One of the most polarizing storylines on the second season of Heroes is the addition of Honduran twins Maya (Dania Ramirez) and Alejandro (Shalim Ortiz). Their “powers” are still mysterious, but quite severe, and in the most recent episode, they found themselves joining Sylar (Zachary Quinto) on a road trip to New York City.
BuddyTV spoke to Shalim Ortiz about his experience on Heroes. Shalim spoke about getting the role, working with Ramirez and Quinto, whether his character will live or die in the near future, and what exactly Maya and Alejandro’s “powers” are. Below you will find a transcript as well as the mp3 audio file of the interview.
Hi this is John from BuddyTV and I’m talking to Shalim Ortiz who plays Alejandro on the new season of Heroes. Hello.
Hello. How are you John?
I’m doing great! How are you this morning?
Good, good. Cheers from Los Angeles.
Thank you. Now first of all, how did you get this role on Heroes?
Well, it was kind of a conventional process when it comes to reading various times, to different producers and everybody involved on the project on Heroes. And I just got this opportunity for the last stage of the whole screen test which is the “chemistry test.” It’s to see if myself and Dania Ramirez, who plays my sister Maya in the show, had that real chemistry for the screen and I guess the answer was yes … and that’s how I kicked off.
And were you a Heroes fan before you got the role?
I had watched a couple of episodes here and there. I was there following the whole story line but I definitely caught up on season one and immediately I became a fan right away. It’s inevitable to watch a show like Heroes and then not get completely sucked into the show.
Definitely. When you first got the role, because this is one of those shows where there are lots of secrets and everyone wants to know what’s going on … How much were you told about your character when you first got the role?
Well that’s a very huge question because the team of producers that are part of the show they kind of give a little bit of freedom to the actors; at least that’s what happened to Alejandro. Obviously they had an idea of what role they wanted Alejandro to play on the storyline. they also had an open mind for the actor, in this case myself, to bring in my point-of-view on this character and how I envisioned this relationship between him and his sister. And if you add to that the fact that I also pretty much helped translate in Spanish, because he speaks Spanish in the show, the script and everything, well … then the character really becomes part of you and that’s the way it’s been happening.
So far on the show we’ve seen some exhibitions of Maya and Alejandro’s powers, but fans still aren’t exactly clear. How would you describe the powers that these two have?
Well, here’s the deal. I wouldn’t describe it that much more because part of the storyline is to discover what it is that that power is. But I also think that the fact that we’re all used to calling every ability or every thing that happens to each character a “power,” kind of like … makes us want to know what the power is. If you compare it to Nathan Petrelli flying, or Hiro’s traveling time, the word “power” kind of limits itself. In the case of Alejandro and Maya, because it’s not really a “power” … it’s just something that we need to find Dr. Suresh to get the answers toward what it is that is happening to us, and it could eventually become a power. But as of now, some people may even call it a curse because of the fact that its killing so many people. So it’s kind of weird when you call it power because it really isn’t a power.
OK. That was a good answer.
Yea, I’ve been trying to find the right answer because I’m asked: ‘What is the Power about?’ And I’m like: ‘Well, calling it a power is what kind of gives it a limitation.’ Little by little you start getting more answers as the episodes progress.
With this kind of show, I’m just wondering, do you get coached or lessons from like Tim Kring or someone who will say like: ‘OK if you get this question, this is how you should answer it,’ or ‘These are the things you can say and theses are the things you can’t say?’
Is that a way of saying that I’m well trained? Haha. No, they just let you know that they wouldn’t want you to give away too many spoilers. It’s not like they sit you down and tell you ‘This is what you can and can’t say.’ But it’s kind of self explanatory that there are things that should be said and shouldn’t be said. For example, I would have never in a million years said that we bump into Sylar until the episode aired. It was going to be a huge spoiler because now that Sylar is in our lives … that completely gives the whole twist of the story. So, I think we all kind of use a little bit of common sense towards what we should and shouldn’t say.
Jumping into that, with your character meeting Sylar in this last episode, obviously he’s like one of the fan favorite characters … this big, scary character … and what was the experience like working with Zachary Quinto?
Zachary is the complete opposite of what people know of Sylar on the screen. Zachary is an amazing human being and at the same time a great actor. There’s no better rush for an actor than to get that full intensity like what Zac gives in every scene when we work together. I guess people will understand what I’m saying when the following episodes come up because there are some high level moments between the three of us; The tension that builds ups while we’re trying to make it to the United States. But when it comes to Zac, he awesome. I mean, what can I say. I’ve been a fan of his character since I caught up on season one of Sylar. And who isn’t a fan? He’s one of those characters that you love to hate and it’s just been a great experience working with him.
Playing a twin, I’m just wondering, your relationship with Dania Ramirez you talked about the chemistry there. Does that sort of on-screen playing a twin effect how you interact with her as an actress off-screen?
Most definitely. Especially because of the fact that I had never met her before we started working together. I think for the rest of my life I will always look at her with the eyes of me being her twin brother, you know? Whether it’s on or off camera. And yeah, we definitely kind of make sure that we build on a real relationship of really taking care of each other, at least on-set and on-screen, because you can’t fool the audience. You need to have some sort of foundation in order for you to show real chemistry and a real relationship between a twin brother and sister. It’s not like these guys are best friends or married. These guys are the same pure blood and the fact that they are the same blood plays such a big role in the storyline that it’s something that definitely has to be worked on a little more.
One thing I noticed, and tell me if I’m reading too much into this, but Dania Ramirez is credited as a series regular and you’re credited as a guest star on the episodes. I’m wondering if there’s a reason behind that, or if that makes you worried about the fate of your character?
You know, the reason’s very simple. The character Alejandro in the beginning, before he even started being part of the storyline, I think he was a character that was probably planned to come out in only one or two episodes; at least, that’s what I heard. He was not going to be a character that was going to be so substantial to the story in the long run. But I guess his life has been extended because whatever is happening is being well received. So from now on, I’m just taking every moment by surprise and they kind of create it as they go. I’m just in a really happy place and I’m just glad we’re getting close to half a season shooting and Alejandro is still alive.
Haha. Finally, after the first three episodes really, a lot of people on the internet … there was a little bit of a backlash against your characters, Maya and Alejandro. People just, for some reason, not gelling with those characters and I’m just wondering if you read or heard any of that negative feedback and how you would respond to that?
Well, it’s funny because I think as much as I’ve heard negative feedback I’ve heard positive feedback on our storyline. People are also really loving where it’s all going. It’s completely understandable that there is a fan base for the show that already loves these characters that were on season one. And for anybody that gets to do these new people, it takes a little while for you to start getting what the true essence of our story is and what message we want to give away. But I think that little by little people are really starting … these characters are really starting to grow into people. I also love the fact that it’s something that didn’t happen overnight. You have to earn something for people to really like your character, it doesn’t just take one or two episodes. I don’t think anybody has fallen in love with any of the new characters in just one day. It’s taken various episodes for you to see what a character can go through. In our case, we go through so much stuff and I think we’ve given away the message that we don’t mean to harm people, it’s more like things are happening that are out of our control and I think the audience is starting to realize that. And from now on, I think they’re going to be looking at us with different eyes.
I think that can be true too. I think, at least as far as me as a viewer, it was just because for the first three episodes your two characters were … it was just you and Maya, or you and Dania. And now that you’re paired with Sylar, now that you’re being folded into the larger mythology of the show, people will feel that those two characters have become a real part of the Heroes universe.
I agree with you. And I also believe that a lot has to do with the season finale and the way everything kind of turned into just one common goal, which was how to stop the exploding man on season one. It kind of made everyone more anxious to see what it is that is the common goal in this season and everybody’s attention is into that, and everybody kind of wants to know: ‘Okay, where is it all going to go?’ I think history is repeating itself with this new season that it starts with a punch, but it’s one of those shows that little by little starts sucking you in little by little until you all of a sudden realize that it’s connecting itself. And … I think that’s what’s happening with our story.
Yeah. So, I don’t know how much you can say, but obviously your characters will eventually get to interact with some of the other characters on the show. Is that a safe assumption?
Yeah, that is a safe assumption. It’s not a secret that, that is definitely our goal. We want to get to Mohinder. We want to get to the people that could have answers for us, and I think everybody noticed on episode four that Alejandro is being a little skeptical about Gabriel Gray, which Sylar is now calling himself lately. So, I think it’s going to get to a very interesting place from here.
OK. Shalim thank you very much for talking to us and congratulations on the success of getting to star in this hit show.
Thank you. And I want to thank all the fans that have been following it and that are falling into the Maya and Alejandro’s storyline overall. Haha.
-Interview conducted by John Kubicek
(Image courtesy of NBC)