`Heroes' proved launching pad for actor

August 19, 2007|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,Sun Reporter

Thomas Dekker knew Heroes would be a hit but never thought his character would be around long enough to bask in the spotlight.

Then again, the 19-year-old Dekker, an actor working steadily since age 5, never suspected that the past year would prove so good for his resume. In 12 months, he has played a recurring character in a hit TV series, signed on to a series adaptation of one of the most successful science fiction franchises in movie history and filmed a thriller he considers in the tradition of such horror classics as Halloween and The Exorcist.

"In these past couple of weeks, I've started to think that I'm part of something amazing," Dekker says over the phone from the set of From Within, the horror-thriller shot in Havre de Grace and Perryville. "It's kind of a nice surprise."

Specifically, Dekker is talking about From Within, set in a town whose residents seem to be killing themselves off, though the reality proves even more disturbing. But he could be talking about the entire past 12 months, which opened with him becoming an unexpected fan favorite on Heroes, and end with him preparing for The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a small-screen continuation of the Terminator movie franchise.

Dekker will play John Connor, whom fans will recognize as the headstrong teen destined to one day save the Earth from cyborg domination. His mother, Sarah (Linda Hamilton in the movies, British actress Lena Headey on TV), is determined that he live long enough to realize that destiny -- no easy task, when robots from the future keep showing up to assassinate him.

"My initial reaction, when I heard they were doing this, was the same that I think a lot of diehard fans are having: `Oh, no. They're only doing this to cash-in on the money, and it's going to be terrible, and they're not going to care about the films or be respectful. It's going to be bad.'

"I thought those things until I met with the writers and producers and creators of the show," he says. The plans for The Sarah Connor Chronicles, he insists, "are so intelligent, and it's so beautiful what they want to do with this story. Where they're taking it is just beyond my imagination."

Unfortunately, the series, scheduled to premiere next year on Fox, is taking him away from Heroes. Fans of the show may have noticed that his character, Zach, stopped showing up about halfway through the series -- at about the same time Dekker started shooting the Connor pilot in January.

"You can't be in two TV shows at once," Dekker says.

Still, as a longtime friend of Hayden Panettiere's invulnerable cheerleader, Claire, as well as her resident videographer, Dekker's Zach was among the first characters to appear onscreen in the series pilot. Fighting the urge to do anything heroic, he faithfully videotaped Claire's efforts to document her powers by hurling herself off a tower.

Dekker thought Zach was a one-time gig; the character had no superpowers and didn't seem crucial to the unfolding plot, and he'd signed for only the pilot. But the relationship between Claire and Zach struck a chord with fans. And with the series' creators, too.

Although he never signed a long-term contract to appear on the show, Dekker reprised his character in nearly half the first-season episodes.

"The character was never intended to have any kind of importance in the story," Dekker says. "But [his presence] just kept growing and growing. The response of people to Zach and Claire's chemistry was a definite surprise to everyone involved."

It certainly shocked Dekker, an industry veteran at an age when he's not yet legal to drink. Dekker became a member of the Screen Actors Guild at age 5, after singing the Huggies Pull-Ups jingle on a commercial. His resume includes a John Carpenter horror film (1995's Village of the Damned), a three-year stint on Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show, and a 2005 run on Seventh Heaven as Vincent, boyfriend to Mackenzie Rosman's Ruthie.

At the least, he thought his stint on Heroes would end with a big send-off, maybe some clever explanation for why his character had to go.

It didn't happen.

"The character was just left in limbo," he says. "Maybe there will be some big twist, where he shows up again. You never know."

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

Thomas Dekker

Born

-- Dec. 28, 1987, in Las Vegas

TV debut

-- The Young and the Restless, 1993, as recurring character Phillip Chancellor IV

TV roles

-- John Connor on The Sarah Connor Chronicles (likely 2008); Zach on Heroes (2006-2007); Vincent on 7th Heaven (2005); Nick Szalinski on Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1997-2000)

Film

-- David McGowan in Village of the Damned (1995); Thomas Picard in Star Trek: Generations (1994)

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