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October 25, 2014

James Kyson Lee on 'Heroes': Not Just a Sidekick Anymore

by Chris Jancelewicz, posted Sep 8th 2009 1:45PM


It's not easy to live in Hiro's shadow, which is what poor sidekick Ando has been forced to do on sci-fi hit 'Heroes'. Played by Korean James Kyson Lee (who sometimes gets some flak for playing a Japanese guy), Ando has slowly emerged as a hero in his own right as the series has progressed.

Now blessed with powers of his own, Ando no longer takes the back seat. Certainly Lee's acting ability and profound likability has played a part in his character's advancement; it's not often that a character goes from comic foil to centre of attention. It takes a certain kind of magnetism for that to happen, and Lee has it in spades.

AOL sat down to talk with Lee at the 2009 Fan Expo in Toronto about the upcoming season of 'Heroes', and what it's been like maturing along with his character, Ando.



It's not easy to live in Hiro's shadow, which is what poor sidekick Ando has been forced to do on sci-fi hit 'Heroes'. Played by Korean James Kyson Lee (who sometimes gets some flak for playing a Japanese guy), Ando has slowly emerged as a hero in his own right as the series has progressed.

Now blessed with powers of his own, Ando no longer takes the back seat. Certainly Lee's acting ability and profound likability has played a part in his character's advancement; it's not often that a character goes from comic foil to centre of attention. It takes a certain kind of magnetism for that to happen, and Lee has it in spades.

AOL sat down to talk with Lee at the 2009 Fan Expo in Toronto about the upcoming season of 'Heroes', and what it's been like maturing along with his character, Ando.

When you signed
onto 'Heroes', did you ever anticipate it would be such a huge success?

I had a feeling about it. I thought the show had a bunch of different elements that people could latch onto – whether it was sci-fi, superhero, or the real-life drama. Luckily it took off the way it did, so I'm glad.

Are you personally into any nerd-type things, like comics or manga?

Spider-Man was probably my favourite. I was also into Batman. I was really into Dragon Ball and Slam Dunk, as far as manga went. They were definitely part of my childhood.

So it was must have been really cool for you then, to play a comic book character.

Yeah! Now the show has its own graphic novel and everything. It's cool to see the drawings and paintings they drew. Seeing the action figure was awesome. It's every little boy's dream, I think, to be an action figure.

How are things looking for Ando this season?

I hope to be doing more fighting, and have more action this time around.

What's it like playing a Japanese guy when you're actually Korean?

It's fine. The show's given me a chance to really learn the language, and that's been kind of fun. It's a lot of work, especially when I first started, I spent hours working and working. There's so many different parts of the language that are hard to master. Luckily I have a coach.

What do you like best about playing Ando?

For some reason, I guess people like him. He's sort of a happy-go-lucky type of character. Obviously he and Hiro provide the comic relief, but it's been cool to see his transformation over the course of the three years, starting out as a human being. ..and I think that's why the audience identifies with him, because he used to be one of us. Last season he got the power to shoot lasers, which is something he can use in a lot of different ways. Oh! And Ando's motorcycle. Now that's cool.

I think you're right about the audience identifying with Ando. He's almost the conduit for our feelings about Hiro and his sometimes-dumb decisions.

It's a fun relationship. He's the problem-solver of the duo. They're kind of like the Tom Sawyer-Huck Finn-type characters, where they get themselves into trouble and then save each other.

Are any of Ando's characteristics similar to your own?

During the course of the show, I've been able to bring some parts of my own character into Ando. For example, we have an episode where we saved Baby Matt, and he kept crying and stopping cars, so I had to make a face to make him happy again. I'm not sure how it happened, but I came up with this ridiculous face, which was part Yoda, part Krusty the Clown. But that was all me.

Do you have any favourite scenes from Heroes?

That's tough because there's so many, but I remember one from the first season, where Hiro and Ando head to Las Vegas, and we're playing tricks with the cards and we're winning money. We're in an alley and one of the goons knocks out Hiro. The editors who were cutting the scene ended up looping the punch, so it kept repeating and repeating. It was funny – it's one of those scenes that you can keep watching, and it doesn't get old.

Are there any actors who you'd really like to work with but haven't yet?

It's funny, there are people on this show who Ando hasn't really spent a lot of time with. I'd like to go on a little assignment with H.R.G. [Horn Rimmed Glasses] Now that would be cool.

Are you doing anything other than 'Heroes' right now?

I have a movie coming out called 'White on Rice'. It's a comedy coming out in a few months. It's like 'Napoleon Dynamite' or 'Little Miss Sunshine', a lot of quirky humour.

Have you had any bizarre fan experiences?

Yeah, I was in Chicago for a speaking engagement, and we were walking through the campus of Northwestern University, and there was a giant hot dog – a guy in costume – handing out flyers. He sees me and he goes 'Oh my God, you're awesome!' and then he literally collapsed to the ground. It's always a little strange to have a giant hot dog pass out in front of you.

Catch Lee in the season 4 premiere of 'Heroes' on Monday, September 21 at 10 pm on Global TV.

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