Posts Tagged ‘NBC’

NBC’s 2010-2011 Primetime Line-Up – Conspiracies, Spies and Superheroes

May 21, 2010

Earlier this week, NBC announced its 2010-2011 primetime line-up, which includes conspiracy, espionage and costumed crime fighting. Here are some of those highlights:  

The Event is an emotional, high-octane conspiracy thriller that follows Sean Walker (Jason Ritter, The Class), an everyman who investigates the mysterious disappearance of his fiancée, Lelia (Sarah Roemer, Disturbia), and unwittingly beings to expose the biggest cover-up in U.S. history. Sean’s quest will send ripples through the lives of an eclectic band of strangers, including newly elected U.S. President Martinez (Golden Globe nominee Blair Underwood, In Treatment), Sophia (Emmy award nominee Laura Innes, ER), who is the leader of a mysterious group of detainees, and Sean’s shadowy father-in-law (Scott Patterson, Gilmore Girls). Their futures are on a collision course in a global conspiracy that could ultimately change the fate of mankind. Ian Anthony Dale (Daybreak) and Emmy winner Zeljko Ivanek (Damages) also star in this ensemble drama. The Event is a production of Universal Media Studios and Steve Stark Productions. Stark (Medium, Facing Kate) serves as executive producer, Nick Wauters (The 4400, Eureka) is creator/co-executive producer and Jeffrey Reiner (Friday Night Lights, Trauma) is the director/executive producer. Evan Katz (24) is also an executive producer. Check out http://nbc.com/the-event/ for more information.  

NBC's Undercovers. Photo copyright of NBC

Acclaimed writer/producer/director J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Fringe, Lost, Alias) serves as co-writer, executive producer – and also directs – his first direction of a TV series pilot since Lost in Undercovers with executive producer/writer Josh Reims (Brothers and Sisters). Undercovers is a sexy, fun, action-packed spy drama that proves once and for all that marriage is still the world’s most dangerous partnership. Outwardly, Steven Bloom (Boris Kodjoe, Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion, Soul Food, Resident Evil: Afterlife) and his wife, Samantha (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Doctor Who, Bonekickers), are a typical married couple who own a small catering company in Los Angeles and are helped by Samantha’s easily frazzled younger sister, Lizzy (Jessica Parker Kennedy, Smallville). Secretly, the duo were two of the CIA’s best spies until they fell in love on the job five years ago and retired. When fellow spy and friend Nash (Carter MacIntyre, American Heiress) goes missing while on the trail of a Russian arms dealer, the Blooms are reinstated by boss Carlton Shaw (Gerald McRaney, Deadwood) to locate and rescue Nash. The pair is thrust back into the world of espionage as they follow leads that span the globe – and Steven and Samantha realize that this supercharged, undercover lifestyle provides the excitement and romance that their marriage has been missing. Undercovers is from Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Bad Robot Productions and Warner Bros. Television. The pilot was written by J.J. Abrams and Josh Reims and directed by Abrams. Abrams, Reims and Bryan Burk (Fringe, Lost, Alias) are the executive producers. Check out http://www.nbc.com/undercovers/ for more information.  

NBC's The Cape. Photo copyright of NBC

The Cape is a one-hour drama series starring David Lyons (ER) as Vince Faraday, an honest cop on a corrupt police force, who finds himself framed for a series of murders and presumed dead. He is forced into hiding, leaving behind his wife, Dana (Jennifer Ferrin, Life On Mars) and son, Trip (Ryan Wynott, Flash Forward). Fueled by a desire to reunite with his family and to battle the criminal forces that have overtaken Palm City, Faraday becomes “The Cape,” his son’s favorite comic book superhero – and takes the law into his own hands. Rounding out the cast are James Frain (The Tudors) as billionaire Peter Fleming – The Cape’s nemesis – who moonlights as the twisted killer Chess; Keith David (Death at a Funeral) as Max Malini, the ringleader of a circus gang of bank robbers who mentors Vince Faraday and trains him to be The Cape; Summer Glau (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) as Orwell, an investigative blogger who wages war on crime and corruption in Palm City; and Dorian Missick (Six Degrees) as Marty Voyt, a former police detective and friend to Faraday. The Cape is a Universal Media Studios and BermanBraun production from executive producer/creator Thomas Wheeler (Empire), executive producer/director Simon West (Con Air), the executive producing team of Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun (NBC’s Mercy) and executive producer Gene Stein (Accidentally on Purpose). Check out http://www.nbc.com/the-cape/ for more information.  

As noted above, all photos copyright of NBC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Trauma’s Derek Luke, Kevin Rankin and Dario Scardapane – Field Medics

March 11, 2010

Derek Luke as Cameron Boone and Kevin Rankin as Tyler Briggs in the season one Trauma episode "All's Fair." Photo by Paul Drinkwater and copyright of NBC

FROM executive producer Peter Berg (NBC’s Friday Night Lights) comes Trauma, the first high-octane medical drama series to live exclusively in the field where the real action is. Like an adrenaline shot to the heart, Trauma, is an intense, action-packed look at one of the most dangerous medical professions in the world: first responder paramedics. When emergencies occur, the trauma team from San Francisco City Hospital is first on the scene, traveling by land, sea or air to reach their victims in time. From the heights of the city’s Transamerica Pyramid to the depths of the San Francisco Bay, these heroes must face the most extreme conditions to save lives – and give meaning to their own existence in the process. 

Starring in Trauma are Cliff Curtis (Push) as daredevil flight medic Reuben “Rabbit” Palchuk; Derek Luke (Notorious) as stoic paramedic Cameron Boone; Anastasia Griffith (Damages) as strong-willed paramedic Nancy Carnahan; Aimee Garcia (George Lopez) as tough rookie helicopter pilot Marisa Benez; Kevin Rankin (Friday Night Lights) as edgy EMT Tyler Briggs; Taylor Kinney (Fashion House) as rookie EMT Glenn Morris and Jamey Sheridan (law & Order: Criminal Intent) as mentor Joe Savino. Peter Berg, Sarah Aubrey (The Kingdom, Friday Night Lights0, Jeffrey Reiner (Friday Night Lights), Peter Noah (The West Wing) and series creator Dario Scardapane serve as executive producer. The pilot was written by Scardapane and directed by Reiner. 

Last week, Derek Luke, Kevin Rankin and Dario Scardapane spent some time chatting with myself and other journalists about the series. The following is an edited version of our Q & A. Enjoy! 

I wanted to know if any of you were aware of the online following that you all have as far as a save the show campaign and backing the show with social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook? 

DARIO SCARDAPANE – We’re very aware of it, and watching the show’s Facebook fan page grow by about 1,000 people a week over the last few weeks has been amazing. And being a Facebook addict myself, I’ve had a lot of contact with a number of the fans. It’s been kind of a strange rollercoaster to be on, with the show on and off the schedule [due to the recent 2010 Olympic coverage], with more episodes ordered and a lot of strange things that have happened. But it’s been pretty great to hear such positive feedback and to see people doing things like sending Band-Aids and calling the network on our behalf. It’s a great way to get direct feedback from the audience. 

KEVIN RANKIN – With the Internet and these kinds of things, you’re not powerless as a viewer any more. At least you feel like you can do something, even if it doesn’t work, you know, at least you can have some sort of closure. A lot of shows get yanked after a couple of airings, so we’ve been very lucky and I would love to think that it has something to do with the great fans we have out there who are spreading the word. 

DEREK LUKE -Wow, this is funny, because my wife has been asking me to get on Facebook. But for me, I’ve been getting so much word of mouth from people on the street who have been asking me, ‘Where’s Trauma?’ And I tell them, “The Olympics,” and they’re like, ‘Man, we’re waiting for your show to come back.” So I think word of mouth is working as well as things like Facebook and Twitter. 

This question is for Derek and Luke – can you tell us a little bit about the audition process for your respective roles and some of the challenges you guys initially found stepping into these roles? 

KR – I previously worked with Jeff Reiner and Peter Berg on Friday Night Lights and then Trauma came up. I got a phone call, came in and met with Dario. We hit it off immediately and just started spit-balling ideas for the character. So it was nothing but a golden process for me. Of course, I did have to come in and test for the network, but probably my biggest challenge with the show has been a lot of the medicine and medical terminology. At the beginning of the season, though, it’s finding your character and something that’s going to speak to the people and just trying to tell this story of Tyler Briggs. 

DL – Kevin and I have a lot in common as far as behind-the-scenes. I’d worked with Peter Berg before, and then I met Jeffrey and Dario in the initial [audition] meeting. I was excited about playing Boone just because when I read the script there was so much meat and integrity in the words. Again, having worked with Peter on Friday Night Lights, this role was, like Kevin’s, a straight hire. One of the challenges for me besides the medicine was when I asked Pete, “What’s the difference with building a character on TV as opposed to in a movie?” He said, “You just have to play it moment by moment.” So I came in with a lot of questions, but I love the fact that we’re in different situations week-to-week. 

Dario, where did your inspiration for the series first come from, and what, for you, were some of the challanges getting Trauma off the ground? 

DS – Well, I’ll flat-out say that the inspiration was Emergency and the generation that grew up on that show. When Pete came to me about redoing or coming up with something that had the same kind of emergency medical adrenaline, it was just like, “Yeah, I have to.” I’d worked with NBC as well as Sarah Aubrey and Pete Berg quite a bit over the years, and this just seemed like something perfect. I’d never done a medical show before, and being the son of a doctor, the grandson of a doctor, the son of a nurse, the nephew of a doctor, and coming from an Italian American medical family where I am without a doubt the black sheep, it seemed like the right way to come up with a little off-center medical series. As far as the challanges of getting the series off the ground, they were the same ones that face just about any TV show. Our pilot was huge and perhaps kind of mis-sold as something about explosions and car wrecks, and now it’s a show about characters and this amazing group of people who go into the fray when others would run away. 

Kevin, what’s been the best argument Tyler and Boone have had so far, or which one is your favorite? 

KR – It’s just one continuous argument of who’s going to drive, who’s going to clean the rig,  and just these little nit-picky things between friends. I really don’t think it bothers Boone and Tyler too much. It’s just part of their MO [modus operandi]. However, you’re going to see in the next couple of episodes that when they do have arguments, that some lines will be drawn in the sand, but you can wipe those lines away real fast. So they’re always going to butt heads, but thing always come out in the wash and it’s always a good time with them. These guys are great friends and it’s a great friendship to see play out. I love it. 

DS – And their friendship will face a very, very big challenge in the final two episodes of the seasons. 

Dario, with so many medical dramas out there, what do you think might set Trauma apart from those and make people curious to tune in? 

DS – The bulk of our action takes place before you hit the double-doors of the emergency room, and I also think that we’ve avoided a lot of the tropes and clichés of many other shows. This is faster, funnier and a little bit weirder, and I mean that in a good way. Trauma also deals with street medicine; it deals with the medicine on the sidewalk, the medicine inside the cab of a rig. More importantly, what sets it apart from a lot of the medical shows out there, some of which came out of the same developmental season as us and have not stuck around, is that most of them rest on guest-star patient stories. So and so comes in and there’s a guest-star who has a horrible thing happen to him or her and it’s resolved at the end of 42 minutes. Our show rests on the job and the toll of the job and how it affects our core ensemble cast of characters. Trauma has a pretty unique tone, unlike most other medical shows. 

KR – We said right from the get-go that this was, you know, punk rock, not Burt Bacharach. I’ve definitely had that in the back of my mind from the beginning. 

DL – I love the energy and the current relationships. It seems like Trauma is very current and I think it takes a look at how our world affects us and how we affect our world. 

Kevin, how did you approach playing a gay character? Was it something that you were really conscious of, or did you not even think about it? 

KR – With any character, things like that are costuming to me. It’s wardrobe, because with every character that you play, you’re playing the human, and the heart of the character. I said from the beginning when I was approached to play a gay character that, like anything else, he’s going to be a guy who happens to be a paramedic who happens to be gay. I thought it was a unique opportunity to play it differently as opposed to putting this character into a stereotypical box that network television and a lot of other TV has done over the years. 

People see a very flamboyant, homosexual character on TV and then they go home and think, “Oh, I don’t know any gay people because that’s how gay people are.” But what they have to understand is that everyone knows someone who’s gay. They may not throw it in your face, they may not tell you about it, but I just thought this is a really unique way to get the message out there that, hey, we’re all the same. So I don’t think I approached this any differently than any other character I’ve played. In Friday Night Lights I was a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. If you saw me wheel into a scene, you forgot about that chair pretty quickly. You just saw the human, and I thought this is really great because we introduce Tyler at the beginning of the season and you don’t know he’s gay. 

Dario, you said earlier that maybe the show was sold incorrectly in the beginning, with it being about explosions and what not. Do you wish you had a do-over? 

DS – Not at all. The pilot process is kind of crazy and so breakneck, and way back when, even at the [network] upfront, I remember saying something, and thank God it’s still in print, about the fact that this isn’t a show about explosions, this is a show about people. In the cascade of 30-second soundbites and what you see in the first few minutes, it became evident that, wow, this show has a lot of crap blowing up. Now, though, we’re 10 episodes in – we’re shooting the 17th episode – and there’s a lot less stuff blowing up as far as cars and tankers, and more stuff blowing up amongst people, which I feel is more compelling. So I really hope that audiences give it a chance and dig in with these guys. I don’t think people come to television for spectacle. I don’t really have much fun writing spectacle for television. I’ll do that in features. 

Are you able to tease us a little bit as to what might happen should there be a season two of the show? 

DS – Well, season two will see all of our characters in a different place, quite literally and figuratively. Some will remain where they are in terms of inside the box – again, literally, the medical rig – while others are going to have to forge new paths, to sound really vague. Let’s just say that all bets are off in season two. You’ll notice by the end of the first season, that one of the characters isn’t around, and what happens with that and the ripples that that has for everybody’s lives are going to play out in season two. I’ve got the first three episodes of the second season kind of sketched out in my head, and I really hope we have the opportunity to make them. 

Dario, at one point we’d heard the show was cancelled, and then it was back and you were given more episodes. What has this been like psychologically for you and the cast to go through as far as we’re on again, off again, we’re here, we’re there, etc? 

DS – Honestly, it’s been amazing because it’s brought us together. It’s made the actors speak up about what they want to do and they’ve been our partners in this. And I have to say that we’ve got the best crew ever. I was on-set a week ago when we were at the end of a 14-hour day and I looked around and the entire cast was there. We were filming some additional footage for our very first episode back [after the 2010 Olympics] and it felt wonderful. We’ve survived the odds, you know? We thought we were off the air after 10 episodes and here we are getting ready to do 20. Talk about a great feeling.

As noted above, photo by Paul Drinkwater and copyright of NBC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Heroes Season Finale on NBC – 02 – 08 – 10

February 8, 2010

Samuel (Robert Knepper) moves ahead with his plan in Heroes' fourth season finale. Photo copyright of NBC

SPOILER ALERT!! – In Heroes‘ climactic season finale, everyone bands together in an effort to stop Samuel (Robert Knepper) from taking the lives of thousands. Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) joins forces with his most unexpected ally to save Emma (guest-star Deanna Bray). Meanwhile, H.R.G.’s (Jack Coleman) life hangs in the balance as he and Claire (Hayden Panettiere) find themselves trapped underground with oxygen quickly running out. Elsewhere, Hiro (Masi Oka) starts to come to grips with the decisions he has made and is called into action to help stop a disaster. Greg Grunberg, Ali Larter, Zachary Quinto and James Kyson Lee also star, with Ray Park, Elizabeth Rohm, David H. Lawrence XVII, Harry Perry and Todd Stashwick also guest-starring. Brave New World airs Monday, February 8th @ 9:oo p.m. EST on NBC

As noted above, photo courtesy of and copyright of NBC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Heroes’ James Kyson Lee – Lightning Man

February 7, 2010

James Kyson Lee as Ando Masahasi on Heroes. Photo copyright of NBC

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. 

There is never a dull moment for Hiro (Masi Oka) and Ando as they try to help save the world. Photo by Justin Lubin and copyright of NBC

“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. 

Ando and Hiro admire their Dial A Hero sign! Photo by Justin Lubin and copyright of NBC

“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.” 

Hiro follows closely behind as Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) takes Ando for a ride in "Close To You." Photo by Chris Haston and copyright of NBC

Ando uses his ability to break Hiro and Suresh out of the mental hospital. Photo by Chris Haston and copyright of NBC

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 takes a trip through Hiro's subsconscious in "Pass/Fail." Photo by Chris Haston and copyright of NBC

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. 

Ando and Hiro take on a new heroic challenge in "Brave New World." Photo by Chris Haston and copyright of NBC

“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. 

Steve Eramo 

As noted above, photos by Chris Haston or Justin Lubin and copyright of NBC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Heroes’ Robert Knepper – Mover And Shaker

February 2, 2010

Robert Knepper as Heroes' Samuel Sullivan. Photo by Chris Huston and copyright of NBC

 

Murder, kidnapping and rape are among the most heinous crimes committed by racist and pedophile Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell. Once described by TV Guide magazine as “one of the creepiest characters on television,” T-Bag became a very familiar face to Prison Break fans around the world thanks to the talented Robert Knepper. For four seasons, he kept viewers guessing as to what his character would get up to next, and when the show ended last year, the actor began looking for a new creative outlet. He was soon cast as Samuel Sullivan in season four of Heroes. The leader of Sullivan Bros. Carnival, Samuel has the ability to control earth and other minerals with his mind. Playing someone with super powers could not have been more different from T-Bag, but Knepper was determined to make this character just as memorable for audiences.    

“When I first met with Dennis Hammer [executive producer] we talked about Samuel not being a stereotypical character,” says Knepper. “I learned a long time ago from a great acting teacher of mine in New York to always play the opposite. Don’t play a bad guy like a bad guy, don’t play a doctor like a doctor, don’t play a cop like a cop, etc. The stereotypical carnival barker is someone who is kind of oily and sleazy and is like, ‘Step right up, step right up, see him walk, see him talk.’ That type of thing, you know?    

“At this point I didn’t even have any ideas yet visually about Samuel, but Dennis and I talked about him being charismatic, magnetic and magnanimous, like a rock star. Samuel has to entice these people with powers to get them to come over to his side because he realizes that he’s more powerful with them around him. His abilities increase exponentially as a result of that. I suppose he could have just coerced them in obvious ways – hey, you’re going to join me or I’ll kill you – but then you would have had half a season of Heroes and not a full one,” jokes the actor. “But I think Samuel is smart enough to realize that it’s better to entice these people and get them to say, ‘Hey, thank you, Samuel, for helping me realize something in my redemptive path that I really need to look at. Now, how can I pay you back?’    

Samuel welcomes you into his world in "Hysterical Blindness." Photo by Trae Patton and copyright of NBC

 

“So Dennis and I talked about all this in our initial meeting and I realized that this was a really interesting character. From there, I began thinking about what Samuel would look like, and Keith Richards kept coming to mind. Why do rock-‘n’-roll musicians sometimes wear facial make-up onstage? When you’re, say, an accountant, you don’t do that when you go to work. I come from the theater where you want the audience to see your eyes in the back row, but some of these guys go over the top. KISS wore all this make-up and created a certain look for themselves, so I thought, ‘Well, it may or may not be explained why Samuel does this,’ like the nail polish thing that I came up with, but these guys [the Heroes producers] were great. They let me experiment and would pull me back if they felt I was going a bit overboard with the make-up, but it was always a collaborative effort from the get-go.    

“I think they knew and know that I’m a team player and a true storyteller. I love being part of telling a story, and when you’re in the theater or on television, at least the kind of television that I like to work on, that’s a true collaboration. And I have to say that the people on Heroes took a lot of my ideas and ran with them. When we were shooting the last [season four] episode, Tim Kring [series creator/executive producer] came up to me and said, ‘I just want to thank you because we have such a great time writing for you.’ And I said to him, ‘I had a great time saying your words, buddy.’ When you have that kind of collaboration, the writers love writing for you. Also, on Heroes, they know I don’t look ahead. I’m right there in the moment with the scripts. What’s right there on the page is what I’m concerned with and nothing more. So it really was such a terrific start with these guys, and by the time we got to the end of filming, there were a lot of good feelings bubbling around.”    

Making his debut in Heroes‘ fourth season opener, Orientation, Samuel Sullivan is seen giving a speech at his brother’s funeral. He tells his fellow carnival workers – who also have special powers – that they are his true family and that the outside world does not understand them. Using his power to cover his brother’s grave with dirt, Samuel later goes to see Lydia (Dawn Olivieri), an empath who can sense the wishes and desires of others. In this and in later episodes, he uses her abilities to show him others with powers who can help him expand his family. Although Knepper had made some decisions on how to play Samuel, there were still one or two aspects of the character he needed to tweak.    

Samuel consults Lydia (Dawn Olivieri) as fellow carnie, Edgar (Ray Park), looks on. Photo by Chris Huston and copyright of NBC

 

“My challenge with this character, as with any character, was to make him believable so as not to look so damn silly as you’re standing there causing an earthquake with your clenched fists,” he says. “Samuel’s accent was a huge challenge for me. I always work with Tim Monich [dialect coach] and try to make the time to prepare and get it [the accent] down. I remember when I did [the feature film] Hitman in Bulgaria during one of the hiatuses from Prison Break. I worked for a bit over here with Tim and then I studied with a guy in Bulgaria for a couple of weeks before we began filming. I thought, ‘People know me all over the world as T-Bag from Prison Break, and now I want to be Russian. I want to be as freakin’ Russian as I can.’ When I did press for that movie, I met a French journalist in New York, and his first comment was, ‘Where did they get that Russian guy who looks a lot like T-Bag.’ I thought, ‘Yes!’    

“With Hitman I had time to study the accent, but with Samuel it was frustrating because I had to jump in right away. Early on I had this crazy idea of making him Irish, or not necessarily Irish but coming from someplace in the British Isles, maybe a little Scottish, maybe a little of Northern England. There’s kind of an Old World feeling to Samuel because he’s not your average guy walking down the street. This is someone with powers who is suddenly discovering them over the years. If, when he was a child, Samuel had known about his abilities, he probably would have destroyed half the world, but if his brother had told him about it, then maybe he wouldn’t have been so destructive. Who knows?    

“Anyway, the fact that my character had these powers made him seem timeless, and there’s something timeless about British accents, but I didn’t have any time to call Tim [Kring] about it. I actually phoned him after we began filming and apologized to him, saying, ‘I’m just kind of winging it [the accent].’ I’ve done quite a few English dialects over the years in the theater, but never Irish.    

The charismatic, magnetic and magnanimous Samuel. Photo by Adam Taylor and copyright of NBC

 

“I remember going down to Comic-Con and telling the people there, ‘You’re going to watch me discover Samuel as we go along. This is not a fully fleshed-out character, especially dialect-wise.’ And the thing is, a lot of these fans are the same fans who watched Prison Break, so I just hoped that they’d forgive me for that because I was experimenting. But at least I had the guts to experiment in front of them, almost like it was theater. I’d say that by about a third of the way through the season, I found my footing. So Samuel’s look didn’t change, but his dialect did.’    

What did the actor think about his character’s powers and filming scenes where Samuel uses them? “I like how the writers wrote about the power of moving earth,” notes Knepper. “That’s how it was described to me. What’s Samuel’s power? He can move earth. Then, of course, it went from this nice sweet simple act of Samuel moving his arms and covering up his brother’s coffin, to covering up seeds he planted in the ground [Hysterical Blindness], and then, [in Strange Attractors] him saying, ‘I can’t believe you’ve hurt one of my own. I’m going to bring down the police station.’ And before that [in Ink] when Samuel destroys the house where he and Joseph grew up and later became its caretakers, all because the owner wouldn’t let him into the backyard.    

“So you don’t want to upset this guy because he will do something destructive, and as the season goes on, Samuel becomes angrier and angrier as more and more things are revealed to him. When it comes to shooting the scenes where he uses his powers, you’ve just got to pretend. You have to stand there and think, ‘I’m believing all this is real.’ It’s described to you [in the script] how to look, but even then you don’t know for sure. It’s more about a feeling you have as opposed to what you’re really seeing.”    

Samuel Sullivan - one man who literally can make the earth move! Photo by Adam Taylor and copyright of NBC

 

Among the heroes (and villains) that Samuel tries to lure into his carnival family are Claire Bennet (Hayden Panetterie), Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka) and the psychotic Sylar (Zachary Quinto), who, while suffering from amnesia, stumbles upon Samuel’s carnival in Hysterical Blindness. “The thing with Sylar is that Zach and I first met when I was doing Prison Break,” says Knepper. “We were in this issue of Entertainment Weekly as some of TV’s best villains, along with people like Vanessa Williams from Ugly Betty and James Callis from Battlestar Galactica. We were all brought together for this photo shoot, and because I don’t watch TV I didn’t know who any of these other actors were, but it was just nice to be included in this group.    

“I did, however, know that Zach was in Heroes, and then later when I came on the show, I thought, ‘This is kind of fun. Here are these two heavyweights [Sylar and T-Bag] going up against each other.’ So it was a little surreal. Our characters were famous from our [respective] TV shows, but now we were together. It was like a big-time wrestling match; in this corner is Sylar, and in the other corner, Samuel,” chuckles the actor. “Zach is a cool guy, and even though people go nuts for him because of the Star Trek film [in which Quinto plays Mr. Spock] as well as Heroes, he’s totally unpretentious about the whole thing.    

“As far as the storyline with Sylar and Samuel, I’m not sure the writers knew exactly where they wanted to take that. Sometimes he would get Sylar in his clutches, and then Sylar would disappear and then come back. I think that’s still got to be fleshed out as far as what happens with it. Ultimately, though, I feel that Sylar will become as much a hero as he can be and be part of taking down Samuel. However, I’m not sure yet if they [the writers] know whether they want to do that or not. It would be kind of nice to leave it hanging as far as, oh, you thought you saw that bad boy [Sylar]. Well, take a look at this bad boy [Samuel], and you’ve got them both on the same show. At the same time, I don’t know if Sylar and Samuel could ever come together because they might be a bit too narcissistic.”    

Sylar (Zachary Quinto) and Samuel. Photo by Trae Patton and copyright of NBC

 

In the fourth season Heroes episode Thanksgiving, viewers are given further glimpses into Samuel’s and his brother Joseph’s (Andrew Connolly) past. Since childhood, Joseph, who was also an evolved human with the power to cause others to lose control of their abilities and render them unconscious, had kept his younger brother from ever fully realizing his abilities in order to prevent him from wreaking havoc. When Samuel discovered that Joseph lied to him, it led to the fight where he accidentally murdered him.    

“It’s funny, after I was cast as Samuel, I found out that it had been between me and another actor, and the next thing I heard was that this other actor [Andrew Connolly] would be playing Joseph,” recalls Knepper. “I thought, ‘Oh, this is going to be awkward,’ but Andrew turned out to be really cool. He’s the real McCoy, meaning he’s Irish, and just the sweetest man. On our first day working together, Andrew came up to me and said, ‘They gave me a few episodes to watch and your Irish is terrific. You’re an amazing actor and I’m just really honored to work with you.’    

“So Andrew was incredible, and I learned so much from him about Samuel. We had that great scene together where our two characters go out in the field and they fight. Samuel is so upset and he throws a rock and hits Joseph in the neck. But he didn’t throw that rock to kill him. Samuel threw it because he was so angry, and then it was like, ‘Oh, crap, I killed him.’ That scene was so well done in how it was filmed and written to say, no, no, no, it was not the intention to kill him. Damn you, Joseph, I hate you so much that I feel like killing you, but I don’t really want to kill you. I just want to let you know how mad I am.    

In an effort to discover his true self, Samuel inadvertently kills the one person he ever truly cared about. Photo by Justin Lubin and copyright of NBC

 

“Joseph was everything to Samuel. He was his world, he was his mentor, he was his father, and he was his leader. At the same time, Samuel couldn’t believe that his brother kept this information from him. How dare Joseph hold this back from him and not let Samuel reach his full potential. How could he not have found a way to tell his brother? All this stuff is fantastic in Shakespearean-like or Greek tragedy-like proportions, and really neat to play. And Andrew was terrific to work with from start to finish.”    

In last week’s Heroes episode, The Act of Deception, Claire returns to the carnival to try to talk Samuel into surrendering to her father, Noah (Jack Coleman), who is coming for him. Samuel agrees, but unknown to Claire or Noah, he betrays them and uses Noah’s attempt to capture him as a ploy to further convince the other carnies that they must help him create a new world where all evolved humans will be accepted. Filming this episode as well as the final few season four Heroes stories was especially satisfying for Knepper.    

“The best thing about working on an ensemble show is that most shows shoot around eight days [per episode], but Heroes shoots 10 or 11 days as well as shoots simultaneously with other episodes,” explains the actor. “When I was on Prison Break I’d work three or four days out of eight, so I got a lot of time to spend with my family. These last three or four episodes of Heroes were over two months worth of work. I swear I worked every day, sometimes all night long, but as a result, I got to feel what it’s like to be number one on the call sheet, and it didn’t feel like an ensemble. It was like I had this weight on my shoulders, and I proudly took it. I thought, ‘I’m going to take this season to the finish line,’ and I loved it.    

Samuel and Edgar in the Heroes fourth season finale "Brave New World." Photo by Trae Patton and copyright of NBC

 

“Probably my biggest challenge was finding the energy as well as time to memorize my lines and just stay afloat. But I was like a boxer in the ring and thinking, ‘Come on, come on, bring it on. What else have you got for me?’ In these last few episodes everything comes to a climax in regard to Samuel’s powers along with his anger, frustration and revenge. It boils over the top and is very intense.”    

Born in Fremont, Ohio, Knepper was nine years old when he joined a community children’s theatre group, the Back Alley Kids and performed in plays during the summertime. At home, the actor’s parents both played piano, and rather than television, their nightly entertainment was standing around the piano and singing. Knepper’s father is a veterinarian, and the actor always thought that he would one day take over his dad’s practice.    

“But I never stopped having fun [performing onstage],” says Knepper. “Luckily, my parents didn’t discourage me from having fun, and they didn’t encourage me, either. When I was in high school I was auditioning and doing college plays, so it just seemed like a natural conclusion that I would go into the theater.    

“When I was studying at Northwestern University I did an English play called The Ruling Class, which my mom and dad came to see. This particular night just happened to be amazing; it was the first time I ever got a standing ovation. And my dad was so sweet. Before he and my mom came backstage, he sent me a note that read, ‘I think you’re doing the right thing.’ So they were always supportive of my decision.”    

While attending Northwestern, Knepper worked professionally onstage, and after two years he moved to New York City where he continued performing in the theater. The actor was around 25 years old when he relocated again, this time to Los Angeles, to pursue feature film and eventually TV work. That’s Life!, Wild Thing, Species III and The Day the Earth Stood Still are among his movie credits, while on the small screen Knepper has guest-starred on such shows as Star Trek: The Next Generation, ER, Law and Order: Criminal Intent and CSI: Miami as well as played recurring characters on Presidio Med and Carnivale.    

Robert Knepper's Prison Break alter ego - Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell. Photo by Greg Gayne and copyright of Fox

 

Prison Break is what put me on the map, though, and I haven’t looked back since,” says the actor. “T-Bag had so much in his past as well as so much he was fighting against and wanted. Of course, there was the need to cover all that up because he was a wanted criminal. He had escaped from prison, so he needed to be charming. Some of the funniest damn lines I’ve ever said acting-wise came with that role, too. T-Bag was kind of like the show’s Don Rickles,” he jokes, ” and that was a hell of a lot of fun. It’s the same sort of thing with Samuel. Again, you peel the layers of the onion away, but you don’t wear it on your sleeve. You don’t walk around saying, ‘Look at me, I’m a wounded guy. Oh, forgive me.’ Samuel would kick T-Bag’s butt, except for the fact that he’s just as wounded.”    

Steve Eramo 

As noted above, photos by Adam Taylor, Trae Patton, Justin Lubin, Chris Huston or Greg Gayne and copyright of NBC or Fox, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Heroes’ Greg Grunberg – Man On A Trapeze

January 27, 2010

Greg Grunberg as Matt Parkman in Heroes. Photo copyright of NBC

Do you know the old saying, “No good deed goes unpunished?” It is one that Matt Parkman perhaps should have heeded at the end of Heroes‘ third year. The good-natured and often put-upon law enforcement officer, who also happens to possess telepathic powers, thought he finally had the chance to start a normal life with his wife Janice and baby son, Matt Jr. Then, however, Noah Bennet and Angela Petrelli talked Matt into using his ability to help them get rid of Sylar. As a result, Matt not only wound up with a guilty conscience, but, at the start of season four, Sylar’s psychotic consciousness stuck inside his head as well. Yes, it was yet more angst for our reluctant hero to contend with, but Greg Grunberg, who plays Matt, readily embraced the new acting challenge. 

“Well, first of all, the end of season three was exciting for me because suddenly Matt was the one who they turned to in order to level Sylar, which was awesome,” enthuses Grunberg. “I love how we play things on this show, in that most of the time they’re character-driven and we try to keep it that way. So going into this particular story arc, I knew it would be good. However, Matt wasn’t happy about doing this. It was something he had never done before and he knew there would be repercussions. Although he was thrown into this, it was also something he chose to do. And, of course, when we’re burning the body [in the third season finale An Invisible Thread], Matt knows it’s not really Sylar, and he’s carrying that secret with him. 

“Then at the beginning of season four, when Angela [Christine Rose] calls Matt and says, ‘Things didn’t go as planned; we need your help again,’ it’s like, crap! He’s not happy about it and doesn’t want to go back. Once again, all Matt wants to do is try to lead a normal life, which is exactly what inspired Tim Kring [Heroes executive producer] to create this show after he saw [the feature film] The Incredibles. The thing is, no matter what you try to do, when you’re ‘special’ and have these powers, you’re going to get called upon, and when push comes to shove, you’re going to have to step up to the plate. As much as Matt tries to go back to that normal life, he can’t. He always gets pulled back into this one. 

“There are themes in Heroes that are very consistent and, as this season has gone on, the focus for my character is that he will do whatever necessary to protect his family. This goes back to season two and what happened with Matt’s father [Maury Parkman, played by Alan Blumfeld], which was a powerful moment for my character. Matt realized that his father had all this power and did whatever it took in order to save their family. But then Matt had to take him down. This year, it’s another powerful moment for Matt when he realizes, ‘By killing myself, I’ll kill Sylar [Zachary Quinto], because if I don’t, he’s going to go on killing people, maybe even my own family.’ So towards the end of this season you’re going to see Matt do some really dark things that you wouldn’t expect from him.” 

With Matt's (Greg Grunberg) help, Noah (Jack Coleman) and Angela (Christine Rose) prepare to carry out their plan to deal with Sylar in "An Invisible Thread." Photo by Trae Patton and copyright of NBC

Turning down Angela Petrelli’s request for additional help in the season four Heroes opener Orientation, Matt is shocked when Sylar appears, but only he can see him. In the following episode, Jump, Push, Fall, Sylar tells Matt that he is part of his mind and has no intentions of leaving until he is reunited with his body. Matt tries to ignore Sylar, but the psychopath’s relentless taunting starts to adversely affect him. Sylar’s hold on Matt strengthens when, in Ink, he uses Matt’s powers against him, causing the detective to almost beat a suspected drug dealer to death. 

“What I love about this story is that Sylar consciously or subconsciously tapped into Matt’s darkest and biggest fear, which goes back to my character discovering Molly,” explains Grunberg. “It really mirrored what happened back in season one when he found the little girl under the stairs, but this time when Matt found her, she was dead. That was something Sylar tricked him into seeing. For a second, Matt let his guard down when he and Sylar are in the bathroom and Sylar says to him, ‘Look at this house. I mean, you’re a cop. I don’t know any kid who you would raise in a house like this.’ Then he shows Matt the doll and he’s like, ‘Put it all together.’ 

“There are so many moments of huge suspension of disbelief in our show, but this is not one of them. Here’s a cop trying to do his job and being nagged by an image and a person only he can see and hear and who’s giving him clues he can’t ignore. Matt has to deal with this, which was really great for me acting-wise, and it was hard, too. The stuff I do on the show is difficult because I always try to play it as real as possible. However, if you were talking to someone and suddenly they tilted their head and looked at you funny, you couldn’t help but comment on it and ask, ‘What’s the matter?’ So there’s that fine line of Matt talking to Sylar and at the same time trying to keep other people from noticing he’s doing so. Those sorts of complex scenes are always so interesting as well as fun to do.” 

Matt contemplates his next move in "Ink." Photo by Chris Haston and copyright of NBC

Matt is about to lose his cool with Jimmy Keppler (Daniel Newman) as Sylar (Zachary Quinto) looks on in "Ink." Photo by Chris Haston and copyright of NBC

Was it hard for the actor to shoot the scenes in which Matt physically abuses his suspect, Jimmy Keppler (Daniel Newman)? “Yes and no,” says the actor. “I mean, we all have our rage, and if I want I can get to a dark place pretty quickly. Years ago I did an episode of NYPD Blue and I learned something from Dennis Franz [Detective Andy Sipowicz]. He drowned my character in a bar sink, and when we did the scene, he was getting super-physical with it. I remember saying, ‘Dennis, I’ve got it. I’ll go down and you can just put your hand on my head.’ He said to me, ‘Look, man, when they roll the cameras, I bring the evil.’ I thought, ‘Wow, what a great line.’ Obviously, Dennis did it in a way that he wasn’t hurting me, but he was just saying that he really embodied his character. 

“So in Heroes it ended up not being too tough for me to take everything I had out on this guy. For Matt to come in, realize, oh, my God, she’s dead, and then just ramp it up as he’s walking towards this guy and yelling, ‘What did you do to her!’ was terrific to play. From the camera angles, what’s interesting is that the slaps and punches were a foot-and-a-half away from the other actor’s [Daniel Newman] head, but it still really looked violent. In-between scenes, they [the make-up artists] came in, added [fake] blood and then we carried on, so it turned out great.” 

Along with Ink, another favorite episode for the actor to have worked on this season is Strange Attractors in which Matt thinks he has found a way to suppress Sylar’s influence on him. “There’s one scene, in particular, where Matt is packing to leave and Sylar is in the room with him, but Matt’s wife Janice [Lisa Lackey] doesn’t know Sylar is there,” says Grunberg. “She asks Matt, ‘Where are you going?’ He tells her, ‘I’ve got to get out of here.’ Matt then explains to Janice what he did [with regard to Sylar]. Janice offers, instead, to leave and take the baby somewhere safe, and Matt says, ‘Sssh, he’ll hear you. Don’t tell me where you’re going so he [Sylar] won’t know.’ Here’s a guy who is about to go crazy and his wife who loves him seeing that craziness building inside him. I love that scene. 

Fighting to be your typical, average family - Matt, Matt Jr. and Janice (Lisa Lackey). Photo by Chris Haston and copyright of NBC

“Also in this episode is Matt out-drinking Sylar, which is kind of cool. Some people made the comment, ‘It’s that easy. You just go and get drunk,’ but if you stop and think about it, no, it wasn’t that easy. Matt got inside Sylar’s head and found a weakness. He discovered what really meant something to him and took advantage of it. So it had layers to it, but on the surface it was like, oh, that’s all it takes to get Sylar to disappear from your head. Just drink until you pass out. 

“So I thought that was interesting, but the scene with Matt and Janice, going into it, I didn’t see it being as deep as it turned out to be. When, however, she looked at me, and it was her looking into her husband’s eyes and [reassuringly] going, ‘Ok, ok,’ but meanwhile thinking, ‘Dear God, I’m losing him,’ that was wonderful to play. 

“With this show I feel like I’m working on a trapeze with the strongest, safest, softest and most comfortable net below me because Tim Kring, Dennis Hammer [executive producer] and all the writers and editors are just so good. I can do something and know, OK, it’s on film and, yes, perhaps the network will see a take that I’m not thrilled about, but you’ve got to be willing to take chances to come up with some great stuff. You can’t second-guess yourself and think, ‘Maybe I should try this, but if I do it might not work.’ Who cares? Just do it. It’s only film, and with film they’re only going to use what works. But you’ve got to trust the people making those decisions, and I do.” 

Matt and Sylar are confronted by the police outside the Burnt Toast Diner in "Shadowboxing." Photo by Trae Patton and copyright of NBC

Unfortunately, Matt’s drinking is only a temporary solution to his problem. At the end of Strange Attractors, Sylar retaliates by taking over Matt’s body, and in the following episode, Shadowboxing, Sylar goes off in search of his own body. He ends up at the Burnt Toast Diner, where Matt reveals to Sylar that he, Noah (Jack Coleman) and Angela “transformed” him into Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar). While at the diner, Matt uses his power to make Sylar unwittingly write down on a napkin that he has a gun and he’s going to use it to kill everyone. Sylar then hands the napkin to a waitress, and when he eventually walks outside, the police are waiting. Matt tricks Sylar into pretending that he is taking a gun out of his jacket, forcing the police to shoot him. 

Matt uses his powers to "persuade" Sylar to act in a threatening manner towards the police in "Shadowboxing." Photo by Trae Patton and copyright of NBC

“For that scene, Zach and I each had 12 squibs on us,” recalls Grunberg. “I’d never had that many squibs on me before. I’ve been shot on Alias as well as in movies and the most I’ve ever had is four squibs, which is a lot of explosive charges to have on your chest. So we did the scene and Zach gets shot, then I step in and get shot, but they never showed Matt getting hit. They only showed my character lying on the ground with blood around him. Sylar was the only one who you actually see taking the bullets. In my mind I thought they were going to do a fade-across dissolve [shot] where it would show Sylar getting shot and then, as it fades, it’s Matt being shot, but they didn’t do that. 

Matt intends to sacrifice his own life by goading the police into shooting Sylar in "Shadowboxing." Photo by Trae Patton and copyright of NBC

“I remember watching the scene when I was doing looping for the episode, and I called Tim and asked him, ‘What happened? I’m not getting shot.’ And he said, ‘What are you talking about? Sure you are.’ In fact, they had made a decision in the editing room, which Tim had forgotten about, and that was they wanted to make it seem like Sylar was really gone. Had they shown me being shot, there might have been a question in some peoples’ minds that, oh, maybe it was just Matt who got shot and Sylar didn’t die. I thought, ‘I went through all those squibs and they didn’t even show it,'” chuckles the actor. “Stuff like that, though, is like playing cowboys and Indians. It’s a dream for anybody, let alone an actor, to do something like that, and I had a ball.” 

Poor Matt is down for the count in "Shadowboxing," but only temporarily. Photo by Trae Patton and copyright of NBC

Peter (Milo Ventimiglia), Matt, Nathan (Adrian Pasdar) and Sylar have an unexpected reunion in "Brother's Keeper." Photo by Chris Haston and copyright of NBC

Lucky for Matt, Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia) comes to the hospital in Brother’s Keeper and uses his replicated power to heal Matt. However, his “brother” Nathan (a.k.a. the transformed Sylar) is with him and, during a fight between him and Peter, Nathan brushes Matt’s hand. Matt suddenly finds himself back in his body and, apparently, Sylar has returned to his own body as well. Despite his character’s life and death struggle, Grunberg did not mind having Matt share his mind with Sylar. 

“Knowing I was going to be working with Zach as much as I did was a treat,” he says. “He’s the greatest. Zach and I have known each other for a long time and we’re very close, so right away I knew that this was going to be fantastic. And we have a shorthand with each other where we step on each other’s lines. I do the same thing with Adrian and a bunch of other actors on the show because we’re so familiar with one another. 

“At the same time, Zach has a really specific quality to his character and I wanted to try to embody that in certain things I did. In the airport scene [in Shadowboxing] where Sylar takes over Matt’s body, I suddenly kind of bring my brow down. There’s this look that Zach has about him and a very intense quality that he brings to his character that I wanted to try to copy, even in little moments like that, but in doing so I didn’t want to go over the top.” 

Matt's journey could have ended in "Shadowboxing," but he lives to fight another day, beginning in "Close to You." Photo by Trae Patton and copyright of NBC

With Sylar finally out of his mind, Matt is reunited with his wife and son, but in Close to You, Noah comes to Matt’s house and asks him for help to find Samuel (Robert Knepper), who is bringing together heroes for his own private agenda. At first, Matt refuses, but when Noah plants the seed that Samuel could one day come for Parkman’s son, Matt realizes that, once again, he has no choice but to lend a hand. Having worked with Zachary Quinto for much of the season, Grunberg looked forward to sharing some screen time now with Jack Coleman. 

“Jack is an amazing actor and it’s always great working with him. On the flip side, though, his character is someone who I strapped to a chair in a motel room, and now Matt is trusting him again, just like he trusted Peter, just like he trusted whoever,” says the actor. “These alliances keep getting to toxic levels and then suddenly we’re like, well, OK, it’s all fine with these guys. So it’s been a little crazy, but at the same time we’re all fighting for ourselves. It’s dog-eat-dog, and after a while a pack of dogs is more powerful than any single dog, so you’ve kind of got to go with it. 

“So at the beginning of the episode, Noah is pulling Matt out of his house, and then at the end, my character tells him, ‘Look, that’s it. Go home. I’m done with this.’ But like I said before, it gets very dark from here on in, not only with Matt, and I think people are going to like what’s coming up.” 

Having been a series regular before on Alias and Felicity, the actor has once again enjoyed the opportunity to walk for an extended period of time in Matt Parkman’s shoes and seeing his character grow and develop on Heroes. “When we first met Matt, he was quite lonely,” notes Grunberg. “His relationship at home was falling apart; he sort of had a clue as to why, but not really. Then, however,  he found out that his wife was cheating on him, so he couldn’t have been more alone at that moment. 

Father and son - Matt and Matt Jr. Photo by Chris Haston and copyright of NBC

“From there, Matt just wanted to figure out who did this to him [gave him his telepathic abilities], and in doing so, he discovered these other people who are very much like him. All of a sudden my character realized what it was he truly wanted, but then it was a case of be careful what you wish for. Matt became a John McClane [referring to Bruce Wills’ Die Hard character] and has been thrust into something he’s really not prepared for. He’s learning how to control his abilities, while at the same time discovering just how huge a deal this superhero stuff is. 

“So my character has basically gone from being alone, to going on this journey of discovery, and then finding his dad and realizing that all this is part of his destiny and there’s no turning back. Matt is now at the point where he can’t trust anyone, and the way I’ve tended to play it – and the writers haven’t really written to it in a while – is that this is a vicious cycle and he sees it happening all over again. Matt has powers and look what’s happened to his life, and now his son has powers, so what’s going to happen to him? Matt just wants to break this cycle and live that normal life, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.” 

Besides his heroic endeavors as Matt Parkman in Heroes, Grunberg has also been busy with various other projects, including two films, one of which is called Group Sex

Group Sex is something I co-wrote and co-produced with Laurence Trilling, who is working on [the TV series] Parenthood at the moment and who I worked with on Alias as well as Felicity,” says the actor. “He’s a good friend of mine and a really talented guy and we made this movie independently. I’m starring in it along with Henry Winkler, Tom Arnold, Josh Cooke, Odette Yustman, Kym Whitley, Robbie Benedict and James Denton. Hayden Panettiere [Clare Bennet in Heroes] has a part in it, too, and so does Dania Ramirez [Maya Herrera in Heroes]. 

A rockin' Greg Grunberg! Photo courtesy of and copyright of The Lippin Group

“It’s a romantic comedy that takes place in a sexaholic recovery group, and I play this guy who belongs in this group, but is the best friend of a guy who wanders into the group. My character’s friend follows a girl who he finds attractive into the back room of a church and, all of a sudden, he’s in the middle of this group being led by Henry Winkler, who’s standing there saying, ‘I’m addicted to sex.’ The film really turned out well and we’re currently working out a distribution deal. I cannot wait for it to get out there because the title alone should intrigue people enough to want to see it, but the movie really does deliver. 

“I also did Kill Speed, which is another independent movie but it was financed by a group of fighter pilots, so we got to use all their jets as well as received cooperation from the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] and airports. We also got military cooperation, which you normally can’t get. It’s the first film since Top Gun that actually has practical filming of air-to-air combat. The shots in the movie are unbelievable and they’re all real, like planes screaming between buildings in downtown Los Angeles, and a jet fighter following one of the these fiberglass planes that are used to transport drugs. 

“I play a government agent who’s calling the shots from underground and trying to get these drug runners. So for me it was coming in for two or three intense days of shooting where I was looking at monitors and yelling, ‘Come on, get ’em! Get ’em!’ It was more like a callback to my Alias days than anything else, but I had a really fun time doing the movie and I think people are going to enjoy it. 

“I’ve also got this iPhone application out there that’s been exploding and doing really well. It’s called Yowza!! and the website for it is getyowza.com. It’s a free application, and you just press Yowza!! on your iPhone, iPod Touch, Palm Pre, Android, Blackberry, etc., and it knows your location and brings up all the stores, restaurants and businesses around you along with all their coupons and deals. So you never have to clip coupons again or look for the best deal by walking the mall. When you’re in a mall, press Yowza!! and it’ll show you, closest to farthest away, where the best deals are.” 

Husband, dad, talented actor and all-around nice guy, Greg Grunberg. Photo courtesy of and copyright of The Lippin Group

While there has been no official announcement yet whether or not Heroes will return for a fifth year, Grunberg remains optimistic. “I definitely think we’re going to get the opportunity to properly end the series in one year, two years, whatever it may be,” he says. “A show like this is successful all over the world and on DVD, and in today’s TV business you’ve got to have that. If a program isn’t a hit around the world or if it doesn’t take advantage of ancillary markets out there, then it’s not going to survive. 

“When the time does come, I hope the characters can all band together – those who are still standing – and have some satisfaction that they’re doing the right thing. Ultimately, that’s what everyone wants to do, even the characters who do something bad. I mean, Ali Larter’s character [Niki/Jessica Sanders/Tracy Strauss] feels terrible when she does something bad, but she can’t help herself. So I hope we can all see that ultimate redemption – no pun intended. It’s a tall order to wrap it all up, but we’ll see how they [the producers/writers] do it. Like I said, though, hopefully it’ll be a couple of seasons from now.” 

Steve Eramo 

As noted above, photos by Chris Haston or Trae Patton and copyright of NBC or The Lippin Group, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Chuck’s Zachary Levi, Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak – Spy Stories

December 30, 2009

Zachary Levi (Chuck), Yvonne Strahovski (Sarah Walker) and Adam Baldwin (John Casey) in the season three Chuck episode "Chuck vs. the Three Words." Photo by Justin Lubin and copyright of NBC

NBC’s action-comedy series Chuck returns to the NBC lineup on Sunday, January 10th with all-new missions and two action-packed, back-to-back original episodes in its third season premiere (9-11:00 p.m. EST) before the series – starring Zachary Levi in the title role – moves to its regular day and time (Mondays 8-9:00 p.m. EST) beginning January 11th. 

In season three of Chuck, Chuck Bartowski continues as the Buy More electronics store computer geek who unwittingly becomes the government’s most vital secret agent. Chuck is transformed into the Intersect 2.0 after another data download into his brain. This time, he not only knows government secrets, but he is also well-equipped with deadly fighting skills. Chuck has the potential to become a real agent, but he has one problem – his emotions. Now he faces the battle of keeping his emotions in check in order to protect himself and the people around him. The ever-stoic Colonel John Casey (Adam Baldwin) returns with his partner Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski), one of the CIA’s top agents and Chuck’s dream girl. As Chuck assumes his new role as the Intersect 2.0, Casey and Sarah need to protect him but also help him become the agent he is destined to be. 

Also starring are Joshua Gomez as Morgan Grimes, Chuck’s best buddy; Sarah Lancaster as Chuck’s ever-supportive sister Ellie and Ryan McPartlin as Devon Woodcomb (also known as “Captain Awesome”), Ellie’s husband, while Chuck’s Buy More team consists of Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence) and the Nerd Herd, which includes Lester (Vik Sahay) and Jeff (Scott Krinsky). 

Earlier this month, Zachary Levi along with Chuck co-creators/executive producers Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak took some time out of their day to chat with myself and other journalists on a conference call. The following is an edited version of that Q & A. Enjoy! 

What do you think of Chuck being able to fight now? Do you like that for the character, and is it fun for you as an actor as well? 

Zachary Levi – As far as Chuck being able to fight this season, I like it very much as an actor and a man. For two years I kind of sat on the sidelines and watched Adam Baldwin and Yvonne Strahovski, Casey and Sarah respectively, kick bad guys’ butts and was very jealous of that. Not that Chuck should have been able to do it [fight] at that point; he was much better at running away or screaming like a little girl. But now that he has these new abilities, he’s able to kind of lend a hand in the kick butt-ery, if you will. I think that Chris and Josh along with our other writers have crafted that very well, and it’s really changed the dynamic of the show, or more specifically the dynamic of Chuck and who he is. He’s still the somewhat bumbling hero, and I think that’s what brings so much of the heart and general premise of the show and keeps that there. So although Chuck now has these abilities, they’re fleeting, they’re in and out, they’re glitchy. And that lends this new door that we walk through now, and lends itself to more action as well as comedy, which I think is good all the way around. It doesn’t, however, change the heart of the show. 

Is pretending to be in love with Yvonne like your easiest acting challenge? 

ZL – It’s pulling teeth [he says jokingly]. No, it’s not. It’s very good, man. I mean, Chuck has gotten to fall in love with a few women over the years, and some really, really, really beautiful women. And that certainly helps in your process as an actor, to have to pretend that you’re attracted to these girls. So, yeah, it’s a good deal. 

You guys have a lot of great guest-stars all the time and this season looks to be the same. Besides Brandon Routh and Kristen Kreuk, doing multiple episodes, I was wondering if you can talk about some of the guest-stars, like Vinnie Jones and Stone Cold Steve Austin, and what they’ll be playing? 

Josh Schwartz – We’ve lined up hopefully a really fun and eclectic group of actors. We have these episodes where we don’t have a lot of time to spend delving into the very complicated and intricate back stories of our villains, so we find these truly great actors who can come in and really make an impression very, very quickly and bring so much of their body of work to the roles. So, for example, Vinnie Jones, I don’t think he’s really done any television before, so he’s coming in and playing a bad guy and bringing that sort of Guy Ritchie-type villain energy to the show. Armand Asante is hilarious, too. 

Chris Fedak – When you’re trying to cast the Castro-like dictator, Armand Asante is the perfect guy. You don’t need a back story to prove that. It’s like he can literally be that person. Also, when it came to trying to find someone to be the kind of ominous soldier from Casey’s past – well, we just finished shooting an episode with Robert Patrick and he is just fantastic. 

Josh Schwartz – And if you’re Chick on a plane and you flash on a bad guy that you’re going to be trapped with on a plane that you have to then defeat, and that person is as terrifying as Stone Cold Steve Austin, then viewers really get to go on that journey with Chuck. 

CF – And Steve Austin is actually a very nice man. 

JS – As for Brandon Routh and Kristin Kreuk’s characters, they’re obstacles for Chuck and Sarah, but we didn’t want to just bring in characters to merely be obstacles. I think you’ll find that the way that they interact in the spy story lines, and certainly in the case of Brandon’s character, is going to reveal complications and secrets throughout the season. 

Obviously fans were very excited when NBC announced that you’d be coming back in January rather than March. I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about the conversations that you had with NBC about why you were coming back early. And did you ever talk about perhaps being on another night other than the Uber-competitive Monday night in the 8:00 p.m. time slot? 

JS – Well, it was an evolving conversation. I mean, we were getting our information not that far ahead of when you guys were. And sometimes the opposite was true, where oftentimes we would learn about our fate from the blogs for answers of when we were coming back. We were actually thrilled to be coming back in January, because we’re the only thing premiering in January for the network, and we’ve all been really excited and impressed by the amount of promotion the network has thrown behind the show this year. We feel like the promos that they’re been putting out really tell the story of the season this year, that being no more Mr. Nice Guy is a very pithy way of summing up the season. Coming back with a two-hour premiere is, hopefully, for our fans exciting after this long drought – a flood of Chuck episodes coming at you, three in the course of 24 hours. And Mondays at 8:00 p.m. was our time period and it’s gotten us to season three, so we’ll take it. 

Zachary, I read that you directed an episode this season; what’s more challenging, being a first-time TV director or playing a spy? 

ZL – I would have to say 100% being a television director, and I can only say that because being a spy is completely fictitious, I suppose. Not that it doesn’t have its difficulties, being  spy on the show. We get to do a lot of fun stuff, but a lot of that fun stuff also requires a great deal of rehearsal and choreography as well as making sure that you don’t hurt someone else or yourself. And with my long, noodle-like arms that’s not always a guarantee. But directing an episode of television, and maybe even specifically our show, although I can’t speak of directing any other shows, so I don’t know by comparison, but from speaking to other directors who have worked on our show, it’s a very difficult one to direct. And people watching the show can tell, or you can sense, that there’s a lot to the show. 

It’s a cornucopia of genres, if you will, a horn of plenty, so it’s lot to take on in a very short period of time. Then on top of that, being in the show and directing it at the same time doesn’t make it easier. But being surrounded by, in my opinion, the best crew in Hollywood as well as the best cast, and feeling the support that I have from Josh and Chris and the other writers, editors and everyone in post-production, made it a really incredible experience. There were certainly moments where I felt like I couldn’t go on like this – I was very, very overwhelmed a couple of times. Overall, though, it was just the most incredible experience and I’m happy to be through it and really pleased with the product that we got from it. 

JS – The episode turned out great. We also decided for Zach’s first episode that we were going to give him one of the more ambitious and important ones in the series mythology. 

CF – We did Zach no favors. It’s an important episode, and he’s absolutely right, Chuck is an incredibly difficult show to direct because you’re doing comedy and action, which are really difficult in their own right and we try to do both of them. So Zach was really jumping into the deep end, and he was fantastic. He was swimming laps by the end of the day. 

We’ve heard about the Chuck character, but what are we going to see out of Buy More this season? 

JS – Buy More will always be a dysfunctional hotbed of competing bizarre personalities. They’re going to face their own challenges this year, cutbacks and potential management overthrows, including a new assistant manager coming into the mix, someone who you may know from the show. There will be a new comely young lady who’s going to come to work at Buy More this year, played by Miss Kristin Kreuk. She plays Hannah and is going to get multiple hearts aflutter, not just Chuck’s. 

How difficult was it to sort of plot out the back six episodes as the order for them came somewhat late in the game? 

JS – I actually think it’s a great thing for fans because basically the season was being built to have this incredible end of season run as you got to episode 12. And as I said to Chris, well, 13, what a great season finale that he wrote, and, of course, now it’s merely just another episode with the back ones. It was then incumbent upon the writers to top that. So the fans are going to get a whole extra dose of “insanity,” which I think is going to be really exciting and raises everybody’s game. 

Watching some of the preview material that was on NBC.com, I saw that Chuck will also be doing a little bit of Spanish guitar in addition to all the kung-fu and fighting moves. Is there anything else that you would like to see Chuck do that maybe you’ve never gotten a chance to do in real life? 

ZL – Well, considering I haven’t done much in my real life, there’s a whole lot. Gosh, I don’t know.  I mean, the writers certainly keep me on my toes, and we’ve been doing a lot of fun stuff. I would say most of it is fight-oriented and various forms of martial arts in different kinds of aspects, be it for a moment or for a whole full-fledged fight. But, yeah, you know, there are musical instruments, and as you see in the previews I may or may not speak Thai. There’s some dancing, too, and vehicle maneuvering. Skydiving would be awesome, although I don’t know how we’d fit something like that into the budget, but to have a little bit of that going on, or bungee jumping, would be cool. 

So I don’t know. I’m personally in my own life a very big fan of extreme sports and adrenaline and all that stuff. But, honestly, I think anything you throw at Chuck would be outside of his norm because he doesn’t do any of that. He experiences all of his adrenaline [rushes] through video games. So I think anything you throw at him would certainly be out of his comfort zone and make for good entertainment. 

Ratings are such a big deal and you kind of have to keep an eye on that stuff. Is that something you consider when you’re plotting out a season or thinking about the show, or do you just have to kind of put that in a box so it’s not really a part of the “game” for you? 

JS – We’ve made our peace with that a long time ago, and for us it’s just about trying to make the best show possible. And what was so gratifying last year was that people really connected to the show emotionally and just became very passionate about it. It wasn’t about trying to keep an eye towards ratings or write towards, you know, stunts.  I mean, certainly we tried to help ourselves by having great actors, guest-actors come onto the show and we wanted to do that 3-D episode when it was dangled in front of us. We don’t miss an opportunity if there is something presented to us that could help expose the show to the broadest possible audience because we do feel like the show is designed to be very broad and very commercially entertaining. It’s really supposed to be fun and something that people of any age can watch. 

Obviously this year and giving Chuck powers, we felt it was really opening up the show and even taking it one step further, making it even more exciting and more visual with bigger stories and really pushing he character into new territory. And I think NBC really felt inspired and excited by that, and that’s reflected in the promo materials. This year was really just about taking everything we’d done in the previous two seasons higher, and I thin, hopefully, that will be exciting for audiences as well. 

Zachery, in your role you’re kind of jumping across genres because you play some comedic stuff and you have to do the spy stuff as well. Has that become second nature for you to just kind of bounce between those two in your acting? 

ZL – I don’t know if it’s second nature, but after two years of being involved in a show that is such a multi-genre one, you would hope that you would start to feel how that works and how to go back and forth between wearing those hats. But that’s part of what was so attractive about the show, and why the roles in the show were so attractive to begin with. It’s an opportunity to be a part of something that’s not just this one [thing] that you’re playing. You get to be part of many, many styles and tones. So in some ways, yes, it’s second nature. Any actor given enough time with a character, you live with it, you live with it every day and our days are long ones, so I live with it all day, everyday for a long period of time. 

But also Chuck in his heart, I feel, is very similar to who I am. I mean, you know, we’re both geeks about video games and comic books and pop culture and great 80’s movies, so all that stuff helps lend itself towards feeling good in Chuck’s shoes. And because I love action and have to shoot guns since I was a kid, and even, you know, do karate and all that type of stuff, I very gladly take all that on. I’m really happy with the opportunity, especially this season, now that Chuck gets to be a part of all those things. Again, though, it never gets away from the heart of the series, which is still action-comedy. We definitely have some really kick-butt stuff, but we always maintain the funny bone in it. So it’s been awesome and challenging, but a great challenge. 

JS – One of the challenges about being an actor in a television series can sometimes be having to play the same character every week and having to play the same beats. We’ve really tried to make an effort to have Chuck evolve, and I think he’s a very different guy from that of season one. So we’re really trying to take advantage of Zach’s skills and abilities as an actor to really grow that character so that he’s not the same. I can imagine that it would be very frustrating if he was still sitting in the car and scared of everything like he was in the beginning of the first season. 

I just wanted to ask about what happened behind-the-scenes between the season two ending and the season three pick-up, and what were the emotions going on as you guys waited to hear what would happen? And what was it like waiting for that news? 

JS – It’s not fun. I mean, you know, look we love the show and were really proud of it last year. We were hoping against hope that the show would come back. We know, though, that we were on the bubble. The show has had some incredible challenges outside of itself – the writer’s strike in season one, and five hours [of programing] going away to The Jay Leno Show. There have been some really unique obstacles that keep getting thrown our way and yet here we are, which is exciting. I think for all of us it was pins and needles and mixed with incredible pride in the sense that we’ve put our best foot out there. And then all of a sudden and completely outside of our own power, this fan base uprising began. It started out small and it just grew and grew, and, suddenly, the show, which at times lived below the radar except amongst its most passionate fans, really found a narrative, I think, in the broader media. And it felt like it became undeniable through the support of the fans and critics. 

So we remained optimistic, although it took a while, and there were several twists and turns in the story and there were dark days and days when it looked like it was all coming up roses. And in the end, we got this third season. So that was incredibly gratifying, and there was the sense that everybody at the network wanted to bring the show back. However, they were facing their own kind of challenges, again, with the five hours [of programming] going away, budgets, etc., and it was a challenge to us to come back and say we can make the same show but do it in a way that would be less expensive. I don’t think, though, that anyone watching is going to be able to see that on the screen. I’m extremely proud of how everyone pulled together to deliver the same show. 

Zachary, can you talk a little bit about what it was like for you to see that fan-based reaction. Were you surprised by the mobilization of the fans and how they really rallied for a third season? 

ZL – It’s incredibly humbling to say the least. To just have a job is a great blessing, but to have a job that you know people care about so much that they band together and let their voices be heard. I mean, we knew we had fans and, furthermore, I knew we had really passionate fans. We’re fortunate to be kind of in this world of Comic-Con love. And Comic-Con fans, and fans of Sci-Fi and Fantasy are the most die-hard and will stay with you to the bitter end. They really know how to band together when it comes to the Internet and blogging and making sure that you don’t go down without a fight, and our fans did just that and continue to do just that. They’ve very savvy and very smart. One of our fans (Wendy Farrington) was the one who was responsible for the Chuck foot-long [Subway] finale campaign that really got so much heat last season and got everyone banding together to buy Subway sandwiches. And while that wasn’t, you know, the lynchpin of what got us back on the air, it certainly was a component of that, and people took notice – the studio, the networks, Subway themselves took notice. 

And it was interesting last season when we weren’t renewed along with everyone else. You get kind of bummed. You’re like, “Wow, I thought we were making a really great product that people really loved, so why aren’t we being renewed? what aren’t we coming back for another season?” But then all this stuff started playing out. It was very clear that we were on the chopping block and on the bubble, and all this fan support starting coming out and all the various media outlets began picking it up. And we got even more love and even more play as far as publicity is concerned then we ever would have gotten had we just been renewed quietly in the night. So I think everything is for a reason, and I think there is a lot of reason to how that all went down. And I’m thankful for the experience and that it allowed us to be very in touch and in tune with our fans throughout that experience and, again, just very humbling. 

CF – Agreeing with everything Zach said, the TV landscape has changed so much in that the difference between what makes a hit show and makes a show on the bubble is a thin line now. So for everything to play out the way it did was actually the best thing that could have happened for us because it really showed people that there was real life to the show and a really passionate audience. 

Zach, just to pick up on what some other people have asked you about with the new skills that Chuck has, does that pose any new physical challenges for you or required you to take any sort of specific training? 

ZL – Well, we train per fight as it were. With every episode, the fight coordinator and stunt coordinator break it [the fight] down and find out what we need to do. Then I will go in and learn every fight before we do it. We have a very ambitious schedule on Chuck and we have a lot to shoot and not much time to shoot it. But we do the very best that we can, obviously, and fortunately we’re in very good hands with our stunt and fight coordinators, Merritt Yohnka and Dave Morizot, respectively, both of whom are incredible. Merritt, our stunt coordinator, has won Chuck our first and to this point only, Emmy. He’s really kicking butt and taking names on all of our behalf. 

Initially I wasn’t really sure if we were even going to have a third season, and more than that, I didn’t know exactly the extent of the martial arts that would be incorporated into that third season. I was working on some other things over the summer hiatus, so I wasn’t really able to get into extensive kung-fu or other training over those months, but I feel confident in what we’ve been able to accomplish just in the week-to-week [doing] of it. And I feel like God has given me enough coordination and ability to remember the fight choreography where we can put it together and it looks good. So I’m happy about the process. 

As noted above, photo by Justin Lubin and copyright of NBC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Heroes’ Adrian Pasdar Autograph Signing

November 23, 2009

FOR all those living in the New York area or plan to be in the city next week. Heroes‘ Adrian Pasdar (a.k.a. Nathan Petrelli) will be signing autographs at the NBC Experience Store at 30 Rockefeller Plaza on Monday, November 30th from 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.

Sanctuary’s Damian Kindler – Creative Spirit

November 13, 2009
Damian3

Sanctuary creator, executive producer and writer Damian Kindler. Photo courtesy of Damian Kindler

Last fall, The Syfy Channel added a new face to their stable of strong heroic female characters, Dr. Helen Magnus of Sanctuary. As head of a global network of facilities, or Sanctuaries, she as well as her daughter Ashley, techie Henry Foss, and forensic psychiatrist Will Zimmerman, risk their lives to protect humankind from creatures called “Abnormals” and vice versa. Created by Damian Kindler and executive producer with Martin Wood and Amanda Tapping (Magnus), the series made the jump in October 2008 from web-based to the small screen. Season one was a hit, and earlier this year, Kindler was back on the show’s Vancouver set with the cast and crew to start production on year two, which began airing back in October. As with the first season, the prep process was an involved one.

“Alan McCullough [series co-executive producer], Sara Cooper [consulting producer], James Thorpe [creative consultant], who came to us a bit later on, and I spent last Christmas as well as this past January and February developing story ideas and inching towards Bethlehem if you will. And sure enough it all eventually came together,” says Kindler, taking a break in-between production meetings.

“So we went forth and came up with this big two-part second season opener, End of Nights. We’re very proud of the episode and the performances in it are amazing. Our story opens six weeks into Helen Magnus’ search for her daughter Ashley [Emilie Ullerup], and it’s quite revealing about the way the Sanctuary works in a larger sense. You actually get to see other Sanctuaries around the world because there’s a global threat that’s made very real. We’re also made privy to how the Cabal plays its hand, which affects our heroes in a bad way. Essentially, it’s a giant kind of worldwide James Bond-ish, action-packed chess match between Magnus and the bad guys. There are some really cool human moments and Martin Wood just directed the hell out of it in a very short time.

“At the end of part two, people who are interested as well as invested in the show are going to be blown away because things careen into this incredible shock. Look, this sounds like I’m playing up the PR spin on the show, but we’ve literally pulled our heads up from the rabbit hole recently, looked around and said, ‘The first four or five episodes we’ve done are terrific.’ Season two is rolling out in such a smooth and heightened way, and the network has been incredibly generous with their feedback and saying how there has been a quantum leap in the way Sanctuary feels and in the entire creative process.

“The episodes are ramped up, revealing and really good character stories with cool monster beats. I think the show has definitely hit a very important stride right out of the gate in season two, and I don’t say that because it was all part of the plan. I thought we’d just continue on, but there was something about the wind at our backs when we sailed into season two that was extremely confident. We had been given this chance to come back and do this all over again. It was such an amazing life-changing experience doing the first season and everyone was so excited about doing a second season that they’ve brought their A+ game to the table.”

Last season, Kindler and his fellow writers established Sanctuary‘s main characters, and this year they will be building upon those foundations with some big twists and turns to come. “This season really is about the characters,” notes Kindler. “In season one we played through the growing global threat and shift in power. It was all very Lord of the Rings-like. This time around, though, I felt that we really needed to get to know not just our characters individually, but how they work as a group and how they like or don’t like one another.

“There are changes that happen to our heroes in the first three episodes this year that are profoundly dramatic. I mean, at the end of the season opener Ashley is killed – she dies saving her mother. During the final moments of End of Nights: Part 2, Magnus watches as Ashley is blown up and the screen then goes black. So viewers are left with this very harsh vision and they subsequently need some sort of ‘let down,’ which comes in Eulogy. One of my favorite episodes this year, it’s written by Sara Cooper and has Magnus and Will [Robin Dunne] playing out the possibility that Ashley could have survived, but in the end, coming to the realization that she is, in fact, gone.

“When I initially showed the ending of this episode to a few people there wasn’t a dry eye, and there are two reasons for that. One being that there’s an actual memorial service for Ashley, and then there’s a little bit of a ghostly visit where Magnus has a vision of her daughter and they say goodbye. Also, there was a woman named Nora O’Brien who worked for both Syfy and NBC and who died suddenly. She was very close friends with a lot of us here at Sanctuary, so Martin, Amanda and I came up with the idea of dedicating a story to her this season, and we all agreed that Eulogy would be the perfect one.

“This is one of those episodes where I believe Sanctuary is at its finest because it deals with the characters in such a human way. The thing is, it’s cool to have a very structured plot, a clever plot twist or high-concept idea, but if it doesn’t service the characters, then it’s not going to feel like a Sanctuary. It’s going to feel like a CSI only with monsters. There are moments in this story between Will and Magnus where you expect things to get overwrought, but, instead, they become quite realistic. Eulogy also features a really neat hunt for an escaped Abnormal. So it’s fun, too, and it serves to sort of reset the series if you will.

“I’ve just written an episode called Next Tuesday where Magnus and Will are stuck in the central well of a decommissioned oil rig. They’ve been trying to transport a sea monster to the Sanctuary, but their helicopter becomes tangled up in the guide wires hanging above the well and this creature escapes. And to make matters worse, there’s a second monster, too. We shot the episode on this cool set where we got to spend some time with Magnus and Will. I wanted to give you a chance to watch these two people bickering about their lives. Yes, there’s a monster and how are our heroes going to get out of there, but more important is the question of what happens when you spend 30 or 40 minutes of almost real time with your two leads talking to each other as people. Our goal was to have an ongoing personal conflict between Magnus and Will and watch that get resolved while being sure we told a cool monster story.”

As if Ashley’s death is not enough to deal with, the dynamic between our characters is further turned upside-down in season two of Sanctuary with the introduction of a new character, con artist Kate Freelander (Agam Darshi). “I’m going to totally mea culpa here and say that every show runner is like, ‘I want a Han Solo on my series,’ and that was our idea with Kate,” admits Kindler. “There are obvious ways you can go with a character like this. You can make her tough, but there was something cool about making Kate a bit like Ferris Bueller, where she’s working for the bad guys because that’s who’s paying her. Deep down, though, she’s really a hero who has sort of been in denial and hiding for a while. All she needed was to find someone who she could trust.

“Kate Freelander is an opportunistic freelance operative who has been working for the Cabal as well as other people. She knows about Abnormals, is very good at what she does, and crosses paths with our gang in part one of End of Nights when she kind of mucks things up for our heroes. Basically we’re trying to get to an Abornmal before the Cabal does, but Kate spirits him way before we can do that. There’s a big car chase – they used my car, by the way, and drove the heck out of it – where Kate is eventually caught and interrogated by Magnus. There’s a very kind of gripping scene where Helen is pretty out of control when it comes to dealing with her. Kate manages to escape, but she eventually ends up at the Sanctuary, a bit out of an attraction for what they are doing, but mainly out of desperation because the Cabal has put a hit out on her.

“She’s somewhat reluctant at first to help Magnus, but slowly becomes more cooperative,” continues the executive producer. “Kate is sort of the person in the middle and you can’t quite trust her. She’s an opportunist who has a very selfish way of working, but she’s changing. Kate is inspired by our heroes, but she has a different style, and that’s important when it comes to our storytelling. She thinks outside the box. Where we might take a very scientific, academic or particularly structured approach to a problem, she’ll be like, ‘Why not just call this guy. He has what we need. Who cares where it came from.’ Kate gets stuff done, and I like that because it shakes up some of the pomp and circumstance of our story, making it a bit more streetwise and fun as well.

“We had auditioned Agam Darshi for roles in the past and had always been impressed with her work. She’s a great actress who brings a lighter, edgy, interesting, mischievous tone to a lot of the stories that we’re doing. At any given moment, Kate could potentially steal something for money and then turn around to Magnus and the others and say, ‘But I never saw it.’ Again, though, she slowly begins to realize the value of the work that the Sanctuary team does.”

Kindler chuckles when asked to talk about some of the more memorable episodes from season two of Sanctuary. “More memorable than hanging a real helicopter over a pool of water?” he asks with a smile. “Well, our season opener has something like 400 VFX [visual effects] shots, and Eulogy is beautifully done and well-directed. Episode four, Hero, is, I think, the first openly amusing episode of Sanctuary that we’ve ever done. Anyone who is a fan of comic book heroes will love this one. I’m guessing it will be a fan favorite; I know it’s one of ours this year and it guest-stars Chris Gauthier [Vincent] from Eureka, who is a wonderful actor. It has some really good monsters in it as well as some funny, rather poignant beats, and overall is just a good, back to basics fun romp.

“Episode five [Pavor Nocturnus] is an unbelievably unique experience. It’s what looks like an alternate future gone to hell. Magnus wakes up in the Sanctuary and it has literally been abandoned for years and years, and the outside world is in such disarray. The story is dark and strange and has elements in it that are very disturbing. There’s an interrogation/torture scene that some people will watch through their fingers. Fragments is a neat episode, too. It’s a strong Henry [Ryan Robbins] story that was directed by Steve Adelson, who did Instinct last year.

“The episode we’re currently filming [early June], Veritas, which was written by Alan McCullough, is wonderful and Amanda is directing it so well. She’s an incredible director, and that’s beyond just delivering cool visuals and amazing performances. Production-wise, Amanda is bringing this story in under-budget and early, which is very difficult to do on our limited budget.

“Like I said, I’m so happy with how things are going this season. Again, the show has found its groove, and it really had to because it’s been paired with Stargate Universe. So Sanctuary can’t sort of just keep bubbling its way upward. It had to find its legs and run, so the pressure is on for season two, and so far so good.”

Launching Sanctuary‘s original two-our pilot on the Internet was a huge accomplishment for everyone involved with the show, and then bringing it to TV was yet another major creative hurdle surmounted. It has proven to be a great deal of work, but you will not hear anyone complaining.

“We’re all exactly where we want to be, doing exactly what we want with exactly the people we want to be doing it with,” says Kindler. “As sugary sweet as that sounds, though, the truth is there’s nothing better than appreciating what you have. It’s been such an amazing, crazy train ride getting her, and there were so many moments where it should have gone off the rails and crashed into the river, but it didn’t.

“Every time there’s a problem, like, oh, boy, here’s another late night at the office, or, here’s another weekend I have to spend writing, or whatever, you realize what enormously high class ‘problems’ these are. This is what we want to do. We don’t have any big plans for global domination…yet,” jokes the executive producer, “but if the series could just keep building upon its fan base that would be great. That’s all we ask.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, photo is courtesy of Damian Kindler, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Lost Loves Reunited On NBC’s Heroes

October 27, 2009

SPOILER ALERT!! – When Hiro (Masi Oka) travels three years into the past, he has a second chance to save Charlie (guest-star Jayma Mays from Glee) from the hands of Sylar (Zachary Quinto). However, Samuel’s (Robert Knepper) presence serves to complicate Hiro’s mission even further. Elsewhere, H.R.G.’s (Jack Coleman) past is revealed. Once Upon A Time In Texas airs Monday, November 2nd @ 8 p.m. EST on NBC.

Heroes2

Charlie (Jayma Mays) and Hiro (Masi Oka) are reunited next week on Heroes. Photo copyright of NBC

Says Masi Oka, “This was one of my favorite episodes of the series. I had the opportunity to explore the many layers of Hiro. It was truly wonderful working with Jayma again, and I even got to play against a younger me. Ah, how naive we were. It’s an episode full of joy and tears. It’s Hiro’s Company Man and our homage to episode 8 of Season One. This scene is where Hiro finally gets his long-awaited kiss. His dream upon the thousand cranes, the origami in his left hand, came true. But is there a happy ending? It’s Heroes after all. I hope you enjoy watching the episode as much as I had making it. Thank you!”

As noted above, photo is courtesy of and copyright of NBC-TV, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!