Masi Oka on Heroes

Superhero Hype! took the opportunity recently to participate in a conference interview with Masi Oka. The “Heroes” star gave us a little insight on what viewers can expect to see in the show’s second season which premieres on September 24th at 9 pm.

Masi also talked about the “Heroes: Season 1” DVD that will be out this August 28th. Cast members of the series will be going in three different groups on an international tour to promote the new DVD release. The actors traveling to New York, London, Paris, Munich,

Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore and Toronto will also encourage the public to watch the show’s upcoming new episodes and adventures on TV.

There are six Emmy nominations for the show “Heroes.” Masi and Tim Kring (creator of the show) each have a nomination bringing the total to eight. Without giving away all the surprises in the second season, Masi, enthusiastic as always, answered some of the questions that we want to know.

Q: Last year you said the only drawback to your job was that when Hiro teleports himself all that intense staring and head rattling wears you out. You said, “If we are fortunate enough to have a Season 2; I might have a brain aneurysm.” Have you guys done anything to spare you of that fate?

Masi Oka: Not really. It’s become such an iconic gesture that we will continue to be doing it. And in fact I think there’s more of it now.

Q: What seems to make the character unique is that with all these reluctant heroes, Masi, you play the world’s one not reluctant hero. What were your thoughts when you first read that concept.

Oka: I thought it was phenomenal… Tim Kring created an amazing, beautiful world with such rich characters. Hiro embodied the sense of the ‘every man’ in many ways — and how we all dreamed as a kid of wanting to be a superhero. And he’s someone who kept his dream. He believed in it, believed in it, believed in it – and finally his dreams came true. To be able to live that — live vicariously of his dreams — of my dreams– of becoming a superhero through his dreams, it’s just fantastic. And I’m just very fortunate to have been part — and having Tim entrust me with the character.

Q: Masi, I was wondering how much fun have you had working with George Takei–and how much more of that will we see this season?

Oka: Oh, George Takei was phenomenal to work with. He’s just such a generous – not only a generous actor, but a generous person. He’s an icon in every aspect of Asian-American TV and American cinema. You have your “Star Trek”, everything — you learn so much from him. And if you were to ask George Takei he would say, “Well, I found working with Masi to be quite an experience. He’s quite a young and talented individual. And it’s nice to see the sci-fi generation get passed on from the older to the younger – and the legacy being kept alive. Ha ha ha.”

Q: The DVD release, I guess, is going to come out at the same time as a lunar eclipse. Doyou hope this DVD brings some new people to the table for the American audience?

Oka: Season 2’s about new storylines – that, the whole idea – it’s a new beginning for everyone, so that people who haven’t watched the Season 1 — can also catch up through the DVD, but you also just jump in to Season 2 and watch it from there as well.

Q: Congratulations on your Emmy nominations. I’m going to ask what do you think of your Emmy chances, and what could a few wins do for the show?

Oka: Well I’m just definitely floored and humbled. And I’m definitely proud of our nomination. Personally, it’s definitely an honor — to have Tim entrust us with his characters, and be able to work hard — to make sure I now portray the character in the best way possible that kind of enables him to be approachable — and kind of the average ‘every man’ that viewers can imagine themselves being. And to be part of this ensemble is just absolutely amazing and a gift. And to have an Emmy — just like an Emmy nom is definitely a cherry on top. So the nomination is fantastic. And we’re all proud of it. And just really proud to have our Emmy nom kind of like reflect the hard work that we’ve all put in on the show.

Q: On the TCA tour of the set of “Heroes,” the special effects guy said that you help them out on occasion with several technical issues. Can you talk about how nice it is to go back and forth — between your creative side of acting and your technical side? And also, if you can recollect your very first job in the TV business.

Oka: Well, definitely it’s really nice to be able go back. I have a lot of respect for what goes, not only in front of the camera, but what goes on behind the camera. I remember spending months and months just to get about 200 frames out and what it takes. A show is as good as its weakest link. Whether it’s from the caterers, the effects folks — we have fantastic people all around. Our effects folks are doing a bang up job. And it’s great to be able to just talk to them on the set and just say, “Hey, why don’t we try to — how do we (hot) archive this matte process?” or “Where do we need to put — particles to work?” or “Where’s the 3-D virtual…” You know, it’s really cool to be able to talk that on the set — and have kind of camaraderie there. And recalling my first TV job in Los Angeles was actually for a pilot called “Straight White Male” It was for the FX Channel and it was a pilot that didn’t get picked up. But I recall it pretty well, because that actually — getting that job allowed me to fulfill the contract I had with ILM at that time and allowed them to agree for me to stay in Los Angeles and continue working for ILM in a telecommuting capacity, while pursuing acting down in Los Angeles. So that was definitely a memorable role for me.

Q: I wanted to know were you expecting the Emmy nominations at all? Masi, did you think maybe the show would be nominated? Or were you just really completely stunned?

Oka: Well, I guess a big thank you to Tim — for actually everything. I was pretty confident the show would get nominated. We were so confident that I was hanging out with Zachary Quinto that night. And we were going to stay up all night and watch the announcement so we could definitely kind of share the glory together. And unfortunately, we fell asleep, but we had a very nice wake up call — let’s put it that way.

Q: The way that Season 1 ended was just such a cliffhanger, and it sort of preps us for Season 2. What has it been like to film Hiro’s storyline for this season?

Oka: Season 2. Yes. Oh we’re deep into production. We’re moving at a really fast pace. We’re almost starting Episode 5, I believe — or we may have started. The filming has been fantastic. The location looks phenomenal. It looks great. It looks like feudal Japan. You wouldn’t have guessed that it’s Ventura County. But it looks like feudal Japan. The scout people found an amazing place. And it’s been so fun working with David Anders and Eriko Tamura. They are the main focus in my — in Hiro’s feudal Japan storyline. We’ve been having a great — lots of fun — lots of action and drama. So it’s been great. And I know I’ll be in feudal Japan for — Hiro will be in feudal Japan for a handful of episodes.

Q: Now Masi, I was wondering was there anything new in the future in the second season concerning your character– or anyone else’s — or even an event — that surprised you?

Oka: Oh gosh–so many things. Every week’s always a surprise. The writers have – before actors, we’re big fans of the show. And we just can’t wait to read the scripts. And that is even more so in Season 2. They keep — you think, “Oh, how can they really top…?” Well, we’re now trying to top, I guess, last season. How can they top, like, the week before? It’sjust amazing because the writers always find a way to surprise us and put smiles on everyone’s faces. It just puts us on the edge of our seats, just wanting to know what happens next. I’m going to leave you wanting to know what happens next.

Q: I just want to talk a little bit about the DVD. Are you and Tim Kring fans of DVDs and were you sort of scheming on that from the beginning? Or did you sort of realize that once the show took off; you were going to have to produce one?

Oka: Yeah, DVDs are great because it gives us an opportunity to give fans more as well. Not only just recap the episodes they’ve seen, but there’s like 50 deleted – extended and deleted scenes. We even have the 72-minute premiere of our pilot episode. “Heroes” is a great success online through the iTunes, but even those fan bases — they can have extra value by purchasing the DVD. Because, first of all, it’s like a huge seven box set. You get to see the behind the scenes things, the making of Tim Kring’s commentary on the 72-minute pilot that we premiered at Comic-Con. And there’s also like – yesterday I got a chance to see the DVD content. And there’s some really cool stuff in there with the special effects — in particular, the scoring. I think Wendy and Lisa are absolutely amazing what they do for our show. And to get even — sense of insight into that process was so enlightening. They’re always, like, the “unsung heroes”… in many ways because what they add to this — without them, the show just doesn’t stand. What they add is so subtle and you don’t see it, but you hear it. Well of course you hear it. What they do is absolutely amazing and it enhances the show and experience. And to get an insight of that I learned so much just watching that segment. The 50 deleted scenes are really awesome, by the way.

Q: I was wondering — what was your experience like at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con?

Oka: It was absolutely amazing. Just to go back — it was a homecoming – it’s kind of like winning the Super Bowl and going back to your home city. And it was just a great parade and celebration of the phenomenon that we’ve all created together — the fans, the writers, the cast. For me it was like — because of that, it was an homage back to the – our first appearance there. I wore the “Hayden Is My Hero” t-shirt, because that’s a throwback in appreciation — a show of appreciation to the roots. It’s where Comic-Con — that’s where we started. And it was just so phenomenal. I was there from Thursday night. And I even got a chance to walk through the floor and interact with some of the fans. And it’s justgreat. There’s so much love and so much passion for our show. And just to be a part of that celebration — it was phenomenal to be a part of that.

Q: People have been mentioning that “Heroes” is kind of a mirror held up to the core audience — a mass of fans could have been the driving force. What are you a fan of? What really gets you up and get going? What are your hobbies? What do you love getting into? And either collecting or just enjoying out there?

Oka: Oh, I’m trying to think what I’m — I’m enjoying life right now. There’s so many — I get to meet so many great people. That’s — I guess what I’m really passionate about these days — just to be able to work on a great show, first of all. But then from there, I also get to meet great people, whether it’s my cast, the writers — just going down the street, the fans. And it’s just really cool. Experiencing life right now is what I’m passionate about.

Q: Hi. Masi, I saw you at Comic-Con. I didn’t get chance to say hi. But I did see you. One of my co-workers who didn’t have a press pass was all jealous and she was saying, “This is the guy I want to marry.” And I’m just wondering in the last year—are you getting all sorts of marriage proposals or something from fans of the show? Have you been getting strange letters and with pictures in various states of dress and such?

Oka: Various states of dress — I’ve definitely gotten a couple pictures where they’re over-dressed with a lot of different costumes. I got to meet a lot of them at Comic-Con. But I have gotten a handful — a number of marriage proposals over the mail. I’m not quite sure how to react to them. I can understand — I’m a big believer in love at first sight. But marriage at first sight might not be a wise thing to do.

Q: Masi, your character over the last year or so has kind of become the quintessential coolest geek around. So how have you felt kind of building this character? Do you feel like you’re giving geeks out there some street creed for the masses?

Oka: Oh yeah, if I can represent the geeks — I’m very fortunate to be able to do that. For me, the notion of a geek has always been someone who’s passionate about something–whether it’s computers, ant farms or musicals, or storytelling or paperweights–whatever it is. Anything you’re passionate about something — and that’s what makes us human. It defines us as individuals. It gives us our uniqueness. And I think it’s more human — it’s more us. It’s more commendable to be a geek — and be passionate about something – than to be apathetic about everything.

Q: Masi, we see in the first season two wildly different aspects of Hiro. He’s – there’s this sort of young and enthusiastic and a little bit naïve early Hiro. And then we see the future bad-ass Hiro. Can you talk a little bit about the challenges of creating a character who goes through such a change that we don’t get to see? And if it doesn’t spoil too much, can you tell us if we’re going to get to see more of future Hiro in Season 2?

Oka: Regarding the second question — I don’t know yet. That’s more of a Tim (Kring) question. The first question — there’s definitely a lot of challenge in it. It’s actually a gift that the writers gave me — to throw this future Hiro in when we first saw him on Episode 4 in the subway. Anytime when you play a character that’s so different — it needs a lot of back story and preparation. And the writers gave me just enough information to know what that character needs to go through. I was just fortunate and so grateful that the writers trusted me by giving me this gift. And it was fun. It was definitely fun to play it. Although I have to say future Hiro in Episode 20 — when he went five years into the future — was kind of a pain to work with because he would never show up on set. Every time I work with him — he wouldn’t even show up. He would say, like, “Here. Use a blue screen instead of me.” He wouldn’t even be there for our lines — he would record his dialogue and then have it played. So I’ve never actually met future Hiro in person. I’m sure he’s a nice guy. But I don’t know — I guess after five years, all that fame gets into his head.

Q: It sounds like maybe you are almost as in the dark about future Hiro as the audience was.

Oka: Yeah, he’s quite an enigmatic character.

Q: Obviously the show is very much based on the ensemble. With such a large cast, even from Season 1 — moving into Season 2, with all the cast additions how are the new characters informing Hiro?

Oka: I guess with regards — well right now in Season 2, I’m in feudal Japan — Hiro’s doing a lot of stuff in feudal Japan. So the characters he interacts with are going to be in feudal Japan. So we don’t know how that affects – unless, I guess — Hiro could theoretically take people back into present day. I don’t know the storyline unfortunately. But as far as I know I’m in feudal Japan.

Q: When in Season 2 can we expect Hiro to fight a dinosaur? Will it be CGI or animatronics? And Masi, how do you feel about the showdown?

Oka: I’m still holding on to hope that when we get enough — a really big budget, Hiro goes back into the prehistoric era.

Q: Right, back to the Jurassic era.

Oka: Well maybe “Heroes” the movie, when we have a budget for that. I could ask ILM – we have the “Jurassic Park” models that we could use.

Q: You briefly discussed the loads of bonus features that are going to be on the DVD. With all that the fans have to choose from what would be the one bonus feature that you would recommend starting with? What’s your favorite?

Oka: Hmmm. For me, out of the uncut premiere 76 minute episode, the deleted scenes and making of documentary, special effects documentary, the stunts documentary, the profile of artist Tim Sale documentary and the score documentary — even though I’m a special effects fan, I was really intrigued by what they had to show. I was actually a big fan of the score documentary, because they showed a lot of cool stuff that I’ve never been — I never knew was going on. And as I said, Wendy and Lisa’s process, and what they contribute to the show, is really unsung and absolutely fascinating. And that for me was worth it.

Q: Hey, you mentioned the possibility of a “Heroes” feature film with the “Heroes” branching out into so many different mediums.

Oka: That was a joke on my part.

Q: Yeah, I realize it was a joke. But it almost seems like a natural place for this to end up at some point. Is it anything you guys have considered or discussed in any way?

Oka: Well, with what “The Simpsons Movie” did, Universal might get some ideas.

Q: After 14 years.

Oka: There you go. If you want a “Heroes” movie, please keep us afloat for another 14 seasons.

Source: Alice Chapman Newgen