Masi Oka

Q & A WITH

November 30, 2006|By Chuck Barney | Chuck Barney,McClatchy-Tribune

Prime-time television has been hit with a great big case of Hiro worship.

We're talking about Hiro Nakamura, the giddy Star Trek-loving office drone played by Masi Oka on NBC's Heroes. Fervent fans of the show have been charmed by his gleeful energy and by how he scrunches up his face just before traveling through time or space.

All the attention has been a big rush for Oka, 31, who after studying math and computer science at Brown University, pursued acting part-time while working in the Bay Area at George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic.

Oka still might be toiling in relative obscurity had Heroes creator and Pittsburgh native Tim Kring stuck to his original script draft for the show, which contained no trace of the character. But after Kring realized the dark story could use some levity and a character who would "embrace his power with enthusiasm," a Hiro was born.

You're one of the few breakout stars of the new TV season. How is life different?

I used to be able to go out for dinner and be completely alone. Now, not so much. I get asked by people to pose for photos a lot. I'm starting to feel like the big Goofy character in Disneyland.

Speaking of goofy, there has been plenty of Internet chatter among women who think you're so adorable that they want to cuddle with you. What do you make of that?

Some friends recently sent me a post they found from a woman who was saying she wanted to make me her pet. She wrote that she wanted to "put me in a cage to keep and kiss me and love me."

What was your reaction?

As long as she feeds me, I'm totally game.

Why do you think people love Hiro so much?

I'm not sure, exactly. I know why I like him. He's basically a wide-eyed kid full of wonder. He's the kind of person so many of us want to be, but we lose much of that wonder as we grow up and grapple with societal pressures. Also, television is so full of dark, stern characters these days. I think the medium needs some more lightness and optimism.

Do you relate to your character?

Sure. We're both Japanese, of course. And we're both big manga and anime enthusiasts. And I can relate to the fact that he's stuck in a corporate job and dreaming of being someone special, because I'm definitely living a dream right now.

You worked on special effects for more than 30 films at ILM, where you still serve as a consultant. What are the highlights?

Probably my most memorable was that big wave that engulfed George Clooney and his boat in The Perfect Storm. Ten of us worked for over a month on that thing, and it turned out pretty cool. I was also proud of the asteroid explosion in Star Wars: Episode II, where Jango Fett is chasing Obi Wan Kenobi. To see that on the big screen was just wild.

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