Greg Grunberg, Heroes
sure has come a long way since being chewed up and spit out by that whatever
. Now, he's the star of his own watercooler-conversation series, NBC's Heroes
(Mondays at 9 pm/ET). When Grunberg stopped by the TV Guide
offices the morning after last week's episode aired, we debriefed him on the hunt for Sylar, Matt's upcoming date with a cheerleader, and what longtime pal J.J. Abrams
was like as a tyke.
TVGuide.com: First, I have to say: Would that every husband could read their wives' minds!
Greg Grunberg: Yeah, but be careful what you wish for. You immediately think, "Oh, man, I want to hear what everybody thinks," and the truth is that what people really think of you is not something that you would ever want to know.
TVGuide.com: We just saw more of that when Matt read some of his wife's thoughts that he probably wishes he hadn't.
Grunberg: Yeah, it's interesting how they're doing this. I love that the show is so character-based and is in its infancy, when these characters are actually finding their powers. People really identify with this. People tell me, "I can really connect with your character," because there's an emotional connection to his ability, unlike the others. Flying, sure, you can go from here to there. But reading minds, when you really think about it, is kind of creepy.
TVGuide.com: I said to [series creator] Tim Kring early on that none of the heroes really seemed that jazzed about having powers.
Grunberg: Except for Masi [Oka's Hiro], yeah. But we didn't know they were powers. It's not like we went up to Zoltar and said, "I want to be big," and suddenly we're big. For Matt, it came with voices in my head, and he didn't know what was going on. What I love are the moments on the show, like when Adrian [Pasdar's Nathan] and Masi['s Hiro] were in the diner, and Masi says, "I'm special, too!" It's great. Suddenly, it's the team coming together, the paths are crossing. And last [episode], too, with Masi and Leonard [Roberts, D.L.]?! That was so cool! It's a great mix of character stuff and these incredibly stimulating images.
TVGuide.com: I feel for Masi, though, because he has to be putting in extra hours, working around the special effects and all....
Grunberg: He is putting in a lot of hours, but if anybody appreciates that stuff, it's a guy who used to do it [at George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic special-effects house].
TVGuide.com: I always wonder that: "Does Masi do his own CGI?"
Grunberg: [Laughs] Maybe he can "guest" and create some of the effects shots himself.
TVGuide.com: So what is Matt Parkman going to do with the knowledge he now possesses about the affair between Janice and his partner? Act on it, or walk away with his mind-reading tail between his legs?
Grunberg: He does walk away, but just for a short period of time. Like everything else on the show, it's not cut and dry. It's not, "You know what, you're cheating on me, screw you, you're out of my life," because the history of the characters... we just shot an episode where we went back six months prior to any of these people getting their powers, and we discovered how they got their powers and what was going on in their lives before [they did]. In that moment, you see the trouble that our marriage has had. Not to ever justify someone having an affair, but if you're driven that far away, you're going to lean on someone else close to you. And my partner happened to be one of our very good friends....
TVGuide.com: The instant they gave you a pal to talk to in the police locker room, I was like, "That guy is sleeping with Matt's wife."
Grunberg: Did you? [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: I like how they sort of sneaked Clea DuVall (Girl, Interrupted) onto this show [as Audrey, Matt's FBI supervisor]....
Grunberg: I was absolutely beside myself. She is so talented, she underplays everything.... There are actors who just "have" something, and she has a watchable, magnetic quality. She brings it. And Lisa Lackey (Janice) is incredible, too. She's from Home and Away, this huge hit in Australia that was a Melrose Place-type of show.
[Grunberg stops to sign an autograph for a TV Guide staffer's wife: "I know what you're thinking.... Greg Grunberg."]
TVGuide.com: This "Ted Sprague" character we just met, he's not really Sylar, right?
Grunberg: No, that's a red herring. That guy playing Sprague, by the way [American Dreams' Matthew John Armstrong], will be on the show for a while, and he's fantastic. Here's another example of the casting directors on our show bringing in some really interesting guest stars. I mean, Jack Coleman [as "Horn-rimmed Glasses"] is scaring the s--t out of people! That's the way Ricky Gervais played it on Alias — he was very much a guy in control of a bomb on a plane.
TVGuide.com: Which of the other heroes will Matt interact with first?
Grunberg: I just shot with Hayden [Panettiere, Claire] and Milo [Ventimiglia, Peter]....
TVGuide.com: But not the three of you in the same scene.
Grunberg: No. Almost. We're at the same location, investigating the same murder.
TVGuide.com: Peter meets the cheerleader?
Grunberg: Oh, he does. Oh, yeah, in a big way. Big way.
TVGuide.com: But as Milo told us, "She's 17. [Romance is] never gonna happen."
Grunberg: I know, but she's pushing 18! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: The buzz that the show has going... is it, like, "déjà Alias" for you?
Grunberg: It's even bigger, more a Lost kind of thing. I've been incredibly fortunate, and I am so thankful for the career I've had so far. But the majority of my career has been thanks to [Alias and Lost creator] J.J. [Abrams], so it's just crazy that Tim Kring would take a chance on me like this and that it would all work out. To get cast, for a pilot to get made, for a show to get picked up, and then to become a hit... it's just impossible in today's TV climate, where there are great shows on that no one is watching.
TVGuide.com: You and J.J. met in kindergarten. What sort of kid was he?
Grunberg: Very similar to the way he is now, incredibly talented. A real Renaissance kid.
TVGuide.com: Did you two play with Star Trek action figures, as I did?
Grunberg: Of course! We also made little movies, when we were 9. There's one called The Attic, which you should ask him about next time you talk to him. We unleash this monster in the attic, an attic we didn't know we had, and it's the spirit of the kid who died in the house before we ever moved in. J.J. went in and scratched every frame [of celluloid], so that it looked like a bolt-of-lightning-type monster.
TVGuide.com: That's how they created the "phaser beams" on the original Star Trek.
Grunberg: Maybe that's where he learned it from. But they weren't 10. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Did J.J. give your Attic character a Lost-type flashback?
Grunberg: [Laughs] No, but the attic was just beyond a hatch, so....
In Tuesday's Interviews & Features, we talk to another Heroes star, one at the center of a shocking reveal in tonight's episode!
Hungry for more superhero scoop? Pick up the new TV Guide for the latest on a Smallville wedding, and the new masked man about to hit town.
Send your comments on this Q&A to firstname.lastname@example.org.