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Holding Out For a Hiro: Meet ‘Heroes’ Masi Oka

Time stands still as Hollywood.com chats up—in perfect English—our favorite wannabe worldsaver, Heroes‘ own Hiro, Masi Oka, who gives us a glimpse of a future that includes samurai swords, dinosaurs, Mr. Sulu and a trip to the Golden Globes!

Hollywood.com: Congratulations on your first ever Golden Globe nomination, and the one for the show. How does it feel?
Masi Oka: It’s absolutely wonderful. It’s such an honor to be recognized for our work. And I’m actually really happy for the show. I’m really happy the show got nominated. That’s the biggest win. Because I think that’s a tribute to everyone’s work. And – what can I say? I remember waking up with, like, [INAUD] – I didn’t even wake up at 5:30 at that time. And I figured, “Oh, what’s gonna happen, happens. I don’t want to think about it.” And you wake up with 82 messages. And it’s like, “Oh, wow. Something good happened.” And I realized that the show got nominated, and I also got a personal nomination just is icing on the cake.

HW: When you first found out that you were nominated, what was the very first thing that went through your mind, and what did you do?
MO: When I first got the message, I literally just broke down in tears—tears of joy. It was just like—my emotions were overwhelming. And the first person I called was my mother. And she lives in Japan. And I couldn’t reach her. It probably also was 2 a.m. in the morning or something, because of the time difference. I didn’t think about that, I just called her and got her voice mail, but then five minutes later she called me back, and she was crying as well. We were both just absolutely thrilled about that. And to be honest with you, I probably would have the same reaction if our show was the only one that got nominated as well.

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HW: Looking ahead to the new Heroes episodes coming up, what would you say will be the theme for the second half of the season?
MO: I think it’s definitely about – we have our catch phrase:“Are you on the list?” I think the first half was definitely about the discovery, and now the second half is more about the realization of it and then the growth, with those powers…The writers have always taken care of each character, and trying to give everyone’s storyline focus. You’re starting to see a lot of the crossovers, and paths that a lot of the characters intertwining. Because a lot of the stories start to combine here and there. There are some wonderful, wonderful twists coming up…I’ve actually got little tidbits of even how Season Two’s gonna start, and when I heard I was like, “Oh my God, that is absolutely unbelievable!” I was like a kid in a candy store when I heard what was gonna happen. So I’m already excited. I usually don’t like to hear about these things. But, you know, the writers were really excited to tell me as well. They were just sharing their passion and enthusiasm.

HW: Everyone loved the romance that Hiro had with Charlie, the waitress, although it had a tragic end. Any more love interests in Hiro’s future?
I really, really enjoyed that storyline. Jayma Mays just was an amazing actress to play with. Let’s put it this way: I’ve heard somewhere down the line—I’m not gonna say when—but somewhere down the line, there will definitely be another love interest for Hiro. From what I understand, it’s gonna be a new character. But who knows? You never know what’s gonna happen in the minds of the brilliant writers.

HW: The show’s large ensemble of characters are still kind of encountering each other. Is there another actor on the show, or another character, that you’re really anxious to finally have a scene with?
MO: God, I would say ALL of them. I think I’ve had two scenes with Adrian [Pasdar], and I think that’s the most in terms of other series regulars. It’s kind of cool, because every time you do get to work with another member of the cast, it’s magic. Because you realize “This might be the last time, so let’s make the most out of it.” So we’ll rehearse and rehearse and rehearse the scene to death, and then we’ll discover new moments and say, “Oh, this is so cool. We woulda never thought about that.” I think as our paths cross, it’s gonna be quite exciting, but I think it’s good that it comes in doses because we definitely cherish and make the most of it. Any time you see a new pairing, it’s kind of refreshing to the audience, and you also see a heightened performance from everyone. Because everyone brings in not only their A-game, but their “A-plus-plus” game, like Michael Scott from The Office would say.

HW: We’ll be meeting Hiro’s father soon?
MO: He’s being played by George Takei. The relationship is, you know, it’s kind of complex but simple. There you go. But.. I don’t know, let’s see. Without trying to reveal too much – I don’t want to spoil it. But pretty much you’ll find that the father – he has a lot of expectations of his son. And Hiro is his only male son, and who he expected to be his heir to his company. So because of that, there’s an expectation that he kind of views Hiro’s journey to be very childish and foolish. And I think he wants him to grow up. And Hiro’s always kind of seen his father as an intimidating figure, and someone who he always has to live up to. Look at who Hiro is as a person, because of the influence that his father has always had on him. He has always had to feel like he had to live up to certain expectations. And we’ll see a little bit of that conflict, and the reason why his dad came to find Hiro in America.

HW: How was it to work with George Takei?
MO: Oh, he was great. It’s so funny. Because – you know, when we were not shooting, during breaks, he would tell these wonderful stories. [imitates Takei’s baritone] “Back in those days…” “The way we did it…” “We had camels walk in…” or something like that, which is wonderful, with George Takei’s voice. And when “Action” is called, he turned into this menacing, mean guy. And it was quite intimidating to see that, see him work. But he was a wonderful person to work with, and a lot of joy. And hopefully he’ll come back. I’d love to see more of him, and collaborate with him more.

HW: Since Star Trek exists in Hiro’s universe, exactly how are you dealing with George Takei—Mr. Sulu himself? Did you ever feel you were in danger of breaking the fourth wall?
Yeah, it’s kind of interesting. That’s one of the things I was trying to pitch to the writers:“Can I at least say something Star-Trek-y?” You know, that’s kind of like, a Brechtian wink to the audience. The line I was thinking of: “You’re not my father figure—Sulu is!” Or something strange like that, I thought would be funny. But the writers kind of shied away from that. They have put in something clever later on, to fulfill that.

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HW: Another guest star coming on is Dr. Who’s Christopher Eccleston. Did you get a chance to work with him at all?
MO: No, I have not gotten any chance to work with him. He’s gonna be Peter’s mentor, Peter Petrelli’s mentor. And he’s gonna – the character’s name is Claude. And Claude will have the ability of invisibility. And he’s gonna be kind of Peter’s Yoda. And then we’ll see traces of that, and the beginnings of that.

HW: It seems like Hiro doesn’t really have much of a handle on his power yet.
From the way it’s described, I believe Hiro’s power is attached to his emotional state. We’ll learn later on what that means. You see Hiro kind of lose control of his powers, and we kind of see Hiro lose his powers. The second half of the season—or at least the next pod, as we call the next seven episodes—is definitely focused about Hiro and his quest for his sword., which he believes will let him focus his power and get back the control over his power. So it’s become a very interesting new kind of effect, because of his lack of control of his powers, tied to his emotion. Because [losing] Charlie has definitely been a sort of devastation, and a realization of reality into his child-like adventure. He definitely comes to the realization he can’t change the past. Fate is fate, and he can’t change death, and the same with destiny. He believes in that, and he realizes that’s something not to be messed with. But yeah, Hiro’s still on his pure journey, but he’s gone through a lot of tragedy and obstacles so it’s gonna be hard for him to try to balance that.

HW: Hiro’s really emerged as sort of the heart and soul of the show. Have you taken on a guardianship of that character to make sure that he fits the way that you’ve seen him? Because your performance really energized that character and made him pop off the screen. Do you consult with the writers and producers and give your input about him?
Yes, I do do that. I believe all of our series regulars do that as well. Because the writers actually have told us from the get-go, “In the first five minutes you play the character, you’re gonna know a lot more about the character than we do know about writing it.” So many times, because the writers have so many things on their minds, they have a bigger picture, there are some small things that we just love to collaborate on. All the actors are growing with the characters. Everybody’s definitely weighing in, and it’s great. Because I think that’s what’s great about this industry, is about the creativity and the collaboration. And the writers have been so generous with their words, and so generous with their being open-minded about collaborating, which is very rare in such a hit show like this. It’s just great to know that we’re working on something together. And the great thing is, I think everyone knows that we all have the best interests in mind, which is to make a great show, so in the long run, everyone wins. There are many times that the writers are absolutely correct, and we’re wrong. And there are times that we have a great idea that the writers didn’t think up with.

HW: The fans were really knocked out by your scene as the Future Hiro, in the end of the episode “Collision.” Was it a challenge to play such a different version of the character, and will we be seeing that version again any time soon?
It definitely was a challenge, but it’s a lot of fun. And from what I understand, we will see Future Hiro again in that form, maybe some time in this season…I gotta say, the biggest compliment is when people come up to you and say, “So, who’s that guy who played Future Hiro? He kind of looks like you, but he’s not.” And I think that’s the best compliment you can get as an actor.

HW: Does the katana Hiro is questing to find possess any powers that will help him, or is it just a sword? Does it aid him in crossing back and forth through time?
Interesting…There is an answer for that, and that’s part of the plot line, so unfortunately I can’t talk about it. But it will be answered. The answer will be solved somewhere between I’d say 12 and 18…I would like to see maybe the swordfighting thing a little bit more. I think they’re gonna utilize that a little bit more, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to use some of my kendo skills. Or re-learn a lot, and I’ll get to use it on the show

HW: And what about Isaac’s painting, where Hiro is fighting that T-Rex?
I’ll say it straight out. The answer will be given in Episode 12. So, the first episode comes back, you’ll see the dinosaur in play. And our show has always realized Isaac’s paintings, so we know it comes to fruition, in one form or another.

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HW: Just like Hiro, a year ago your world was a lot different than it is now. What do you think of everything that’s happened?
It’s so surreal. This is definitely a dream come true in many ways. I never thought I’d be doing something like this, at such a high level, with such a great, great and amazing show. I think every day is a moment to appreciate what you have. And just realize, like, “Oh my God, this is absolutely amazing.” And the opportunities have opened up: the other day I was fortunate enough to get an introduction to meet with [Steven] Spielberg. And the comments he had about the show, and how he’s passionate about our show, was also an amazing feeling. It’s like, every little moment—the small ones, big ones—I think they all add up, and make this entire experience a truly surreal one. I wish I had Hiro’s powers. I’d love to just stop this moment in time right here, and just enjoy it for the rest of my life.

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