Sci-fi drama series Heroes is one of the most successful drama series in recent years. It has had huge international success, being sold to the largest free-to-air broadcasters including the BBC in the UK, France’s TF1 and Mediaset’s Italian network Italia 1. The second season and online spin off, Heroes: Origins, have been affected by the writer’s strike, with only 11 episodes making it past production.
How do you think Heroes fits with Ben Silverman’s plans for NBC?
A show like Heroes is really shielded from the new regime and obviously no-one wants to come in and shake up a show that’s working. Ben [Silverman] was a huge fan of the show, he was a fawning fan. The one thing that has been different is his interest in the international market. I see the future of TV as global, opening up to creative partnerships. TV wants to go where the money is and the fact that these shows are selling so well internationally means that there’s a real hunger to learn how to create this content elsewhere. There are relationships to be had with producers in the UK and companies in Germany and France.
How did Heroes come about?
I had a development deal at NBC Universal, where I had Crossing Jordan. They didn’t have any large ensemble shows serialised like Lost. That had not been a viable format until shows like 24 came about and with the sudden increase in DVD and foreign sales, there was a model for serialised shows. Suddenly there was a new model so I looked at that and what would connect with the audience.
Where did the idea for show come from?
The world is very complicated and scary and filled with uncertainty and terrorism and global warming. A normal TV hero of a cop or doctor wouldn’t be big enough to deal with these issues. So I chose very ordinary people that had superpowers.
What other television shows influenced Heroes?
Shows like Heroes would not have been possible without Lost because it taught the networks the vocabulary of storytelling. Even the kind of deals that Lost was able to make with actors have been utilised by Heroes. Damon Lindeloff also worked for me on Crossing Jordan.
How did the online component of the show come about?
Heroes was created with a large footprint in the online world. There were seven people in the digital department [at NBC] when we started and now there’s 67. Heroes was a testing the ground for NBC. We go out there and try it, creating content for the Internet, for Heroes 360.
Did you set out to make a show with international appeal?
My take on the international quality was part and parcel of the show. I wanted a show about the whole world. It seems disingenuous to have characters that only have blond hair or are blue eyed teenagers from California. If this was a global event I had to utilise everything I could to promote the idea, the strong message of interconnectivity. Then it naturally lends itself to global marketing.
Were you surprised when Crossing Jordan was cancelled?
To be truthful it wasn’t a surprise. The network is in a considerable amount of trouble, it went from first place to fourth place. Crossing Jordan was a steady performer but networks in NBC’s position need breakout hits and open spaces on slots to get those hits.
Do you know how Heroes ends?
We have a large tent pole to write towards and I have big thematic ideas for seasons three, four and five. We are a not a show that is picked up more than one season at a time. It’s a huge investment for a year of television; it’s very expensive to produce so it has to generate a fair amount of money to justify its existence.