knowing that once you were a hero and having – still have facing yourself and also is the people around you that you can still be a hero by helping others — and possibly trying to get the powers back.
Can you maybe talk a little bit about the Hiro/Ando relationship and what maybe we have to look forward to in that regard?
Yeah, in the beginning of Hiro’s powerless and Ando has a kind of supercharger power so Hiro is trying to nudge him on. In many ways he realizes, okay, well now he’s had his turn so he needs to kind of step up and see what he can do and you – he takes on pretty much the role of the butler. He becomes Alfred in many ways. But Ando is reluctant and he only cares about girls right now. So Hiro is trying to make him use those powers for good to save other people. And of course Hiro ends up getting in trouble and Ando ends up helping him.
Is there any romance on the horizon for Hiro?
I don’t think there’s any specific romance. However, one of the things that Bryan Fuller and I were talking about was that one of the things he loved was the romance between Hiro and Charlie. And that’s something I really want to create. I don’t think we have time to create it in, you know, Volume 4: Fugitives. But if we are fortunate to get another season, Bryan definitely said, “Yeah, I definitely want to try to recreate kind of a Charlie-kind of romance.”
How aware was the cast with regards to what eventually happened to Jesse [Alexander] and Jeph [Loeb]? How much were you guys aware of the transition that was about to come?
Oh, we weren’t aware at all. We had no idea. In many ways, what happens in a writer’s room stays in a writer’s room. We have a lot of respect for that process. And it’s not for our place to say anything. So it was actually really a shock to us to find out that was happening.
What is the impact of having Bryan Fuller back on the show?
First of all, my heart goes out to Jesse [Alexander] and Jeph [Loeb]. They were amazing writers and I love them. They’re my friends and they’re working on their own shows already. So I’m so glad that they’re doing well. I think that’s always a hard loss, one you actually don’t have control over. But with Bryan coming back I think it’s definitely a new dynamic and it’s such a great energy that he brings to the show. He’s such an accomplished show runner with great ideas from WONDERFALLS and more recently PUSHING DAISIES. And he was on the show from season one so he knows what the process was. He’s knows what made it great.
And then having stepped out of it for a season and a half, I think he had such a subjective view on how the show was, how the show became, and how it kind of in his mind kind of, you know, kind of took a different path. And having him come back, you know, being so excited – it’s like, oh, this is what, you know, was great, you know, let’s go back to this. And I think that really invigorated everyone because, the writers, well, we’re all artists. We all take what the critics say to heart. So with Bryan coming in, I think it gave him an uplifting momentum of energy and I think it’s such a big morale boost to everybody.
Do you know when we’ll start to see Fuller’s influence on the show?
I forgot when he came on but I know the first script he wrote was episode 20. As fans may or may not know, all of our scripts are written by all the writers in many ways. So you might not see Bryan’s name on a script or Tim’s [Kring] name on a script but they’re there breaking down the stories and they’re there writing every pertinent part.
Do you see the differences in the scripts you are getting now versus the scripts you were getting in the fall? ?The difference is it’s definitely more character based. I think Jeph and Jesse coming from the sci-fi and comic world. But I think what’s great about the show is that balance of having some sci-fi elements and having some character faults. So what “Company Men,” where you’ll see maybe only like six characters involved in a whole episode and we pay more attention to only three story lines instead of diversifying over six or seven.
Does it feel a lot different for you when you’re with all the other regulars? Does it feel odd to you when the cast gets together and you realize you haven’t acted with a lot of them?
I’m so grateful for it. I really am excited every time I get to play with other people as well, because you see them on TV, they’re your friends, I hang out with all those guys outside of the set. It’s such a treat to be able to work with all these amazingly talented people.
You can catch a brand new episode of HEROES tonight (Monday) at 9PM on NBC (10PM on Global in Canada)