Masi Oka quickly became everyone’s favorite Hero. As Hiro, the teleporting, Japanese speaking superhero of NBC’s Heroes, his enthusiasm made guys laugh and women swoon. He first spoke the catch phrase “Save the cheerleader, save the world” and seems to become a major warrior in the future. Now that the show is a hit, it’s a lot harder to push our way into a Masi Oka interview session, but he patiently stood around waiting to answer every question.
CraveOnline: When will we see future Hiro again?
Masi Oka: Episode 20. I’m looking forward to putting all that get up again. I think that’s so much fun. Ali gets to do it every day, kind of be Jessica and Niki. Any time you can play a different character on the same show, it’s always a challenge and I’m always looking forward to it. So that’s going to be a lot of fun.
CraveOnline: Do you have any idea what he is yet?
Masi Oka: We don’t know yet. I’m sure Tim has all the answers in terms of his head, but we don’t know what’s happening yet.
CraveOnline: Are you looking forward to more action stuff as a Samurai?
Masi Oka: Yeah. There’s going to be a lot of great stuff coming up. We just shot something like an all night shoot over in
CraveOnline: Can you wield a sword?
Masi Oka: I do study kendo. They’re trying to work it in. They’ve asked me to retrain again which I can only imagine that they’re going to try to do a lot more sword fighting.
CraveOnline: Will we see you fighting the dinosaur?
Masi Oka: Oh, episode 12. We always realize Isaac’s painting. We never disappoint. What you see in Isaac’s painting, we’ll realize it on our show.
CraveOnline: But not always what you think?
Masi Oka: That’s true. There’s always going to be twists and turns but it will be realized.
CraveOnline: What are some past eras you’d like to have Hiro visit?
Masi Oka: Past eras, wow, I’d love him to go to the prehistoric era, even the Mayan period. Even some historic times, being there like when the Berlin Wall is more recently. There’s so many cool historic moments that personally I would love to see and if Hiro can go there, that will be great.
CraveOnline: How much did he change when he couldn’t save Charlie?
Masi Oka: That’s definitely, it’s interesting because Hiro starts at such a high level of positive and enthusiasm, he’s going to go through a lot of trials and errors, a lot of tests of his character and will. And the loss of Charlie is definitely a big, devastating thing for him and he’s going to face a lot more of that in the future. That’s how he’s going to grow as a hero. He’s going to make a lot of mistakes, things you won’t agree, I don’t agree with what he is doing sometimes. But it’s just a way, that’s what makes him human. It can’t be all happiness and positive because that’s not how life works unfortunately.
CraveOnline: Which costars do you hope to work more with?
Masi Oka: God, all of them. It’s fun. Everyone brings something different. I’d love to work with Greg because he’s a comedic genius. Working with
CraveOnline: Have you tried to slip anything in Japanese by the censors?
Masi Oka: No, we haven’t done that yet. The writers trust us with all that so we make sure everything’s kosher. It’s a little bit paraphrasing, but…
CraveOnline: Who does the translation?
Masi Oka: I actually do. I make it a point to translate my own stuff because I think it’s important to stay true to the character and it allows me to get into a rhythm because if someone else translates for me, I tend to fall into their rhythm of speech and it’s very rigid when it’s just a literal translation. So I asked the producers and they let me translate it.
CraveOnline: Are you looking forward to having an action figure?
Masi Oka: I guess so. It’d be cool to be on a lunch pail. I was hoping for a little bobble head action but NBC wouldn’t buy that.
CraveOnline: How has your life changed since this show started?
Masi Oka: It’s very cool. It’s been great. Just going out and being recognized is absolutely strange. I could wear shades, I could wear a baseball cap, I could wear a beard and I would go out and I’d still get recognized so that’s been a big change.
CraveOnline: What do people say to you?
Masi Oka: I don’t think it’s a problem. It’s been great to have fans, very passionate fans come up to you, you know, “We love your show, we love your character, thank you so much. Can I take a picture with you?” It’s a great thing to have rather than have someone come and say, “Oh God, your show sucks.”
CraveOnline: Any hot babes?
Masi Oka: That would be nice. I’ve had a couple girls come up, one girl I remember just came up, was walking next to me, turned and realized it was me and was like, “Oh my God, I love you.” She hugged me and kissed me and then ran away. I’m like, “Wait, you don’t have to run away.”
CraveOnline: Do people ask you to do the expressions when they meet you?
Masi Oka: They’ve asked me to do Yatta, or sometimes they ask me to take pictures or photos but they ask me to do Yatta or crunch my face. It is a weird thing to be asked. I sometimes joke you’ll show me yours; I’ll show you mine which could be taken the wrong way. There always is something when I’m out there in the public, I kind of like to delineate myself from Hiro and Masi. When people call me Hiro, it’s wonderful that they recognize the show, I love it. And I say, “Hey, what’s your name? Oh, nice to meet you Clarissa, my name is Masi.” And just to give them that because when I’m out in public, I do represent the show. At the same time, I’m me.
CraveOnline: Do you do the face thing for them?
Masi Oka: I don’t do the face thing outside. It’s kind of like Dan Castelanetta will never do his Homer Simpson voice outside of the plot so I think it’s also good because it makes them want to see the show. That’s where they can get it so that’s a way of getting it.
CraveOnline: Do you still have your job at ILM?
Masi Oka: I still consult for them, yeah, maybe like one day a week. It’s getting progressively harder of course to help them out. I’m hoping not to end it because I think having that other side keeps me grounded and humble to where I am and also allows me to appreciate and respect what goes on behind the camera. I always joke, when we get to like season three, if we’re fortunate enough to get to season three, I would love the opportunity to direct and use my employee discount. Buy two effects and get one free, so that’s why I need to still be an employee.
CraveOnline: How important do you think the international cast is to Heroes’ success?
Masi Oka: I’m not sure I can say that’s why but it’s definitely a more realistic portrayal of what’s going on in the world right now. There’s people from many nationalities, many religious backgrounds, many financial backgrounds. There’s all sorts of backgrounds of people. It’s just a spectrum of life. We haven’t even covered, it’s only 2 percent of what we represent on the screen. There are so many other types of people out there.
CraveOnline: Did you have a role model growing up?
Masi Oka: My biggest role model is always my Mom. As a single mother to be able to raise a kid, go to a foreign country and raise a kid on your own, is no easy task. She’s given up a lot of her life for it so I’m always in debt to her for that.
CraveOnline: How proud is she of your success?
Masi Oka: I think she loves it. She won’t tell me directly but I know she’s very proud of me.
CraveOnline: What is it about Hiro that you think people are responding so strongly to?
Masi Oka: I love playing him and I think that joy and passion for me wanting to play that character I think hopefully translates. And the fact that he’s so positive and optimistic, I think a lot of kids look up to him and just being able to be exuberant and positive and get to believe in a dream and finally live his dream is a very big thing.
CraveOnline: Do you collect comic books?
Masi Oka: I collect manga. I didn’t grow up on American comics unfortunately, but I read a lot of Japanese manga and stuff.
CraveOnline: How did you get into acting from your behind the scenes training?
Masi Oka: I grew up in LA, went to college in the east coast, went to
CraveOnline: When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
Masi Oka: I studied it in college. It was definitely something I studied and I really enjoyed. I love the idea of using both the left side and the right side of the brain. I love that. And also, it introduced me to a lot of different kinds of people and with different points of view and it was great. In high school, I was a big math and science geek so just to be part of this artistic community with a completely different point of view of life, opened me up not only as an artist but as a person.
CraveOnline: Were you shy before?
Masi Oka: Oh yeah. I’m still very shy. But it’s like going through
CraveOnline: Has Heroes taken over your dreams now?
Masi Oka: That’s interesting. I do dream about the show. Sometimes like oh, I could have done that in my last take, I’ll wake up to that nightmare. Sometimes I’ll wake up and it’s like oh, I’m in an infinite time loop or I got killed off for some reason. I sometimes dream about the writer’s room saying, “Oh, what can we do to torture Masi today?” Then there are times I’ll just dream about strawberries. I haven’t really thought about what I really dream about recently.
CraveOnline: What are the positives and negatives about being the breakout star of the show?
Masi Oka: I think we all popped in some ways but I’ve just been very blessed to have this opportunity to play this comedic character that people can relate to and the writers have written an amazing story. I’m just happy to be delivering that. For me, the greatest thing is being recognizable to the public. It opens a lot more career opportunities if I were to do more movies and stuff if I wanted to. I love my show. That’s my first priority without a doubt, Heroes is there. The downside is just having people to share it with. This is ensemble show at its best. We’re a family. As I said, these guys are my brothers and sisters that I’ve never had and I believe that because this is going to be a long running show, everything is going to homogenize and everyone will get their time and press and stuff, but it is sometimes hard when people start pushing me as a breakout or a character who popped because these guys are my family. I don’t think anybody is above anyone else. Everyone brings something so unique to the table and something so different and that’s what completes the puzzle. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts and I certainly believe that. I kind of take it as probably if people say I popped, I represent the show and we all popped. That’s the biggest thing. That’s the one thing I am kind of uncomfortable is when I do get singled out. No, no, this is an ensemble show and we make each other look good and that’s why it turns out to be the way it is.
CraveOnline: Have you been back to
Masi Oka: I haven’t. I wish I have. I’m dying to actually because before the show sells in