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'Heroes' star Masi Oka living the dream

 
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fringey




fringey

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PostPosted:     Post subject: 'Heroes' star Masi Oka living the dream
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By Bill Keveney, USA TODAY

LOS ANGELES — Playing a comic-book-obsessed character has left Heroes' Masi Oka with less time for one of his hobbies: comic books.
"I don't get to come here often," Oka says, browsing aisles of manga, the Japanese comic-book form, in Kinokuniya, a store in Little Tokyo.

Oka, who plays geeky Japanese office worker Hiro Nakamura on Heroes (NBC, tonight, 9 ET/PT), gave a reporter a quick primer, pointing out romance and adventure stories in Japanese and English, with different comics aimed at children, teenage girls and boys, and adults. He prefers the Japanese-language imports and especially likes the work of Naoki Urasawa, whose comics include Monster.

"Hiro's a fanboy. I'm a geek. I love my manga. But Hiro is more extreme," says Oka, 31, whose character's popularity is underscored by hundreds of fan comments on Hiro's blog at nbc.com.

But manga is just one parallel between Oka and Hiro, who finds he can travel through time and space. "Hiro talks about destiny and fate. It is kind of fated that I was at the right place at the right time to be exposed to this amazing character, because there's so much of Hiro that's me," Oka says.

Both are from Japan, Oka having moved to the USA at age 6. Both have experienced employee life, although Oka's special-effects work must be more exciting than Hiro's cubicle captivity. And their stories might have made for good manga, which often centers on wish fulfillment. "Hiro gets to live his dream of being a superhero. I get to live my dream of being on a successful show," he says during an interview at a nearby plaza.

Oka's dream now seems supersized. Heroes is the season's No. 1 new series (averaging 14.4 million viewers), and Hiro may be the top breakout character. Reflecting the Hiro buzz, Oka is scheduled to appear today on NBC's Today and Late Night With Conan O'Brien, as well as ABC's The View. And he'll be interviewed Thursday during NBC's Thanksgiving parade coverage.

In Heroes, Hiro is one of numerous ordinary people who gain superpowers: One can fly, another hears others' thoughts and a third draws a comic book, 9th Wonders, that reveals the future. Hiro, featured in Wonders, is an avid reader.

Alone among the heroes, some of whom are ambivalent or even angry about their transformation, Hiro stands out as downright giddy. (The character appears only briefly tonight but will be featured next Monday when he goes back in time to prevent the death of a waitress.)

"I knew he was comic relief, and I have a blast playing him. It's so much fun. I hope it shows," he says. In an upcoming episode, George Takei (Star Trek's Mr. Sulu) will play the father of Star Trek fan Hiro.

But the character, who travels the USA with his sidekick, Ando, is more than a clown. In a scene filmed on a street adjacent to the plaza, Hiro stopped time to save a girl from being hit by a truck. Recent scenes revealed a time-traveling future Hiro, "a dark, beaten-down warrior" with Samurai traits who, in unaccented English, first utters the Heroes mantra: "Save the cheerleader. Save the world."

"That was a gift the writers gave me," says Oka, who surprised viewers with the portrayal. "The greatest compliment you can get is, 'Wow! That was really you?' As an actor, I know I did a job if I can play two characters who are completely yin/yang."

Future Hiro also challenges the traditional depiction of the "asexualized" Asian-American male, he says. "Daniel Dae Kim is doing an amazing job of breaking that stereotype on Lost," Oka says. "I'm going more the cute route."

Still, some interviewers have told Oka that Hiro, who is getting a love interest, is a s-- symbol. "And I'm like, 'What?' I'm absolutely surprised," says Oka, who is single.

Oka has made good use of his heritage on the show. He translates dialogue into Japanese and, with the writers' blessing, has made suggestions to depict the character's background as accurately as possible. When writers had Hiro shouting "Banzai!" after face-clenching trips through time, Oka told them it had a wartime connotation.

"I suggested 'Yatta!' which means 'I did it!' " For Oka and Hiro, the parallels keep on coming.


Posted 11/19/2006 9:00 PM ET

http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/news/2006-11-19-hiro-main_x.htm


Patrick
a.k.a. Fringey, The Fringe Element
"A life lived without passion is a life not lived.
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fringey




fringey

Joined:
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Posts: 1353

PostPosted:     Post subject: How a 'geek' became a Hero
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Updated 11/19/2006 8:29 PM ET

By Bill Keveney, USA TODAY

Just as Heroes' Hiro isn't a conventional TV hero, actor Masi Oka hasn't followed the usual trail to Hollywood success. Here is a look at his path to prime time.

•Born: Tokyo, 1974. He moved to Los Angeles at 6 with his mother, who thought the U.S. education system would let her son maximize his intellectual skills. On Saturdays, he attended a Japanese-language school designed for the children of Japanese professionals temporarily living in the USA. And he kept up on Japanese language and culture via manga comic books and videotaped game and variety shows sent by his grandmother in Japan.

•Graduated: Brown University, 1997, degrees in mathematics and computer science, minor in theater arts.

•Special effects: Took a job in San Francisco creating effects for George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic. He worked on The Perfect Storm, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and he still consults one to two days a week.

•Acting: Persuaded employer to let him scratch his acting itch by working temporarily in Los Angeles. He extended his stay by securing a role in Straight White Male, a TV pilot that wasn't picked up as a series. He gained improvisational experience at Second City, the ImprovOlympics and The Groundlings.

•Film roles: Along Came Polly and Austin Powers in Goldmember. He has guest-starred on numerous TV series including Without a Trace, Will & Grace and Gilmore Girls. He got his big break with the recurring role of Franklyn on Scrubs.

•Today: A regular on Heroes as Japanese office drone turned time-and-space traveler Hiro Nakamura.

http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/news/2006-11-19-hiro-side_x.htm

Patrick
a.k.a. Fringey, The Fringe Element
"A life lived without passion is a life not lived.
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