Heroes premieres tonight, and SheKnows could not have been more pleased to receive a call from executive producer and writer Kay Foster before Heroes’ highly anticipated return. As the only female on the all-male creative staff, Foster has a priceless perspective on the magic behind the NBC monster hit, and gives SheKnows a few clues into the new season.
A Hero’s welcome
The show’s premiere, The Second Coming arrives at 8 p.m. The second half of the premiere, episode two, The Butterfly Effect, lands on screens at 9 p.m.
Foster, after a late night shooting Heroes the previous evening, was effervescent and riveting in her description of the world of Heroes.
SheKnows: I wanted to know from where you’re sitting as a writer and co-executive producer, thanks to the strike it’s been a while since we’ve seen our favorite Heroes.
Kay Foster: I know…we’re all itching to be back on the air.
SheKnows: Monday’s the day, how’s it feeling over at the Heroes’ camp?
Kay Foster: I think there is a certain amount of excitement. They’re always a certain level of fear. Because you know, the critics were tough on us in season two. There’s a lot to juggle to meet their expectations. That season one was much ballyhooed. There’s a lot of pressure, but we are well along our way. My writing partner and I are filming, filming last night until 1 a.m., episode 312 and we are simultaneously in the room breaking 316 and we’re writing 317, so we’re very busy.
The vice of villainy
SheKnows: Wow, you guys are already out there plot-wise for the whole season. In this upcoming chapter, specifying the Villains, I wondered, as a writer especially considering the pressure you mentioned earlier, if delving into the darker corners of emotions was kind of fun.
Kay Foster: Oh, yeah. The villains are always the best part of our job, and of course, the better the villain, the better the hero. We like to play with the duplicity of all of our characters making our villains good and our heroes bad. You can never fully understand the character. HRG is a prime example of that. He’s a father, dad, lover, protector and he is an operative, cold-hearted bastard, all at the same time. There’s a lot to juggle, as we all do.
SheKnows: It is, and that what resonates with viewers, is that is not just black or white with characters in life or in fiction. Some of history’ stories’ best have had both. Now, for you a creative force, who were some of those characters in pop culture’s past for you?
Kay Foster: I work with a staff of all male writers. I’m the only female. I don’t focus as much on the villains, there are a lot more villainous in the hearts of men, I think (laughs). That’s the great thing about the show is that there are characters that each of us can identify with.
For me, I don’t anyone will ever do better as a television or feature villain that Zachary Pinto as Sylar. He is something else. He’s fantastic. We were taping last night and he literally nailed it on the firs take. He’s just brilliant. Not to mention he has such a great looking face and just visually so interesting as a villain. I was there when we cast him. He came in quite the unknown, but we saw something in him.
It’s so exciting when you come away from a casting session – there’s another character coming up – came away from that thinking you really saw something there. There’s something very, very special. Not just good acting, but go far beyond that.
SheKnows: His acting, in his face, and those eyes…
Kay Foster: His eyebrows! You know he was so mortified when they had to shave them off for him to play Spock (in Star Trek). It was quite alarming.
SheKnows: As the sole female writer on Heroes in a roomful of men, is there a difference on other productions you’ve worked on, or is all the same creative energy?
Kay Foster: It is different. There is high-octane testosterone driven shows in television. This is somewhere in between. There are other elements, one of them being that Tim Kring wrote it. He is very much a character writer.
It could have been an action show — at the heart of this, these are ordinary people with extraordinary circumstances. He managed to really ground it and I think that’s why it took off in such a way. It’s my job on the staff is try to make the stories relatable and emotional. To find things that people can identify with.
There are shows like 24 where they don’t have a female on staff, literally. And then shows like Grey’s Anatomy, which is all women. It is so estrogen driven.
There’s a little boy element to the comic book loving thing, but the truth is I grew up with an older brother. He built a plane in the basement and we flew in it. I grew up fishing with my father. I had very male interests growing up. It’s not unusual for me. As soon as the action film became huge, you know with Lethal Weapon and all those – I loved those. I have more of a male leaning in terms of things I’m interested in.
SheKnows: Do they turn to you, or do you ever have to interject, when you are creating the storyline for your female characters?
Kay Foster: Here’s the thing about female and male characters. I think people are just people. What I try to do is think of them first and foremost as who they are. I started my career on Xena: Warrior Princess and R.J. Stewart, the guy who wrote that, he thought as Lucy (Lawless), it was really groundbreaking. To have a woman fight with a man and actually win, those things were amazing. He, at the time, wrote her like she was a man. It really landed in a good way. I like to think as characters as being every bit equal.
SheKnows: Very true.
Kay Foster: Although, it’s funny (laughs). Someone asked me once if we were going to have anything other than cheerleaders and strippers on the show?
We both laugh.
SheKnows: Oh, no!
Kay Foster: I try, I try. But, let’s be honest, much of this is the male fantasy. We certainly have beautiful women. Who are eye candy sometimes it’s hard for men to see more than just the visual (laughs).
SheKnows: Personally, I think as an actress, Ali Larter has just grown and grown. There are so many facets to her character.
Kay Foster: Oh, good. She’s sensation to look at it, I mean really. Robert’s (her writing partner) favorite character is Ali (laughs).
SheKnows: She’s fantastic, just so fierce, yet she’s still a mom and all the maternal emotions that come along with that.
Kay Foster: Well, this year you won’t be seeing Ali as a mom, Nikki.
SheKnows: That’s right…evil Ali!
Kay Foster: Yes, she’s a different character.
SheKnows: See, that’s fun.
Kay Foster: Oh, absolutely, learning her whole backstory. You know what? There’s another one after that.
SheKnows: You’re kidding! Good for Ali.
Kay Foster: She’s truly a character who gets to reinvent herself.
SheKnows: Are there any new characters you could tell our SheKnows readers about, or even tidbits from the upcoming season that your fellow producers won’t come down on you for?
Kay Foster: I can throw this out, since The Wire has gone off the air — we’ve gotten some of their great actors and directors. We also came across virtually an unknown, you have to watch episode six. He’s a character-actor type. He’s a character who’s a puppetmaster. I think his performance is just brilliant. That was going to be a one-off, but he did such a great job, we’re bringing him back to the series.
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