Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
When asked how the "Heroes Reborn" actors are getting along with the original "Heroes" cast members - both groups share a set on NBC's revival - Judi Shekoni says, matter-of-factly, "Oh, it was hell.
"We all hated each other. We felt like this was our show; why did you want them brought back? We had some security in quite a few times. ... We tried to emulate what we're doing on the show, where people with special powers are separated ... by doing the same thing between the new and the old cast."
Shekoni's humor is in stark contrast to the character she plays on "Heroes Reborn." Joanne has horrifically lost her son - she believes to "evos," or evolved humans - and she's not in a good place. When the series begins, the former housewife is on a particular quest.
"I think losing my son, which is my only child, affected me - Joanne - dramatically," Shekoni says. "She got caught up in grief and, from her understanding - her view of the world - people with special powers are responsible."
Joanne and her husband, Luke (Zachary Levi), are out for blood.
"We find them in the midst of a yearlong journey of revenge," Shekoni says. "Causing havoc to people with special powers."
"You get to see how this journey continues for her to get revenge and retribution, and also how it affects the dynamic between her and her husband," Shekoni adds.
"Heroes Reborn": Judi Shekoni as Joanne. (NBC photo by Jeff Riedel)
Shekoni, originally from Manchester, was in her native England when the role became available. After submitting a video audition, she was asked to fly to L.A., where she ultimately accepted the part.
"I really resonated with the character - I think the particular grief - because I've experienced a fair amount of grief in my life," Shekoni says. "I love that she's a strong character - a strong female. And I love 'Heroes.' I watched the original."
Like Shekoni, fans of the original series know drama will be mixed with sci-fi, action/adventure and little breaks of humor.
Series creator and executive producer Tim Kring has pledged to make a stronger series than the first go-around, which started like gangbusters before going sideways and losing viewers en route to cancellation.
Of the 13-episode "event series" "Heroes Reborn," Shekoni says, "I think they had some time before they started it, so they were able to get it together. I think they knew what they were embarking on. I think, last time, it took off to such a degree - and they also had so many episodes that they had to produce - I think it definitely wasn't an easy situation to be in.
"This one has always been a set number of episodes - and it's not too many. It's only 13. So that means that they have the opportunity to be able to tell the story that they want to tell. And they're not going to get a back nine ordered, where they have to go extend it for another nine episodes.
"I think, as well, they've brought in enough new characters to give it enough variance in the show to go in a lot of different ways."
That fans of "Heroes" will be familiar with the "Heroes Reborn" universe also is an advantage, Shekoni says, because the writers are "not having to create a whole world from scratch. They can use the elements that worked from the original and then they can add and modify the ones that didn't work so well, and then, hopefully, throw in a few extra things based on what's available with technology now - and whatever's going on in Tim Kring's mind (laughs).
"I think that they managed to do something that is different and also to keep the new people invested, while also keeping a lot of their mythology and ... original concept that brought people in and made the show a success."
And, yes, the new cast values the original cast (especially one member with Horn-Rimmed Glasses).
"It was great," Shekoni says. "Jack (Coleman), particularly, was wonderful to talk to, because he'd been through this whole experience before."
The actress also has kind words for the actor playing her TV husband - a man who's just about universally adored for his work on "Chuck."
"Zachary is great," Shekoni says. "Whenever I've needed his help, he's definitely been someone that I could lean on."
"He plays his character extremely well and really complex, and so it just helps me to have someone to go off against," she adds.
After months of heavy hyping (photos of the cast members have been all over TV, magazines and billboards), Shekoni is, of course, happy the series premiere has arrived.
"I'm thinking of flying to Egypt or Iceland," she says, laughing. "I'm glad that it's finally here. It's a very long gestation period, because it's been quite a while (since filming began) ... I'm really excited for people to see it."
"Heroes Reborn" debuts at 8 p.m. tonight on NBC.
"Heroes Reborn" (NBC key art)