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Heroes alum Leonard Roberts blames racism and tension with co-star Ali Larter for his firing from the show after one season

  • In an essay Roberts wrote for Variety, Roberts says he and his on-screen wife played by Larter, had a "volatile relationship" on-screen that devolved so much that "it wasn’t long before art was imitating life, with me on the receiving end of pushback from my co-star regarding the playing of a particularly tense scene." Roberts also alleges that he and other minority actors were treated differently, including not having a meeting with the writers that was extended to the rest of the cast had and the relegating of Black adult series regulars to the back and sides of promotional photoshoots. Roberts says he was supposed to appear in the pilot, but his debut was pushed back to the sixth episode. Roberts says Larter "took umbrage with the level of intimacy being suggested between our characters." When he talked to co-star Adrian Pasdar, who also shared an intimate scene with Larter, Roberts found that she was more willing to collaborate with Pasdar. The whole situation made Roberts question why Larter "had exuberantly played a different scene with (Pasdar's) character involving overt sexuality while wearing lingerie, but found aspects of one involving love and intimacy expressed through dialogue with my character, her husband, disrespectful to her core. I couldn't help wondering whether race was a factor." Roberts was ultimately fired before Season 2. When Roberts met with creator Tim Kring and executive producer Dennis Hammer, he says Kring told him that "because of my co-star, he just couldn't make my remaining on the show work story-wise." Variety says it "corroborated Roberts’ account with 10 people who either worked on Heroes at the time or were contemporaneously familiar with his experience on the show. When reached for comment with a detailed summary of what Roberts wrote, Larter did not provide any comment, while Kring and executive producer Dennis Hammer both praised Roberts, and did not dispute his account." Variety said it "independently obtained a copy of an early draft of the Heroes pilot in which Roberts’ character is referred to as 'a white man’s nightmare.' The people Variety spoke with also confirmed that other series leads had conversations with the Heroes writers about their characters; that there were no Black writers on the Heroes staff in its first season; that Black actors were sidelined in cast photos; that Larter did not like working with Roberts; and that Larter was a divisive presence on set overall." In a statement, Kring said no cast member was written off based on their race, adding: "Looking back now, 14 years later, given the very different lens that I view the world through today, I acknowledge that a lack of diversity at the upper levels of the staff may have contributed to Leonard experiencing the lack of sensitivity that he describes. I have been committed to improving upon this issue with every project I pursue. I remember Leonard fondly and wish him well." Roberts said of his experience on Heroes: "In the years after my time on Heroes, the burden of carrying the secret of my experience had a profoundly negative effect on how I interacted with the world. Professionally, I struggled with an internalization of anger and defeat unlike any I had ever experienced in my career. Realizing I had no agency to demand anything from a work environment in which I was expected to perform left me incensed. Knowing that every other future work endeavor could potentially turn out the same way left me exhausted. Personally, carrying the burden led me to withdraw from colleagues, friends and loved ones, due to my belief that I was a failure for not being able to somehow just be 'better' and rise above it all. My voice felt muted and my light dimmed. Fighting against the isolation brought on by both was at times all consuming. I was ashamed and the shame I felt wasn’t the result of suffering the indignity, but, for a fleeting moment, actually being surprised by it. It would be 10 years before I would become a series regular again."

    TOPICS: Heroes, Ali Larter , Leonard Roberts, Tim Kring, Retro TV

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