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Interview with Tim Kring

DAMON LINDELOF -Okay, Tim -- Brace yourself for everyone and their mother to start asking you "Do you know where you're going with this?" and the ever-loved followup "Does HEROES have an ending?"
Two parts...
a. Do you know the ending?
b. But more importantly... does HEROES need an ending?

TIM KRING - "Do you know where you're going?" and "Do you know the ending?" are two very different questions. I know where we're going in great detail for the first half of one season. We have a real sense of where we want these stories to be by the end of season one. We have a broad sense of where we'll go in season two. I have some ideas about farther down the road, but I'm pretty superstitious about that.

As to needing an ending — Unlike LOST, we have not set up a central dilemma that has to be solved, therefore concluding a larger quest. There is no island to get off of on HEROES. Instead, it's a show about characters dealing with extraordinary things happening to them. That is the central premise. So my sense is that if one can assume that dealing with their extraordinary abilities is something that these characters will always face, then their stories can bend and morph and evolve forever.

DL- How does it feel to be leaving the relative safety of a self-contained crime drama (Jordan finds body, Jordan solves murder) to enter the fun world of serialization... in which many of the questions you pose will not be answered for many, many episodes? You had always wanted to take Jordan more in this direction, but were forced to abandon it by the network powers that be... is it sweet that the same network is now embracing stories with much longer arcs?

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TK- It's very exciting to challenge myself in a new way after being confined by a "closed-ended" type of storytelling. Having had a long career though, I've gotten used to trying to reinvent myself over and over again. The strange thing is that I find myself coming full circle sometimes. When I first started writing TV movies, I was known as the "horror" guy, then the "thriller" guy, then the "teen comedy" guy, etc. But in reality, having just written a new episode of HEROES, the muscles used in facing a blank page are remarkably similar no matter what genre you're in. I still struggle over crafting a scene one line at a time. And I still look for truth and reality in every emotion. Where it is really a different animal is in the writers' room — the breaking of the stories. It has to be much more diligently planned out because every beat of the story has a domino effect. Pulling one thread can really make the whole house of cards come crashing down.

It is certainly "interesting" (read "sweet") that the network is now embracing the very type of storytelling that was off limits less than two years ago.

DL- I sent you the trade compilation of J. Michael Stracynzki's "Rising Stars," a now fully complete story about a group of kids all from the same town who develop supernatural abilities (and are thusly labeled "Specials")... my question: Why didn't you read it? (and "no time" is not an acceptable answer, pal!)

TK- I'm intrigued by this question because obviously something I've done with HEROES proves to you that I didn't read it. The problem is, since I didn't read it, I don't know what that is. Did I miss something I should have stolen? Did I steal something and don't know it? I fear the latter from the tone of your question. But the truth is I didn't read it for a couple reasons.

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First and foremost, because this show deals in the arena of the super hero and comic book world, I didn't want to be tempted or discouraged by other ideas out there. Very early on in the process, I went to see my friend Jeph Loeb for just this reason. I told him I was not well versed in this world and wanted him to steer me away from anything that was derivative or just out and out stealing. Unfortunately EVERYTHING I pitched to him had not only been done once, but many times in many ways. I literally went home that night convinced that I couldn't touch this subject without reinventing the wheel at best, and outright plagiarism at worst.

I finally decided, maybe foolishly so, not to read anything. In this way, at least my conscience is clear. And I have surrounded myself here with enough comic book folks who can tell me what to veer away from.

And there is actually another reason that I didn't read it. A more personal one. I have some form (never diagnosed) of dyslexia or reading problem that makes it nearly impossible for me to read anything that is not laid out neatly and logically on the page. I get extremely confused by the dialogue bubbles. My eye never knows whether to go left or right or up or down. I get easily frustrated and give up very quickly whenever I've tried to read comics.

DL- People are already mentioning our two shows in the same breath -- but other than large ensemble casts (which even shows like Desperate and Grey's employ) and a leaning towards the "unexplained," I don't really see many similarities... that is to say, in my humble opinion, HEROES is wildly original and not at all derivative of LOST. Does it piss you off to be described as "Lost-like," or is this something you embrace?

TK- I have gotten this question many times already and the simple answer is that I fully embrace the comparisons and look at it only as a positive. I can certainly see why people are asking it. They know very little about HEROES yet and at first blush you can make the comparison for the reasons you laid out. Hopefully, they will do this less and less as they get to know the show and see it for its differences. However, that being said, the shows are linked in many ways. The truth is there is no way that HEROES could have been made without LOST having paved the way for a large, serialized saga. It not only prepared the audience for this kind of storytelling, but the networks as well.

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So it would be disingenuous of me to try to distance myself from LOST for those reasons and others. Not the least of which is our relationship. After all, the first person I called when I came up this idea, was you. It wasn't just that I've always loved your story sense and the way you think, but I clearly was picking your brain about your experience on how to undertake this "type" of show, given what you've learned on your steep learning curve on LOST. So, like it or not, buddy boy, you and I can't distance ourselves too much from each other. After all, that moment at the end of the pilot that everyone loves (and I always take credit for) was YOUR IDEA!

DL- Do you feel a need to start familiarizing yourself with the superhero genre... or do you feel the less you know the more "grounded" your show will be? And since when is grounded a good thing?

TK- To continue this thought from earlier — I am a little afraid of knowing too much. I guess my fear is that I could get too invested in the "powers" and lose sight of what attracted me to these characters. I feel that HEROES is, at it's core, a character based saga. I'm much more fascinated by the personal struggles that these abilities present to the characters. I want to know more about who these people are. Much more than I know right now. What are their fears and ambitions. Twenty two episodes a year of a television show gives you the opportunity to invest in the details of your characters. I really want HEROES to feel real — like this could happen to any one of us. So I guess the answer is yes, I do feel less I know, the more grounded it will be. Is grounded better? Ask me after the first season.

DL- Normally, a show like yours would be instantly labeled as "Cult"... How will you attempt to make HEROES more mainstream (assuming that you even want to) so that a network audience can follow a complex multi-character drama every week? Be aware... If you have in fact figured out the answer to the above question, I reserve the right to steal any valuable information I see fit to.

TK- I am very concerned that it not be seen only as a "Cult" show. My fear is that it could be labeled as such and discourage a huge segment of the mainstream audience.

I think if a person is watching it for just the genre "Cult" aspect, they will be disappointed. It just won't lean hard enough in that area for them. This is a much bigger idea than that. The Texas Cheerleader. The LAPD Cop. The single mom trying to raise her son. These characters and stories are so diverse; my hope is that everyone can find something that they like. I certainly don't shy away from the idea of "mainstream".

And mainly, I'm just keeping my fingers crossed.


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