Even before co-executive producer/moderator Jeph Loeb appeared onstage, before he introduced the cast, and before anyone had seen the pilot, the excitement for the new NBC show “Heroes” was palpable. 4000 people crammed into a room on Friday at Comic-Con International in San Diego for a screening of the pilot episode and a Q&A with the cast, and hundreds more were turned away at the door. In the audience, phrases like “it’s the next ‘Lost,'” and “this show’s going to be huge” were tossed around.
Loeb began the panel by bringing out most of the cast members as well as writer/creator Tim Kring and artist Tim Sale. The actors present included Santiago Cabrera (“Empire”), Tawny Cypress (“Third Watch”), Milo Ventimiglia (“Gilmore Girls”), Masi Oka (“Scrubs”), Adrian Pasdar (“Desperate Housewives”), Sendhil Ramamurthy (“Blind Guy Driving”), Leonard Roberts (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), Ali Larter (“Final Destination”) and Noah Gray-Cabey (“Lady in the Water”). Missing were Greg Grunberg (“Alias”) and Hayden Penettierre (“The Book of Daniel”) who were working onset. In honor of the two absent cast members, Ventimiglia wore a shirt reading “Grunberg is my hero” and Oka one that said “Hayden is my hero.” Later, when an audience member asked where she could get one, Ventimiglia removed his shirt and threw it to her, to the delight of many of the female fans.
After seeing the cast, the audience watched a special, 72-minute extended cut that Loeb said “no one else will ever see.” The show is about seemingly unconnected individuals who acquire superpowers such as flight, “rapid cellular regeneration,” and telepathy because of changes in the human genome.
The episode follows several story lines, jumping back and forth from New York, to India, Texas, Japan, Las Vegas, and other locales. The show is exciting and funny, dark and dramatic, and always intriguing.
The pilot opens with Peter, played by Ventimiglia, who believes he can fly. He has a complicated relationship with his brother Nathan played by Pasdar. Nathan provides more than family drama however, as the viewer discovers at the end of the episode.
Oka’s character Hiro, provides the biggest laughs, with references to Star Trek and Kitty Pryde and clever dialogue. Lines like “I’ve broken the space/time continuum!” and his friend’s reply, “Good for you. Too bad you’re not paid by the hour” had the audience laughing.
Cabrera’s character Isaac, is a drug-addicted artist whose paintings play an integral part in the show. The paintings were provided by fan-favorite Sale (“Superman for All Seasons”) His girlfriend Simone is played by Cypress, and the show includes some drama of the romantic nature between Isaac, Simone, and Peter.
Larter and Gray-Cabey play mother and son characters Niki and Micah, one or both of whom may have powers. Roberts plays Micah’s father D.L, who isn’t in the pilot, but will appear later.
Grunberg and Penettierre play a police officer and a teenage cheerleader, respectively. Grunberg’s character can hear people’s thoughts while Penettierre’s character provides a bit of gross-out factor with her ability to heal herself. Some of her more graphic scenes will likely be edited some before airing on NBC.
Some mysterious, unidentified, possibly villainous characters also appear, but it is for the most part unclear who they are and what they are planning.
During the Q&A the obvious question was asked. What makes this show distinct from other “mutant super power dramas, like X-Men?” Kring answered, saying, “They’re ordinary people… You’re watching a show about people who are basically like you. It’s not about people that don superhero costumes and run around and save the world. These are people who are on a journey of discovery to figure out who they are…”
After throwing his shirt, Ventimiglia read a text message from absentee cast-member Grunberg: “I wish I was there, but I’m making superhero magic on the set right now. Looking very strapping, making super-love to the camera, doing some superheroic dramatic acting, and super-noshing on the super-craft service table. Things are super-duper here on the set of ‘Heroes.’ Don’t tell Tim [Kring] I was noshing on craft service. Don’t believe a word Masi [Oka] says; he’s a big liar. Well, I miss you, Comic-Con, let’s catch up soon. How’s Monday nights at 9:00 PM on NBC? Better clear your schedule.”
Loeb begged the audience repeatedly to “talk about” “Heroes,” to friends, family, online, and everywhere else, but he clearly believes in the quality of the show, stating with confidence, “Monday nights, 9’oclock, you’re not watching ‘Two and a Half Men.'”