Does stunt casting get more brilliant than this? On this week's episode of NBC's Heroes (Mondays at 9 pm/ET), Masi Oka's Hiro Nakamura — a Star Trek-crazy fanboy — will come face-to-face with his father, a powerful Japanese industrialist. The role will be played by the beloved Trek icon George Takei (aka Sulu), with whom TV Guide recently spoke as part of its current Heroes cover story.
TV Guide: This is a Trekker's wet dream!
George Takei: Isn't it marvelous? I'm a big fan of Heroes. In fact, I like to think we blazed a trail for it. Like Gene Roddenberry's vision for Star Trek, Heroes tackles the big themes with a very diverse, multiethnic cast of characters who are dealing with a common challenge. But Heroes does something we never did — it gets great ratings!
TV Guide: Heroes creator Tim Kring tells us you were at the top of his wish list for this role.
Takei: But I still had to audition! The role wasn't offered to me, you know. They weren't sure about my command of the Japanese language. But I'm fluent in it.
TV Guide: Give us the scoop on your character.
Takei: Mr. Nakamura, who is one of the world's wealthiest men, arrives with his bodyguards in a $450,000 car. He wants to bring his irresponsible son back to Japan. Hiro has mysteriously vanished to the United States, and that is intolerable!
TV Guide: Why the goon squad? Is your character evil?
Takei: He has a need for appropriate defenses because there are evil people in the world — people who will kidnap rich men, or their children, and hold them for ransom. My character is very old school and believes in learning the business from the bottom up. He was brought up that way by his father, and he wants his son raised that way, too. That is why, when the series began, you first saw Hiro working in a cubicle.
TV Guide: Kring has also revealed to TV Guide that your character is a gateway to a major story arc for Season 2 — one that will explore Hiro's family and his past.
Takei: Yes, that's what I've been told as well. Isn't that tantalizing? The Nakamuras are members of a long and very important Japanese dynasty. In ancient times we were in the shogun class.
TV Guide: Could the ancient sword Hiro is searching for be family property?
Takei: An old powerful family of the Japanese aristocracy would certainly have family treasures, and that could include a sword.... Only samurai were allowed to carry swords, and the upper echelon had the best of the swords, so therefore they became heirlooms. There was a legendary samurai in my own family, you know, so I'm bringing a lot of good DNA to this role!
TV Guide: Don't you just love that Masi?
Takei: I am so proud of him. As a Japanese-American, I think it's wonderful that he's getting this kind of popularity and stellar attention. And it's really remarkable that on a major network prime-time TV series, there are whole segments done in a foreign language with subtitles. Lost is doing the same thing. Isn't that a great commentary on how global our society has become?
TV Guide: So did you and Masi dish on the set in Japanese?
Takei: Better! He and I both speak Spanish, so we were chatting with each other en español. It was blowing minds! I am also really impressed with James Kyson Lee, who plays Ando (see related TVGuide.com Q&A). Do you know that he is from South Korea and does not understand nor speak Japanese? I was dumbfounded. He has a fantastic ear. It's one thing to mimic a foreign language, but it's quite another to be able to act in it. Amazing.
TV Guide: You're in the upcoming Tom Hanks movie, The Great Buck Howard, you're recurring on Disney Channel's Cory in the House, you're Howard Stern's Sirius show announcer.... Everybody wants you these days!
Takei: Oooooh, and it's sooooo wonderful! Who knew this would be happening 40 years after Star Trek? It's good to feel hot.
Are you on the list... of Heroes fans itching for scoop? Pick up the TV Guide cover story still on newsstands!
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