Jack Coleman Tramples Butterflies, Goes Grandpa on 'Heroes Reborn'

Last week, "Heroes Reborn" aired arguably its best episode to date with "June 13th Part One," which saw Jack Coleman's Noah Bennet and Masi Oka's Hiro Nakamura travel back in time to attempt to save not only the cheerleader but also the world by preventing the horrific events of that day from transpiring.

The episode answered a lot of questions, made some massive revelations concerning Claire's fate, revealed an unexpected connection between a number of the show's cast -- namely that Robbie Kay's Tommy and Danika Yarosh's Malina are Noah's grandchildren -- and ended with a cliffhanger that saw Noah essentially saying, "butterfly effect be damned" and taking lethal aim at series villain Erica Kravid.

And that was only "Part One."

"June 13 Part Two" promises even more revelations and twists, setting the NBC series up for its explosive finale. SPINOFF spoke with Coleman about his character – affectionately known by fans as HRG for his horned-rimmed glasses – and how he's changed from the original "Heroes" to the revival, and the difficulties that come with time travel.

SPINOFF: Huge reveal last episode: Claire died during childbirth. Did you already know about this going in?

Jack Coleman: I didn't know when we first started, but it was revealed to me fairly early what was going to happen and who [the twins were] and what had happened with Claire. And in the next episode we find out why she died. We know how she died – she died in childbirth – and in the next episode we find out how that happened, how someone who is supposedly immortal died in childbirth.

Your character Noah Bennet serves as the connective tissue between the old series and the new series. As an actor, what's it like to have a character that's so beloved and important to the series?

It's an incredible privilege to carry on from the first to the second and to be asked to play such a central role. I think what you said about being the connective tissue, that's a big reason for why I'm back, because this character has always been the guy that in this world connects characters and knows what's going on with these people. Of course, Noah had a big learning curve this time around whereas the first time we met him – I remember [executive producer] Greg Beeman on my first day of shooting after the pilot, I didn't know that much about the character and everybody was starting to learn about the character, and I remember sitting down with [Greg] and he said, "When in doubt, you know everything." So, that's where he started from, and it was kind of a logical transition from the first series to this one to bring in this guy that has this kind of knowledge. Even if he's kind of behind the 8-Ball a little bit and doesn't know how things got to be where they are, he's the guy that can put pieces together quickly. So, yeah, it's amazing to get to do it again.

Was it difficult to slip back into the role? He has changed a bit, and while he's not a different character, he's in a different place. Was there a learning curve for you to get back into the character?

Not so much a learning curve, but there's a short period I like to call a comfort curve of getting my mojo back and finding the rhythm. That took a little bit of time, but he is the same guy. I was very lucky in that we pick up five years later as opposed to five years before the series began. The added years were natural and I didn't have to hide them or pretend that I was somehow 15 years younger. So, that was helpful. And just putting the glasses back on, getting back into that rhythm that HRG has, which is a little bit different from my own – I'm a little bit more neurotic than he is. So, it was more of a comfort curve than a learning curve.

It's interesting, because watching Episode 7 especially, when Noah first started off in the original, he didn't really trust Evos that much. He worked with them but he distrusted them. By the end of the original series, he developed that trust. It seems like at this point now, he's on the opposite end where he's distrusting humanity.

Yeah. I think Noah is a bit of a romantic despite his weird, hard demeanor, and romantics tend to be true believers. So, when he worked for the Company he was a true believer in that mission and he didn't allow himself to trust Evos because he looked at them as if not the enemy, then at least something other, and he always felt that they would side with each other against him. As time went on and the more he plugged into who his daughter was and who these people were, he began to see how the cards really were stacked against them, especially in this world we find ourselves in now where there's legislation against them and reproductive laws and people are getting swabbed for DNA. It's a very paranoid world and I think Noah has switched his allegiance to where he's no longer representing the Man. He went from a prosecutor to a defense lawyer, if you will. But he's still a true believer, so he tends to plug in with his entire being to whatever side of the fence he happens to be guarding.

I think that where he started out was, "These people are dangerous. Their powers are dangerous." In the episode "Company Man," he says that people are fragile like tea cups, they're not going to be able to handle it. So, there's a certain amount of Area 51 subterfuge about the whole thing,and it all has to be kept underground and the people who are being studied need to be studied and had their memory wiped. He saw it as doing a greater service. Then I think he began to realize through Claire that there was no service being done here; it was another form of oppression and he began to side with the underdog.

It seems that while his worldview might have changed one aspect of Noah seems to be the same. In Episode 7, Hiro tells him not to unravel the sweater, just try to pull the smallest thread. But at the end of the day, Noah seems to be willing to do whatever he needs to do, sweater be darned – especially with that cliffhanger of him about to shoot Erica.

Well, yeah. Hiro's mantra was if it is fated, then it is to be. So, in that moment in the hospital when I see her talking to the press on television and I realize she's right outside the building. There had been at one point a line in the script where I said to Hiro, "If you had a chance to stop Hitler" – and of course Hitler is a bit of a loaded subject with everybody so they rightly took that out. But the argument remains the same. He sees himself in a position at a crossroads of history where this woman needs to be taken out. Now, that's 2015 Noah Bennet. 2014 Noah Bennet sees 2015 Noah Bennet speeding after Erica and gets a very bad feeling and knows what he is capable of when his anger is up. Don't forget, 2015 HRG has just seen Claire dead, so he feels like he has nothing to lose and [Erica] is responsible for all of this. So, he goes steaming after her thinking that if he takes her out – yes, it's this gigantic butterfly to step on but this has been the biggest, most toxic butterfly in the world – he's going to be doing the world a service. 2014 Noah Bennet doesn't see it that way at all and you will see they will have an argument about it.

It's funny, you mentioning the 2015 version of Noah versus the 2014 version and both being in the same place and having to keep track, but what is that like having to deal with all the time-travel stuff? It was great when it was revealed that it wasn't that Noah's memory was wiped but it was the future version of himself on camera. That's why he doesn't remember it – because it hadn't happened yet. But as an actor is it tough to film all that?

The time-travel stuff is very confusing – especially when you're playing both versions of yourself, present and past. So, it does get confusing and a number of times I would sit down with the director and one of the producers on set and go, "OK, just wanted to make sure I understand what is happening, what I know, what I don't yet know." [Laughs] We have 13 episodes, and a lot of it was [filmed] out of time and out of sequence. So, that's why there was a lot of time before shooting something where I wanted to make sure I understand what I know here and what I don't yet know here. And I will say they're pretty good about keeping that stuff mapped out. So, yeah. Time travel is confusing to play as well as behold.

It's interesting, because we interviewed Greg Grunberg and he was talking about reading scripts and how far ahead he reads and he mentioned sometimes it's better not to read everything and only know what your character knows because you want to portray surprise at a reveal in a genuine way sometimes.

I think that's Grunny justifying why he's watching Sports Center instead of reading scripts. [Laughs] No, seriously, there is some merit to that. I tend to read the whole script because I often tend to find out things about my character from other characters. There is an element of staying in the moment that I understand, that I get. My take on things is that I want as much information as I can get and pare it down to what I know and what I don't know. There are times when having read too much that I know something that I shouldn't know in that scene. So, there are times when what Grunny is talking about does really help and make sense for an actor.

You guys all worked together on the original series for four years. Have you all see each other and hung out in the time since or is the first time a lot of you guys are seeing each other again?

Remarkably, of all the shows I've done, I've remained friends with more of the people from "Heroes" than any other show I've ever done. I see Adrian all the time. I see Jimmy Jean-Louis all the time. I see Grunny occasionally. I see Sendhil occasionally, but I talk to him all the time. I stay in touch with Hayden and saw her a couple of weeks ago. Milo from time to time. It's actually been quite remarkable how these friendships have endured and how these bonds have held.

Looking at this cast, age-wise it seems to be a little more diverse than the original cast. In the original series, Noah Gray-Cabey was very young but everyone else seemed around the same age. Now it seems a little more mixed.

Yeah. That's kind of a nice way of saying that I've gotten older and they've all gotten younger. [Laughs] Other than Cristine Rose, and Rya Kihlstedt to an extent, but Rya is still quite a bit younger than me, everyone is way younger. There's a lot of teenagers on this show. Robbie just turned 20, but Danika is 17, Gatlin is 18.

Robbie Kay is 20 years old?!

He is 20 years old, my friend. [Laughs] He looks younger and he acts 20 years old. At one point, he was like, “In 20 years from now, when I'm 39.” I drew him a bath and tried to drown him in it. You know, Hayden was a teenager, and everyone else was kind of 30s and 40s when we did the original. I don't think we had a lot of 20s. And I, of course, was well into my 40s. But it's a young group. But also culturally and ethnically diverse as like the first time around as well.

Speaking of Robbie, as revealed, Noah is the grandfather of Robbie's character Tommy and Danika's character Malina. Did you tell them the news yourself?

I didn't realize it right away and had the great indignity of both him and Danika calling me grandpa. It just tears my insides out. My own daughter being 16, and they're older than my daughter, and they're calling me grandpa. Of course, in my real life I started late, so I certainly could be a grandpa, but not to the like of those whippersnappers.

Well, when you use a word like "whippersnappers"…

[Laughs] Yeah. Not so good. A little turn-of-the-century, and I don't mean 21st century.

Let's talk a little about what's to come in Episode 8, the second part of the June 13 flashback. What can we expect to see?

There's a couple of things. You get to see the butterflies being trampled on, and then you get to see the result of that. And the result of it is pretty jarring, and I think pretty cool, and it happens at the end of the episode. So, there's a lot of fallout from Noah's rash decision to go after Erica. I think that's all I can say before getting too spoiler-y.

Are you finished filming at this point?

Yeah. I've been back for a week.

Was it emotional for you, that last day of filming? Especially since we don't yet know whether the show will continue.

That's the interesting thing about serialized television. It's like life: You never know when your last day is. I don't know if we'll be coming back. I have zero idea. It was bittersweet that last day because I was very much looking forward to getting home. You know, I've been away for seven months. I'd been back and forth a few times but I've not lived at home in seven months. And that's hard. It's one thing when you're 25, 30 years old and you're single and you're living life like a gypsy. Then it's just fun. Every trip is an adventure. But when you have a family and you've got a kid and she's starting to look at colleges and I'm not there, that's hard. So, I was ready to get home and it was very sad.

My last day, I worked with Zack and Danika and also Robbie, but Danika was very sweet because she wrapped a little before me and she stuck around after she wrapped because she was feeling very melancholy that I was about to go home the next day. She stuck around and just stayed on set and we all talked and took pictures. It was very sweet, and she was very emotional. As you get older, you get a little more cynical and you get a little more hardened and my desire to get home was stronger than my desire to stay on set but it really brought me back to the early days of my career when I never wanted to leave the set.

That all said, though, would you come back?

Sure. I don't see why not. It would be interesting to see if I came back in the same capacity. I imagine I'd come back in a somewhat different capacity. But I'm definitely game to come back.

I guess that's a question on whether your character makes it out or not. Characters have been dying left and right on the series so far.

It's a very perilous landscape, I can tell you that. [Laughs]

"Heroes Reborn" airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.

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