OWI: Thank you so much for agreeing to an interview with the OWI. Where are we with the strike?
Tim Kring: Its only rumors and hearsay at this point but it appears things are winding down. Tomorrow is a big WGA event to talk about it and discuss it with the members and my guess is that we will be back to work, not to normal, but back to work very early next week. By all accounts.
OWI: If it is over say, tomorrow, when will the show go back into production? Will we have to wait until September possibly.
TK: Well it is difficult to say because this show takes a long time to produce and we are starting, we don't have any scripts in the can. We shot our last one. Aired our last one. We are starting from scratch, we have to write scripts, put in them prep, then put them into production, then post production then get them onto air. A normal season usually ends with May sweeps. I am not looking at a schedule right now so I don't know exactly but my guess is that we would be able to get three or four episodes done for the May sweeps. But it is just a matter of whether thats what the network wants us to do or not. As you know a show like this builds momentum and the serialized show wants to take advantage of as much uninterrupted airing as you can.
TK: And the stop and start schedule is always problematic for a show like this. So it is not the most ideal thing in the world to come back after 5 months off the air and have 3 to 4 episodes then go off the again for another 4 months.
OWI: Any chance or revisiting Origins for those last couple of episodes?
TK: There is really no chance for that because it is even farther off the radar than would be the next episodes of Heroes. We would have to gear all the way back up and bring all those people back. It is my hope to resurrect that at some point but right now it is all about getting the show back on the air at this point.
OWI: Well all the fans, including myself, are looking forward to the show coming back. Will there be a Volume Two DVD collection?
TK: Again one of the problems with this kind of interview is that I have been so out of touch with the network and the studio. When you go on strike against the network you don't really communicate on a day-to-day basis. So there is so much unknown right now that we will talk about next week. My hope is those episodes, the good thing about the way we structure is done in these volumes. So there is a complete sort of arc of episodes to package I guess, if you will. It's really not my decision as to whether they'll ever sell that as a separate one or lump it in with another season. I just don't know.
OWI: The show is obviously a mega hit. When did you realize that the show was really rolling and that it would be "a hit"?
TK: Its a very interesting question because a show is a very difficult thing to do and a very difficult thing to mount an entire production like this. One of the things that gives you the energy to keep going and keep fighting the battles, it is a uphill battle to get a television show on the air. You are fighting budget constraints and bad ideas left and right and casting issues and all the flaws and foibles of television is really quite an uphill battle. One of the things that keeps you going is to believe in the ultimate success of the show. So as somebody who has created the show I had to carry the torch for being the guy who believed in it from the very beginning. So for me to say I was shocked and stunned by its success, well yes you always hope something is going to be a hit, but I always felt we were on to something from the very beginning. When I saw the way the cast came together in the pilot and saw the way the pilot actually affected people when they saw it, I felt like we were on to something. The you have to make six or seven episodes before you air. Then you are really pregnant by that time.
OWI: By that time there is no going back.
TK: Then you just cross your fingers that you're not crazy and that the rest of the world shares some your tastes. That is the answer to that.
OWI: If this show had no restrictions on budget, how different would it be?
TK: The politic answer would be to say that it wouldn't be that different. But in reality it would be different. It would be obviously a little better. We would be better with a little more money because you are always fighting that battle. On any given episode there's those two or three things that are very painful to give up because you can't afford to do them. Whether it is a set piece or a piece of casting or extra coverage on a scene or a little bit more VFX on a particular shot. You are always kind of saying, "If we only had one more day, if we only had this much more money" kind of thing. But, another truth to the whole thing is that budgetary constraints do allow you, or force you, into making very creative decisions on a show like this. You are forced often to think more about how something is going to connect emotionally with people rather than viscerally. You know what I mean?
TK: There is a real down side to having an endless checkbook. It feeds the inner geek in all of you to blow stuff up and to set things on fire.
OWI: For some of us, yes.
TK: It makes things bigger and bigger is not always better and blowing things up is not always as good as finding a story way to surprise people. If you think about the big major twists and turns and reveals and big moments in our show so far, 90% of them have been story points as opposed to big special effects moments. The story generates the twists.
TK: Right, right. Obviously that was an episode where you wanted to be bigger and that of shows the limitations of a television show and having to work within the constraints of reality where you can't just spend wildly. As much as a budget is about budget it is often more so about schedule. The air dates that you have to meet really dictate how much you can actually put on film. Because at some point you just have to stop shooting. The plug is usually pulled by the necessity of getting the show on the air.
OWI: With all the Star Trek references do you foresee Heroes evolving over time and becoming that type of franchise with different versions/stories/characters?
TK: Well obviously you only hope to have that kind of success and longevity. The truth is the show has been sort of devised to have an open-ended quality to it by positing the idea that this is happening to people all over in different parts of the world with different abilities. It is a neverending storyline. We did not posit an ending to the story. It is not about getting off an island or solving a crime, it does not have a finality to it. There is no ending posited by the initial premise of the show. So clearly it does lend itself to spinning in many different directions.
OWI: Where do you get character inspiration from?
TK: So much of it is generated by story. By wanting to go a certain direction and that forces you into a couple of options of what kinds of characters are going to populate that story. It is backed into in a very organic way. So much about this show is a very organic process. We use a unique style, some of it out of necessity and some of it is philosophically the way the show is designed. That is this idea of open-ended storytelling which is generated off of a single question, "What happens next?" The question pushes us towards almost every decision, and allows for a freshness in the story telling by not always knowing exactly where we are going. It allows the story to kind of dictate where it wants to go. Sometimes when you put a lot of plans into place about where you're going to go you often get there too soon and you don't see all the possibilities that are presenting themselves to you on a daily basis. There's certain chemistry between actors that is suddenly clicking and you realize, "Oh let's go that direction," or certain actors become unavailable or for whatever reason a set becomes unavailable and you are forced to change a set and you suddenly realize that you can't tell the same story so you have to tell a slightly different story. It is just a very organic river, kind of a white-water rapids that you are on and you're never quite sure where the next turn in the river is going to be.
OWI: It keeps it fresh too.
TK: I truly believe that some fans feel that, "Well shouldn't the writers know exactly where they are going all the time?" Well no. The truth is I think the seat-of-your-pants thrill ride that we have become for a lot of the audience is generated by this idea that the story is dictating almost immediately where we are going next. We know where we are going in big ways towards the end and where we are moving towards. But I think the audience actually experiences the visceral quality of the storytelling because it feels like it is wild and woolly. It is very immediate.
OWI: How does the writing team keep track of so much information? What is the process? Describe the writer's room.
TK: You know there are sort of a lot of ways that happens. There is a cataloger or a "Bible" keeper basically who sort of... who keeps track of all of the minute details. But the actual room itself is divided into a couple of big giant boards. One has arcs that are for the whole season, and divided into each character and each storyline, another board is just the immediate breaking of two or three episodes and the third board is the breaking of just a single episode down to its details. Those boards are just covered with material all the time. We use both dry-erase and tackboards with cards on them. It is a very fluid system, cards can get pulled off and get re-worked and re-thought. When an idea comes and you realize, "Oh, it's going to alter this plan," that card gets taken off and a new card gets put there. Its just a big giant Rubik's Cube. At any given time there's between eight and eleven of us in the room together.
OWI: Are there heated debates on ways to take characters and stories?
TK: It's an incredibly cohesive writing staff. But nobody is shy with their opinion. It gets very lively in there sometimes. It is very apparent on screen how much you guys do care about the characters, the mythology and all the background. You try not to make mistakes along the way in terms of continuity and breaking with the expectation of where characters are going. But the truth is you are moving so fast and chewing up so much material. We are very often editing, writing and producing up to five or six episodes at a time. And any one of those stages, writing, producing or editing can alter a story, you know, drastically. The production of a script may resemble very little of the original material and even less so once it goes through the editing room. You can create whole new storylines in the editing room out of material that you have.
OWI: That is really where TV and movies get made, correct?
TK: Yes. That is an amazingly exciting process to let go of you were holding on to storywise and let the material speak to you and realize that sometimes the tone isn't working and this is not what we visualized. Let's get in and change the tone. It is incredible what you can do in the editing room to a story. Amazing how you can manipulate, through editing, an entire emotion and force a whole new way to look at a storyline.
OWI: I remember watching my Volume One DVD and the unaired pilot. Watching the scenes with Parkman in the Walker household, which wasn't even the Walker house at the time, and seeing the same dialogue come from totally different characters.
TK: That was one of those great exercises in how to take existing material and turning it into something else. That happens all the time. On a show like this you don't want to waste anything that you have shot. You shoot a couple little things and turn it into a totally different scene. Its a very creative process.
OWI: I read the interview you did with Damon Lindelof (Lost) before the show launched where you talked about not being able to read comics as a kid. Did that inspire Parkman's dyslexia? Is there the possibility of a disabled hero/villain on the show?
TK: Yes we have actually thought about that. We're very seriously thinking about that and would love to do that. You want to treat that right and do it authentically. You want to do it in a way that is not pandering to a certain audience. But yes the Parkman dyslexia did, listen I was never diagnosed in anyway. I just wasn't a very good reader when I was a kid. Whatever problem I did have was just exacerbated by the idea of reading a comic book. I just couldn't figure out which way my eye would go. Left, right, up, or down, and I just gave up. It was years and years before I ever picked up a comic book again.
OWI: How do you plan to win fans back after the strike?
TK: Well we have a little leg up on a lot of people because we are hopefully teaching our audience that our show airs in the "Volumes". The first season obviously happened to be one volume that was 23 episodes long. Volume Two was eleven episodes long. Volume Three is yet to be determined how long it will be. We sort of get to reboot in a way that a lot of other shows don't get that chance. We have this real thrill ride volume planned for when we come back. It's going to be the most intense, the scariest, the most sort of thrilling cranked-up version of our show right from the very start.
OWI: Which is exciting to hear.
TK: This slow burn version... we realized you can do that in a first season but is very difficult to do in a second season. We learned that lesson and we are going to hit the ground with a pretty thrilling volume. One thing the show does well is scary and intense and crazy. After producing 34 episodes of a show you become aware of what you are good at in a production and I think we do those things well. We are going to lean into that strength a little bit as we come back.
OWI: I did an opinion article mid-season and compared the slow start of Volume Two to a roller coaster. The higher that first hill, the better the ride is going to be. It is all about storing up the potential energy.
TK: That is exactly how we charted it out. What we didn't really anticipate was just how the shelf life for patience in the audience. It has really gotten shorter every year. Once you get people addicted to adrenaline, that's what they want all the time. It is very hard to shape a story when people only want the climax only. The climax doesn't have the same power or importance if it doesn't have the same build up. We are struggling with how to give the audience enough of a thrill ride while building that momentum needed for a climax to the story. Volume Two is a classic story of that. I think the week-to-week where you had to wait to watch it was tough on that Volume. I think the Volume Two DVD will be awesome. I think people will watch it again and see that it was brilliant.
OWI: I have Volume Two on the DVR and it is a totally different volume when watched back-to-back.
TK: It is a completely different experience when you watch it in that way. Your patience level isn't tried as much and because it isn't you are on the ride in a bigger way.
OWI: We do a chat every week during the show and I remember back in Volume One, some of our reactions to the twists were just crazy. Especially on Hiros.
TK: That is one of the burdens when you crank a lot into an episode. If you end up doing more in an episode then has ever been done on TV and you have twist after twist after turn after reveal and people are just blown away. The the next week you do 75% of that, the reaction isn't, "Hey that was unbelievable!" The reaction is, "Hey that isn't as good as the last one."
OWI: You can't do it every week!
TK: The truth is that you just can't do it every week. We are very often compared to, we have raised our own bar. That bar just keeps going up and up and at some point it just can't top itself.
TK: We started calling it the "Company" in Chapter 17 Company Man. Nobody knows the name of the organization or if there is a name. It had to be referred to in some way. I don't think there is an official name for it. One person may call it a company, one may call it an organization. It is always referred to in these vague terms. It was never officially decided.
OWI: I know that Parkman still refers to it as an organization.
TK: Yes, well he isn't inside of it so he doesn't know if it has that name or not.
OWI: What is the backstory behind the Heroes helix? Who came up with that concept?
TK: It was thought of from the very beginning. We wanted to have something would float through all the stories as a mysterious symbol. To be really honest the first episode of Origins was going to illuminate the origin story of the Symbol. That story does exist in my mind and has an ancient explanation that pre-dates everything we have seen so far. Obviously we have seen its presence as far back as 1671 in Feudal Japan. It long pre-dates that as well. Those are parts of the show's larger mythology that will be revealed when we want to reveal it.
OWI: I don't want all of my answers now.
TK: That is one of the great things about the show that is also frustrating. People say they want answers all the time. The truth is people like questions too.
OWI: I love the fact that you do answer most of the questions in a volume but in those answers you actually create more questions.
TK: You may have heard me say this before. One of the hallmarks of this show is that I have always felt that answers are cheap. You can always give out answers. No answer is so precious that you can't tell the audience what it is. There are some of the mythology ones that are fun to hold back. The idea is to keep the answers coming fairly often so you don't build up that terrible frustration that some people have with a show. Fortunately we have a broad enough canvas and enough characters that we can always be delivering some answers.
OWI: Whatever happened to the Heroes charity movement? Is that something we can work on during the interim?
TK: Yes. It is in the works and in the works very big. It will have an entertainment quality and component to it. The idea is to take advantage of the unique ability we have to create narrative and create entertainment and combine the two ideas of tapping into entire fan base that is connected to the show but also has a feeling of wanting to save the world themselves. It was curtailed obviously by the strike. I will be talking about it at Comic-Con.
OWI: Speaking of that will there be a Heroes panel again at Comic-Con?
TK: I certainly hope so. Again we haven't talked to anybody yet. I sort of feel as long as this show is on the air and that convention will have us back there I want to go and as big of a presence and as much fanfare as I can. I owe a tremendous debt to those particular fans and that particular convention for what I believe was hugely responsible for the launch of our show in a big way.
OWI: Hopefully one day I will get out there.
TK: Oh you have to. It is crazy and fun and bizarre...it's great.
OWI: Okay Tim, here is the lightning round with questions from the fans.
OWI: Christopher Eccleston, will we see him again?
TK: Oh I hope so. If I have my way, yes. He is a busy guy but that is something we are really excited about.
OWI: What's your favorite TV show of all time?
TK: The Twilight Zone.
OWI: So what did you do on the seventh day, anyway?
TK: [Laughter] Well I have had three months of rest. I think I have had my seventh day for these three months.
OWI: Will we ever find out who Sylar's father is?
TK: Not imminently, no.
OWI: What is the Haitian's name?
TK: All will say is that I love Jimmy Jean-Louis who plays the Haitian and I would like to see more of him. I think the audience can be prepared for that. He is a character who is so shrouded in mystery you don't want to flash too much of a light on that character. I do have a strong sense of him playing a much more important role on the show coming up.
OWI: Well Tim that is all I have. Thank you so much for talking with me.
TK: You are welcome. Thank you. We will be talking soon!
OWI: I want to thank Tim Kring for allowing us the time out of his schedule for this interview. I also need to thank Tim's assistant Jim for coordinating everything. Last but not least I need to thank Alex Garcia who went to the Heroes rally at Universal in December and approached Jim and Tim about a possible interview with the OWI. Without Alex this interview would not have happened. Then again without Tim Kring this website wouldn't have happened either. Thanks to all involved!
- The above interview is reprinted with explicit permission from David Deas of the-owi.com. The full text of this interview is originally posted at that site.
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