Let’s take a moment to high-five “Heroes,” a newbie show blessed with stellar story line about the apocalypse (OK, nuclear bomb in New York City) and so-not-your-ordinary folks.
Along with “Ugly Betty,” this sci-fi-frosted drama is the undisputed breakout hit of the year (even if the ratings have been slipping recently). Both freshman shows feature charming, nerdy, cherub-cheeked actors in roles appealing to our inner selves: America Ferrara as anything-but-ugly Betty and Masi Oka, office-drone-turned-teleporting/time traveling-samurai.
So before his sexy geek Hiro Nakamura fades into the summer hiatus, we spoke with Oka, 33, about his show and why it’s great to be a geek.
Q: Give us a hint about the finale.
A: The finale is going to be the bomb. Both in da bomb, as in awesome. And in kaboom, the bomb. It’s going to be amazing.
Q: You’re a kendo hobbyist. Were you responsible for getting the sword fighting into the scripts?
A: Somewhere, maybe, in the writers’ minds, they were trying to use my sword expertise.
Q: And in terms of your character, you weren’t even in the original concept for the show.
A: Correct. It was (creator) Tim Kring’s wife who actually kind of mentioned it to him, that everyone in the pilot doesn’t enjoy their powers. That the pilot is so dark. If it weren’t for her words I would have never existed.
Q: And Hiro’s so optimistic. Are you like that?
A: Not as much as Hiro is. I’m more of a realist, maybe with a little side of pessimism, although Hiro is starting to get into me.
Q: And now you’re a star.
A: The show’s a breakout. I’m just happy to be one of the main characters. I think the reason why he’s popular is that he’s very happy with his power. He does get to do stuff with a comedic twist. ... Maybe there’s a slight novelty to him because he doesn’t speak English.
Q: What about having to shut your eyes so many times (which is how Hiro time travels)?
A: It was kind of tough in the pilot. They’d try and do these wide, long, medium shots and it would take eight takes. All that closing my eyes, and shaking my head, I’d start to think I only have eight takes in me! It was definitely fatiguing.
Q: But there’s cute, adorable Hiro vs. Future Hiro, the one with the soul patch and a ponytail who’s a lot more serious — and tough. Which is more like you?
A: I’m probably more like the cuddly, geeky one. Playing a superhero was an acting challenge for me. It was fun.
Q: You were born in Tokyo, moving to Los Angeles when you were 6 and raised by your mom. What does she think of your success?
A: She’s very proud of it, but of course she won’t say it directly to my face. She’s very media shy. I couldn’t convince her to come to the Golden Globes with me, but we did a Mother’s Day shoot for People magazine recently.
Q: You’re a fan of romantic comedies. What are your favorites?
A: I love “When Harry Met Sally,” “The Princess Bride,” “Run Lola Run,” “Serendipity,” “Along Came Polly,” which is the one I was in. “Notting Hill” was great.
Q: You’re sounding a little like geeky, adorable Hiro.
A: Being a geek is a great thing. I think we’re all geeks. Being a geek means you’re passionate about something and that defines your uniqueness. I would rather be passionate about something than be apathetic about everything.
On TV The season finale of “Heroes” airs 7 p.m. today on NBC.