Arthur Petrelli may be flat on his back in a hospital bed, only able to speak by using some sort of mental telepathy or appearing in the prophetic dreams of Company honcho Angela Petrelli (Cristine Rose), but on the “Heroes” set in August, actor Robert Forster is upright and speaking normally.
Regarding what he was doing in the scene right before he stood upright and started to speak - we’ll leave that to your imagination.
Veteran actor Forster (“Lucky Number Slevin,” “Touching Home,” “Jackie Brown”) made his first appearance in Monday’s episode of the NBC superhero drama. We learned Petrelli is still powerful and not as dead as believed; he’s got a really fancy bed; and he shares the same last name as two out of three of Angela’s sons - Nathan (Adrian Pasdar) and Peter (Milo Ventimiglia).
The actual surname of the third, Gabriel Gray (Zachary Quinto), aka brain-and-superpower-sucking psycho killer Sylar, has yet to be absolutely confirmed. His mother, Angela, gave him up for adoption, but whether or not he’s a full-fledged Petrelli by birth remains an open question.
Asked if he can share any more information, Forster says, “Nothing. I am sworn to silence, with handcuffs. Never had a show before that needed to be as secret as this.”
But Forster is familiar with “Heroes” - even if it didn’t happen all at once.
“Oh, sure, I saw it,” he says. “I didn’t understand it. You have to see the first episode, otherwise you don’t know what’s going on. My daughter said she was crazy about this show, and that I should watch it. But when I did, I didn’t understand what was happening.
“Then I went to Bulgaria, and I lost the rest of the season.”
Forster headed to Bulgaria to shoot the caper drama “The Code” which also stars Antonio Banderas and Morgan Freeman.
“It’s a jewel-theft movie,” Forster says. “I play the cop that can’t catch them.”
But he did catch up with “Heroes.”
“I don’t watch much more than news,” Forster says. “I’m the old fogey. Except that, I’ll watch this. I’ve seen the whole second season. They sent the episodes to me, so when I was catching up, I saw a lot of this show.
“I saw the first episode of this season just now at lunch. I had gotten the scripts to two, three and four, and I arrive in five. You have to know where your story is and has been and is going. This is episode nine, I guess. This is the halfway point for me.”
In Forster’s long career - the IMDB lists his first feature film as “Reflections in a Golden Eye” from 1967 - he’s done a lot of drama on the big and small screens, including a lot of crime drama, with a fair sprinkling of science fiction and horror.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that he feels very comfortable in the comic-book-flavored world of “Heroes.”
“Oh, wait a minute,” he says, “this is better than straight drama, far better than a straight drama. How many times can you say, ‘Bring me the file,’ ‘Arrest them,’ ‘Throw them in jail’?
“These are interesting scenes. I could not imagine doing a show that was the kind of shows that are very successful (right now), that actors love to work on because they are successful. Oh, boy, a procedural show would be murder. This is fun. These are interesting scenes.”
While Forster may be a bit more senior than some members of the cast, he’s happy to not be the only veteran.
“There are guys I know and guys I like,” he says. “I’m trying to remember the two guys…there was one I just worked with, Malcolm McDowell, and one guy I know but have not worked with, Eric Roberts.
“So you got really good - I don’t want to say ‘oldsters,’ but we fall into some category.”
As to whether he’s setting an example for the younger performers, Forster says, “I have four children, and I remind other parents that, since they will mirror your worst stuff, be the one you hope they will turn into.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m good at it, but I’m reasonably good. So the point is, you’re supposed to set a decent example.”