Former Heroes star Leonard Roberts has opened up about his troublesome experience working on the first season of the NBC show.
In the personal essay, published in Variety, Roberts discussed his controversial exit from Season 2 of Heroes, claiming that he clashed with his main costar, Ali Larter, which he suggested led to his exit from the series. He also said that he felt singled out because of his race, an issue that creator and showrunner, Tim Kring was apathetic to.
Before Roberts’ character was killed off in the second season, he said that Larter didn’t want to interact with him on set, which played a part in him getting written off the show. The 48-year-old actor said that while he was hired for the role, he wasn’t in the pilot and didn’t appear in the series until the sixth episode.
He wrote that Larter refused to appear in an intimate scene with his character, who was her husband on Heroes. Roberts then asked his white co-star, Adrian Pasdar, if Larter was opposed to appearing in a similar scene with their characters, to which Pasdar said she was very open to. Roberts wrote that he “couldn’t help wondering whether race was a factor.”
Roberts also pointed to a TV Guide story from 2006—the year Season 1 aired—which said that according to an insider, Larter “[could not] stand to be in the same room as her leading man.” Roberts said that he remembered executive producer Dennis Hammer telling him it was “being handled internally.”
But Roberts said that after some back-and-forth with Hammer and Kring, what that meant was he was written off the show due to “the Ali Larter situation.”
“To Black people, whether a part of the entertainment industry or not, the frustration and pain I went through was an all-too-familiar reminder of what it meant to feel as invisible as Ralph Ellison’s revered protagonist,” Roberts wrote. “But to white and non-Black people in my orbit, what happened was often chalked up to a tough break.”
Roberts also noted that Heroes didn’t have any non-Black writers: “I encourage white people to understand that while standing as allies has its place, action is what this moment demands,” he added. “The white show creator can’t create a show featuring non-white on-camera talent but disregard non-white voices behind the scenes.”
Variety says that it corroborated the story with 10 people who either worked on the show or were close enough to confirm Roberts’ story. Larter later responded to Roberts' claims, telling TVLine that she apologizes for “any role I may have played in [Roberts’] painful experience during that time.”
“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,” Larter said.