The 'Heroes' actress reflects on camping it up in her dual role and rubbing elbows with Al Roker
By Mel Caylo
Posted January 18, 2007 4:30 PM
[EDITOR’S NOTE: To get you pumped up for the return of new episodes of NBC’s “Heroes” on NBC on Jan. 22 at 9 p.m., we’re posting a new interview every day followed by a set visit piece. This is the sixth interview in the series. To see past interviews, click here.]
Today’s interview is with beautiful actress Ali Larter, who plays a dual role on “Heroes”—as Niki Sanders, a devoted mother struggling to make ends meet, and as Jessica, Niki’s psychotic, super-strong alter ego, who’s responsible for several murders.
|Larter, a 10-year veteran of show business, is clearly ecstatic to be a part of the “Heroes” phenomenon. Dressed in black slacks, a white blouse and heels, she greeted me very warmly, as if we’d been friends for ages. Stopping briefly at the hair and makeup trailer to say hello to the recently arrived Hayden Panettiere (Claire), we walked together to the sound stage, where she was getting ready to film a scene as Jessica in the upcoming episode 15.|
Because the scene required Larter to be shirtless and in her bra, she had politely asked for all nonessential personnel (read: me) to be excused from the set. But before that, I got in a few quick questions while the crew set up the cameras.
WIZARD: How has working on “Heroes” been for you so far?
LARTER: It’s been amazing. I mean, the show is just getting better and better. Even just like watching the episodes now, I’m able to step outside of it and watch them for just the sheer enjoyment of watching them—just like an hour of entertainment. I think the writing is just great. I think the bar just keeps getting raised each week.
How has the phenomenon affected you?
LARTER: You know what, it’s the fun things that come. Like, I got to take my granny to the Thanksgiving Day Parade and I introduced her to Al Roker, and that was awesome. I got her picture with him. Those are like the little fun parts that come with it, but the truth is that I’ve been in the business for 10 years, and for me it’s just great being able to love the work and love coming to work. That’s the best.
Let’s talk a bit about Niki and Jessica. At the end of the midseason finale, she surrendered to the authorities.
Can you talk about what happens with Niki when we pick back up?
LARTER: Niki is in a very dark and desperate place in her life, and she’s living in the conflict of wanting to be able to protect her family, and at the same time she needs to serve her truth. So there is definitely some conflict there, and it’s not pretty. We really went to some dark places with these scenes, and you are going to see a very not-glamorous side of me. That’s for sure.
|Where do you get the inspiration to play Jessica, the dark side? |
LARTER: That’s actually easier for me. I’m a really emotional girl and I just tap into the life that I’ve lived and I put it into the work.
Are you sick of looking into reflective surfaces yet?
LARTER: [Laughs] It’s weird. It’s weird, but it’s fun. It’s like I love to play Jessica, too, and it’s very campy almost. It’s like she savors it. She loves it. She’s a girl who wants to look fabulous and work it, and Niki is the one who is more dealing with like, “Oh, life is so hard.” So it’s fun to be able to play that contrast.
Do you try to play Niki and Jessica on different days, or have there been days where you’ve had to play both characters?
LARTER: [Chuckles] Please, this is television! We don’t get those luxuries. I actually end up shooting them at like midnight after 12-hour days, and you get three takes each. But for me it’s very much within their intentions, what drives them in life, and they’re different all the way down to their physicalities.
What theories have you heard so far about what’s going to be the final resolution to this season?
LARTER: I have an idea that there is going to be someone who I’m going after that is very high profile. So that’s kind of great, and I think that they’re going to leave us with an amazing cliffhanger.
What was it like for you to be able to work with the whole cast for the first time in episode 11?
LARTER: It was great. I mean, we all love each other, and I think it’s really rare that you end up getting this quality of a show and a lot of people that really love coming to work. We’ve all found an amazing synergy. Every actor is coming to the set and bringing it. The writers are pushing each other. I just feel like everyone is really on their game.
What can you say about your character’s son, Micah? Will we find out more about his abilities?
LARTER: Yeah. Number one, Noah [Gray-Cabey] is an extraordinary actor. He comes to the set and he’s the one showing us how it comes down. He’s amazing, but yeah, you’re definitely going to find out more about his abilities. He’s our little superhero.
Who is your favorite Hero and why?
LARTER: I think Masi [Oka]. I think it’s the sheer joy of watching him and his vulnerability and the excitement he has, and the exhilaration that he feels with discovering what he’s owning. And I think he dances that beautiful line between comic book and reality and really making sure he has those elements in his performance. So I love watching him.