WARNING – SOME SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED WITHIN
First of all, I’d like to thank all of you fans for watching last week. We producers only care about ratings in the same way that a gunfighter might care about the speed of his draw. Luckily HEROES ratings were excellent – and so, we live to fight another day!
Also thanks for buying the DVD and for all of your support in general.
As I hope you know, we here on the show really care about the fans. We try hard to put out a good product, and it takes the sweat and sleepless nights of a lot of talented people to do that. But, ultimately, you fans are the judge of how we’re doing – and you either watch the show, or not.
While episode 2 airs tonight, here, behind the scenes, I have seen cut versions through episode 7. I truly can say that I believe we are going to continue to deliver the goods. The stories come at you fast and furiously – the drama is dense – and you may have to rewind the Tivo a couple of times to breathe or catch up. But, then, it seems like you guys like the stories being told that way. In my opinion the writing, acting, directing and style continues at the same quality as last year.
“Lizards” is the second episode of our new season. It was written by Michael Green (who is also a co-executive producer) and directed by Allan Arkush (who is also an executive producer). I loved the script when I read it. The scene that stood out for me in particular was the final Claire scene – the toe-cutting scene. Eek! That is just creepy… and because it builds on the speech by Claire’s teacher about lizards regenerating… you kind of know what she’s going to do before she does it, but you still can’t believe she’s going to.
THE EVER MYSTERIOUS MICHAEL GREEN
ALLAN ARKUSH LINES UP A SHOT WITH CAMERA OPERATOR SCOTT STEELE
Interestingly, the scripted version of that scene was that Claire’s toe didn’t re-grow. She sat there looking at it, going “grow grow” then, in desperation, she picked up the severed toe and held it up to the stump – and the stump and toe reattached. I actually think that version, intellectually, was cooler. But in post, it took a lot longer, in an episode that was already long and the visual was actually a little unclear. So we decided to go with the regenerating stump.
As I mentioned last week, I think Allan did a particularly good job with the Japanese section of the episode. Allan is a huge film buff in general, and he really understands Japanese cinema. Before we begin shooting we spend a long time having theoretical conversations about the episode. In fact, the day before shooting, the director, writer, producers and Tim Kring have a “tone” meeting in which everyone discusses how we think the show should be shot, what moments need to be emphasized, and how both technically and practically we’re going to produce the scenes. In this meeting we talked about shooting the feudal Japan sequences in a Japanese style. I was less familiar with this cinema style than others. In watching many Japanese films, I noticed that there was typically less coverage (shots) than in American movies. There were fewer close-ups, and the action plays out in highly designed, highly composed masters (wide shots). I attempted this style on my episode, but found it elusive to successfully accomplish. When I saw Allan’s episode, I realized it wasn’t only a style of composition that had escaped me… It was a style of performance. The Japanese sections in this episode are acted in a slightly more theatrical style. Not so much from Masi and David Anders, but Eriko Tamura, the sword smith’s daughter, and Whitebeard and his gang all act in a slightly stylized way which Allan guided them into.
A sequence I particularly like is the one where the sword smith’s daughter is fighting eleven bad guys, then Hiro appears pretending to be Kensei. I love the way each shot flows into the others. The compositions are very designed (note the way Allan stacks several swordsman in profile with their swords drawn – very Japanese). It’s all very good fun.
ALLAN ARKUSH, MASI OKA AND ERIKO TAMURA
I also dig the new darker direction Greg Grunberg's character is going in – I love him in the scene where he grills Angela Petrelli. I also really like the scene where Angela Petrelli is being attacked by…. who??? There is a great shot in this sequence where we see a full-frame shot of Angela cringing in terror, and then that image breaks into a hundred pieces revealing Grunberg and Adrian Pasdar – and we realize the original image was in the mirror. I at first thought that this shot was filmed into the mirror… But then I learned that the editor, Donn Aron, had created the shot by laying the image of Angela over the shot of the mirror. A frame before the mirror explodes he removes the Angela image, and the shot is seamless – A tip o’ the hat to Donn Aron.
I’d also like to introduce a new cinematographer to the show. His name is Charlie Lieberman and he will be alternating episodes with last year’s d.p. Nate Goodman. Because of the scope of our episodes, we need two directors of photography who can alternate each week (this way they can prep with the director and shoot for all of the higher-than-average-TV-schedule days). Charlie’s reel was absolutely gorgeous. I particularly loved his work on JOAN OF ARCADIA, the first season of EVERWOOD and ONCE AND AGAIN. His lighting is strong, naturalistic but still stylized. Heightened reality is what I like to call it. When I made calls around town everyone who had worked with him spoke exceedingly highly of him, explaining that he was also very fast (which is amazing considering the quality of work he does). Charlie was hired and is proving an excellent addition to the team.
D.P’S CHARLIE LIEBERMAN AND NATE GOODMAN
CHARLIE ON SET IN DISCUSSION WITH TIM KRING
I’d also like to tip my hat to production designer Ruth Ammon. I’ve praised her work many times before – but the Irish bar set she created is amazing. When you’re on this set you really forget you’re on a set on a stage. It really looks and feels like an Irish bar with a thick deep coat of varnished paint… Beautiful.
Finally, this week I’d like to tip my hat to our casting directors, Natalie Hart and Jason La Padura and their associate casting director Keri Owens. This group is critically responsible for all of our cast – from the series regulars down to the cops and nurses who say one line. The final decisions of each major cast member is made by a large pool of executive producers and studio executives, with much debate and fighting along the way… But the core ideas of what actors we should be considering always come from them. (Interesting factoid: Besides casting the amazing HEROES cast, one of their other recent credits is HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL – meaning they discovered many of those teen stars too!)
Season 2 posed a particularly challenging task for Natalie and Jason. This is because we added several major new characters to the cast and they were all characters that would play in multiple episodes. ... Kensei and Yaeko in the feudal Japan sequence, Maya and Alejandro for the South American sequence, Bob, the company man who’s been following Suresh, West, the new man in Claire’s life, and Monica Dawson and her family (who haven’t been introduced yet).
How this works is that we in production get a script, hot off the press (in this case we got scripts for episodes 1 and 2 more or less at the same time.) There were loads of new characters that are all described in a general way - and those descriptions are highly subject to interpretation. For instance “Bob” appears in episode 1, and the writers inform us that he is a very important character who will play for many episodes.
So, who is Bob? The script first describes him as this: “A genial looking MAN in a rumpled white linen suit, no tie, stands watching intently. ….We will heretofor refer to this man as BOB.” His behavior and dialogue gives you some insight into the character – and Tim Kring said he really wanted someone who was inherently unthreatening and felt middle management. But there was also a need, down the road, for the character to have menace. There were some who wanted a more edgy take on the character. There were some who wanted him to be smooth and mysterious. Some even suggested Bob could be a woman. In the end we read all of these types for Bob. I’m note sure how many actors the casting directors saw, but we producers saw twenty or thirty. We ended up with the versatile, and often seen, character actor Stephen Tobolowsky, who clearly embodies what Tim first had in mind. (He can veer from shlubby/nice to creepy/menace on a dime). But, the point is, this process had to be repeated by the casting directors for every character down to the smallest.
CASTING DIRECTORS NATALIE HART AND JASON LA PADURA AND ASSOCIATE CASTING DIRECTOR KERRI OWENS
That’s it for now, next week, Peter makes a fateful choice with the Irish gang, Maya and Alejandro encounter trouble with the law, Claire and West take it to a higher level and an old friend returns!!!
MSYELF, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR ANNE BERGER AND ALLAN ARKUSH (EXPERIENCING THE FULL JOY OF DIRECTING!)
ALLAN ON SET WITH STEPHEN TOBOLOWSKY
ALLAN DEMONSTRATES “HOW TO LINE UP A SHOT”
HAYDEN PANETTIERE RELAXES (BEAUTIFULLY) IN BETWEEN TAKES
SENDHIL AND STEPHEN TOBOLOWSKY
DAVID ANDERS (THINKING DEEP THOUGHTS)
HAYDEN PREPARES TO GIVE HERSELF A PEDICURE (NO! HAYDEN NO! DON’T DO IT!)
ALLAN AND MYSTERIOUS MICHAEL GREEN ON SET