At last week’s press conference, Tim Kring, creator, writer and executive producer of NBC’s “Heroes” announced the cast would go on a world tour to celebrate the widespread popularity of the hit show. Afterwards, he talked to us as openly and as in-depth as he could about the current cast members as well as the process and pressure of going into the second season.
Q: Since the press tour is in August, could this disrupt your shooting schedule?
Tim Kring: We are going to shut down basically. There are a couple of characters, a couple of actors who will not be going. Some of the newer characters and we’re trying to carve out enough production to keep the production trickling along for that week. But the idea was always to build in this week as a week that we shut down production.
Q: Is everyone coming back for Season Two?
Kring: Well, I don’t want to spoil that for the fans. Clearly we left things up in the air with several of the characters and we want to make sure that the fans don’t know what’s going to happen so that it doesn’t spoil their [enjoyment].
Q: You said 24 episodes. Does that mean no one really died?
Kring: Again, you really just have to wait.
Q: But you’re keeping them available so you can bring them back?
Kring: Exactly, they’re all on retainer just in case they’re needed. [joking]
Q: You have at least eight new or recurring characters. How has it been integrating them in the writing?
Kring: A lot of it was planned for and felt fairly natural. So it’s a big cast. One of the things that we are doing this year, because we’re not asking the audience to start absolutely from scratch, we’re not so concerned about every episode having every single character in it. So we’re able to sort of pull back in the ebb and flow and let certain characters come to the surface for an episode and sit out an episode.
Q: Are you talking more about episodes like “Company Man” where it’s focused on one story?
Kring: Yes, exactly. The idea of being able to focus on a couple of characters is something that we really learned last year as a very valuable thing to do, but you had to have earned enough interest in those characters to be able to then focus on them.
Q: How are you creating feudal Japan in modern day Los Angeles?
Kring: Well, as we know, Los Angeles has doubled for many, many things. On this show it’s doubled for a lot of things. So it’s a fairly, I will say, rural view of feudal Japan which allows us to use a lot of the outlying areas like the Santa Monica Mountains and north of here.
Q: How massive can those armies get on a TV budget?
Kring: That’s a very valid question. Obviously not huge. We’re doing some stuff with CGI and designing the stories so that they’re not completely dependent on anything that has to look like a $200 million feature. That’s always been our dilemma on a show like this. It’s that circles in the same world as a lot of the big giant budget movies, but it has to come at things from a different way so that we can actually produce it every week.
Q: Are the purse strings opened a little bit more this time around?
Kring: [Laughs] One would think that that would happen, but this is a very large company with a bottom line. So there is a natural bump in every budget every year because of contracts and cost of living and all of that kind of stuff and so we’ve been held to the standards. The good news about a second season is that you learn a tremendous amount from the mistakes. You learn how to get more efficient and how to move faster. For us, the number of days shooting has always been our big issue and that usually centers around how quickly we can work, how many pages we can do. That has to do with efficiency. With a show like “Heroes,” you have to remember, that the visual look of the show, in every scene or every other scene there is usually an angle or a shot that you don’t usually see on television. It’s a completely different odd angle â€“ maybe a super wide angle or a very low angle. You always see a lot of ceilings on our show which with most shows you don’t see ceilings and so we have to build sets with ceilings and things like that which are just more complicated. So in order to do that one angle we have to set up that one angle, we have an entire setup for that one shot which usually takes about forty five minutes, setting up a shot, and if you multiply that by three scenes a day you can see how at the end of the week you’re a day behind the normal schedule. So that’s always our issue.
Q: Are you going to do anything this season for fans who didn’t watch last season to be able to jump in and understand what’s happening?
Kring: Yes, that is a big part of what we’re doing. I mean, one of the things that I sort of learned in the first season was that we called season one Volume One and it was entitled “Genesis.” It just happened to be twenty three episodes long. Volume II is entitled “Generations” and it by no means has to be an entire season long. I wouldn’t expect it to be an entire season long. In fact we’re looking at that volume to end in the middle of the season which allows us to wrap up certain stories and allows us to have new stories begin. So you don’t get a sense that if you jump on the train that you’re aggressively being pushed off of the train because you don’t know what’s going on. That’s a big concern with us.
Q: Do you see the second season as being two big arch’s or do you not know yet about the second half?
Kring: Well, it’s designed to be three. We’ll see how that works out.
Q: So will there be some kind of recap for people who didn’t see last season?
Kring: Only slightly because the actual episode itself, it’s an episode entitled “Four Months Later” and so we pick up the stories four months after we left off at the end of the season. There is tremendous mystery in what happened during those four months and that’s part of why you’re watching these first few episodes. They’re revealing what actually happened. So the recap, in a way, is sort of built into the story.
Q: How do you feel about the mixed fan reaction to the finale?
Kring: I didn’t really experience the mixed fan reaction. I heard anecdotally that people loved it and clearly on a show like this, again this is one of the problems with a big serialized show which is that by the time you get to twenty three episodes in you’re dragging a tremendous amount of story behind you. So when people wait that long for answers it gets very hard to satisfy people. This is another reason why I think these volumes are really the way to go because it allows us to not have people build up expectations for so long as to how things are going to be resolved. When you build up for a whole year with a show like this it has an addictive quality to it and so it has to really pay off. Sometimes those expectations are too high for a mere television show.
Q: Are you keeping a lot of that in your head as you prepare for the second season? I mean, NBC has obviously put a lot of hope on the show filling out the schedule and reflecting your style of show. Do you feel that creative pressure going into a second season where it’s easy for fans to go, “Oh, well, we’ve seen this before.”
Kring: Yes, exactly. Oh, yeah. The cautionary tale of this is is that the fans are very fickle and they’re always looking for what’s shiny and new and you just hope that you can keep them interested when you’re competing with all of these new forms of entertainment. So there is tremendous pressure, absolutely.
Q: How is producing this different from “Crossing Jordan” or other shows you’ve done?
Kring: The actual job of being a producer on the show, it’s a very similar job actually, in a lot of ways. Where it’s different is in the writing of the show and the breaking of stories. “Crossing Jordan” had continuing storylines built into it, but at it’s crux it was a standalone procedural show and so you could send writers up ahead to break stories and to write scripts and on a show like this you really can’t do that. You’re really married to the previous episode, and so any thread can unravel any other story. That’s really the hardest part. Then logistically a show like “Crossing Jordan” had a main standing set where you could shoot at least four days out of your shooting schedule. On a show like “Heroes” we don’t have standing set. So the logistics are much different.
Q: Is that a challenge that you embrace?
Kring: Yeah. It’s one that we live with and deal with on a daily basis and it’s sort of the crux of our job, how to squeeze the square peg of making a show in eight to ten days into the round hole of this giant and ambitious production.
Q: Now that “Heroes” has become a pretty big phenomenon, does that give a little more confidence a little more leeway to start planning arch’s far ahead?
Kring: Yeah, to some extent, but I have to tell you that the amount of work, the volume of work, I mean we chewed up a tremendous amount of story in one year and any time that you plan for a story it’s almost a given that you will get there much faster than you think you will because this monster just eats constantly. So the best laid plans are always, “Oh, it’s great. By mid season we’ll be here â€“” and then sure enough we’ll get into the writer’s room and you’re there by episode six. That’s just the nature of the storytelling.
Q: How do far do you think you are at this point?
Kring: Well, we’re obviously taking it one season at a time and I have some big ideas of what the sort of big tent pole ideas of each season, what those are, but this season we started we knew where we were going in terms of the themes and the ideas behind it, but it’s ten writers in a room for ten thousand hours talking to each other. That’s basically what it comes down to.
Q: Will Tim Sayle be involved in Season Two?
Kring: Yes, Tim will be staying involved. So, the idea of the paintings is going to have a clever sort of reentry into the show.
Q: When you say four months later does that mean that Hiro will have been in feudal Japan for four months?
Kring: No. Hiro’s story is the only one that picks up exactly where we meet him. So he’s existing on a timeframe outside of the rest of the story.
Q: Will we be seeing more of George Takei?
Kring: Yes, we will see more of George Takei.
Q: Expanding on the “Generations” title, will we see more of the story with the Petrelli’s mother and sort of this history?
Kring: The idea of “Generations,” last year we set up this sort of sense that there was this other generation represented by the Linderman character and then Petrelli’s mom and George Takei and Richard Roundtree’s character. All of these characters set up the idea that there was another generation that had secrets of their own and this season one of those themes that we’re going to talk about are the sins of the parents being visited upon the children. That’s one of the themes, this idea of how generationally we are left with problems that we have to fix.
Q: Will we find out that George Takei has powers and what they are?
Kring: Yes, eventually.
Q: Are there any other big themes that you’ve already got planned for this new season?
Kring: Yes. One of the things that we wanted to do and this is getting back to the idea of how can you come back to a second season and get people to start over again or how do you stay on the farm after you’ve gone out and had these amazing adventures. A lot of these stories are resetting at the beginning. We’re getting to sort of come back to the touchstone of what it’s like to try and live a normal life while having these issues going on with you as opposed to the first season where it go so cranked up with the plot that that idea sort of fell by the wayside.
Q: How did you decide to reveal HRG’s name within the first season and was that the name that you originally had for the pilot?
Kring: We actually talked about what the name was all year long. So I would be lying if I said that I knew what his name was, and we just felt that in the spirit of answering questions, one of the things that I’ve talked about with probably many of you is this feeling that this show is a show that has committed itself to the idea of answering questions along the way so that we didn’t build up a frustration level of, “Why aren’t they telling us what’s really going on and why aren’t they giving us the answers.” So we decided that that was one question that was nagging people, on their minds.
Q: Do you have any hopes or expectations for Emmy nominations?
Kring: Well, yeah, obviously I harbor hopes of that.
Q: Is it hard with an ensemble cast seeing that someone might get left out of the mix?
Kring: Yeah, clearly. This kind of show is a hard show for the Emmy voters to wrap their brain around. It has some sci-fi elements which traditionally isn’t the most praised by the Emmy voters, but clearly when you set out to do something bold and from your heart you hope that people appreciate it.
Q: Is there a sense of vindication because when the show started out the press referred to it as a comic book show, and now of course it’s enormous?
Kring: No, just satisfaction. I guess that I’m a glass half full kind of guy. I never really paid a whole lot of attention to the negative stuff. We also, you have to remember â€“ when you’re making a television show you’re living in a bubble that’s very different than the rest of the world because you’re often ten, twelve, fifteen weeks ahead of where everyone is. So when people have certain concerns and complaints you’ve often moved way past those and you’ve already answered them in your own mind, and so you have a tendency to be slightly disconnected from the negative press.
Q: So you’ve answered the nagging questions of Season One. Have you come up with some new nagging questions for Season Two?
Kring: Oh, yeah. The questions are inherent in the storytelling and hopefully they’ll be just as intriguing as they were this season.
Q: Where will Greg Grunberg/Matt go?
Kring: Well again, I really am not going to say. It did not look good for Matt at the end of the season. Clearly, he’s a very popular character and those kind of things are taken into consideration when you decide what you want to do with a character’s fate.
Q: If it’s four months, he’s either been in the hospital forever or it’s the world’s longest open casket funeral.
Kring: Exactly. As was spilled today, he is filming today, so there is some element of his presence that will show up in the first season.
Q: Did you always plan to have Linderman die so quickly?
Kring: Yeah. That was another thing I said. I really felt like we wanted to, again, this is all part of jumping on board in the second season, knowing that there were new villains and new bad guys. I looked at Linderman as almost like a Bond villain. The Bond movies always have somebody new and interesting, so Linderman was our first. He was our Goldfinger, our Dr. No.
Q: Where’s Ando right now?
Kring: Ando is pining away for his friend to return.
Q: Will James Kyson Lee get a regular status?
Kring: We’re in discussions about that.
Q: Will Christopher Eccleston be back?
Kring: We love Christopher Eccleston. He’s a very busy working actor and we absolutely would love to have him back and it’s really about finding the time to work him in.
Q: What advice would you give other producers after this experience?
Kring: I gotta tell you, when they say that something can’t be done in terms of size and scale and scope, there’s a lot of ways to skin the cat if you really think about it. Now we had going for us a production that was born out of an existing show with “Crossing Jordan,” people that we’d worked with and a shorthand. It’s very hard to just grab an entire crew from startup and come out as fully formed as we did. But my advice again, dare to be different, dare to be bold and dare to find something that you feel is going to connect in an emotional and heartfelt way with the audience.
Q: What’s your thought of “Incidental Heroes” on YouTube and MySpace?
Kring: I haven’t really heard about it. I will look into it and hope my phone doesn’t ring in the middle of the night sometime.
Q: What’s going on with Jessica/Nikki?
Kring: Well, as you saw, that character was integrated at the end of the season so it leaves us with a sort of new beginning for that character.
Q: Does it eliminate her power or redefine it?
Kring: That you’ll have to see. It will be redefined.
Q: Make things easier for DL maybe?
Kring: Again, you’ll have to wait and see.
Q: Were there characters where the performances dictated what you did with the character?
Kring: Absolutely. That just happens all the time. Again, this is something I’ve talked about from day one that this is an organic process. You let the show speak to you as much as you speak to it. In a very specific way, I’ve used this example before, Jack Coleman had six lines of dialogue in the pilot and grew to such an extent that we devoted an entire episode to him. That was in large part because of the power of Jack’s presence on screen and his ability to play these competing and conflicting roles of the loving father and the ruthless killer.
Q: During hiatus, was there any thought to arcing out tentpoles of the season, and did you change anything along the way?
Kring: Absolutely, things change constantly. I will come in with an idea that I’ve had from day one about where we’re going to go by Season Three, and I think it’s the greatest idea in the world and after four days of people talking about it, it’s the stupidest thing that everybody ever heard. The writer’s room is a kind of giant democratic messy free for all. Ideas get changed and morph constantly in there. That’s not to say that there are certain things that we’ve stuck to and certain ideas we’ve kept all the way along.
Q: Did you bring in any new writers this season?
Kring: It’s almost exclusively the same staff. We lost Brian Fuller to his own pilot and we brought in two new, a writing team, the Blake sisters. And J.J. Philpin has joined us as well so we’ve filled out a little bit.
Q: You brought the ensemble together. Are you splitting them up again?
Kring: Yes. We start with them apart again. That’s always been the fun, I felt, of the show and some of the secret of the show is the guessing and the predicting and the discussion about how these disparate characters are going to find their way back to each other’s lives. I think that’s a big chunk of what the show’s success is.
Q: Will we see any characters like Claire’s mom come back?
Kring: Oh yes, absolutely. The smaller characters that were met along the way, some have greater significance in the second season.
Q: What was the theme of Season 1 and what’s 2 and what’s the difference?
Kring: The theme of season one was just this idea of interconnectivity, that somehow these disparate characters were all interconnected and this idea of people coming together, ordinary people coming together to do something great. And there were the themes of hope and regeneration of the world that I think connect with people. Again, the themes of the second season are still some of those themes because they’re inherent in the premise of the show. But in a more specific way, as I said, the theme of the second season is about the idea of generations, the idea of having to clean up the mess that was left behind which I think is a very important theme right now in terms of globally, in terms of environmentally. There are some environmental themes that we’re going to deal with and we will not be blowing up any cities, or attempting to blow up.
Q: Is there any way to work Comic-Con into the show, film something there?
Kring: [Thinks about it] Interesting. We hadn’t really thought about that. For us, filming someplace else is a big logistical nightmare. There are all sorts of legal things and zonal issues with unions and all that kind of stuff. We have a zone in LA and when we go out of that zone, there has to be all sorts of things kick in.
Q: Would you like to if you could?
Kring: Yeah, it’s a cool idea. I hadn’t really thought about filming at the Comic-Con convention. Again, the logistical issue with crowd control and all of that that I’m sure you’d have to deal with.
Q: The fans would support you.
Kring: I bet they would. I gotta tell you, that’s an interesting idea.
Q: Would you like to do bigger swordfights after Hiro’s training?
Kring: Oh yeah. All that training and all the sword discussions were part of trying to build a basis of knowledge for him so that he can enter into those kind of scenes. And Masi himself is really quite good with a sword.
Q: Where is Feudal Japan, where are you filming?
Kring: Feudal Japan is within 50 miles of here and various locations in Northern… Santa Monica Mountains, some north valley. As I said, we’re keeping it a very rural story. We’re not trying to depict a city in Feudal Japan.
Q: Three volumes potentially, are you working in three finales?
Kring: The idea is actually to do smaller finales so that we don’t have to carry the burden of having every single character come together to do this great thing. We’ll build to certain mysteries that feel like they need to be solved and things will be solved and other ones will kind of straggle along, as with many volumes of books and comic books.
Q: Could one volume focus on certain characters while others focus on others?
Kring: That’s right.
Q: Is anyone complaining they don’t have any work?
Kring: No, no, no. Everybody still gets woven in. It’s just that the cliffhanger aspect or the finale aspect may not involve them as much as some of the other people.
Q: Is there something we should be asking you that we’re not?
Kring: No, I think these are all exactly the right questions. We left so many mysteries, we solved lots of things and resolved lots of things. We left people’s fates up in the air and those are questions that I fully expect and fully cannot commit to.
Q: Casting a Japanese pop star?
Kring: Well, she auditioned and she was terrific so it was really not about chasing that actress. It was about her becoming available and auditioning.
Q: There will be a lot of fans not getting into your Comic-Con panel. Will you do something for them online?
Kring: We’re obviously going to have to. I can’t stress enough what a soft spot we have for these fans and how much it means to us to go down there. So if there is a heads up that there is going to be an issue, we need to figure out how to deal with that.
Q: Maybe monitors in the hall.
Kring: I will take this to heart because there are several people right now logistically looking, who are very involved with the Comic-Con presentation. The last thing we want to come out of there with is any sort of dark cloud that we didn’t please people.
Q: If you show clips, can you put it on NBC.com?
Kring: They’re going to have to figure out how to make this presentation available to people in some way, shape or form I’d imagine.
Q: In Japan, etc. are they downloading from NBC.com?
Kring: I don’t believe they can download from NBC.com. I think there is a filter block. It is not available on NBC.com if you’re not in the United States. People who are downloading it are downloading it from websites, bit torrents. That’s where they’re getting it but not from NBC.com.
Q: Is there a way to address that and get some revenue?
Kring: I think NBC is looking into all of that. Clearly, that’s a concern. The piracy of any material is a big concern for a company like NBC and there is obviously a double-edged sword to this because while it does eat into the revenue, it also creates tremendous buzz with people to be able to find the show. It’s this kind of double-edged sword.
Source: Heather Newgen