, who stars as telepathic Matt Parkman on NBC's Heroes
, is using his real-life powers for good, not evil, by chairing the upcoming Epilepsy Foundation walk and working on an art auction to support the worthy cause. TVGuide.com caught up with Grunberg, whose son Jake suffers from the condition, to find out more about his charitable efforts, his celebrity band and, of course, what's coming up on Heroes
TVGuide.com: Tell me a little bit more about the auction. How did you convince the artists and the show to donate art to the Epilepsy Foundation?
Greg Grunberg: That would have been the greatest feat of salesmanship for me, but it wasn't. They're just incredibly generous and they know how important it is to me. Also, I've been working for NBC for a long time, so [NBC Entertainment honchos] Kevin Riley and Angela Bromstad know me, and something the producers and NBC want to do with Heroes is start a Heroes foundation. It's a huge project, but they want to be very, very charitable in a way that makes a real difference, using Heroes as the platform. This is the first step. People need to know that we're not making 300 paintings and auctioning them off. This is [based on] the original illustrations by Tim Sale, and then they blow them up and colorize them and make paintings out of them.
TVGuide.com: So it's original stuff.
Grunberg: It's original stuff from the show, and I don't think a show has ever done that before. I'm really excited about it and obviously thrilled that it's going to epilepsy.
TVGuide.com: You're the chair of this big walk that's happening on March 31. How did that come about? Did they ask you, or did you say, "Hey, I want to help out."
Grunberg: It was sort of a combination of both. I've got my own charity in L.A. called Pediatric Epilepsy Project, and the Epilepsy Foundation has a magazine and they did a story on me and Jake, and out of that, I said, "Look, anything you have on a national level, I'd love to do." It's really to get the word out to end the stigma that's attached to epilepsy. There's just a stigma and it's understandable — seizures are a scary thing. My wife and I deal with it every day, and obviously it's scarier for Jake than anyone else. If someone has a seizure, it lasts for maybe a minute or two and it will stop and they're going to be OK. It's something that you live with and you have a normal life living with epilepsy. So that's what the walk is all about — raising funds and awareness. It just worked out that [the walk and auction] came together at the same time.
TVGuide.com: One of the things I noticed on the Epilepsy Foundation's website was the repeated note, "Never put anything in anybody's mouth," refuting one of the myths that you hear.
Grunberg: Yeah, we grew up hearing that if someone has a seizure, put a spoon in their mouth and they won't choke on their tongue. They physically can't choke on their own tongue and as long as they're breathing, they're OK. They're breathing! Yes, you should call 911 if someone's having a seizure — it can't hurt — but the truth is they're going to come out of it. It's something they live with on a daily basis.
TVGuide.com: How is your son doing?
Grunberg: Jake's doing good. It's week-to-week. He has all kinds of seizures, but if you met him, you'd never know he has epilepsy. He's almost a black belt in tae kwon do, he's an all-star baseball player, and he's great at school. He just has these setbacks — these earthquakes — and he has them every day. But he doesn't let that define him or stop him from doing anything.
TVGuide.com: That's awesome. He's so together.
Grunberg: Trust me, we break down, we scream, we yell, we cry, and that's part of dealing with it, too, but at the same time, we've got three kids, and his brothers are a great support system for him. We all try to be as optimistic as possible.
TVGuide.com: With all that's going on, you sound like you're crazy busy.
Grunberg: Yeah, it's really nuts. I had my band rehearsal last night....
TVGuide.com: Speaking of your band, I read that you'll play anything as long as the money goes to your charities.
Grunberg: Yeah, it's a lot of money, but it's not just my charity. Jamie [Denton, Desperate Housewives] has a charity that he supports, Bob [Guiney, The Bachelor] has one, Bonnie Somerville has one, Hugh [Laurie] has Save the Children.... So if one of those organizations has an event and we can make an impact and help, then we do. But other than that, because we do splinter the money in so many different directions, we charge upwards of $150,000 to $200,000 per event. It's a tax write-off, but it lends itself to really wealthy people or corporate events. It all goes toward many, many good causes, so it's good.
TVGuide.com: I think you guys are worth it.
Grunberg: Yeah, I mean, as long as our shows keep doing well — Desperate Housewives, House and Heroes — like, forget about it! Sam, our 7-year-old, came up with a really good name for the band. He's like, "You should call yourselves the Desperate House of Heroes."
TVGuide.com: I kind of like that, it's catchy.
Grunberg: I know, me too! A Band from TV is what we're going to be for a while.
TVGuide.com: So you're probably sick of talking about Heroes....
TVGuide.com: When last we left off, Matt was captive. Is that going to last?
Grunberg: No, not at all. In the next episode [airing April 23], with the help of Mr. Bennet/HRG, we're all going to break out. It's a really exciting episode and it sets us on this mission to stop Sylar and find the tracking system, because without the tracking system they can't get to Claire, and they can't get to me. The key to the whole thing is getting that computer and wiping it out.
TVGuide.com: I liked the episode with you, Hana and Ted working together. It was a little Super Friends thing.
Grunberg: Well, if you liked that, you'll be really happy with the season finale. We all come together and we have a mission, all for various reasons, and we don't necessarily work as a "Super Friends" team, but we're all at the same place at the same time with the same mission, and it's just awesome.
TVGuide.com: That's really cool, because I've been worried about you all season. Matt is very separate from a lot of the other heroes.
Grunberg: Not anymore! No, nothing's happening to me. I mean, you never know.... I don't want to give anything away — any of these heroes are vulnerable, they could all be killed off at any time and we're all aware of it. But that's what keeps it really exciting for all of us. In the beginning of the show, I really felt like I had my own show and Sendhil [Ramamurthy] had his, and Ali [Larter] had hers, and anytime I would see them I'd be like, "Hey, Ali, I love your show." But now it doesn't feel like that, it really feels like an ensemble, and I get excited. Like I worked with Adrian [Pasdar] the other day and I worked with Sendhil, people you never see me interact with ever on the show, so it's really fun. The dynamic is exciting when we get to work together.
TVGuide.com: Any chance for a Matt-Audrey reunion?
Grunberg: Absolutely, Audrey (played by Clea DuVall) returns in the last couple of episodes of the season, and hopefully will carry into next season.
TVGuide.com: Do you know what's happening in advance, or are you surprised like the rest of us?
Grunberg: Pretty surprised. I read the scripts, but we don't get them until the last second. My wife and I are huge fans of the show. I know that sounds kind of self-indulgent, but we really do love the show, and so much of it is done postproduction, so it's exciting to see it in its final form.
TVGuide.com: Are you envious of some of the other powers people have on the show?
Grunberg: Yeah, certainly. I would love to fly, but I think my power is really relatable, and it's exciting to play as an actor because it has so many levels. It's a very personal thing and it affects relationships and emotions, and that is the greatest stuff to play. So, I'm jealous of the cool stuff people get to do, but at the same time, I think I've got one of the coolest powers.
TVGuide.com: I asked my husband if he had any questions for you, and he said, "Well, he should know what you want to ask him in advance."
Grunberg: [Laughs] Exactly, I have this whole interview in my head already.
TVGuide.com: Any word on if you're going to land a part in J.J.'s Star Trek feature? [Grunberg to date has appeared on J.J. Abrams' Alias, Lost and Felicity.]
Grunberg: I hope so. No word yet, but I really hope so. I miss working with him, I really do. Anything that he does, I want to be a part of. We'll see what happens.
TVGuide.com: Is he a Heroes fan?
Grunberg: Oh, I know he is. J.J. loves the show.
TVGuide.com: He must be so proud of you.
Grunberg: He really is. He's been very supportive and so sweet, he gave me my start. I love talking to him when he doesn't know what's about to happen, because that's something I've never been a part of. It's cool when he calls me and goes, "No way! I love it when you did this, did that...!"
TVGuide.com: Well, now you're on this huge hit. I mean, Alias was a big show, but this is a whole other level.
Grunberg: Oh, yeah, this is a whole other thing, something I've never experienced. I've had success, obviously, with the other shows, but this is a monster and it's more of a leading role for me. It's comfortable and I love it. I'm really loving the people I'm working with and I really think we have some of the best writing on TV. I'm pretty lucky.
TVGuide.com: And I'm pretty happy that you're not stuck in that police uniform the whole time.
Grunberg: Thank you! Although I think it's looks very slimming.
TVGuide.com: It was slimming, but I was like, "Let him expand his wardrobe a little."
Grunberg: Exactly, I'm like Mr. Weight Watchers right now, so I'll put on anything, short of a bathing suit.
TVGuide.com: Well, maybe next season when you're "super-skinny."
Grunberg: That's true. You never know, when I get all cut up!
For more on how you can join this Saturday's Epilepsy Foundation walk, click here. To learn more about the Heroes art auction, visit NBC.com.
Get to know Zach Gilford, of NBC's Friday Night Lights, in the April 2 issue of TV Guide. Click here to subscribe.