From creator/executive producer Tim Kring, who imagined NBC’s original critically acclaimed 2006 Heroes series, comes Heroes Reborn, an epic 13-episode event series that chronicles the lives of ordinary people who discover they possess extraordinary abilities. After a terrorist attack in Odessa, Texas left the city decimated, those with extraordinary abilities were blamed for the event, leading them to go into hiding or on the run. While Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman), aka HRG, will have his eyes opened to the truth of what happened, these extraordinary individuals will begin to cross paths, as their ultimate destiny is nothing less than saving the world and mankind.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, showrunner Tim Kring talked about why he wanted to do Heroes Reborn, having a combination of returning and new characters, why HRG is such an important part of the story, why viewers don’t have to (but should) watch the original series first, where the danger is coming from in this story, and that they’re not thinking of doing more episodes beyond this run of 13, but that the show is inherently set up that way, if they were to make that decision.
Collider: How did Heroes Reborn come about? Did you just feel like this story was never fully finished, or did someone bring this idea to you?
TIM KRING: We aired our last episode of the series without knowing that we weren’t coming back, so it’s a very valid feeling that I had that I wasn’t done because I really was not done. That being said, I think we left off in a really interesting place. As fate would have it, we left off in an absolutely perfect place. We left the audience with a big, giant question mark about what happens when the world finally finds out about these people, and that brings up a whole new set of questions and problems about how the world deals with that. But clearly, what we also found out from the show was that, at the time, our audience had migrated in a very, very big way to non-traditional ways of watching the show. Our last full calendar year that we were on the air was 2009. That was the last year we were fully on the air, all year long. We were the #1 most downloaded show in the world, at that time. And then, in March of 2010, three months later, we were cancelled. We were also one of the most DVRed shows on TV, we were one of the most streamed shows, and we sold millions of DVDs that year, alone, which is huge. There was this audience that had decided that they were going to watch it in other ways, and the network really struggled with what to do with a show like that. The network really only was a single source of revenue business with advertising, so what do you do with a show where it doesn’t matter if all of these people are watching it. It only matters if they’re watching it on the air. There was always a drumbeat internally that knew that and remembered that, so when the new regime explored that idea, they realized that there was this very large audience that had been unable to be counted, at the time.
Was it something you immediately wanted to jump right back into, or did you have to really think about returning to this, a few years later now?
KRING: It landed at exactly the right time for me, creatively, although I was busy doing another show at the time. I was doing Dig (for the USA Network), at the time. But when somebody says they want to do this as a 13-part event series, it was just such a huge opportunity to pay certain things off for the fans. If it doesn’t come back again, than at least we’ll have ended it a little bit more on my terms, this time.
Did you always want to have a cast of new and returning characters, instead of it just being an all-new cast?
KRING: We had wanted to do that, all along. It’s not a secret to know that that’s a conflict with the network, when some people have become stars or were promoting other shows. It was always my idea that this show would have the ability to repopulate itself. Because the origin story is so exciting, once that origin story is over, it gets harder and more challenging to keep those characters interesting to the audience.
Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman) was such an important part of the story, the first time around. What can we expect from him, this time around?
KRING: One of the first things I thought about when I thought about the relaunch of a Heroes idea was that I wanted HRG, Jack Coleman’s character, to be at the center of it. It’s very telling that he’s the only character that didn’t have powers, which says something about what I wanted to say with this show. It’s about the people and not the powers. So, I wanted to make sure the audience didn’t need too much prior knowledge of the show to watch this show, but if you were a loyal viewer, you’d be rewarded throughout, by all these Easter eggs that are there for you. His storyline is one of trying to uncover what really happened, and by uncovering that, he uncovers a lot of the mythology of the former show for the audience, but does it in an organic way. He was always the spine hub character from the first series, from which all of these other characters emanate.
HRG has always been an interesting character because he’s gone back and forth between being the good guy and the bad guy.
KRING: What was fascinating was that, every season, Jack was very concerned about how to play the character, and whether he was really that bad or really that good. And the answer was always, “Yes, you are both of those things. You are a ruthless do-anything company man, and you are a loving father that would do anything for his daughter. You have to be able to hold both of those things.” It was that dichotomy that made it fascinating. People just stared at his eyes wondering which one he really was. And by making him always a man with a plan, you always knew he was thinking his way out of situations.
Even if viewers don’t have to have seen the original series before watching this, would you prefer that they binge watch it first?
KRING: Oh, of course! Then, everybody is speaking the exact same language. Absolutely! But I wanted to be really careful and mindful of the fact that we’re going to have a lot of new viewers, and I wanted to make sure there was an on-ramp onto this freeway that was smooth for them. So, by the time you are done with this 13 episodes, you actually uncover a tremendous amount about the former mythology about the show, but it’s done in an organic way. And these characters that come back represent these big leaps. Every time one comes back, you learn something big, and they’re staggered throughout. Masi Oka’s character, Hiro, comes back several episodes in.
Where does the danger come from, in this story?
KRING: We’re going to touch on themes that are big, in terms of environmental threats. We’re going to touch on themes of privacy and corporations getting so big, and people’s lives being dominated by tech. There are going to be lots of things that are very familiar to the zeitgeist of what we all are thinking about. I can’t give anything away, but combined, they create this unique threat that partly has to do with the environment and partly has to do with technology and partly has to do with corporate greed. Those things together are what creates our big threat.
How does Zachary Levi’s villain fit into that?
KRING: He connects with the meta plot, in a very, very big way. He has a very big role to play. It’s no secret that you see him killing people, and he and his wife seem to be hell-bent on vengeance. But when Zachary and I spoke about the character, we talked about how obviously someone of his caliber, as an actor, is not going to play something that only has one-dimension. It’s really about exploring a character like that and saying, is there redemption? Is there something else? Is there a way out of this? Is there no way out of it? What’s the morality tale that we’re trying to tell about someone who has got that kind of vengeance in their heart? But his character connects up, very quickly, with the meta plot, so it’s both personal and plot-driven.
In the few years since the show was last on, technology has grown tremendously. Are there new powers that you can explore now that you couldn’t explore before?
KRING: Yes and no. No matter how much we try to invent new, cool powers, I don’t want to make the promise that this is going to be about a whole bunch of new powers. We reinterpret many of the powers that you’ve already seen before, with the idea of technology, which is fun. But there’s just something so basic and cool about somebody flying, invisibility, or throwing a car. As much as we try to come up with cool technology, there’s a reason why Marvel movies are really about basic powers. They’re fun to watch, they’re fun to produce, and they’re fun for the audience.
Are you already thinking about the possibility of continuing on with more new Heroes episodes, or will this run of episodes feel self-contained?
KRING: The idea, from day one, was that we were going to do 13 episodes. That’s all anybody has ever talked about. There has not been a word about any more. And I think by doing that, we sent ourselves a very clear message to each other, as writers and directors, and a contract is made with the audience that you will get a beginning, a middle and an end. What that allows for is that it makes sure that the storytelling is a very aggressive style of storytelling, meaning that it has a lot of story in each episode. It’s 50 pounds of story in a 10-pound bag. We’re making sure that that aggressive story moves forward and gives that exhilarating quality to the viewer. When you don’t know where you’re going to end and you don’t know where that finish line is, and you’re just hoping for a second season, a third season, or a fifth season, and you’re looking down the road to try to stay on the air as long as possible, whether you’re doing it consciously or not, there is a stall factor because you don’t want to give everything away. What a set number of episodes does, especially now with an audience that has so much competing for their attention and their eyeballs, is make a very hard and fast contract with them that this is going to last this long and then be over. That being said, the premise of Heroes has always been a very elastic, very broad premise. It’s about an indeterminate number of people around the world who are discovering that they are capable of extraordinary things, and then there’s always a world that needs to be saved. With a premise that broad, it means that you can come back and find something. I feel like, if asked, it’s an elastic enough premise to do that.
Heroes Reborn airs on Thursday nights on NBC, starting on September 24th.