When NBC’s “Heroes” debuted in 2006, many of its characters viewed their emerging powers as more of a curse than a blessing. But not Hiro Nakamura.
Played by actor Masi Oka, the Japanese office worker embraced his ability to manipulate the space-time continuum and used his newfound gifts as a force of good. He even managed to overcome a terminal illness, allowing him to help Claire and Peter defeat carnival owner Samuel Sullivan, in the 2010 series finale.
Now, NBC has revived the drama for a 13-episode event, “Heroes Reborn,” which finds Hiro stepping up once again as Evos (“evolved humans”) are targeted, experimented on or exterminated.
Oka, now one of the stars of CBS’s “Hawaii Five-0,” spoke with journalists at Comic-Con International about revisiting the “Heroes” universe, how the world and Hiro have changed since the original series, his connection to a new character, and Hiro’s immense power levels.
How strange is it to be back in the “Heroes” universe, or is it not strange at all?
Masi Oka: It’s both. It’s strange, it’s ecstatic, it’s bittersweet. It’s a mix of emotion. When I first did it, it was weird, but it felt natural. After one or two takes, it was, “Oh, OK. This is what it was.” Most of the time, my character gets to work with some new folks, but also a lot of old folks from the original series. Then we had a director, Allan Arkush, who directed the original series as well. Everything was like it was five years ago, so it was kind of cool.
You’ve been keeping very busy since “Heroes” ended. What were the conversations about getting you back on the show? How much of a struggle and juggle has it been for you to be a part of this when you have other commitments elsewhere?
To be honest with you, initially when we saw the teaser at the Winter Olympics, all the original castmates texted each other: “Whoa. Did you know about this? No. No. No.” Nobody knew about it. Then 10 minutes later, Tim [Kring, series creator] emailed me to say, “Hey. Do you have time to talk? I think you just saw something.” I said, “Yeah, yeah.” It actually started way back when, and the original concept of Tim wanting certain characters back. Due to contractual limitations, I found out that I cannot do it full-time, so it was kind of a bummer for a while. Then, it was interesting. We were talking to a bunch of people, even some of the Japanese government got involved. At the end of the day, thanks to the generosity of CBS and NBC, they worked something out. I was able to do three episodes. Literally, we just shot those three episodes, and now I’m flying back to the island.
How has the world changed since we last saw Hiro?
Five years have passed, so Hiro has matured in some sense. We’re not going to see him as future Hiro because he’s not going to be as hardened as future Hiro, but he is going to be more mature. He’s a mix between the original innocent Hiro and the future Hiro. That future Hiro was in an alternate universe and he also had a goatee.
Are we going to learn whatever happened to Ando?
You know what? I don’t know. That is a sad thing. Maybe. Maybe in the scripts I haven’t read. I haven’t done anything with Ando. I hope it’s not bad news.
How adept is Hiro with his powers now?
The problem is Hiro’s powers are so powerful, and it really screws everything up because you could always go, “Oh, he could have just stopped time and done that.” There’s always going to be a solution. If Hiro was super-, super-smart, we wouldn’t have a show, so you have to nerf him either metaphysically, mentally or physically. He definitely has control over it, but you’ll see him nerfed again. It’s just the way it is. It’s kind of like Nathan will be killed every season. Hiro’s power will be nerfed somehow.
Has Hiro changed much since his last appearance?
He has changed. Five years have passed. I wouldn’t say too much, but, as I said, he’s going to be a hybrid of what we remember as future Hiro, who was five years in the future of an alternate future universe that we thwarted, and then innocent Hiro. He’s run a company for five years and the whole apocalypse thing happened and the Evo thing happened. It definitely has affected him.
In what ways does the terrorist attack in Odessa affect Hiro’s course?
It definitely changes his course a little bit. He’s always been about the moral code and the hero code. Knowing what’s happened with the Evos, he has a different mentality towards that and what it means to use the powers. There’s definitely more responsibility that he feels. We’ll see that manifest a little bit more and what happens in terms of that fateful day.
Mohinder appears in a clip. Have you gotten to work with any other actors from the original series?
Yes. I’m pretty confident to say I have worked with not everybody, but I’ve worked with more than 50 percent.
Hiro has a connection with a new character. What can you tell us about who it is and what brings them together?
I can’t tell you which one it is. I can’t tell you why they have a connection. I can say there’s a deep relationship between Hiro and one of the series regulars and it’s not the obvious one.
”Heroes Reborn” premieres Thursday, Sept. 24, on NBC.
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