It has been quite awhile since we heard anything from NBC’s “Heroes,” since its cancelled reboot/miniseries in 2015.
Now actor, Leonard Stewart, is making accusations of racism on the show and racial tension between he and co-star, Ali Larter, for being the reason he was written off the series after the first season.
In an essay he penned for Variety Magazine he elaborately explains is issues with Ali and how his concerns were never taken seriously as a series regular. Check out an insert of the essay below:
As production began, I looked forward to sharing my thoughts on my character with the writing staff, as I heard other cast members had done the same with theirs. Unfortunately, no such meeting ever materialized. Then I learned that despite the show’s three Black series regulars, there were no Black writers on staff. After a particularly odd promotional photoshoot — in which all the Black adult series regulars were relegated to the back and sides of photo after photo because, we were told, we were “tall” — I was approached by Tim Kring, the creator of the show. He told me my character would not be introduced in the second episode, but that great ideas were on the way. I sat on the sidelines for the second, third, fourth and fifth episodes. Finally, I was excited to learn that Episode 6 would mark my debut.
Episode 6 began filming in August 2006. D.L. Hawkins was in an interracial marriage with Niki Sanders, a white woman played by Ali Larter. The script suggested D.L. and Niki had a volatile relationship — and 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. Coming from theater, I was familiar with passions running high in the process of bringing characters to life, so I later gave her a bottle of wine with a note affirming what I believed to be mutual respect and a shared commitment to doing exceptional work. Neither the gift nor the note was ever acknowledged.
On another occasion, during the staging of a bedroom scene, my co-star took umbrage with the level of intimacy being suggested between our characters. In a private rehearsal, Greg Beeman, our director, asked if she was willing to lower the straps of the top she was wearing and expose her bare shoulders only above the sheet that covered her, in order to give the visual impression she was in the same state of undress as me, as I was shirtless. My co-star refused Beeman’s request, and I was instantly aware of the tension on the set. I remember instinctively checking to make sure both my hands were visible to everyone who was there, as not to have my intentions or actions misconstrued. Despite Beeman’s clear description of what he was looking for visually, my co-star insisted she was, indeed, being asked to remove her top completely, and rehearsal was cut. She then demanded a meeting with Beeman and the producers who were on set and proceeded to have an intense and loud conversation in which she expressed she had never been so disrespected — as an actress, a woman or a human being.
Later, she found me and said she hoped the “discussion” could stay between us. I didn’t know how that was possible, given said “discussion” was had at elevated levels on a soundstage in front of the crew. Also, my co-star never once thought to include me, her scene partner, in any part of a “discussion,” in which I would have gladly participated. So I found the appeal to my sense of solidarity after the fact strange and somewhat hollow. Nonetheless, I assured her I was fine with getting the work done in any way she and Beeman could agree on. We completed the scene with the straps of my co-star’s top clearly visible, resolving the matter to what I believed was her satisfaction.
While that was my first episode, my co-star had been working on “Heroes” for over a month, and she’d shot another scene that called for Niki to seduce Nathan Petrelli, played by Adrian Pasdar. After watching the episode, I asked Pasdar if there had been any concerns similar to what I witnessed during my episode. He replied to the contrary, and mentioned her openness to collaboration and even improvisation. I pondered why my co-star had exuberantly played a different scene with the Petrelli 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.
Upon arriving backstage at Radio City Music Hall for a rehearsal, I caught my co-star’s eye. “I’m hearing our cover is selling the least of all of them,” she told me. It was the first and only thing she said to me that night and I believed the subtext was clear: I was tarnishing her brand.
The day after returning from upfronts, I received a call from Kring, my first ever. In a short voicemail message, he said that due to “the Ali Larter situation,” when the show returned for Season 2, audiences would learn that D.L. had died, and that I was free to call him if I wanted to talk. I was stunned.
I took a couple of days to cuss, mope and second guess, after which I decided to take Kring up on his offer, and set an appointment with him. When I arrived at his office, I was surprised to see that Dennis Hammer was there as well. Kring began by reiterating that because of my co-star, he just couldn’t make my remaining on the show work story-wise. I’m typically not one who refers to himself in the third person, but in that instance I felt compelled to channel my inner Alexander O’Neal and pointed out he fired Leonard Roberts, but only mentioned Leonard Roberts’ co-star as the reason for his firing, and that Leonard Roberts found that … curious.
Kring said he felt my character had been painted into a corner, due to the fact that “we” didn’t have “chemistry,” and that any attempt to create a new storyline for D.L. just felt like “the tail wagging the dog.” I replied that I found it interesting he had created a world where people flew, painted the future, bent time and space, read minds, erased minds and were indestructible, yet somehow the potential story solution of my character getting divorced left him utterly confounded. I also questioned how a “we” issue could be cited as justification for the firing of “me.”
You can read the remainder of the article by clicking here.
As fans of the show we are written disheartened by this news. “Heroes” was one of our favorite series and to think that Leonard was fired due to racial issues is just plain wrong. This should have been Leonard’s big break but it seems like it nearly broke him.
Ali has come forward with an apology:
Actor Ali Larter responded on Wednesday to the account by her “Heroes” co-star Leonard Roberts — who, in a first-person essay for Variety published earlier in the day, said Larter mistreated him while working on the first season of the hit NBC series, eventually leading to his dismissal from the show. Roberts believes the fact he’s Black affected that decision.
In a statement to Variety‘s sibling publication TVLine, Larter said: “I am deeply saddened to hear about Leonard Roberts’ experience on Heroes and I am heartbroken reading his perception of our relationship, which absolutely doesn’t match my memory nor experience on the show. I respect Leonard as an artist and I applaud him or anyone using their voice and platform. I am truly sorry for any role I may have played in his painful experience during that time and I wish him and his family the very best.”
We hope somehow Leonard is vindicated and receives the acclaim and roles he deserves.