WARNING SOME SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED WITHIN
Episode five was written by, the sisters, Joy and Melissa Blake – who are new to HEROES, and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter who is also new to the show. But even though she was new here, if you check out her resume, you can see what an experienced director she is: http://imdb.com/name/nm0322128/ She directed the pilot episode of THE GILMORE GIRLS, and numerous episodes of WEST WING, ER, and even TWIN PEAKS! She is a super great, super enthusiastic person and a strong performance director. She has a background as a choreographer so she has a natural affinity for choreographing camera and actor. But she had never done any of the kind of visual effects we do. She was hungry to learn and it was fun to teach her.
This episode develops some of our storylines and resolves some others. Our New Orleans story progresses, as Monica begins to learn what the scope of her power is, and you can see the beginnings of a new team-up in her and Micah’s relationship. Matt and Nathan continue working to track down and meet Matt’s father, “The Nightmare Man” who has been tormenting Molly. Suresh makes, what is perhaps, a fateful mistake when he brings Molly in to the company, and finds himself becoming entangled in their web. Peter resolves his story in Ireland, as a new “Company Woman” enters the picture, moving his story in another direction.
This episode is, perhaps, most notable for the introduction of Kristen Bell to the HEROES lineup. We have been introducing a lot of new characters in these early episodes. I know that, to some people, it feels like it’s been too much too fast, and some wonder where have last year’s heroes gone? But Tim Kring expressed from the beginning of the development of this year that it was important to him to keep evolving the big-picture story. He really wanted to create a global sense to the show this year. Having said all that, I truly think everyone will agree that Kristen is an awesome addition to our recipe.
If you don’t know her already, Kristen was the star of the well reviewed, but little-watched UPN and later CW show “VERONICA MARS.” Her performance as the eponymous character was routinely critically lauded. (Catch it on DVD if you’ve never seen it – it’s a real good TV show!!)
Anyway, the story behind how she ended up on HEROES is a pretty good one. Last summer, after the HEROES panel at Comic-Con, two of our writers, Joe Pokaski and Aron Eli Coleite were riding from San Diego to LA on the train. Sitting in the same car, they saw Zach Quinto and Kristen Bell – who, as it turns out, are old-time best friends. Everyone got to talking, and Joe and Aron said “Hey if you ever want to be on the show, we’ll write a part for you.” To which Kristen replied, “Really? Well, maybe I’d be interested.” More talk revealed that Kristen was a huge fan of the show (mostly through her palship with Zach.) The deal was sealed when, later, Kristen’s cell phone flew out of her hands and she told Joe and Aron how she had “energy hands.” Seems she waves her hands around a lot when she’s talking, which builds up a lot of energy. When she stops waving them and holds on to an electronic device, that device will frequently fly out of her hands and break.
Joe and Aron knew that, just that week, the writers were developing the character of Elle. Elle was a young woman who worked for the company, who could shoot lightening from her hands, and who was intended to be a dramatic doppelganger/compliment to the innocent/earnest Claire. In that instant on the Amtrak train fate connected the dots. The next morning Joe and Aron told Tim Kring, Dennis Hammer and anyone who would listen. That very morning phone calls started flying in the way that they only can in Hollywood. Agents, network executives and producers began scheming and hatching plans. Talented actress without a show. Hit show in need of talented actress. It seemed the perfect fit!
Two weeks later Kristen was standing in a Hollywood parking lot full of shipping containers, surrounded by green screen (which – with the help of CGI - was standing in for a shipping dock in Ireland.) She began that day to explore the character of Elle, the slightly demented, slightly power-mad “Company Gal.”
Having worked with her quite a bit since then, I, for one, hope she sticks around. She is a treat - a pro of an actress who knows her lines, hits her marks, and consistently delivers the goods in an unexpected way. She is also a lot of fun to be around. We have fun on HEROES and Kristen fits in well behind the scenes as well as on screen!
I also wonder - Who the heck is “Daddy???”
HI I’M KRISTEN AND I’M NEW HERE
KRISTEN BELL SEARCHES FOR HER NEW TV BOYFRIEND
HEY LIGHTENING POWER IS FUN!
Meanwhile in New Orleans, Micah gives a name to Monica’s power. He shows her a 9th Wonders comic, which is our comic-within–our-world. Tim Sale’s cover depicts “Saint Joan” (Pay attention to all this!) Micah tells Monica that she is a “muscle mimic,” a copycat! (Jeph Loeb calls it photo-reflex-muscle-memory.) What it means is – anything she sees she can copy. As I mentioned before Tim Kring’s goal was to create a new dynamic with this duo (heh heh.) Freed from always worrying about his father and mother, Micah can begin to have fun with his powers. In the last episode and in this one, a real chemistry breaks out between these two characters.
Noah Gray-Cabey, who plays Micah, is such a great kid. He’s, like, a genius. He’s only 11, but he’s already in 9th grade. He’s a real sweetie on set, and I love seeing his big smile break out in this episode. In real life, he is a virtuoso piano player. I believe the OPRAH WINFREY SHOW originally discovered him (he played piano there) which led to a Hollywood talent agent approaching him about acting. Tim had been wanting to create a scene for him to play piano in the show. And, so, the scene where Monica enters the house, sees him playing, and mimics it, was developed.
This is an interesting scene to study. As Monica plays the piano, there are a number of specific edits that develop the story. The scene begins with side angles of her hands playing, intercut with side angles of her face and Micah’s face. Then the angles onto the hands become straight down. And the angle of her face becomes super low – straight up. The tempo of the music and of the editing builds faster and faster until it hits a crescendo as Monica leaps up in fear. This, very specific shot and cutting pattern, is designed to accentuate her rising fear as she realizes something she can’t control and doesn’t understand is happening to her.
Some of our heroes have easy powers to accomplish on screen and some have hard ones. Greg Grunberg’s is easy, he just tilts his head, we do some editing tricks and voil’a, mind reading. Kristen Bell has an easy one, she just puts out her hand, the visual effects team rotoscopes in lightening and voil’a – Lighting Power! But there’s no voil’a with Dana Davis’ power. In this episode she has to double dutch, do kung fu backflips, juggle and play the piano (although I think we edited out the juggling – hmmm???) That meant we had to get a double dutch photo double, a kung fu photo double, a piano-playing photo double, and a juggling photo double – and we had to teach her to do all of these things. Luckily Dana is very game to try stuff, and she ended up doing most of the moves herself.
The double dutch scene is a good example of how complex it is to direct one of our episodes. In just this one scene, there is a lot to pay attention to because there are so many levels, both technical and emotional, which one has to bring out for the audience. In this one scene, where the characters walk into a busy playground, looking to try out her powers, the director must remember to develop Micah and Monica’s new relationship for the audience. Then the director must get the shots to tell the story of a busy playground – skateboarding, basketball, double dutch, Then the director must stage and shoot that Monica has a challenge from the neighborhood girls, and that she stands up to them in a tough but nice way – which is another important aspect of her character to show to the audience. Then she begins to double dutch. This involves shooting wide shots over Micah to the jump roping double (you must connect the two characters visually on screen!) Then closer angles of Monica jumping rope. Now, Dana had learned the choreographed move, but wasn’t really able to jump rope. So she was photographed against a blue screen. The background girls were photographed as what is called a back plate behind her. And they were twirling wooden handles only. The spinning ropes were digitally added in post. Of course once Monica’s jumping – the director can’t forget to get close up angles of Monica looking to Micah and smiling, and of Micah looking back and smiling. (The cool power is nice, but the emotion is what really matters!) And all that for a 35 second scene that had to be completely shot in 4 hours before lunch! Ouch!
DANA DAVIS STUDIES HER DOUBLE DUTCH MOVES ON DVD IMMEDIATELY BEFORE SHOOT
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER ALLAN ARKUSH OVERSEES A REHEARSAL OF THE PIANO SCENE
Another complex sequence in our little weekly TV show is the entire nightmare man sequence where Maury, Matt Parkman’s father. This character throws both Nathan and Matt into their respective worst nightmares. We had to show 3 things at once: First, Matt Parkman’s nightmare of being locked up for abandoning his family. Second, Nathan’s nightmare that New York had blown up and that he had to do battle with his own inner demon. And third, that in reality, both men were fighting each other under the control of Maury.
This was a difficult sequence to both comprehend and visualize. It had many technical complexities – for instance, Adrian Pasdar had to have 3 hours of makeup to play the scar-faced version of himself. This meant we had to split up the scene where he fights himself over two days. The first day he wore the makeup and on the second one he didn’t. There would be a stunt/photo double for him to fight himself. But we also wanted to put Adrian in the same frame with himself 2 or three times, which meant moving split-screen shots. We decided to blow ash on the set, coming from the burning NYC buildings. Etc. Etc.
We had numerous meetings about how this scene would be shot and edited, to both maximize coolness and clarity. We drew storyboards and then had a few more meetings. I think the sequence is pretty satisfying, and the visual effects guys at Stargate Effects outdid themselves with burning New York. I particularly like the building crumbling in the foreground!
We spent a LONG TIME in the cutting room working on this one. How to intercut the fight to get it just right. But still, I wish we’d had more time to both think about it and design it. I always felt like the process on this complex scene was a little pell-mell, and, even though it’s good – that we didn’t have time to get it perfect!
Okay that’s it for now. Next week: Hiro and gang take on White Beard in feudal Japan, Peter and Caitlain visit a new city (and a new version of and old city!?!), Claire makes the cheerleading squad in her own special way, and HRG visits and old friend in Odessa (Russia that is!)
DIRECTOR LESLI GLATTER
PRODUCTION MEETING ABOUT THE NIGHTMARE SEQUENCE
LESLI AND GREG GRUNBERG GO OVER THE “STORYBOARDS”
GREG GRUNBERG AND WRITERS JOY AND MELISSA BLAKE
LESLI AND MILO VENTIMIGLIA –THEY BOTH USED TO WORK ON “THE GILMORE GIRLS”
ADRIAN PASDAR AND I ON SET – HEY KIDS, ALWAYS REMEMBER TO USE SUNBLOCK!
VOTE PETRELLI, HE’S THE SCABBIEST