Extended Interview with
In 2006, Comic-Con introduced the world to the new hit NBC-TV series, Heroes.
Since then, the show has gone on to be one of this season's major hits. We talked
to creator/executive producer Tim Kring, about the show that some think is
a graphic novel come to life.
Heroes returns to Comic-Con in the giant Ballroom 20 on
Saturday, July 28 at 12:45pm.
Every great super hero story has an origin. What's the origin of
TK: I have a show on NBC called Crossing Jordan. Along with my responsibilities
on that show, I have a development deal with the network to come up with another
show and this was part of that deal. I wanted to do something that was a large
ensemble serialized show because they were the ones that I found to be the most
exciting and interesting shows on television.
It couldn't have been done five years ago as they didn't do that kind of show
then. So I became fascinated that these were the shows the networks were now
interested in, along with the audience. I started looking around for the kind of
show I wanted to do in this arena, thinking about what would connect with people
and looking around the world at how difficult and complicated it is now with
issues that are so huge. I was trying to address something that would really
connect in a kind of international and global way. Because I knew I wanted the
show to bridge cultures and borders, I started thinking about what those issues
were. They were so large, it didn't seem like your normal cop or law or medical
show was going to be able to deal with them.
And that is what led me to the idea of superpowers. I wanted to have characters
that people related to and the more ordinary (they were) was the way I felt was
a more relatable way to tell this. These characters were not particularly
characters I was used to, or their powers were not things that I was used to
writing. I'm used to telling stories about ordinary people with ordinary lives.
These are ordinary people whose lives become extraordinary.
The superpowered cast of Heroes
Heroes seems to avoid the pitfalls of other long-form series and makes a
concerted effort to "reward" viewers each week with a major plot point or
revealed secret. What was your plan going in to keep the story moving and fresh
TK: It was always the plan to try and move faster than other shows. I think one
of the things Heroes has going for it is the premise for the show is not a
particularly limiting premise. It really is a very broad premise, the idea of
these ordinary people discovering their powers and how it affects their lives
and being called to something great. We didn't start off with a central mystery
that defines the show, the way a lot of other shows do.
Also the huge number of characters allows you to tell a tremendous amount of
story. When you're telling those stories you can always find one or two moments
within each episode that are a fairly big reveal. But it has been both a
blessing and a curse to be a show that reveals things quickly. We can do an hour
of TV that has peoples' brains exploding and the next week do 70% of that, which
is still extraordinary, but we're judged by our own standards and it's a hard
thing to keep topping over and over again.
One of the things that became important for us is this idea of revealing
secrets. One of the main differences between Heroes and other shows is there's
no one secret that is precious enough not to reveal. I think on some shows there
are certain secrets now that have become so precious that if you reveal them,
they wouldn't be very satisfying because you've built up such an expectation.
There was a very concerted effort not to make anything that was going to be so
precious as to let people down once it's revealed.
You mentioned earlier that networks were resistant to long form, multi-character
stories. How much do you think DVD has changed that?
TK: I think a huge amount. From a financial standpoint, there is now a whole
revenue stream that wasn't there ten years ago. The normal model was you did
these quasi stand-alone episodes and then sold the entire package into
syndication and they could be syndicated easily because you could watch them
whenever you wanted.
But the serialized format was not known for selling into syndication very well
because it called for too much commitment from the audience. The DVD revenue
stream sort of replaced the idea of a big sale into syndication. They now have
an ancillary way to make the backend amount of money on a show.
So in turn does the DVD aspect influence how you tell as story?
TK: The only time it's really changed the way we tell a story is a little bit in
the editing room. When we have moments that overlap between two shows, we'll
make some considerations for how that is going to look if you're plugging in the
DVD right after the first one. Should we start with the same angle we left off?
But no, we're locked into this serialized storytelling and it's going to be the
same whether people are going to watch it once a week or five in a row.
As we talk, you're about three-quarters of the way through the first
season. Which characters took on lives of their own and most surprised you as
they evolved during the season?
Jack Coleman as Mr. Bennet, also known to fans as HRG (Horn Rimmed Glasses)
TK: Well, many did. But what comes to mind immediately is Jack Coleman's
character of HRG. That character started with three or four lines in the pilot
and grew to such an extent that we dedicated an entire episode to him, which was
not fully foreseen. We knew he was going to be an integral part of the story but
to this extent we didn't see it.
But the truth is that the flip side of that question is that on most shows you
have an attrition rate with your cast based on the fact that you cast them in
not a particularly detailed process to begin with. Because you only have one
script you're working on which is the pilot. You really only see them when they
come in and audition off of a couple of scenes. So, you follow your gut and you
go with it, and many times you end up with a cast that doesn't meet your
expectations. So you fold and adapt and change things around and jettison
This show, in a weird way, was the opposite. I assumed there was going to be
people that really popped and we'd go in that direction, and people that
wouldn't. The truth is every single actor we've been able to write for. On most
shows you're very limited by what your actors are capable of doing. This is
really not the case on this show. Everybody has been just really terrific.
I think there were certain characters for me that really deepened. The
relationships between the two brothers, Peter and Nathan, and Claire and her
father were much more profound than I had envisioned in my head originally,
especially Claire and her father. In a strange way, it was almost a classic love
story between two people who are star crossed and can't quite get together.
Speaking of characters, Hiro seems to be the heart and soul of the group,
and the only character who willingly embraces his powers. Is Hiro the hero that
Heroes revolves around?
TK: Well, he is in many ways the most stripped down to what the essence of the
classic Joseph Campbell hero myth is. He embodies that idea. So in many ways he
does embody a lot of what the themes of the show are. The original idea for the
character was that it was almost like the fool in a Shakespearean play.
Shakespeare often gave the fool the most poignant and powerful messages. In some
ways Hiro delivers a lot of that for the show.
But in terms of the actual scale and size and scope of the series, he's no
larger a character than any of the other characters. In that respect, no, he's
not elevated any higher than the others. He just happens to personify the
message of the show. Yes, he is the one character who willingly embraced his
powers. But if you lined up ten people you knew and suddenly they all woke up
with extraordinary abilities, I can't imagine that more than one or two would
embrace them. I tried to show the reality of what would really happen.
Ali Larter as Niki
...or, is it Jessica?
Ali Larter's character, or characters, seem the most mysterious and can
certainly go either way to be a hero or a villain. Is there a spin off series in
the future called Villains?
TK: (Laughs) Well, you know the truth is in order to have heroes you definitely
need villains. One of the original concepts of the show for me was that these
powers would play into the characters' free will and if the character was
predisposed to be good then they would use these powers for good. And if you
were predisposed to do evil, then you would use these powers for evil.
We haven't explored that as much as I originally thought we would, where we get
to see one character start off as good and then turn evil. But I think that is,
in some ways, the most interesting way to have a villain. Once we really get to
know Sylar, and the more we get to know the origin of his story, the more we
will feel that was really the story of that character.
But Ali Larter's character is the most complex to wrap your brain around. I've
always thought that if you looked at it like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or like the
Incredible Hulk, then you really weren't too far off.
By the time our readers read this they'll know the answer, but is the first
season of Heroes a finite story?
TK: Yes. The idea is that volume one of Heroes is this season, and it just
happens to be twenty-three episodes long with a season-ender. And that is the
end of volume one. Volume one will wrap up a major part of the story and have
certain components that continue on, hopefully leaving you wanting to come back
and see what volume two is. We want to be able to show you the next volume
feeling like you're getting a fresh story with new ideas and new concepts.
We're all hoping for a season one DVD set before season two. What kind of
extras can we expect to see?
TK: Oh, we've got tons. It's really going to be an amazing set. I think the
highlight of it will be the original 72-minute Tim Kring version of the pilot.
The one that was shown at Comic-Con was never mixed or scored and never color-timed, so this will be a beautiful polished version of that with commentary.
The DVD is also going to be the first television show released in HD-DVD and
will allow you access through the Internet to all sorts of different components
that basically feed into it.
We're even putting in a few new scenes and the idea of some new characters that
will kind of preview the next volume.
What do viewers have to look forward to in volume two?
TK: Volume two may not last an entire season. It will pick up a few of the
questions that will be left hanging in volume one. But you can look forward to
the introduction of a new character and a villain and the idea of the show
having a kind of global feel is only increased in volume two.
When you say volume two will not be an entire season, do you mean you'll
start volume three in the next season?
TK: Yes, volume three will start in the middle of the season or toward the end
of the season. There is a complete season next year, with about 23 episodes, but
the idea is that the show is told in volumes and each one is sort of looked at
as one book in a series of books, and then we move on to another volume. This
allows us to not get caught up in one giant story that needs to be dragged on.
One of the lessons we've learned from other shows is that that you can't (let
the show) get wrapped up so tightly around itself that it doesn't have any
breathing room left. You can't introduce any new concepts because you're so busy
on the freight train that is that story. The story becomes a big giant engine
that gets harder and harder to hop off.
We're curious about the writing process for the show. You have a staff of
writers, but individual episodes are usually credited to a solo writer. What's
the process of writing an episode and how is the staff involved?
TK: The show is broken up in a big writers group, usually a couple of episodes
at a time. Because we air in pods of episodes, eleven first, and then seven, and
then the final five, we were able to write towards cliffhangers in each of those
and break those stories into pods.
The stories are divided up and each writer takes a piece of it. Whether that is
a storyline or a character's storyline or a concept that crosses a couple of
stories, we write them as a group. They are then compiled by the writer of
record, who is just the next writer on the rotation. That writer takes that
episode and compiles it and sees it through every single part of the process,
which is tremendously long and complicated: prep for production, production, the
writer is on the set, and in the editing room. So by the time that show is done,
that writer has a real sense of ownership on that episode, although he may not
have written every word.
Comic-Con was proud to premiere Heroes last year to the world. What was
your experience like at the event?
TK: Extraordinary. I had never been so I didn't know what to expect at all. You
know you have to realize we were a show that wasn't on the air and we were just
a twinkle in the eye. We had no idea that there would be the kind of reception
awaiting us when we walked in. We had booked a 2,000-seat room, and I had
thought foolishly so, and I was prepared to kind of have a "Spinal Tap" moment,
where we were all going to be there and staring at each other and say, "Okay,
let's go get a drink and get on out there." So it was pretty startling to see
We had obviously turned lots of people away at the show. In fact, Jeph Loeb had
the great quote of the day when he turned to me and said, "We're going to need a
You will have a bigger boat this year. The
Heroes panel will be in a room
more than twice the size of last year. And we're looking forward to having you
back again, and all of us at Comic-Con are very proud that we were the ones who
were chosen to premiere this to the world.
TK: Well, when we come back this year, it'll be a big giant thank you to Comic-Con
and we'll bring as much exclusive stuff that we can for the audience there.
We're going to try to make a big splash.