'Heroes Reborn's' Guzman Looks to Batman for Inspiration as El Vengador

From breaking it down on the streets of Florida to protecting the streets from dirty cops in Los Angeles, actor Ryan Guzman has made quite a journey from staring in the fourth "Step Up" installment to now staring in the NBC revival event miniseries "Heroes Reborn."

Picking up five years after the finale of the original "Heroes" series -- both in terms of the show's continuity and in actual real time -- the 13-episode revival opened in a world that sees super-powered individuals discriminated against at best, or hunted down, captured and even brutally murdered at worst. However, in Los Angeles, one person fights back for the oppressed: the masked vigilante known as El Vengador.

Guzman plays Carlos Gutierrez, a military veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder who loses himself in alcohol and sex. Carlos finds purpose when he discovers the identity of El Vengador: his brother Oscar, who dies in Carlos' arms. Now, the powerless Carlos must discover who killed his brother while attempting to heal the schism between him and his family.

CBR News: The premiere of "Heroes Reborn" has gotten a pretty solid response from fans. Have you been keeping up with what people have been saying?

Ryan Guzman: I try not to pay attention too much, because I feel like you get an inflated head and think too much of yourself from time to time with all that stuff. Or the opposite -- you get bad reviews, and you think you're worthless. It's a very tough game to play when it comes to reviews and people telling you exactly how you feel.

Your character, well, let's just say it -- it seems like he's going to be taking over as El Vengador.

[Laughs] There's definitely that huge opportunity, that apple in the sky, that he might go after. Carlos is being presented with this crazy opportunity, and he doesn't know if he believes in himself to take on this opportunity. A lot has happened with his coming back to Afghanistan and having to deal with his own PTSD, which he is already using a form of escapism through women and alcohol. Now he has to overcome this new uncharted territory where his brother is his superhero that he's been hearing so much about. So, it's a lot swallow for Carlos.

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I think when it comes down to it, his biggest motivator is his brother's death, of course. So he turns into this detective, kind of like the original Batman where he actually was a detective. He embodies that a bit. He's a very flawed character but at the same time he's taking note of everything. He's trying to figure out and put the puzzle pieces together, and through that, he's evolving.

Is that what appealed to you about the character? You mentioned Batman. Were you a comic book fan yourself?

I've just been getting into comic books. I have my own company and my business partner, who is my cousin, has been getting me into comics. He has thousands of them, so I've been reading a lot. I'm really liking them.

Being familiar with some of the older-style Batman, was that what appealed to you about this character?

Oh, of course. I always said this character was three different superheroes: he was the Punisher, he was Batman and he was Iron Man, all in one. You'll find out why as the series goes, but I love how dark this character can get if he lets himself go down that path. With all these problems presented to him right out the get-go, it offers so much to play with for the character.

You mention how Carlos is treating his PTSD with alcohol and sex. Now, this task, going around investigating cops and fighting -- is this really just another outlet? Is he subbing this in for the alcohol?

Oh, yeah. For sure. I feel like he's found his way a little bit through this different venue, but both are increasing the hormone levels and making him feel a certain way. I think it's a different form of escapism, but this new form of it allows him an opportunity to find out more about himself rather than just pushing everything to the side and losing himself.

Carlos has no superpowers, but he seems to have been surrounded by people that had them, from his brother to his priest and even his nephew. What's it like for you and Carlos, being in this world where everyone has a power but you?

I was jealous at first, I'll tell you that much, man. [Laughs] But I came to love the fact that he doesn't have a power. Going back to Batman, how cool is Batman because he doesn't have powers? He becomes a more relatable character because you feel like, maybe if I threw on the outfit and had millions of dollars behind me, I could do that. But with this character, he doesn't have millions of dollars behind him, which actually makes him even more relatable because he has to do it all on his own and figure out himself how to fill the shoes that were left behind for him.

I'm sure you can't answer this question fully, but with the Batman comparisons and the fact that Jose has a superpower, what are the chances of Jose becoming the Robin to Carlos' Batman?

[Laughs] I think Jose is a little too young. With Carlos losing his brother already, I don't think he'd be so willing to be like, "Well, your dad died, but let's get you in the line of fire, too." I think Carlos is more worried about figuring out what happened to his family and learning more about himself through that journey and then trying as best as he can to keep Jose safe.

That's definitely the responsible decision, but looking at Batman and Robin, Dick Grayson was pretty young when he started as Robin.

Oh, yeah. There's no justification for that, especially in the original comics. He was way too young to be out there fighting crime.

The show coming back after five years has been pretty exciting, and while I'm sure the higher ups are talking about continuing the series after this, do you want to keep going past this one season, or maybe play another superhero in the future?

I never even thought this was a possibility for me a couple years ago, so I'm taking everything as it comes. This was a blessing, for sure. I'm just so appreciative of being given this opportunity to represent Latinos on network TV, as well as playing this superhero army vet. Whatever happens, happens. I've got two other films coming out, so it's up to the network and the studio. But if the next Avengers movie comes up and they offer me a role, I'd be stupid to turn it down!

We've talked about Carlos and his relationship with his family, but what about with the rest of the cast? We haven't really seen Carlos tying into the bigger picture yet.

For the most part, Carlos is off doing his own thing. He's on his own path. For a while, now, he's been so caught up in his own life that everything else around him becomes a blur, which could be a downfall. Honestly, I don't want to give away too much, because if I say I've worked with them or that I haven't worked with them, then that gives away. But I can tell you that I love hanging out with them outside of work. [Laughs] Everybody in the cast is amazing.

I heard it's a very fun atmosphere, and that Jack Coleman, who is really the tie between the old series and the new, has been very welcoming to everyone.

Oh, yeah. I mean, we created our own "Heroes" family real quick. I think the first day, we all went out dancing. It was a blast the whole time to get to know everybody. We still hang out all the time. We're all on a What's App thread, because it's [Zachary Levi's] birthday and all of us are making little videos for him. It's a very caring and loving group, and we all make sure we're having fun and take care of each other.

I have to ask this now, because you said you all went dancing. Having been in the "Step Up" films, did you destroy everyone on the dance floor? Did anyone even have a chance?

[Laughs] Well, I wasn't battling anybody. I wasn't looking Henry Zebrowski in his eyes and making sure he felt the pain. We did have fun, but every now and then I would get lost in the music and I'd look up and see people just staring at me. It makes me feel like I'm performing or something. [Laughs]

“Heroes Reborn” airs Thursdays at 8PM ET on NBC.

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