Masi Oka is a natural born Hiro.
As we all know, but The Boston Herald recently detailed, The Japan-born, California-raised actor nabbed an Emmy nomination for his role as Hiro Nakamura, a computer programmer turned time-traveling protagonist on the NBC hit drama Heroes.
"Personally, it is definitely an honor," Oka said of his nomination. "To be part of this ensemble is just a gift. To have an Emmy nom is a cherry on top. We're all proud of it."
Heroes - the standout hit of last season, also stars Ali Larter ("Final Destination"), Milo Ventimiglia ("Gilmore Girls") and Hayden Panettiere ("Ice Princess") as everyday people with superhuman abilities. But the show's moral compass, Hiro, almost wasn't part of the show, creator Tim Kring said during a recent conference call with reporters.
"When I read the first draft of the script, the character (Hiro) didn't actually exist. There were a preponderance of characters that felt these powers were an affliction. The character was created to lighten up the initial script," said Kring, whose writing credits also include "Crossing Jordan" and "Providence."
Luckily, for Oka and for viewers, Kring opted for a positive presence.
"He embodies the sense of the Everyman. He kept his dream. To be able to live vicariously, to live my dreams through his dreams, is fantastic," said Oka, 32.
Oka and Hiro share some similarities - Oka is trained in Kendo, Japanese sword fighting, and Hiro battled the heroes' nemesis Sylar (Zachary Quinto) with an ancient Kensei sword - but Oka turns to real-life heroes for inspiration, not anime comic books as Hiro does.
"My real-life hero is my mother. Growing up, being raised by a single mom who came from Japan to America (to give me a better life) and gave up her entire life for me, I will never be able to repay what my mom has done for me," Oka said.
The Brown University graduate also works for George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic special effects company when not acting.
With the season one DVD release scheduled for Aug. 28 and the Emmy Awards on Sept. 16, Oka and Kring hope to maintain the show's momentum throughout the fall.
"It's not pressure to top it, it's pressure to keep it going. A show like this or this particular show has been defined by its ability to defy your expectations. People want to watch it because they don't know where it is going to take them. We have extraordinary staff and cast," said Kring. "We are on a big roll right now."