Hiro Speaks Out: A Chat with Masi Oka

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He's probably the most beloved of all the Heroes.

So, how does Masi Oka bring out the charm in Hiro Nakamura? Here are excerpts from a recent interview with the actor:

How did you become involved with the Heroes project? Can you tell me about the casting process?
Basically, there's your typical pressure-filled four rounds of auditions. Luckily it wasn't for public viewing like American Idol, but it was pretty intense. First we read for the casting director, then the producer. Then it gets boiled down to three people at the studio test, and then that boils down to two at the network test, and that was that.

An agent submits you for the part. And you know, I got the script, and I was reading through it, and I just fell in love with the character and the brilliant writing. And I just knew. I loved this part. It's very me, in many senses, and it's such a specific character. Just going through the process, it felt really good. I felt pretty comfortable. I kinda knew it was pretty much mine to lose. I feel like I was at the perfect time, at the perfect place, with the perfect place. It felt like destiny.

Masi Oka Photo
 We're told that each actor who was cast added a special something to the characters they will be playing. What do you feel you have added to Hiro?
I don't know. Hopefully my face, my charm, and my ripped body. I feel I gave it more of a naivete, an excitement and energy.

Also, being a Japanese native and having grown up with Japanese media, I can give it some authenticity. I think my comedic and improv experience helped. I don't know. All of the characters are written really well, so I feel I'm just there to try to make it alive, in terms of how I envisioned it, and if I've added something extra that was mine, that's great from an actor's perspective.

Hiro seems to be a big science fiction fan. Are you a science fiction fan as well?
Yeah, definitely. I definitely love science fiction. It's a great genre. I'd never consider myself as a Trekkie, or go on the convention circuit, but I grew up on Japanese comic books, and the manga, and I love the old school stuff, from the Orange Road to modern thrillers like the Monster and Death Note. So, I think sci-fi makes your brain turn and think, and I love the kind of sci-fi that has a message as well, which Heroes does. So I think, yeah, I definitely love science fiction.

Is there a lesson to be learned from Hiro as far as believing in one's self?
Of course. Everything begins with believing. It's like that song from Prince of Egypt, "There can be miracles when you believe" [sings]. If you don't believe, nothing will happen. If you don't believe in something, you'll never take action. Whether if it's in yourself or a higher entity, it's that belief that propels us to move forward and live our lives. There's so much negativity in our world, and nay-sayers, that I just think it's really important to believe. It takes so much courage to say yes, so I think that's hopefully a lesson that everyone will take with them.

What was your reaction when you learned that Heroes was going to be picked up as a series?
I was absolutely elated. It's just a phenomenal script, phenomenal characters. Our biggest thing was, I wanted to know what was coming next! I just wanted to follow the script! I was like, "I want to read Episode 2, Episode 3. What's going to happen to these characters?" That was more my thing. It was like "Yes! I get to see where these characters are gonna go."So that was the biggest thing for me. And also, for me, doing the pilot, I didn't get a chance to work with such a brilliant cast, because most of our storylines are so separate, and I just wanted to have the opportunity to work with my co-workers.

Was there anyone in the cast that you were a big fan of before signing on to the show?
No one in particular; I just think they're all great actors. And I want to be selfish, and I want to work with all of them, to be honest with you.

Will the Japanese/subtitle thing continue into the series or will Hiro somehow gain the secondary power of instant translation?

Oh, well I'm gonna quote Mr. Tim Kring on this one. "Hiro speaks limited English, that seems to get better and better as we go along. He can get by with his limited vocabulary, but also with the sheer force of his charm and personality. The audience will have fun watching him get more and more comfortable with it." So, it looks like Hiro will definitely slowly learn at whatever pace he picks up English. I personally think that, because he reads a lot of American comics, I'd love for him to speak English, but only in comic book phrases. That would be a funny thing to do.

At one point of the pilot, Hiro manages to transport himself clear across the world. How does he know where he can safely land?

When Hiro concentrates, I believe he sees his destination place, when he's bending time and space. He visualizes, and sees that open area. He's able to control when he's going to occupy that space. Of course there will be other atoms there, no matter what, but he finds a way to find out when the coast is clear, and transport himself at that precise moment.

To read the rest of this interview, click here.

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.


Heroes Quotes

Mohinder Suresh: Evolution is an imperfect, and often violent process. Morality loses it's meaning. The question of good and evil, reduced to one simple choice: Survive? Or perish?

Claire: My dad lied to me about my entire life; my biological parents, my ability, you can’t just hide things like that! There’s got to be something on there.
Zack: If your dad’s the guy you’re describing I don’t think he’s gonna keep his secrets on the family computer.

Heroes Music

  Song Artist
Song Road to Joy Bright Eyes
Song Mustang Sally Wilson Pickett
Song I Want It That Way Backstreet Boys