Masi Oka talks Heroes Season Three

NBC’s hit show “Heroes” launched its third season last week with the premiere of “Volume Three: Villains.” One of the more surprising scenes in the premiere featured the time-traveling Hiro going to the future and getting a glimpse of his best friend Ando, now super-powered, murdering him. Needless to say, when Hiro returned to the present he was more than a little on edge around his best pal.

This is not the first time that a trip to the future has haunted the two friends. In season one’s popular episode “Five Years Gone,” the pair were transported to a possible future where a distraught Hiro was obsessed with changing the past in order to save Ando, who died in the explosion at Kirby Plaza. The fate of their friendship is just one of the new questions posed to fans this season.

CBR News caught up with Hiro himself, fan-favorite actor Masi Oka, to talk about the new season of “Heroes,” his new nemesis, and how to deal with your best friend killing you.

CBR: Last week, we saw Ando kill Hiro in a future flash-forward. Do you think they’ll get back to being friends soon, and are the writers making an effort to make all of the characters darker this season?

Masi Oka: I think so. I think the writers want to introduce a little bit of a different dynamic between Hiro and Ando, just to start things off. We will see them back to their regular selves, hopefully really soon. I think because it is the volume called “Villains,” we want to put in seeds of doubt in terms of every relationship we’ve had and shake up the status quo. I think that’s definitely an intentional part by the writers to put that in.

Is it possible that “present” Hiro misunderstood what he saw and that “future” Hiro is bad and “future” Ando is good?

I think it got edited down to be a little bit more ambiguous. Originally, it was going to be Ando actually on the evil side. Ando, Knox and Daphne vs. Peter, Clare and Hiro -- that was the original vision of it and we shortened it for time’s sake. The way it was edited, the fight between those two, “future” Hiro and “future” Ando got edited as well. The way it was explained to me was that Ando was like Lando Calrissian. There was a betrayal. I guess he got money for the formula or something. That was the back-story that was given to me. The way it was edited was left up to interpretation. When we were filming it, the intent was that. But of course this is a future that we are going to prevent from happening but you never know what is going to happen. It could be reversed.

“Volume Three: Villains” premiered at Comic-Con International to great reviews. But after it aired last week, some critics weren’t so kind. What do you attribute that to and how do you deal with fans’ disappointment with season two?

I don’t know? Every critic is different and people look for different things. What we premiered at Comic-Con is the exact same thing we aired on the broadcast. At Comic-Con, there was this great buzz and everyone loved it. I think after not seeing it for nine months they were so excited to see something great. I think the season three premiere was an answer to the feedback we received from the fans. They wanted more story, they wanted a faster pace, a lot more action and a lot more focus on the original characters. That’s what we focused on. The writers and the production staff, we all feel that we delivered based on what the fans wanted.

So I don’t know if the critics are bashing for the sake of bashing, maybe it’s just a continued feeling they have from season two. So I’m hoping that as the episodes progress, the show will go back to doing what made it great in season one. I think season three is headed towards having people seeing it as pure entertainment for the whole family again.

My reaction to season two, I think the writers made bold choices. There were a lot of expectations and the writers decided to go a different route than expected by the fans, to shake things up and make a bold choice. I don’t think the fans reacted the way the writers hoped for. And we make the show for the fans, that’s what’s really important to us. So we took that to heart. The back half of season two was back on pace to what we originally intended. Which is what made season one great with fast storytelling, and a lot of twists and turns. So season three is going back to what the fans wanted.

Are you happy with the season three scripts that you’ve seen so far and with the relationship between Hiro and Daphne?

Yeah, I’m very excited. We’re actually shooting episode twelve already, so we’ve gone pretty far. There are a lot of great shocks, twists and turns. The pacing is overall really fast and has a lot more action, so it’s a lot of fun. With Hiro and Daphne, you know Daphne is kind of like the quintessential nemesis for Hiro. As Batman gets his Joker, Hiro gets Daphne. It’s a joke I use all the time but I see them more like a Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner scenario, except she says more than meep, meep and doesn’t use as many Acme gadgets. Although you will see Hiro fall on his face a lot.

Do you like the direction the writers are taking Hiro in this season? And how open is the door to the Writers Room for you and the rest of the cast?

The writers are very collaborative. They’re very open to discussing characters and they let you know where you character is going. They’re very collaborative in that sense, very open to it. A lot of it also gets done in the editing as well. You think you shot something and when you actually see it on screen it looks a little different. As an actor, they’re constantly challenging me. Having to balance the drama and the grounded heavy stuff with the light stuff, as an actor I think it’s always challenging. As long as they keep on challenging me, it’s a great learning experience. For me, it’s difficult to find the consistency of course, because you need to drive the plot and move things forward. At the same time the character action gets compromised because of that. We are slaves to the plot. So if the plot dictates that we do something, sometimes we have to change what the characters do. For me, I’m watching the first two episodes and I’m like, Hiro you’re so stupid, why are you defying you Father’s orders and doing that? But we needed that for the plot, so it makes sense.

As Hiro goes on more adventures and experiences tragedy in his life, is it hard to strike the balance between the enthusiastic person we saw in the beginning of the series, and who Hiro is now, with out it seeming too forced or unnatural?

Oh, absolutely. I think there is an important balance to have and the writers are very conscience of that. That’s what makes Hiro great, his enthusiasm. One thing we know about Hiro is that he’s always going to be pure. No matter what it is he’s going to do, what he feels is right in terms of saving the world. So his naivete may have gone away because of all the tragedy he’s experienced, but his purity and his sense of morality will always stay the same. So that’s something we’ll see along with his childlike sensibility. There will always be some sense of wonderment. We’ll see him go to various locations and he’ll find some wonderful discover where ever he goes.

Also, the writers have actually come up with a very creative way of finding the rediscovering of the power and we’ll see that later on in the season. It’s definitely difficult to balance Hiro’s storyline. Hiro and Ando have always been the comic relief. We want to make sure that we have some of that entertainment and fun side, light side of saving the world to balance the dark tone of the rest of the storyline.

What type of challenges has this season offered you as an actor? Has there been more stunt work?

There’s definitely a lot more stunt work. It’s a lot of fun being put in a harness and walking in the air, I feel like Mary Poppins. It’s definitely fun. I think on these issues, also I try to engage where it is appropriate, in terms of putting in that humor. That’s where I rely on the directors and writers to kind of say, you know, that’s a little bit too much, that’s grounded but probably inappropriate here. Also, the level of English that Hiro has mastered because I don’t want him to be completely masterful of English. We want him to have room to grow, but at the same time, time has progressed. Hiro’s timeline is so out of whack. Hiro’s biological time hasn’t moved as far, even if he’s gone to feudal Japan and back, for him it’s still been three weeks or a month. Keeping that continuity is the difficult part.

What will happen the next time that Hiro meets Adam Monroe?

I think the promos have already given away that Adam Monroe will be coming back. So we know that he’ll be coming back. How? Why? Well that we don’t know yet. That one I probably can’t spill too much of. There will be a Hiro [vs.] Adam Monroe round three, that much I can say.

Will you be using your sword this season?

I haven’t used my sword yet. Hopefully there will be more opportunity to use it. As of now there is no swordplay.

Now that Sylar is working for Angela Petrelli and the Company, will we be seeing Hiro face-off with him any time soon?

They’ll be a lot of face-offs this season. Not just with Sylar but a lot of villains vs. heroes, heroes vs. heroes and villains vs. villains. Match-ups you don’t expect, you’ll definitely see.

What has Hiro’s sister been doing since we last saw her, will we be seeing Hiro’s Mother at any point and how important is the role of family in Hiro’s life?

Yes, family is always important to Hiro. There are so many things but the most important thing to Hiro is definitely his family, Ando’s friendship and of course being a hero and saving the world. That’s what his family has taught him. His father in particular, and his Mother taught him the values of being a good person, a good servant to civilization and sacrificing himself for the world. He dos not have his Father there to give him advice but fortunately we saw that advise come through a DVD (in the premiere). We might still see various fatherly advise come from his father, kind of like how Obi-Won came back in “Return Of The Jedi.”

To be honest with you, I don’t know what Hiro’s sister is doing. I would presume she’s very busy running the company. Hiro’s the CEO and I think she’s the President and is actually the day-to-day hands on person. So we haven’t seen her yet but we will see Hiro’s Mother. When? I don’t know? It may be season six but we will see Hiro’s mother.

Hiro’s had a love interest each of the last two seasons. Is he going to have one this year?

We don’t know yet, I mean that’s always up in the air. Personally, as a fan, I kind of like Hiro and Charlie’s love story and just want to leave it at that. In some senses having him fall for Yaeko right afterwards [was too fast] because in Hiro’s biological timeline it was literally two weeks after Charlie’s death, when Hiro spent six months with Charlie. So I think that love story is something that is pure and I don’t think we want to compound on that too much. That being said, you never know what’s going to happen. There could be a love story up ahead for Hiro. We don’t know. Everything is kind of up in the air. Ultimately, if there were an end for Hiro, my poetic ending for him would be to have him live in an infinite time loop. Living his time with Charlie over and over and over again. There’s definitely something sweet about that love story. I think it’s very hard to top that.

Many characters on the show have developed their powers in new and unusual ways. Will that happen to Hiro this season?

The writers are definitely very creative about how Hiro uses his power. It’s a very strong power, you know. Theoretically, Hiro could go back in time and fix everything. It’s very difficult in terms of plot devise. Okay, Daphne stole the paper, why doesn’t Hiro go back five minutes earlier and make sure he doesn’t have it? There’s always ways around it, unfortunately. We’re pretty much at a point where Hiro doesn’t go back into the past because he knows that he’s going to destroy the time-space continuum and something bad will happen.

In terms of powering up, I don’t know how much more Hiro can really power up teleportation and time-travel. I think he can become more accurate with his time travel now. So that’s definitely something. With the teleportation maybe he’ll go further. Just having more control over them. There might be a couple of things that are different in terms of how he uses his powers. Maybe he can do a dimensional warp? Maybe we could have Hiro transport to Mars or something? That’ll be season four.

This season is called “Villains.” What would you do if Hiro ever went bad?

I’d go knock some sense into Hiro. I think Hiro’s very pure. The naivete has gone away. He’ll do what he believes is right. Sometimes what he believes may not be the right thing. I would think that he’s very susceptible to a lot of things and gullible. But he would never do anything that is morally wrong in his mind. He follows the basic conduct of heroism. He goes by the bible of the comic book. That being said, we’ve seen what happens to those heroes that have gone to the dark side. It’s interesting because villain and hero are very relative terms. What is good and what is evil? In the villains mind, what the good people do is evil. From societies perspective it’s clear to see what’s good and what’s villain. From the villain’s perspective it is very different, how they see the world. It’s an interesting moral question. I have faith in Hiro that he’s always going to be in his heart a good guy, no matter what he does.

As a fan of comics yourself, do you enjoy the “Heroes” online comics and graphic novel and what’s it like having your image drawn by legendary comic book artists like Tim Sale, Alex Ross and Jim Lee?

Oh, my god, it’s such an honor. First of all, the online comics on NBC.com are absolutely brilliant. Even when we had the Writers Strike, I know they had original content every week. It’s a great way to give the fans continuity and some back-story for a lot of the things that we don’t get to see on the air. It’s a great way to fill in the gaps. That’s where a lot of the fans imagination can grow. So it’s a great thing to see the comics, I love seeing them. Just to be drawn by these folks is such an honor. I got excited when I had a picture drawn of me at a bar mitzvah and now to have these amazing, legendary artists draw you, who’d of thought it? It’s definitely something as a comic book reader that you’re very proud of, happy and grateful for. And then to think I’m going to be an action figure and now a bobble head, what more can a guy ask for? Maybe, underroos.

How have comic books like “Watchmen,” “X-Men” or “Harbinger” influenced the show and what’s it like to have comic book luminaries like Jeph Loeb and others their to guide you?

I think it’s really important because our series is based on that comic book storytelling along with the characters, which are comic book archetypes. The plot does come a lot from the comic book universe. So there might be a retelling of similar stories because comic books are told in very serialized storytelling, where it’s open ended and it’s very fast in the way that it moves. Having someone like Jeph Loeb, Aron [Eli Colite], Joe [Pokaski] and Jesse [Alexander] having that kind of sensibility works so greatly in our favor of telling the kind of stories we want to tell on “Heroes” and the pace we want to tell it in.

“Heroes Volume Three: Villains” airs on Monday Nights on NBC.

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