Sci Fi Wire – September 08, 2008

Sci Fi Wire: Heroes Sylar Will Surprise

Q&A: Heroes Answers Promised

Tim Kring, executive producer of NBC’s Heroes, and star Zachary Quinto (Sylar) promised that many of the lingering questions from the truncated second season will be answered by the end of the third hour of the upcoming third season. The new season will also focus more on the core characters–and expect to see the return of Sylar’s alter ego, Gabriel Gray.

When the hit show returns after a prolonged absence on Sept. 22 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, it will also move quickly into an entirely new story arc, Kring promised. Kring and Quinto spoke with reporters in a Sept. 5 conference call about the first 13 episodes of the new season, “Volume 3,” subtitled “Villains.” The first two hours of the season will consist of the episodes “The Second Coming” and “The Butterfly Effect.” Following is an edited version of the conference call.

Tim Kring, the first hour of Volume 3 answers a number of unanswered questions from last year but also leaves a few still dangling and sets up new questions. How deep into the season will it be before we get an understanding of what?s going on?

Kring: Some of those questions will linger a little bit, but I think, actually, by the end of the third hour of the show you’ll have kind of most of those [answers]. I mean, one of the goals of this season–because we’ll have been off the air for nine months–we didn’t want to drag a lot of story behind us, and we didn’t want to feel like you had to have watched two years of this show to catch up. So we wanted to answer things really quickly so that you could move forward on this volume and have a kind of clean path in front of you.

So there really are not a lot of lingering questions that you carry with you from before. The goal for us from now on with these volumes is to try to answer literally 95 percent of the questions that are posed in the beginning of the volume … by the end of the volume. This particular volume, “Villains,” is 13 episodes long.

Zachary Quinto, when you signed on to play Sylar, did you have any way of knowing how viewers would just so love and hate this character?

Quinto: Absolutely not. I don’t think there’s any way to sort of predict the way that things as powerful as this show have been for all of us involved in it and for our audience. When you get involved in it, it’s something that sort of takes you by storm a little bit. This is obviously the biggest example in my experience of that happening, but, yeah, there’s really no way to predict it. And, obviously, [I’m] most grateful that it did, but had no way of knowing when I signed on.

Given Heroes and the upcoming Star Trek feature [in which Quinto plays a young Spock], did you always have a sense that you’d have a place in the SF universe, or was it just something that came about?

Quinto: Yeah, I never imagined my experience would lead me so deeply into the comic-book and science fiction world as it has, but, again, it’s something that I’m incredibly grateful for. And [considering his theater training], it makes sense when you look at it from that perspective, because I think there’s something very theatrical about those worlds. Obviously, the world of Heroes is incredibly heightened, and there’s something very theatrical about it. So while I never really expected it, you know, it doesn’t necessarily surprise me now that I have been ensconced in it. And also [it’s] like … it’s a really exciting group of fans, so I feel like that’s something else that is an added bonus to the whole thing. It’s like probably the most ardent group of people that you could ever be working for, in terms of fans and their enthusiasm for the stories that you’re telling. So I’m happy to be here. Now that I am, I definitely look forward to sort of exploring other areas of storytelling, but I’m so grateful that this one has led me to a point where I’ll be able to do that.

Sylar was the main villain during season one, and he spent a lot of time on the disabled list and recovering during season two. This year, it seems like he’s far more involved. Zach, what were your intentions coming into season three, and how satisfied are you with what you’ve seen so far for the character?

Quinto: I think that the scripts this season are just more exciting and more action-packed and more dynamic than ever. I think it just keeps getting better, and every time I open a script it’s really a thrill. My approach is always the same in whatever I’m working on. It’s to serve the text. I think we’re really fortunate to work with incredibly creative, imaginative, consistent writers that bring surprise. … Sometimes when I open the scripts in season three, it’s difficult to keep track of exactly where I’m going, because there are so many different aspects of this character to experience this year that are drawn upon. So my approach, really, is just to sort of serve that and to keep track of that at the same time. I think people will see what I mean as the season unfolds.

Kring: I wanted to kind of clarify something, because it’s been brought up a couple of times: this idea of season two versus season three versus season one. The truth is what you’re referring to as season two was not really our season two. It turned out to be season two because of the writers’ strike. It was really sort of like watching a movie and having the projector break 40 minutes into it. So what we’re doing now for season three was really going to be contained within the body of season two. So to the extent of a character like Sylar, who spends the first volume of season two without his powers, in the subsequent volumes he would have gotten his powers back and then [gone] on a series of adventures. So I just wanted to clarify that what people are referring to as season two was not by our design; it was really by design of the fact that there was a writers’ strike.

Everyone was a protagonist when Heroes started. At what point did you realize that you needed a continuing antagonist like Sylar and that it would be wise for Sylar to stick around rather than have one arc and then disappear?

Kring: Well, Sylar was always designed to stay around. And we knew that you really can’t have heroes without villains, and so I think it was really built into the premise. Also, what was built into the premise is this idea that these are ordinary people, so to the extent that they make decisions that are based on who they are and what circumstances they find themselves in, that determines whether they will be good or evil. If you’re predisposed to be good and you have superpowers, then you’ll use it for something good. If you’re predisposed to be bad, then you’d use it for something evil. So it was kind of always built into the premise that our core group of people would be tempted by the circumstances they were in.

Are you going to feature any characters more prominently than others this season or make any major changes to the storytelling to help viewers follow the story?

Kring: Well, this season we are not really introducing any new characters that have their own storylines. So we are concentrating very much on the core characters that we have had for two seasons now. We have a certain style of storytelling that really is a kind of pastiche of storytelling, where there are multiple characters and multiple stories going on at the same time. The difference in this volume, “Villains,” is they are all feeding one big, giant story. So no, we’re not really planning anybody anymore than anybody else, I don’t think. The audience may feel that way at times, but I think in the aggregate, when they see it put together, certain episodes may lean a little more heavily on one character or another, but by the end it will kind of balance out.

This is a big year for Zach with both Heroes and Star Trek. What?s been your career plan in terms of leveraging the show into film roles, and how did you choose Star Trek as your first hiatus movie project?

Quinto: Well, I hardly chose it, so to speak. This whole year for me has been such a blur of good fortune that … Very little of it was by design. I feel like my experience on Heroes and the world in which it’s rooted lends itself to the attention that led me to be a part of the movie. I don’t really think of it in terms of how I’ll use Heroes to get movie roles or how I’ll use Heroes to get other jobs. I remain as grateful to remain on Heroes now as I did when I first started. It’s so fulfilling creatively and professionally. … I think you can’t get ahead of yourself because no amount of success or exposure or opportunity is going to really matter or be ultimately fulfilling unless you can be totally present in what you’re doing right now. …

We got some of Sylar’s background as Gabriel Gray. How much more of his past would you be interested in learning about, and how much darker/more evil would you like see Sylar get?

Quinto: Well, I’d certainly be interested in learning as much about his background as the writers see fit. I mean, we do go there again this year. At a certain point you’ll sort of revisit that character and the shades of that character as you first saw him. As far as how evil I’d want him to get, I feel like Sylar’s evil is rooted in a great humanity and in a lot of smallness and a feeling of sort of emptiness. And so I don’t really look at it as “how evil can he possibly get?” I sort of look at it as like what he has in front of him and the choices that he makes in order to seize his opportunities or to feel [special]. … He’s constantly, constantly wrestling with the desire to feel special, the desire to feel valid, the desire to feel viable. So I feel like those are the ways I come at it, more than the level of evil that he achieves, because those are really just means to an end.

Kring: Let me just sort of add, Zach has really provided us with [a lot]. … You can’t do a character that’s as deep and complex as Sylar without having the actor who can play those colors and that depth. And Zach has really provided the ability to explore this character in really, really deep ways. I see Sylar as someone who is on a very deep existential quest to find out the meaning of his own existence and where he came from and what is driving him, and we will continue to peel the layers off of that onion as long as this character exists on the show.