HEROES: Ali Larter Reflects on the NBC Drama's Legacy - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

HEROES: Ali Larter Reflects on the NBC Drama’s Legacy

July 17, 2020 by  

Heroes Ali Larter

HEROES — “Acceptance” Episode 403 — Air Date 10/05/2009 — Pictured: Ali Larter as Tracy Strauss — Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBCU Photo Bank

“Save the cheerleader, save the world.”

In 2006, it was nearly impossible to be a fan of television and not know HEROES. The sci-fi drama about ordinary people discovering they had extraordinary abilities was arguably the biggest show of the year, as fans obsessed over whether the rag-tag group of new heroes could defeat supervillain Sylar (Zachary Quinto).

Now, new—and old—fans can experience it again, as the four seasons of the original series are streaming on Peacock. (2015 revival HEROES REBORN isn’t currently included.)

“It was one of the best pilots I’ve ever read,” Ali Larter, who portrayed Niki, Jessica, and Tracy, recalls. “Tim Kring wrote it, and when we came together, David Semel, who was our director, had an extraordinary vision for that show. When I think about all all the pieces it takes to really come together and make something that is so special, and connect with an audience the way that it did, I just feel really proud and grateful.”

Here, Larter looks back at her time on the show, and reflects on why it may be the best binge watch for 2020…

Going all the way back, what do you remember about your first day at HEROES?
I think I remember the scene: I was knocking on the front door, I walked inside the house, and I was questioning the things that I was hearing in my head, because I didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t. I remember being there with Micah. That was my first day in the pilot, I think.

I remember reading the script at my house in Laurel Canyon, going to the audition, and then testing for it—I was wearing a pair of bright green high heels. [Laughs.] I was super, super sick. I had the stomach flu, and I had my mom drive me, because I was still like shaking from it!

Oh, wow. At what point did you kind of realize how unique the show was and how big it might become?
I remember being at the Upfront with the cast, after they let the pilot out, and everyone that saw it came up to me. So it was a moment within our industry that people kind of recognized that it was something that was really great.

That being said, it being recognized within the industry doesn’t mean that it’s going to have universal appeal with an audience. When the pilot aired, that’s when it really became apparent that this was more than just a show, it was really connecting with people on a different level. And then on an international level, we did a world press tour for it, [going to places like] Singapore and Hong Kong. It was really extraordinary to see how so many people just really were moved by it and totally connected with HEROES.

With that attention came a lot of people wanting to know what would happen next. How much did they fill you in on the season 1 plans and how much did you want to know at that point?
They don’t tell you a lot, that’s for sure! I did not know a lot, but I knew the pilot. I knew I was going to have an alter ego and Jessica coming out. And so that, to me, was really interesting and exciting that I was going get a chance to play these two roles. So I thought about Jessica, the shadow side, and I was able to figure out how I wanted to portray them.

What were the specific production challenges in portraying the two characters?
When it comes to special effects and things like that, I was already [worked] within that world on FINAL DESTINATION; I knew how to do it. But a lot of it, for me, was we did some tricks with the mirror. There’s this scene with the baseball bat, where I would turn around with the bat, and then I was able to come back as another character, as Jessica.

There was moments that we use, just within kind of myself, that I was able to kind of turn my face or use the mirror to see [the change], too.

I was excited about going in and exploring the shadow side of the character. And when you think about Niki Sanders, she was very sensitive, very vulnerable, a single mother that was just trying to by. The world was heavy on her. She felt things very, very deeply. And Jessica emerged because she wasn’t able to handle these things. And so when I think of the shadow side, Jessica came out to do the things Niki wasn’t capable of doing: breaking the law and standing up for herself, and hurting someone if they were hurting her. Doing all those things that we might dream about doing, but our conscience stops us.

And then Tracy was brought into the mix later. Looking back, was there a character you particularly appreciated or enjoyed playing?
I had to quickly prepare, and figure out how I wanted to present [Tracy]. It was fun being able to use one character as a base, and then use that as different people coming through it. But I remember there was like a flash-forward episode that was really fun that I love doing.

Niki, for, me will always be my favorite. I didn’t have children at that time in my life, but I just really connected with her and being kind of broken by the world, and trying to find the strength within herself to take care of her son.

Now that the show is streaming on Peacock, what does it mean to you that a new group of fans might discover it? What do you think the show’s legacy is?
It’s really exciting. The show is about ordinary people that realize they have extraordinary abilities. Especially during a time like this, where so many people are quarantined, and in despair, there’s a show like this, that gives you hope, that makes you believe there’s something inside you that can override all these things.

We portray that as characters that had extraordinary abilities, supernatural and superhuman powers. But I think that on a smaller level, there is something inspiring about being able to look inside yourself and believe that you are enough.

And I think that’s what entertainment is: entertainment is a moment to take you away from the stress or pressure of your life and allow you to go on that exciting ride. And I think that HEROES really delivered. So to be able to have Peacock streaming this and allow us to get to a whole new audience is really exciting. And I hope that people love it as much as they did the first time around.

You’ve worked consistently pre- and post-HEROES. At this point, pre-pandemic, how often were you still approached about the show?
All the time. It’s interesting to be in this business for so long and to have been working for decades…during my life, I had different times where I’m working a lot and then I take breaks to have a family or move back to New York. But at different times, I’ve had movies and TV shows really connect with people and it’s so great to be able to give them a little escape from their lives and make them laugh, or make them cry, or make them smile, take them on an adventure. And I feel extraordinarily lucky to have had so many projects in my career that have deeply connected to people.

On a lighter note, with HEROES’ success came a lot of tie-in merchandise and things outside of the show itself. Was there a particular collectable that delighted you the most?

Well, I definitely thought the action figure was pretty funny for Niki Sanders. I remember having a lunchbox given to me, which was also super funny. It was probably a huge Comic-Con hit, because I don’t think any second graders are bringing a Niki Sanders lunch box to school!

And the comic books were really cool. That was the other side of it, to be able to see it all drawn out in the stories and let it go on and and see where the characters would go and where they would take them. Working with Jeff Loeb on that kind of stuff was always such a highlight for me.

HEROES, Streaming Now, Peacock


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