2007 Interview – Digital Spy
Original Link: http://www.digitalspy.com/tv/interviews/a41244/sendhil-ramamurthy.html
Author: Neil Wilkes and Kris Green
Lost, 24 and Prison Break are now firmly established with audiences as the kind of unmissable television guaranteed to spark conversation at watercoolers up and down the country.
But a new contender is about to enter the ranks of the elite. Heroes, the number one new TV series in the US, crosses to UK shores on the Sci Fi channel in February.
In the coming weeks Digital Spy will be chatting to the cast of the show about the key to its success and what to expect as the series progresses.
First up is Sendhil Ramamurthy, who plays Mohinder Suresh, a young Indian professor who decides to return to New York after his father – a genetics expert with some controversial theories about rapid changes in evolution – dies in a car crash. Seeking to get to the bottom of his father’s death, Mohinder immediately finds himself at the center of a mystery that runs much deeper than he had ever imagined…
How would you describe the show for someone who’s never seen it before?
“Well, it’s about groups of people all over the world who wake up one morning and discover that they have developed these extraordinary abilities. One person can fly, another can walk through walls, another can teleport, and it’s about how these people deal with these abilities that they’ve developed, and how the people around them deal with these abilities. That’s what I think makes the show interesting, because if it dealt with only the abilities themselves, the powers, it would be a one-trick pony, it would be a problem, but I think the writers have very smartly gone the way of dealing with the human reactions to these abilities.”
Could you tell us a little about how you got the part – what attracted you to the series in the first place?
“I was living in London when I got this part, I’d been living here for the past six years – I moved to LA for this show – and my agent in LA sent this script out and basically said ‘throw yourself on tape for it’. I read the script, I thought it was fantastic, but the part as it was written, was for my father, it was a 55-year-old man so I did the tape with no pressure at all, just because I thought I don’t have a chance, I don’t know why they’re seeing me. I did it, they liked the tape, they brought me out to screen test and they just kept asking me these random little things – like ‘come in, don’t shave for a few days’. Or ‘wear a suit’, or ‘just wear jeans’. It turned out they were refashioning the character around me. They made it change, they made the character the son of the character they had originally written. That’s how I got the part.”
So we nearly didn’t see you on screen, then?
“I never existed! It was never even thought that this character would actually be the son, the character was just going to be the father. For whatever reason, they changed it, and I’m eternally grateful.”
It adds another dimension to the show, to have the character with his powers and then his relationship with his father.
“I think that’s the smart thing that they’ve done, they really have made the show about relationships, and I think that’s why people have tuned in, and I think that’s what’s stopped us from being just a cult genre show. It has things the mainstream audience can be interested in – it’s got a bit of romance in it, for people who are into that, you’ve got the relationships between the single mother and her child. I think if it was just about the powers, it would get really old, really fast. The writers very smartly have shied away from that.”
What sort of reaction have you had to the show? Do you get recognized on the streets?
“The show has taken off in a way that none of us expected in a million years, and now it’s a daily occurrence. People coming up to you, while you’re walking down the street, or in the grocery store, or putting petrol in your car, whatever, you know, somebody comes up to you, or several people during the day, and it’s on everybody’s radar. Everybody comes up and says ‘really enjoy the show’. It hasn’t been intrusive yet, people are very complimentary – it’s really nice to hear, it’s always nice to hear. We all – I mean, there’s 250 people that make this show happen, so it’s great for all of us involved that people are recognizing it. Last week we got nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Drama, and to be mentioned in the same breath as 24, Lost, Grey’s Anatomy and these kinds of shows, it’s certainly a validation for all of us. We couldn’t be more happy!”
It’s not yet out in the UK, so could you give us a brief summation of what happens in the first half of the show, in the first 11 episodes?
“The first eleven episodes – you’re going to be introduced to all the characters. The pilot episode is a heavy episode, there’s a lot going on. You have to keep in mind that originally, the pilot was going to be a two-hour premiere, but the network decided to split them into two, so there is a lot going on in the first episode. I think that’s actually a good thing, because you’re introduced to every character, every major series regular character apart from one, who comes in in the fifth or sixth episode. You’ll be introduced to all of the characters, you’ll see the ones who have powers, what their abilities are, and for the ones who don’t have abilities, it’s very quickly established what people’s roles are going to be. Particularly for my character – my journey starts immediately. My father’s murdered and I have to find out who murdered him, if his theory was right, and if so where are all these people – how do I find them and bring them together. That’s the goal.
“And as in any story titled ‘Heroes’, there’s got to be a bad guy. In the first eleven episodes, you’re introduced to one, possibly two bad guys. There’s an ambiguity to a lot of the characters, particularly the Niki character [played by Ali Larter]. Nobody’s all good or all bad. There’s so many facets to each of these characters – you never know when somebody’s going to go rogue – or not! I think that’s another thing that’s made the show so incredibly compelling to watch, is you never know what can happen with these characters because they’ve left everything so open for all of us. It’s so much fun for us to say, because we know we’re not going to be playing the same thing over and over again. They change it up for us and they have that luxury, because they can go into the future, or backwards, see into the past. It’s a joy as an actor to be able to do those things.”
Do you think Mohinder has that side to him, then?
“I will be sorely disappointed if I’m all good. I certainly hope that there’s some bad. He wouldn’t be a real person if there wasn’t another aspect to his life. I have every confidence that the writers will explore all facets of all characters, should we be fortunate enough to carry on for a few years. Everybody’s going to get a crack at showing completely different sides to their character, and sides they never even thought were there. We all think we know our characters like the backs of our hands, but it’s not us who know the characters, it’s the writers, and they’re the ones who know where this is all going. We don’t, we get the scripts three days before we shoot them. We cram the lines in, and we go from there.”
What power would you like to see Mohinder have, if he did?
“I guess it’s hard, because the one I would really want is flight, and that’s already gone. Mohinder’s power, maybe if he could incinerate people, that would be kind of cool. What I hate is doing green screen work – they could do it with the computer and I wouldn’t have to do green screen. I have to do so much of it in the India scenes, when there were two of me on screen. It’s hard, because you have to stand there talking to a stick with a tennis ball on top of it, that’s what you’re acting to. Maybe that, I could be a flamethrower or something.”
Which of the heroes has the best power, and why?
“I would always go with flight, I think that would be the coolest. I think that Nathan Petrelli’s power (flight) is the best one. From a purely practical point of view, living in LA, it would be great to be able to fly and not be stuck in trafic all day.”
Tim Kring said recently that he isn’t afraid to kill off major characters, so of all the characters I guess you’re the one who feels safest because you push the main narrative. Is that how you feel yourself?
“I wish I felt that way, it’s absolutely not the case. You know why I know this? Because they tell us this on a daily basis, to keep us on our toes. Nobody is safe! People are going to die, that’s the nature of the show. It can’t continue for years and years – people die off and new blood is brought in. That’s just how it’s going to be. We know that some of us are going to die – obviously, we hope it’s not us, but I can’t see this season going by and one of us not dying. Maybe they’ll surprise us and not do that, but I really can’t see it happening, because just from a practical point of view they need to bring in new blood, and they have to make it regular – people can’t just come in and do guest spots, they need to be regulars.”