In last week’s pilot episode of the rebooted HEROES franchise, HEROES REBORN, we see the world many years after the original series ended. It’s a dark place where any goodwill from the end of the original has been erased. The Cheerleader (Hayden Panettiere) is dead and with her death comes the horrifying repercussions of the prophecy save the cheerleader, save the world. For the remaining twelve episodes our heroes and villains battle against time to outwit the others
A show about the battle of good and evil would not be complete without a conniving villain, one who could usurp Sylar (Zachary Quinto) as the head baddie and bring utter destruction to the heroes. Since Quinto could not return and they already had the name Zachary on the dressing room door, it’s a good thing former CHUCK star Zachary Levi was looking for the perfect entry back into TV. His new character Luke Collins is in a bad way when we first meet him, having spent the last year mourning the death of his young son.
“It’s not the first time I’ve gotten to play someone unsavory,” says Levi, “but for me it’s all about: does it serve the story? I don’t ever want to play a good guy or a bad guy if it’s not serving the story in some way. When I went to Tim [Kring] my only prerequisite was that I don’t want to be Chuck. I want to be someone who is the antithesis of Chuck. I want to stretch myself and challenge audience perception of who I am and what I do. Who knows, at the end people could be like ‘stick to Chuck. This is not your thing.’ I hope not. I hope people say this was an interesting turn, or a completely different thing. That [my performance] was genuine.”
“I was a fan of the original series. CHUCK premiered a year after HEROES. We were on the same night with them. I became friends with the entire cast. And I was always secretly envious that they got to have powers and I didn’t. Well, I had abilities, but I wasn’t a superhero. And I’m not now, either, but that said I’m a part of a show that does have that.”
Levi is confident in his performance and does not stress himself worrying if fans on the street with lash out at Luke’s villainous turn. Even if you’d think he might.
“You can’t really gauge the un-gaugeable,” reflects Levi. “I could sit there for hours saying what’s going to happen, but you gotta [ask] what work is going to fulfill me and what do I think is going to fulfill audiences. Unfortunately I don’t think that gets asked a lot. What do audiences want? Are you bringing them excellence or are you just doing something that is what you want to do.”
But Levi never wants to disappoint loyal fan audiences who have expectations for the stories they love but who have been burned by the Hollywood system of adaptations.
“I think there is a lot of work out there that is very masturbatory,” notes Levi. “There are a lot of people out there who say ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…?’ But would it be? Have you asked all these people? A lot of adaptations come around and Hollywood tends to have thing where they grab it and all the people who really love those books [think] they’re horrible. They don’t care at all about what we loved about it and that’s sad. You really have to look at content as something that is about the audience. It’s entertainment. If the people you are trying to entertain aren’t satisfied then you aren’t entertaining anyone.”
“I know there is potentially a built in expectation of what this is going to be, but I don’t shy away from that,” adds Levi. “In fact, in some ways, it builds it up for me. Personally, I look at it as a challenge and redemption for something that a lot of people were disenfranchised by. I want them to feel better about [HEROES]. I want to bring them excellence and let them know that I care about your journey with the show. You have something, as former fans, that you thought was a treat for you, and for any new fans they can onboard with ease. They don’t need to watch the original series in order for them jump on”
At the end of the day, Levi knows Sci-Fi is the genre for him. It’s not just about flying or having super abilities; for Levi Sci-Fi offers him the chance to discuss social topics straight drama does not provide to a larger audience.
“I love sci-fi. I was a total comic book kid since I was little,” reflects Levi. “It’s one of the only genres that really lets our imaginations see and feel all the things they could possibly come up with. We all have drama in our lives. Hopefully we have very funny friends in our lives. But no body has a friend that can fly. So being able to be a part of something in the sci-fi world is always cool. And it’s one of those genres that can really tackle social issues in a way that other genres might not be able to in the same way.”
HEROES REBORN airs Thursday nights at 8/7CT on NBC.