Heroes: Season 3 - Greg Grunberg interview
Compiled by Jack Foley
THAT Greg Grunberg has achieved success with the top-rated NBC series Heroes is no surprise. As Matt Parkman, a former cop who discovers he possesses a special power for telepathy, he brings a humanity and warmth to the character that might otherwise be missing in the hands of another actor.
But where the shock lies is how long its taken audiences to discover the 42 year-old actor from Los Angeles. With almost 20 years in film and television, Grunberg has gradually worked his way from bit-player to jobbing actor to leading man. He talks to us about the journey and his work on Heroes…
Q: How was it working with Baby Matt Parkman on Season 3?
Greg Grunberg: Great We work with twins [Quin and Reed Baron] and they are the most incredible kids. I’ve worked with babies before but it’s the weirdest thing. Honestly, it’s like kinds spooky. When they hear, “action”, the kids pick up on it and they go into acting mode! And the kids’ parents are great. The mom’s an actress and dad is a manager but they’re really good people. But still, they’re babies – they’re going to do whatever they want to do. They’ll poop off cue!
Q: So you haven’t been pooped on yet?
Greg Grunberg: Not yet – I’m hoping! Magic poop!
Q: If you consider Matt’s arc in Season 3, he’s something of a renegade, wouldn’t you say?
Greg Grunberg: What I love is… obviously as an actor, you want your character to be important. Then leading towards the end of Season 3, it was Ando and Hiro going: “We gotta go get Matt Parkman.” And Angela Petrelli was like: “I have to met you.” I just love how for so long at the end of Season 1 and the beginning of Season 2, people were saying: “I wish you had more presence in the show.” But now my power is very, very powerful. I did something that helped everybody else but at the same time I regret it. So it’s great, as far as my character having a major importance going into the next season.
Q: What do you think about Matt’s romantic entanglements with Daphne?
Greg Grunberg: Like my wife says: “You’re like a stalker with Daphne! Seriously, there’s no relationship there!” I push it so much, I’m like: “This has got to work, we do love each other!” And it shows how desperately – and I hate to use that word – he really wants the simple things. He just wants to love someone. He wants to protect and have a family. It was taken away from him on all ends before. His powers took him out of it. It made it so he couldn’t have a normal life. Then his wife cheated on him, supposedly.
Now he finds out that the baby is his and has powers. I don’t know. I love working with Brea [Grant, who plays Daphne]. I love the idea that Season 4 is going to be about family for me and protecting. I know for me, I’ll do anything – anything – in the world to protect my family.
I have three boys and my wife and I…she’s the rock. She’s the greatest. But it is one of those things where you get into situations and you’ll do whatever it takes. Every other part of my career, it’s like: “It’ll work itself out.” But not with my family. Nobody touches my family. That’s important to me.
Q: The whole show is about people wanting normal lives – with maybe the exception of Hiro who wants to embrace the superhero way of life…
Greg Grunberg: Exactly. And also Rebel, Noah’s character also. But you need those characters. Like when Rebel goes up to an ATM machine, he’s elated – and you have to have that because the show can get so dark at times and you want a character to really relish it and enjoy it. The impetus for our show was Tim Kring seeing The Incredibles. That’s what it is. These people who are trying to just go back to normal life, and those powers to save the world won’t let them. And when you think about it, you can easily see that. The other thing Tim saw – which I still have yet to see – was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He saw those two movies and they gave him the idea.
Q: Has Season 3 has placated fans, after some were disappointed by Season 2?
Greg Grunberg: We have the advantage of also having volumes, so we have two season finales every year, which is great. But, yes, I agree with you – what happens on a show like ours or Lost, you have this incredible amount of discovery and its exciting on the first season.
The audience is discovering the show and discovering what the hell is going on, and figuring it all out, and it’s so exciting to see it unfold. The characters also are discovering their powers and getting into the groove. And then you match that with the success we had – we made this big splash coming out. But on Season 2, they tried to match that by coming out of the box where everybody had super powers. It’s not a normal world anymore and that was our biggest problem, I think. Everybody’s chest was puffed out – it was heroes against heroes, good and bad, and it was not as relatable. You were like: “Who do I root for here?”
There are certain battle-lines you want drawn. There’s an episode where we were all in the hospital room, and you panned over these characters in Arthur Petrelli’s office and you panned over us in the hospital room, and it was good versus evil. At that moment, you went: “I LOVE this! I know who’s good and bad.” Sure, people turned and the allegiances were not where you thought they were set. But at the same time, that’s the key to our show. Relatable characters. People in normal situations having to deal with this.
Q: Who are your favourite characters on Heroes?
Greg Grunberg: People ask me if I had the choice to play any part or have any power…well, I wouldn’t trade my power with anybody’s. I just think as an actor, it’s a great role to play. It’s emotional and you’re dealing with the brain and people’s thoughts. There are times when I love Hiro’s character because I love how he blends the comedy and also the ‘heroes’ element. He has such a fanboy quality to him that I think we all have. As cheesy as he is, you go: “These are the rules this guy lives by, man!” If he has to run into a burning house, nothing will stop him. Then I love Milo’s character – this guy who is just a nurse and has to live up to this stuff. At its core, I think it’s a family drama and I could find reasons to love every one of these characters.
Q: Would you want Matt’s power? Do you not see it as a curse?
Greg Grunberg: Totally! It’s the worst – I don’t want to know that I look fat in that shirt. You can think it but you don’t say it, and I don’t want to know all those thoughts! It’s a curse in many, many ways. But I love how powerful it is. If I could have any power in the world, it would be super-metabolism. I would love to eat anything and not gain weight! That would be a great power. I would have an intravenous Guinness with me, everywhere I went! But I wouldn’t want to know what my wife is thinking. It’s a difficult power, yeah.
Q: How much has you life changed with Heroes? Speaking to Hayden, I know she gets a lot of bother from the paparazzi. Do you get that kind of attention?
Greg Grunberg: I never used to at all. I don’t get them following me. But to give you an example, four days ago, I went to the beach. My son, who is epileptic, was having a tough day, having seizures. So we thought: “Let’s go to the beach – it’s really calming.” And sure enough, my wife points and a hundred yards away there’s a guy with a long lens. So I look at him, and I do a pose but he won’t stop. It was so annoying. It’s just a lack of respect. And the next morning on AOL, it’s ‘Stars at the Beach’ and there’s pictures of me and my family. You can take pictures of me, but my kids? They didn’t ask for this. So it just sucks.
I don’t envy Hayden at all. It comes with the territory. I’m on Twitter – and I happily answer things, and I love the connection with the fans. But for anything else, I like to be in control, so it’s difficult. But again, I don’t get bothered. I’m a boring guy – I have a wife and three kids. I’m not like Mr. Controversy, so it’s fine. We were out yesterday, and people were stopping me, asking for autographs, and I love that.
Q: Heroes must still be very popular in the US…
Greg Grunberg: It is. Like everything else, TV is getting beat up, the ratings are dropping, but our show’s doing really well. The DVD – we just have a great fanbase and especially on DVD, people love watching the show. Our show’s like a little mini-movie every week and it doesn’t disappoint. The special effects are up there with anything, so it’s exciting to be a part of that.
Q: Can you see it going beyond Season 4?
Greg Grunberg: Oh, yeah. I think so. Nothing ever surprises me. It’s a business and our show is not inexpensive to make. But if we continue to get the support all around the world that we’ve got, then it’s just a money-maker for them, and hopefully it will continue. I can see this going eight years. That’s what I see. But that’s a dream. I’ve been on other shows – Felicity was four years and Alias was five years, and I tried a couple of other things that didn’t quite go so long. But this is one of those I can see going a long time. They have to mix it up and bring in some new characters, but right now there’s so many stories to tell.
Q: Do you have much contact with fans? Do you go to conventions?
Greg Grunberg: Very occasionally. I’m actually doing Eclipse in Northampton. But as I said, I’m on Twitter – I love that connection with the fans. But I don’t really have time to do a bunch of these conventions.
Q: What’s with your J.J. Abrams’ connection? You’ve mentioned you were on Felicity and Alias. You were also in Mission: Impossible 3 and were offered a role in Star Trek.
Greg Grunberg: That’s true. There’s a movie I co-wrote, produced and starred in called Group Sex and I had the chance to make that, so I couldn’t accept that role of Olsen [in Star Trek]. He’s the red shirt that dives down to the planet with them and he won’t pull his cord, and he dies. That was the role that J.J. offered me, which would’ve been amazing. J.J. – I’ve known him since I was three. He’s my oldest friend.
Q: You were also the luckless pilot who dies in the pilot episode of Lost.
Greg Grunberg: They’re asking me to come back now, which I really want to do. I love the show. I love Lost so much. So it would be great to go back before the season ends, to show what did happen in the cockpit. That pilot episode was so great – J.J. did such a great job with that.
Q: So what is Group Sex about?
Greg Grunberg: It’s independently financed. It’s very funny. It does not disappoint. We’ve great actors in it. It’s a romantic comedy set in the world of a sexaholic recovery group. You can imagine a guy who gets into this group, because he follows a girl that he just admires and loves, and realises she’s a sexaholic and thinks it’s the greatest thing ever. But it comes with all the consequences and rules. It’s me and Tom Arnold and Henry Winkler…really great people.
Q: Tell me about Band From TV, which you set up. You play with Hugh Laurie, right?
Greg Grunberg: Hugh was on at the very beginning of the band. He’s been so gracious with his time. I put this thing together, because the press attention we can garner, it raises so much money for all the charities we support. Every penny the band makes goes out. We don’t keep any of it. We have a DVD, called Hogging All The Covers, and it’s all cover songs. Hugh plays with us. He plays with us every time he can. It’s tough – as he lives over here. But Jesse Spencer from House is in the band, and Adrian Pasdar from Heroes, Teri Hatcher and James Denton from Desperate Housewives…
Q: And you play the drums?
Greg Grunberg: Yeah! I’m the heartbeat of the band, baby! We play at big corporate events and for charity events. We’ve raised almost $2 million in the last three years. It’s been a great labour of love. Selfishly, we get to pretend to be rock stars but at the same time we’re doing a lot of good. We each have charities – Hugh’s is Save The Children. Mine is for epilepsy. So we each have a charity we’re really passionate about.
Heroes Season 3 is out on DVD and Blu-ray from October 12, 2009.