It was almost four years ago that Ando Masahashi was spending five days a week earning a living working as a computer programmer at Yamagato Industries in Tokyo, Japan. That was before his best friend and fellow employee, Hiro Nakamura, discovered that he had the power to manipulate time and space. Since then, Ando’s life has never been quite the same. In season one of Heroes, he and Hiro risk their lives to help stop the destruction of New York City. In the show’s second year, Ando is stuck back at work and on the sidelines, trying to assist Hiro in his time-travelling battle against a villain with the power of rapid cellular regeneration.
When season three opens, Ando is back on the front lines with Hiro and together they search for a missing genetic modification formula that can give ordinary humans special abilities. In the episode Duel, Ando injects himself with the formula, convinced that he will gain Hiro’s power of space-time manipulation. Instead, he acquires the ability to “super-charge” the powers of other heroes, which manifests itself in concentrated blasts of energy or “red lightning.” Hiro’s onetime sidekick is now a fully fledged superhero in his own right, much to the delight of actor James Kyson Lee, who plays Ando.
“Ando’s powers were actually revealed to us in the flash-forward during the first episode of last season [The Second Coming],” recalls Lee. “In that story, we saw a vision of the future where my character is battling Hiro [Masi Oka] and Ando blasts him with this red lightning. From there, they [the show's writers] took several episodes to really develop Ando’s story line to the point where he had to inject himself with the formula in order to save Hiro.
“I love that the writers spent the time to integrate that into my character’s story line in a believable way. Also, it was circumstances that sort of drove him to do what he did, as opposed to all of a sudden, wham, bam, thank you, ma’am, he’s got a power. And I also like that they didn’t overuse Ando’s ability last year and it’s the same this [fourth] season. We’ve seen him using his power very sporadically. Ando reserves it for crucial situations, like when they have to break out of somewhere, or when he had to fight special agents or the S.W.A.T. team, and that leaves a lot of room for him to continue learning to master his ability.”
At the start of Heroes‘ fourth season, Ando is still working at Yamagato Industries and engaged to Hiro’s eldest sister, Kimiko (Saemi Nakamura), who works with him as well. Ando and Hiro have also started their own business, Dial A Hero, and their first client is a little girl whose cat is stuck on a roof. As the season unfolds, Hiro continues to travel back and forth through time on various self-appointed missions. In Upon This Rock, the police bring him to Ando’s office; Hiro has been missing for six weeks and is speaking in a weird manner. It is also revealed that Hiro has a brain tumor that is slowly killing him, and if Ando hopes to save his friend, he must decipher the clues hidden in Hiro’s words.
“Hiro’s parents are no longer alive, so his sister and Ando are the only family that he has left. Because of that, my character is, in a way, becoming his guardian,” explains Lee. “Part of the reason why Ando opened up the Dial A Hero service with Hiro is so that his friend could continue with his adventure and that the two of them could still help other people. It’s reached a point where Ando feels more and more responsible for Hiro now that he’s been stricken with a brain tumor.
“I think this season has really been about these two friends becoming partners in crime or a dynamic duo, and that started last year when Hiro lost his power and turned back into a 10-year-old, so Ando had to take charge. They had been going back and forth as far as who was the leader and who was the follower. But then Ando and Hiro reached an agreement that they were partners, and because of their different abilities they’re able to complement each other. This year, Ando is carrying more of an emotional burden with the possibility of losing his best friend and someone who’s become like a brother to him.
“Because of all this, the past few episodes have been especially fun and interesting for these two characters. First of all, when Hiro turned up after being missing for six weeks [in the aforementioned Upon This Rock], he was only able to speak using comic book references. That was a neat homage from the writers to the Sci-Fi and comic book fans who have been watching Heroes from the very beginning. It was fun [as Ando] to play Sherlock Holmes and try to decode Hiro’s messages and solve the riddles in order to then put the pieces all together.
“There was also the episode [Close to You], where we [Ando, Hiro and Mohinder Suresh, played by Sendhil Ramamurthy] broke out of the mental hospital. Putting Suresh with Ando and Hiro felt a bit like The Three Stooges meets [the feature film] One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” jokes the actor. “I think the show needs the right amount of action/drama as well as comedy in order to truly flourish, and this episode is a great example of that. It was fun to be pushed around in the wheelchair, and also to pull off the sequence where Ando has to switch out the pills that are meant for Suresh. It was exciting for him to be part of a rescue mission, and fun for me as an actor to shoot those scenes.”
In Pass/Fail, Ando rushes Hiro, who has collapsed, to the hospital where the doctors perform emergency surgery on his tumor. While lying unconscious on the operating table and fighting for his life, Hiro has a dream in which he is put on trial by some very familiar faces, including his father, Kaito Nakamura (George Takei) and Adam Monroe (David Anders). Also present is Ando, who is serving in a very important capacity.
“In this episode we saw some things that we’d never seen before on the show, including re-creating the courtroom scene in the Burnt Toast Diner, which the fans are very familiar with,” says Lee. “A great deal happens in this story, starting at Noah Bennet’s [Jack Coleman] apartment to going to the hospital and the whole [dream] sequence at the end where Hiro has to face the light at the end of the tunnel. In-between all that, Ando is encouraging him from the real world where he’s watching Hiro struggle through the operation.
“There were a lot of [story] arcs to be played out, and I really loved being part of the dream sequence where Ando has to act as Hiro’s defense lawyer. So I had the opportunity to do my best impression of Atticus Finch [Gregory Peck's character in To Kill a Mockingbird] and see if I could get him out of this jam. This episode and the one before it, Close to You, were very satisfying for me as an actor.”
Ando and Hiro are among those heroes who go up against Samuel Sullivan (Robert Knepper) in Heroes‘ fourth season finale, Brave New World. The carnival leader has spent most of his energy this season trying to entice other evolved humans over to his side in the hopes of bringing a fantasy world to life. “The interesting thing about Samuel is that he has this father-like quality where he’s constantly welcoming episode into his carnival family,” notes Lee. “In some ways that seems quite warm and generous. However, we’ve slowly found out that not only is Samuel doing this to amplify his own powers, but also because of a delusional vision he has to create a new society where people like him are the norm.”
“So we definitely want to find Samuel and try to stop him from pursuing that path of destruction. Along the way, there will be some big revelations about some of the characters that we know and their histories. I think the season finale will be a nice way to wrap up some of the story lines as well as transition into the next volume of Heroes, which is tentatively titled Brave New World.”
With his character having taken the step from average human to evolved human, Lee is curious to see what hopefully lies ahead for Ando. “I would like to see him develop more into a warrior,” he says. “I’m pretty athletic in real life, so I think there are a lot of elements there that we can play with and that would serve my character well.
“I’d also love for Ando to be taken under the tutelage of someone like Noah or the Claude [Christopher Eccleston] figure that Peter [Milo Ventimiglia] had in the first season. I think my character has the ability to learn; he’s one of those characters that you’re able to sort of mold and bend in different directions. Ando might just be the character that’s gone through the most change from the beginning of the show to now, but in that time we really haven’t seen any of his family or revealed much about his background and history. So that leaves a lot still left to explore and more stories we can delve into.”
Besides his work on Heroes, Lee recently finished shooting the film How To Make Love to a Woman, a romantic comedy in which the actor plays one half of three couples featured throughout the movie. “That film should be coming out later this year,” says the actor. “Another movie I did, which is supposed to be released around April 20th, is called Necrosis. It’s about six friends who go off camping and get trapped at a location where the Donner tragedy took place back in the 1800s. If you’re into the psychological thriller/horror genre, that’s something you should probably check out.”
Looking back at his past four seasons on Heroes, has the time gone by quickly for Lee? “In some ways, yes,” muses the actor. “It’s hard for me to believe that it was over three-and-a-half years ago when we all got together to film the pilot and this new concept that we weren’t exactly sure where it was going to go. So the time has flown by, but so much has happened, too. And I love that Heroes has been a very good example of a new generation TV series that has really embraced the fans as well as a new media platform that it is being presented on.
“Times are changing very fast. I was recently in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show and it’s amazing how the ways in which we watch media has changed, even in the last four years. People are watching Heroes not only on their TVs, but also on their computers, iPods, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, TiVo, you name it. That means the audience is larger than ever, but now it’s sort of scattered throughout different platforms. As a result, the traditional Nielsen ratings don’t really apply any more, so you have to find ways to provide content and connect to the viewer. And our show has done a terrific job of that through its graphic novels, webisodes and many of the official websites that are connected to the program. A lot of the cast is on Twitter and Facebook, too, and we really embrace the fans and communities in this new platform.”
You can follow James Kyson Lee @ twitter.com/jameskysonlee.
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