Heroes: Season 1 - Adrian Pasdar interview
Compiled by Jack Foley
ADRIAN Pasdar talks about the joy and challenge of playing Nathan Petrelli in Heroes: Season 1, his similarities to Shakespearean characters and why season is a difficult prospect in terms of matching such high standards…
Q: You have said that playing Nathan in Heroes was a bit like doing Richard III?
A: Minus the physical deformities that would make it perfect… if I had a limp or a wandering eye or some such thing. There were certain complexities to these characters when they started to write them out and then when you act them out. Television is closer to the stage than film because you are repeating your character over and over again. So it gets layered and layered with every attempt to clarify who it is. Through the course of that I have found that there is not so much dissimilarity to something that Shakespeare might have imagined on one of his not so great days… not saying that in any way this is on a par with the works of the Bard but we have to try and aim high!
I think that the struggle, the internal battle that this guy faces – which is somewhat pedantic at times, somewhat selfish and ultimately selfless in the end, as he tries to relieve himself of the guilt that he has carried with him – is not unlike the behaviour of Shakespearean characters that Macbeth and Lear might share.
Q: Like some Shakespearean characters, Nathan wants serious political power?
A: Yeah. I think that’s one of the things that the character shares with what Shakespeare might have written about some of the lads that he wrote about. I always think it’s interesting when you find someone who is driven to politics and has a family structure behind him to pull it off. The familial bond and the expectation are levied upon someone growing up to become someone extraordinary, to be a leader. I find that fascinating. The politics from the inside resemble very little of what they look like from the outside.
Q: With all of the complexities in Nathan’s make-up, is it then beneficial for you that he also has a super power?
A: Yeah, that’s his Achilles heel. That would be his visible deformity. The way he looks at it that would be his weakness. The way it is written out, Nathan would be perceived as a freak if somebody knew that he had this super power. On the one side it is great; he can zip around, but the other side is that he can’t really tell anybody. He has to hide it. In that way, I think that I can see all the parallels between Shakespeare and Petrelli. It’s interesting – there’s what people think it would be like to have a super power but we try to explore the other side of that. If someone in the public eye had to try and hide one of the greatest things that could possibly happen to your DNA structure would be an interesting conundrum.
Q: Then there are the rest of the things that he is hiding – the skeletons in his cupboard. It must be fun to eke these out over the series?
A: That’s the thing, they hint at them periodically and I find them out very often as we read the script. You have to be prepared for anything. You never know what’s going to creep up. I didn’t know that Clare was my daughter when we started the series – and I don’t think they did either.
Q: Which is surely one of the great things about Heroes that the script seems so organic?
A: Yeah, that’s very true. We had a very interesting first season and I think this year kind of got off to a rocky start. Last year caught us all by surprise. Nobody thought the thing was going to take off. And very often that’s the best beginning for any series when you are really scrambling to come up with a story. Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to you is to have too much time and loads of expectations. Not that we have ever had too much time – the backs have always been against the wall. But the expectation has been so high that his has been an interesting time for us and the strike is also coming at an interesting time.
Q: Why was the first series of Heroes such a global sensation?
A: I think it combined fantasy with reality in such a good way that we were able to take the events of the world and the temperature of the geo-political world and use it in tandem with the fantastic elements of what if…? We combined real world feel with the fantasy world added to it and that made Heroes appealing to everyone who watched it. There was something in it for all walks of life and it was fun to be part of that season, which was such a humdinger.
Q: It seems that the cast of Heroes have become like a family?
A: Yeah, it’s funny after sailing I pulled in for some petrol as we were coming back in from the Pacific Ocean and the guy at the station said: “So, you hang out together too!?” When you spend 15 hours a day with people it really helps if you like them.
Q: You also seem to have clicked with Milo?
A: Yeah, we very nearly worked together before. They were going to do a spin-off from Gilmore Girls and I was to play his father. But ultimately we didn’t look appropriate age-wise – they said I should really play his brother. And now that has come to pass. So we didn’t really work together back then but we did meet in an office.
Q: You are not really a big comic book fan but I believe you did like the Silver Surfer?
A: I always thought he was interesting because he was always alone, having to save the world, no matter how reluctant he was. I did not really have a big comic book interest in my early years the way a lot of kids did. But if I had to reach back and pull out one comic book it would be the Silver Surfer for sure.
Q: Who are your heroes?
A: I’ve always said that they are my mom and dad. It might sound like a cliché but it is no less true. They way they raised us – I take my hat off to them. They are definitely the people that I try to emulate. If I feel that I have their approval for my actions then I think that at least I am on the right track.
Q: Your father was a heart surgeon. Didn’t he want you to have a career in medicine?
A: He never really pushed me in that direction and I didn’t show a proclivity for that sort of environment. School never really came easy to me. I always struggled. I was good at maths and science but everything else fell by the wayside. I was a classic case of not applying myself and getting into trouble. He would have been happy if I had gone into medicine but he was just as happy that I went into something where I would do my best at it…whether I succeeded or not.
Q: You work in film and TV. Is there much difference nowadays?
A: The medium has changed. Television is just as likely to turn out quality as the movies. There is just as good writing on television as there is anywhere else and the budgets are appropriate. We spend somewhere between $3m and $4m an episode on Heroes. So, if you look at that over a season it would be like having a $250 m opening night for a movie. It’s all relative but the work is good and the people are very talented.
Q: Do you think that Heroes might one day become a movie?
A: Would it work on the big screen? I think it would. I think it would be a great opportunity for these characters to be further drawn. But it would have to be very carefully handed and Tim Kring would be a wonderful person to helm it.
I have written and directed a musical called Atlanta – about romance and racism against the backdrop of the American Civil War, it’s not unlike Les Miserables – which is opening in Los Angeles in three weeks. I’m head over heels about that and hope we can come to London’s West End.