Actors Ray Parker and Robert Knepper discussed with journalists this week their new roles as Edgar and Samuel on the hit NBC TV show “Heroes,” revealing how they got the parts, and how their characters play pivotal roles in the lives of all the characters in the new season.
The conference call in which CBR News participated began immediately with a question directed to both Ray Park and Robert Knepper as to whether being well known for iconic roles hurts or helps their careers. Park began, saying it sometimes helps as there is a built fan base for his work from his past roles as Darth Maul in “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” and Snake Eyes in “G.I. Joe,” but that it can also be “a pain” as he has high expectations to live up to. But Park said he’s a big fan of “Heroes” and hopes he can use that fan base to bring in new viewers.
Knepper, who is best known for playing Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell on “Prison Break,” agreed. “It is nice to be on the map, nice that people know you and that they have trust in your abilities,” Knepper said, adding that he does not like people stereotyping him as a bad guy, and prefers to be stereotyped as an actor, a good one at that.
The actors were asked what appealed to them about their “Heroes” characters. Knepper took a moment to say Park is very charming in his role as Edgar, and that his character of Samuel is just as charming. He said they’re not cliché carnival folk, that they were able to reinvent the idea of a carnival barker, and that Samuel is much more of a “Keith Richards-esque, rock and roller kind of guy.” Knepper also gives the character a sort of “Gaelic, Celtic, Irish, English, Scottish accent, a mutt all in one. That is fun to play.”
Park complimented his co-star’s accent and went on to say his role of Edgar is exciting and that there is an uncertainty of where the character can go. Park added, “It is a very passionate character, who is good at what he does, who cares about his carnival family.” Plus, Park said the role was a good excuse to finally cut his hair.
Asked what the most challenging aspect of their roles are, Knepper said he was a little embarrassed by his character’s accent, especially having to work with so many genuinely British actors on set. Usually, like when he played the character T-Bag on “Prison Break,” he gets to spend a few weeks before production practicing with a dialect coach to perfect an accent. Luckily though, Knepper doesn’t want his character to have a specific accent. “It’s a guy who has been around and never been in one place for too long,” Knepper said.
Park said everything “since the first day I walked on set has been pleasurable” of his “Heroes” experience. He said all the actors are great, and as a self-described fanboy and fan of the show, Park is excited to work with the “Heroes” actors. Knepper chimed in, saying Park is very friendly, especially for someone who has played some famous roles, and that there is “absolutely no ego involved.”
Asked what it was like working on a TV show like “Heroes” as opposed to feature films, Park said it was exciting. Years ago when he bought the “Heroes” DVDs and first got hooked on the show, Park’s reaction was, “This would be the TV show I’d like to work on. Two years later, I’m here, so I’m having a lot of fun right now.”
Knepper was asked to compare “Heroes” to other television shows he’s worked on. The actor said that like his previous shows, “It is just working with some good people with a great work ethic. The special effects of this show is something new, but it is not any more difficult” as he just follows directions on how to move and where to stand on the green screen, and “I trust the special effects guys because they all know what they are doing.”
The actors revealed the powers of their characters, with Ray Park describing Edgar as a super speedster like Daphne from the previous season, but great with knives and acrobatics. Park sadded that this time around, the show really slows down for his perspective, to show the precision of his movements.
Knepper said Samuel’s amalgamated accent is a big part of the character and his abilities. “He’s a man of the world, and his powers, as an earthmover, reflect it. He doesn’t literally move the planet, but he controls the ground beneath him.”
The relationship between the two characters is tricky one. “It’s a good thing the actors like each other. There’s a lot of pretense going on between these two guys, a lot of rivalry, and jealous, and some old, old...old stuff going on,” Knepper explained, adding that Edgar and Samuel trust each other, but at the same time, they wouldn’t turn their backs on the other for too long.
As to what makes their characters different than their previous roles -- as both actors have played bad guys in the past -- Park said he doesn’t see Edgar as a necessarily bad guy, and when he was reading the scripts in preparation for the role, he saw a lot of uncertainty in the bad things he does. “He was asked to go and do certain things that turn out bad for others. The character is much deeper than just a ‘bad guy,’” Park explained.
For Knepper, the difference is the idea of power, like that of a dictator or leader. “Samuel could be an incredible leader, but he is too busy abusing his role for his own ends,” Knepper said. His previous role as T-Bag “could never be a leader, or at least have the potential to be a good one.”
Each actor had to audition for their role on “Heroes,” but Park said when the character of Edgar was created, the writers all thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get Ray Park to play him?” The actors also mentioned that they are with the show “for the long haul,” and Park added, “I only know two weeks in advance for every episode, and I don’t know where my character is headed, and so far, so good... but I always have the feeling I’m going to get killed off.”
Asked what their favorite scenes were so far, Knepper said he has had two “very well written scenes” with Masi Oka (Hiro) and Zachary Quinto (Sylar). “They were, again because of the writing, moment to moment, slam bang blasting scenes. There’ll be other scenes I’m sure, but so far, those meaty scenes for me have been are the kind that when you finish at the end of the day or night you go, ‘Wow,’ and hopefully it translates to the screen as well. So far the feedback has been really good about them. They’re similar scenes where Samuel gets down to the nitty gritty with both Hiro and Sylar; kind of calls them on their shit. You can’t BS a BS’er. It shows how he can get under people’s skin.”
Park said he’s enjoyed everything so far, and really enjoys playing scenes where he’s not “just running around fighting everyone.”
In response to how familiar they were with “Heroes” before getting their parts, Knepper said, “I have to admit, I never watch television. I caught the pilot about a month ago, and I think it’s a brilliant pilot, and when I have some time I might watch [the show], but as far as the acting or character building, I don’t think I need to see every episode. I feel I got a sense of the archetypes of the different characters. It’s a different thing when you’re watching something and actually doing it.” Knepper said that for him, “ignorance is bliss,” and that he’s focused on his character “and not what everyone else is doing.”
Park is of course a big fan of “Heroes,” having been hooked since he bought the first season on DVD years ago. He said he loved “the mystery and effects.” When he got the part of Edgar, Park bought season 3 on iTunes and caught himself up on the story.
With respect to the redemption theme of the fourth season, Knepper said that early on, viewers will learn Samuel’s motives, a secret in his family that “will show if he’s looking for redemption, and not necessarily in a good way, or if he is just looking for an excuse to continue behaving as he has been.”
Park said Edgar has done bad things but “he does want to find peace for himself.”
The two-hour season premier of “Heroes” airs Monday, September 21 on NBC.