Based around everyday people that discover they have superhuman abilities, the Heroes franchise brought a fresh perspective to the superhero genre. As one of the few shows not based on established comic book heroes, the series explored the intertwining stories of 14 characters brought together for a more substantial purpose.
Using the storytelling style and action sequences similar to comic books, the series became a favorite among viewers and critics alike. The character-rich series continued beyond the first season with not only the original characters but new ones as well. Each season followed a different arc or “volume” for its plotlines and expanded the established universe of the first series. Additional seasons included Generations, Villains, Fugitives, and Redemption.
The Heroes universe also told stories through the video games, webcomics, and more. Though the franchise came to an end with the miniseries Heroes Reborn, the fanbase for the franchise lives on. At this point, who isn’t familiar with the unforgettable catchphrase, “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World”?
Although known for its mysterious storylines and insidious plots, the behind the scenes details of the series contain little-known secrets and truths. From cast controversies and drama to abrupt firings and failed projects, here are 18 Secrets Behind Heroes You Had No Idea About.
The casting process for the series Heroes proved to be a lofty task for series creator Tim Kring and crew. The ensemble cast consisted of 14 main characters with each one acting as an essential piece of the overall plot.
Anxious to be a part of such an exciting show, actress Emma Stone decided to audition for the role of cheerleader Claire Bennet. However, as Stone revealed to Vogue Magazine, she not only bombed the audition but she heard the moment Hayden Panettiere won the role.
Stone shared, “I could hear that, in the other room, a girl had just gone in and they were saying, ‘You are our pick… On a scale of 1 to 10 you’re an 11.’ I went home and just had this meltdown.” Stone has since recalled this moment as her “rock bottom” and used it as a motivator to keep auditioning.
The pilot episode of Heroes premiered on September 25, 2006 to rave reviews. Titled "Genesis", it helped to establish the backgrounds of many of the main characters and showcased their abilities. Although the aired pilot provided a few shocking moments (i.e. a cheerleader jumping to her death... you know, the usual), the original pilot contained a more controversial plot.
The character with "Exploding Man" powers - called Ted Sprague in the aired series - was originally an Arabic character named Amid Halebi with ties to terrorism.
Given the mindset of many viewers living in a post-September 11th world, this pilot proved to be too controversial for Tim Kring. He cut the storyline out completed and gave Halebi's radiation manipulation ability to Sprague instead.
Onscreen couples tend to spend so much time together, they often end up developing real feelings for one another. This occurrence is frequently true with large ensemble TV casts. So, it was no surprise that onset romance formed during the making of Heroes. However, the relationship between these onscreen characters was not one that was based on romance.
Co-stars Hayden Panettiere and Milo Ventimiglia fell in love and dated from 2007 – 2009. Before that, the plot of season 1 revealed that Panettiere’s character was actually Ventimiglia’s niece (she was the daughter of his brother). So their two-year relationship, sweet as it may have been, was tainted for fans by the fact that it looked like two related characters were dating.
Throughout season 1 of Heroes, fans got the opportunity to learn more about each cast member. Incredibly, the writers were able to capture the personalities of the main cast and develop them throughout the season. Fans came to love each character and the way their lives intertwined through the storyline.
It was that love from viewers that helped save the lives of the characters - well, most of them, anyway. Originally, the writers had plans to create a “kill ‘em all” scenario in which every character featured in the first season would be eliminated. They would then introduce a new cast for season 2 and continue with a rotating cast going forward. Lucilky for fans, their love for the characters outweighed the writers’ plans for the show.
The original 14 main cast members began dwindling off beginning in season 2. Though some members were bumped down to recurring or guest stars, the majority of the cast remained together through the show’s airing. However, in 2009, rumors began that a “major character death” would be occurring with season 3. As it turned out, the writers chose Nathan Petrelli (played by actor Adrian Pasdar) as their victim.
However, according to EOnline, he did not see it coming. They reported that “he wasn't told he was getting fired, [and] he learned about it from a script.” Wow. Though his character had been killed off several times during the show, this time was the one that stuck. Audiences watched as Petrelli fell to his death in the season 4 episodes “The Fifth Step”.
The cast of Heroes included characters from various walks of life discovering their secret powers and abilities. From a single mother to a politician, the show highlighted people from different economic classes and lifestyles. Not only were the heroes themselves diverse but their friends and family also. However, when it came to giving one character an expanded background, writers were shocked at the backlash they received.
Claire’s friend Zach (played by Thomas Dekker) was originally planned to reveal he was gay during season 1. However, his manager strongly opposed this character development and requested it to be removed from the storyline. The concern was that this change in his onscreen character would affect his acting career (he had played three gay roles in the past). Eventually, his manager pulled him from the show after 11 episodes, since his character was receiving less screen time as well.
During the LGBT festival, Outfest, on July 6 2017, former Heroes writer and producer Bryan Fuller was awarded the Achievement Award. During his acceptance speech, he spoke about various times from his career when characters were changed from being gay to heterosexual, or “hetwashed”.
Fuller said, "I had a brief stint on Heroes where the gay character was 'hetwashed' after the actor's management threatened to pull him from the show if he— the character, not the actor— were gay. The character became straight and the actor came out as gay."
The actor in question was previously mentioned former Heroes star Thomas Dekker (who played Zach), who had yet to come out publicly as gay. Fuller had mistakenly outed Dekker in public. The actor was then forced to take to Instagram to address the controversy and publicly come out. Dekker also stated he was, in fact, happily married as well.
Throughout the progression of the story, many of the Heroes characters found themselves crossing paths with each other. Viewers began to piece together their connections and learn more when they interacted with one another. While these interactions helped to bring the characters as well as the stars closer together, it proved a bit challenging for two of them.
Actresses Hayden Panettiere and Kristen Bell are known for their beauty, talent, and for being rather petite in stature. With the women standing at 5’0” and 5’1” respectively, new issues arose when they interacted with some of the taller co-stars. To help with the height differences, the two actresses would stand on "Scully" boxes or wear heels in these scenes.
With Season 2 of Heroes, viewers were introduced to an expanded list of new heroes and storylines to follow. Among them was Bob Bishop, the new head of the Company. Using his power of alchemy, he can not only create an unlimited amount of gold and other resources but can use his abilities as a weapon as well.
Played by actor Stephen Tobolowsky, his character was planned to have a more significant role in season three. However, Tobolowsky was involved in a riding accident while traveling in Iceland and broke his neck in five places. The accident left temporarily paralyzed and took months for recovery. Sadly, his character had to be removed from the show and killed at the beginning of season 3 off camera with his body appearing in the episode “The Butterfly Effect”.
After his subsequent firing from Heroes, Adrian Pasdar moved on to working in animation, specifically for Marvel. He began voiceover work for two animated series starting in 2009. He played Hawkeye on The Super Hero Squad Show and Captain America in the Black Panther series in 2010.
Though his career was moving in a positive direction, his stumbled in his personal life in the early part of 2010. On January 27, he was arrested in the early hours of the morning for misdemeanor DUI in Los Angeles. He was caught veering between lanes at speeds up to 95 miles per hour. Though initially entering a plea of not guilty, he eventually changed to “no contest” for his trail. He received probation, a fine, and was compelled to join AA.
Although Zachary Quinto had been acting for some time before Heroes, his role as villain Sylar skyrocketed his stardom significantly. During his time on the show, he continued to look and audition for roles in films. After hearing about the Star Trek reboot in 2006, he expressed his interest in the role of Spock. However, writers for the show were concerned that Quinto, who won the role, would leave the show in favor of the film.
Due to his popularity as Sylar and expanding fame, the staff took extreme measures to ensure he would continue to be satisfied with the role. Not only does Sylar shift continuously between a villain and a hero, but he also gained new abilities including shapeshifting. Even with Quinto’s long absences during filming, he still returned to portray the character for 60 episodes.
Heroes fans will remember actress Tawny Cypress from her time spent playing Simone Deveaux during the first season. Though her time on the show was limited to 14 episodes, she stills served as an essential connection during the Volume 1 events. Since then, she has landed roles TV series including Rescue Me, House of Cards and Unforgettable. However, her biggest headline came with her 2013 drama over allegedly assaulting her ex-husband.
According to EOnline, Cypress had been “sued by her ex-husband, who claims that he was attacked by the 36-year-old actress's current boyfriend in June—and that she's the one who made it all happen, with an assist from their 12-year-old son.” He was allegedly attacked in the parking lot of Cheeburger Cheeburger in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood and let unconscious. Wow!
Known for his quirky and unique shows, American television writer and producer Bryan Fuller was a welcomed return to the Heroes staff. He served as a consulting producer and eventual co-producer for the show’s first season. Regarding writing for the show, he was responsible for several episodes, including the fan favorite “Company Man”. However, he left the show to pursue other projects he was interested.
When the show’s rating began to fall, producers were had to have Fuller return with a two-year contract to help the show’s writing and overall direction. Fuller began his return to the show with episode 20 of season 3 and continued through the rest of the season. However, either unhappy with the show’s direction or more focused on his own projects, Fuller left the show for the second time. He quit the show after only three months on staff.
Heroes set itself apart from other superhero-based shows in that it was not based on heroes from the major comic book companies. Though the show seems to draw some inspiration from series such as X-Men, its ensemble cast, overall, were not directly based on any established characters. In addition, its storytelling style and look mirrored the action-packed panels of comic books.
As such it made complete sense to add popular comic book writer Jeph Loeb to the production staff. He, along with Lost producer Jesse Alexander, brought their unique perspectives to the show. However, by 2008, the pressure of waning ratings forced the show to change its creative direction. Creator Tim Kring apparently fired Alexander and Loeb in 2008 when they refused to continue the popular character-driven storytelling that made the show so popular. The show cited they parted over creative differences and budgetary concerns.
Alexander went on to work on Bryan Fuller's Hannibal, while Loeb has had a producing role in virtually every recent Marvel TV series.
The popularity of Heroes expanded well beyond the TV series. Over the years, the characters were established in various projects that expanded upon the created universe. These projects included the digital extension Heroes Evolutions, the webcomic (which NBC called a graphic novel), and webisodes.
In hopes of increasing the popularity of the show, these projects ran concurrently with the seasons. However, the poor reviews and viewership of season 4 brought the franchise to an end. Not only did the series conclude but the side projects as well. Also, plans for an end-of-series movie were also shelved due to the lowered interest in the show.
Although many shows find continued interest beyond the show’s conclusion, the Heroes universe ended with the show’s cancellation. Sorry Heroes fans.
The writing process for many long-term television series tends to be somewhat complicated. When dealing with storylines that involve many characters, the writing staff manages to work together to establish their predetermined paths in the long term. The staff of Heroes, however, took a different approach. Writers were assigned a character (or two) to write over the course of an entire season. Those storylines were then brought together and connected.
In addition, creator Tim Kring also stated that they did not “plan the series very far in advance, preferring to write by the seat of their pants so as to always introduce new story possibilities.” This unique approach to the show’s writing led to overe-reaching storylines and characters with inadequate developments over time. Though the focus of the show began with captivating writing, its quality deteriorated over time, possibly leading to the show’s eventual cancellation.
Heroes continued through five “volumes” of arcs from 2006 to 2010. Unfortunately, as the seasons progressed, viewers and critics alike were not tuning into the show anymore. In fact, criticism of the show was so severe that the plans for an additional volume, Heroes Exodus was canceled during the second season. By season 4, low viewership and reviews led to its eventual cancellation. So when the plan was announced to bring the series back in miniseries form years later, fans were taken aback.
However, no one was more surprised that the original cast. As it turns out, the show had not bothered to let them know about the plans for the miniseries. In fact, most of the cast ended up finding out via the official press release and social media. Where is the loyalty?
Hoping to tap into its loyal fan base, Heroes Reborn premiered on NBC in 2015. Though the majority of the original cast did not return, the show still pressed on with the few stars that re-committed. Set several years after the events of the original series, Heroes Reborn attempted to bring in new fans and establish renewed trust in old ones.
Unfortunately, the miniseries did not meet expectations and fans simply did not tune in. Gaining a 43% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the show was accused of “focusing on special effects and unearned melodrama at the expense of the original's initially intriguing narrative.” There has been much speculation that its failure brought an end to the future of Heroes projects.
During the Television Critics Association press tour in 2016, show creator Tim Kring stated, “As far as I know there are no more incarnations of Heroes coming.”
Do you have any Heroes trivia to share? Leave it in the comments!