It may be said, when the ink dries on the history books of comicdom, that the last few years have seen the superhero genre at the height of its popularity. With the premiere of at least four blockbuster cape movies a year, comic sales rising in the midst of an economic recession and the numerous animated shows and direct-to-DVD titles coming from both the heavy hitters of Marvel and DC, comic book culture is seeing a boom like it has never seen before. This was possibly made most obvious by the NBC prime-time sensation “Heroes.”
When the series first premiered in September 2006 it found an instant fan base in comic book fans everywhere. Soon, however, the show would cross over that border and become NBC’s highest rated drama premiere in five years, averaging 14.3 million viewers in the United States alone. Graphic novels, webisodes and action figures were added to the show’s arsenal as everyone watched to find why saving a cheerleader would save the world and who was to become the bomb that would destroy New York City.
One of the most popular characters of the show is the time-traveling comic book nerd Hiro Nakamura, and from episode one Hiro has been accompanied by his partner in both justice and shenanigans, Ando Masahashi.
Blast Magazine got a chance to interview James Kyson Lee, who plays Ando on the show, about what has been happening to his character so far and what is to come in the future.
“It’s a very interesting show to work on” said Lee. “It is a show that truly crosses several genres of story telling. There’s drama, comedy, action, and of course classic American superhero ideals mixed in with some Japanese anime humor and style.”
When Ando was first introduced to the show, he was one of the few non-powered constant characters. As Hiro’s sidekick, he acted as a comic relief in the quest to “save the cheerleader and save the world.” From scamming after the show’s blonde bombshell Niki Sanders (Ali Larter) to convincing Hiro to freeze time in order to cheat a high stakes poker game and earn the funds for their trip to New York City, Ando had been Hiro’s constant companion in both good times and bad.
“I’ve always felt that Ando acts as the viewer’s guide to what is going on in the show” said Lee. “He acted as the view point of someone who didn’t have any powers and was experiencing these fantastic events anyway.”
But even as early as the end of season one, Ando became a more serious force in the show. From going solo in an attempt to assassinate villain Sylar to reassuring Hiro of his place as a truly righteous warrior, Ando seemed to strip his strictly joking role to become a source of conscience and courage for his friend and partner.
“Ando is potentially the character who has gone through the most changes throughout the seasons of ‘Heroes'” said Lee. “He’s gone from the sidekick and moral conscience of Hiro to the one who has to take the leading role of the duo.”
Currently on “Heroes” SPOILER ALERT Ando has gained the power to shoot a red energy from his body and amplify the powers of others. Meanwhile, the once time-traveling Hiro has lost his time and space bending powers and has taken to more of a sidekick role. Throughout the changes in roles however, Lee sees the twosome’s relationship the same as ever. SPOILER END
“They have always had a sort of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn kind of friendship” said Lee. “When they are together they get into these big adventures that they need the others’ help to get out of. When they are apart however they still develop as characters, possibly even more so than when they are together.”
Lee also reflected on his experience on working on a show the caliber of “Heroes” and what he thought was its effect on popular culture.
“I had no idea it was going to be as big as it turned out to be” said Lee. “When I saw the first script I knew that it was a new and ambitious type of show and I really wasn’t sure if you could pull it off.”
Lee talked briefly about the upcoming season of “Heroes.” Though the first script was not released at the time of the interview, it is known that the season will be called “Redemption” and that the writers had reported new characters and more involved story lines for both Hiro and Ando.
“The writers are very excited about the upcoming season” Lee said. “There has been a lot of talk about getting the show back to its roots and focusing more on the idea that these are true human stories outside of fantastic aspects of their lives.”
While on the set of “Heroes” Lee was able to meet with some legends of acting such as “Star Trek”s George Takei and “A Clockwork Orange’s” Malcolm McDowell. A true comic fan however, Lee’s greatest thrill of the show was to meet the legendary comic writer Stan Lee, who made a guest appearance in season one as a bus driver.
“I am a huge fan of the old Spider Man comics” said Lee. “I was very excited to meet Stan and I thought it was great that a legend like him was willing to come on our show.”
Outside of the show, James Lee has also done his share of voice acting, including playing the villain Shang Shun in the recent “Mortal Kombat vs. DC” game. He is also going to be starring in the upcoming Sci Fi Channel original special “Star Runners” and upcoming sex comedy “How to Make Love to a Woman.”
Heroes season three will be released on DVD and Blu-ray September 1 2009. For more info on James Kyson Lee and the rest of the cast visit www.nbc.com/Heroes/