Saturday, March 10th, 2007
Director's Guild of America theatre.
Report by Lee Whiteside, SFTV.org
Outside the auditorium, a MTR Paley Festival backdrop was set up for the press to take pictures of the actors before the panel started. Fans were not allowed to join them for pictures and were kept back from the area.
The event started with some prepared video about the Museum and William S. Paley. They also showed a clip from an old science program about scientists making super-smart mice by enhancing their brains.
Tony Potts of Access Hollywood was the moderator for the evening. He indicated that he gets to see all of the pilots each summer and watches them with his family to get their reaction to them. He said most you can tell pretty quickly if they are going to be any good and even when they are bad, they watch them all the way through. When they watched Heroes, they were all attentive with not talking during it and once it was done, they were ready to see the next episode. Tony continues to watch it constantly, and since he works in NY and his wife works in LA, each Monday, he's on the phone at 1 am with her to talk about the episode. For the most recent episode, he was back in LA for the first time in a while and had a nice evening with dinnner, Heroes and then maybe some fun afterwards. When his wife saw the "no new episode until April 23rd", she wasn't in the mood and went straight to bed. Tony made it a running joke throughout the evening about how the show had affected his love life.
Tony introduced Executive producer Tim Kring. Tim apologized to Tony and introduced the episode they were screening. He said that in late October, the NBC promo department came up with the whole "Save the Cheerleader, Save the World" campaign. They had never really intended for that line to be used for a big publicity campaign, it was just a line in the episode. He picked the Homecoming episode to screen since it was the culmination of the "Save The Cheerleader, Save the World" thread and also featured all of the main cast in the episode. Afterwards, they showed a clip from the next new episode featuring Nathan and Linderman. (details at the end for spoiler protection).
After the episode and clip are screened, they brought the cast out on stage. Present were Tim Kring, Santiago Cabrera (Isaac Mendez), Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder Suresh), Jack Coleman (H.R.G.), Greg Grunberg (Matt Parkman), Hayden Panettiere (Claire Bennet), Masi Oka (Hiro Nakamura), Milo Ventimiglia (Peter Petrelli), Adrian Pasdar (Nathan Petrelli), Ali Larter (Niki Sanders), Noah Gray-Cabey (Micah Sanders), and Leonard Roberts (D.L. Hawkins). No other creative people were on stage, although many were in the audience and Tawny Cypress (Simone Deveaux) was not present, even though she was listed in the program.
The cast were pretty loose during the session, although some were more at ease than others. Greg Gunberg was the one with the most jokes with Hayden and Jack making a lot of comments. Some members of the cast were making comments to each other at times. As with a panel like this with so many people on stage, some got to talk more than others. Potts moderated the majority of the panel and then opened it up for a few questions from the audience near the end.
Potts opened with some comments about how the cast must be anxious to see the next script, wanting to make sure their character is still alive. Kring indicated he was still working on the script for the season finale (Episode 23) and that none of the cast had seen it so far. Grunberg said that when he got the script for Episode 22, he was blown away by it. Someone asked if that meant his character was literally blown away. Coleman joked that it's so much better being on a show like this because showbiz was so secure a place to work.
MIlo's lock of hair was brought up and he showed that he still had it, that it wasn't really cut off.
They mentioned the drinking game for the show, with drinks for Milo arranging his hair, Hiro making a face and Suresh saying "My Father's Research". Later, when Pott's asked Sendhil to say the phrase, everyone took a drink after he said, in character, "My Father's Research."
Ali mentioned that when they were shooting the pilot, she felt it was something special. That it was a rarity to be on a show that was fun to do and was loved by the fans.
Kring was asked about how he came up with the idea. He said he likes to reinvent himself along the way and that he has a short attention span. He wanted to try to do something different and that there hadn't been any big serial dramas on the networks since Dallas and Dynasty (with Jack Coleman making a gesture when Dynasty was mentioned). NBC didn't have any ensemble dramas of this type and he wanted to try doing this type of show. He saw how Lost had been frustrating it's audience and wanted to go for a bigger/broader premise. His initial pitch to NBC was 20 minutes giving them the breakdown of the pilot and they were wondering how he was going to pull it off. Potts noted that he'd talked with the executives and that after they heard the pitch, they all agreed to go for it. It went through pretty much the standard cycle for a drama pilot. Script in the fall, casting and production of the pilot during the winter and early spring and a pickup for series in May.
Potts asked each cast member about their reaction to the pilot after first seeing the script and auditioning for their role.
Roberts: He was in the middle of the pilot grind and got a text page for it indicating "D.L. Hawkins - Big Big Big!" He liked how the character portrayed the loss and pain of being unable to provide for his family. For the audition he read for Kring and that there were a lot of other big guys there auditioning for the part.
Noah said he was working on another show and that the audition for Heroes was on the same lot and he ran over and did the audition when he was supposed to be doing a costume change.
Ali Larter said that when she saw the description for the character, "Internet stripper with a heart", she knew it was the right role for her. It was a complicated character and she hadn't had much chance to play that kind of role. During the audition, she had the stomach flu and her mom had to drive her there, but she did well and the rest is history.
Pasdar joked that when he signed up, it was going to be called Heroes, but now it should be Survivor. (Maybe he doesn't make it? - Pasdar seemed to be the cast member least excited to be doing the panel). He said he had a feeling that the next person through the door at the audition would get the role and since he was late for another audition, he got to go earlier. It was late in the casting process and he got the part.
Kring indicated that it was one of the most difficult parts of casting for the two brothers since it was hard to find a good match and that they were the last roles cast. Milo joked that he was their best choice since it was at the last minute. He'd been filming the Rocky movie and was committed to another series but went ahead and read the script and he wanted to be a part of it.
Masi Oka said when he got it, it was a character fluent in Japanese, a computer geek and a scifi fan and he thought that "this is such a niche role for me, what else am I gonna get?" Masi also contributed one major piece of the character. In the script when he first stopped time, it had "bonsai" as his exclamation. "Little Tree?" Who would say that? He later realized that Kring meant Banzai!, but Masi felt that was more for a war cry or when you're really drunk. He came up with "Yata!" and the rest is history.
Hayden was the only one there auditioning for Claire and the rest were all there for Isaac. One guy was so into it, he was shoeless and in a corner and shaking. You could hear the audtions going on a finally he ran out of the room saying he couldn't listen to them. She felt for him since she doesn't like hearing other people doing their auditions for roles she is also auditioning for.
Grunberg got the script and thought he was perfect for Peter Petrelli. He called up David Semel, who he'd worked with before and told him he was auditioning for Peter. Semel told him "you couldn't be less right for the role." Grunberg did the audition anyways and on the way home, they called him and told him he was terrible for Peter, but they had another character in the second episode that he might be good for. Kring admitted that he was in the middle of writing that script when he saw Grunberg's audition and that influenced how he wrote it, noting that casting can be a very organic process.
Coleman didn't have much stress at his audition, since it was a one page audition for a guest role. Again, Kring pointed out how things can evolved and how the HRG character developed and became an integral part of the story. Somebody pointed out that Coleman showed them a picture of his father, and he looked just like him with the glasses.
For Mohinder, Ramamurthy went in pretty relaxed because the part was supposed to be for an older man, pretty much intended to be the part that is now Suresh's father. He didn't really feel any pressure and figured they had brought him in for giggles. Kring liked what he saw and it gave him the idea to change the character to be younger, adding the extra dimension of him looking for his father's killer. This was when he said "My Father's Research" at Pott's request and everyone took a drink.
Cabera has just arrived in Los Angeles, and felt lucky that he got on the show right after arriving there looking for work. He'd just bought a $900 car at an auction and it had broken down, so he was up until 3 am the night before the audition getting it towed and such. He was pretty out of it for the audtion and just didn't care. No more auction cars for him now.
Potts commented about how the pilots aren't always the best episodes and that you need to see the second or third before things start to gel.
Hayden commented that she didn't remember episode two. Coleman made a snide comment and she responded "He's always picking on me"
Grunberg said that there was a character revealed in episode two... with the audience laughing at that. He remembered watch the pilot when it aired with Leonard and they were wondering what happened to their parts.They thought they'd been cut from the show. Roberts followed up indicating that his character ended up going ona different trajectory from the pilot (which he was cut out of) and he was at one point wondering what he'd done wrong.
Coleman commented that pilots are so weird, that if you go back and look at some of the pilots its is a lot of nervous actors trying not to get fired.
Hayden commented that the pilot had to set up a lot and she wondered how they were going to keep up the pace for six years. It was like doing an X-Men movie 20 times a year. She added that her character was like a piece of meat, getting stir fried, boiled, and fileted. Greg commented that she looked like a free range chicken on the autopsy table and someone made a comment about tying her legs up behind her, leading to another "See, they're always picking on me" from Hayden.
Masi commented about the way the writers put the episodes together, with them each writing a different character and then the writer of record polishes it up for the final script. That process makes everyone committed to put their best work into each script. Kring commented that they like to sign off their emails with "Best Show Ever!" each week.
Larter added that after she got the role and realized about the dual personality, she was a bit concerned that she'd be able to pull it off. The writing has been so good that she felt protected by them.
Kring added that sometimes the discussions in the writing room get pretty absurd, like how would someone fly, would it be like surfing, a skateboard, or skiing and how would they land and then they'd all act it out.
Pasdar added that when he filmed his landing, he did it with the "ow" and touching down and skidding. The director asked him what he was doing and he said "I don't have super feet!" He wanted to have bugs in his teeth, but they wouldn't let him do that. He likes how they counter the unbelievable with reality in that way and mixing in the comic relief moments.
They then went to audience questions and the first was about comparing the show to Lost and what happens if the ratings go down and the show gets cancelled before we get all the answers. Is there an endgame planned if things go south?
Milo first comments that every show eventually gets cancelled, then Greg added that Lost made a big mistake when they killed off the pilot.
Kring then commented that the structure of the show is different from Lost. They set up the big central delimma for the first season and will resolve it and move on to volume two which will have its own major delimma and villains and so forth. The central theme and storyline will be wrapped up with each volume with some characters continuing on to the next one.
A question was asked about the characters and their powers.
Kring said that he came up with their powers through character. Niki was a single mother stretched really thin. The original concept was she could be in two places at once, not the split personality. Hiro was trapped and confined and wanted to be able to teleport his way out of his life. You also come up with the big tentpole ideas for the season but that 23 hours is a lot of story and if you aren't careful, you'll use it up in 18 episodes.
Next a couple of girls greeted the panelists with a big "Yata!" and then asked what HRG's first name is. Coleman said that at one point, they revealed his name in a script, but it stopped the scene cold, so it was taken out. He's not sure if that is correct any longer. He'd like it to be Anthony, so he could be Tony Bennet.
Next question was what was the most physically challenging part of their roles.
Milo said that flying was not fun. You get put in a harness about three sizes too small and they duct tape a shirt around you. Its very uncomfortable.
Ali added that pole dancing was hard work.
Hayden - I die often.
Greg - Don't mess with Ali, she threw me out a window. The stunt man did most of that...
Hayden - They had me do a full body cast. They asked me to strip to my underwear and this big 300 lb guy with a pony tale came in and started putting on these rubber gloves "snap!" and they essentially mummify you without removing your organs. She didn't really like it that much and got pretty nervous at the end when they sawed her out of it.
When asked what Micah's power was, the response was he talks to machines.
Tim was asked what his favorite "hero" was and he couldn't say.
Question - what's up with the eclipse and the sign? Have they been forgotten - Response was to keep watching, more would be revealed by the end of the season.
Question - Where's Sylar? He was actually moving that weekend. Greg said that he'd asked them for help that weekend, but they had the panel to do.
Question - Will we seem all of them together? Jack - Take a picture! Kring said that they have been coming together in various ways and that will continue to happen. Someone else commented that they were all together in Peter's vision.
Question - What superpower would you like to have?
Leonard : Flying. It would be cool.
Noah: He'd like to be able to talk to his pets, find out what they are thinking.
Ali: She'd like the power to get her boyfriend to do the dishes. Potts commented that maybe if she put a pole in the kitchen...
Adrian: The ability to dodge that question. Its the one they all get asked the most.
Milo: The power of persuasion, the same as Ali's, really.
Hayden: He's got a non self-centered one, makes us all look...
Milo: It always thought it was more of a serving the community.
Masi: The power to pick out clother like Milo.
Hayden: I love you all, but I'd rather be on a beach in Fiji now...
Greg: Super metabolism!
Jack: Used to think it would be invisibility, but I was invisible for most of the 90's World peace, now.
Sendhil : Flying
Santiago: Flying faster than the speed of light, which would also be teleporting.
Tim: He'd never been asked that question, but it would be the power to break down a season's worth of shows effortlessly and painlessly.
They were asked about the violence and gore on the show and how they decide how far to go with it.
Kring responded that they initially didn't think there'd be as big of a family audience for the show as there is. They try to be self-regulating and pick and choose the violent moments but still try to keep it more comic-book in nature. At the end of the first block, they probably ended up with more gore than they intended because the production schedule was running close to the air date and some of the special effects were getting finished up really last minute. If they'd had more time, they might have backed off some.
With that last question, the session ended abruptly with the notice that we were out of time. No closing comments or even a chance to give them a final round of applause. Security people came out on stage right away and the few cast who stayed on stage (Hayden, Ali, Jack and Masi) were boxed in by the security on one side of the stage so a lot of the people trying to get autographs weren't able to get to them through the crush of fans.
Overall, it was a fun panel and as always with this event, it is nice to see the entire cast on stage together. There should be some pictures and eventually some video clips up on the Museum of TV and Radio website at www.mtr.org .
A couple of notes on this report. Things here are reported pretty much in the order they happened during the panel. I did reference the reports at Comic Book Resources and TV addict to refresh my memory on some details. I thought it was interesting that neither of those reports mentioned the question about the level of violence and gore on the show.
Details on the preview scene:
The scene is with Linderman and Nathan Petrelli, with Linderman showing Nathan around in his collection. When passing a picture with Hiro, Nathan says he knows him, and Linderman grumbles that he wants his sword back. Linderman indicates he knows all about the impending explosion and want's it to happen. That "Tragedy will be a catylyst for good". He says he and a group of people used their powers to try to make the world better, but things fell apart, some of them got greedy and that it wasn't enough to save individuals, it needed to be done on a bigger scale. The explosion in New York would create a "united sense of fear" that they could use to make things better in the long run. When Nathan points out how many people would die, Linderman says that it is a small percentage of the 3.5 billion people in the world. When Nathan points out that it is his brother that's going to explode, Linderman says that "Peter's curtain call will be the day after you're elected.". Linderman also shows Nathan a painting of him in the oval office.