James Kyson Lee plays Ando on Heroes and over the course of the first season of the show, his character went from being Hiro’s sidekick to finally starting to develop an identity of his own. In the second season of the show, Ando is rumored to have a ‘new look’ and I asked Kyson Lee about the speculation when I had the chance to talk to him at the Heroes World Tour in Toronto.
Murtz Jaffer: Can you tell me about how you got involved with the show?
James Kyson Lee: I auditioned and like many of our other actors, I had to audition five times. So it was a really really long process. It was physically and mentally exhausting you know? When we shot the pilot, it was a year and a half ago and I just had a great feeling about it because as I was reading the script, I just couldn’t put it down. It was a page-turner and that’s always a great barometer. When I am interested in a show whether or not I am involved in it or not, I’ll say ‘I’ll watch this, I am curious… how are they going to film it.’ And it didn’t read anything like a TV show. People are flying, walking through walls…
MJ: Like a movie almost?
JKL: Yeah, exactly! I am like this is crazy, you know? Luckily it all came together and the pilot was done really superb and right out of the gate, the response has been amazing.
MJ: Did you know that you were going to be this huge fan favorite? Because everybody loves Ando. You know that scene where Ando and Hiro had their big separation? And everyone was like ‘you can’t leave Ando behind…’
JKL: Right, right, right. Yeah, it’s really interesting that dynamic that we created. It was very organic because we hadn’t met before (me and Masi) and just working together for the first time, but somehow the writers were able to create this really interesting dynamic duo. They used to compare us to Abbott and Costello and Martin and Lewis. I feel like throughout the season, their relationship really evolved as the characters grew. It sort of became like Luke Skywalker and Hans Solo (their relationship).
MJ: And you’re like the Hans Solo right?
JKL: Yeah. Hiro’s burning with the sword. He’s on this serious mission now and I became sort of like the happy-go-lucky guy who wants to go out on the adventures.
MJ: So then who is Princess Leia? Is that Ali Larter?
JKL: (Laughs). I don’t know, I guess we haven’t… maybe… we haven’t come across…
(Dania Ramirez starts laughing).
JKL: Maybe have like a rock/paper/scissors competition or something. We have had Charlie and Hope in passing. We have had some little incidents there…
JKL: And we’ll see what happens in Season 2.
MJ: I think starting with you and Masi, and there’s also Daniel Dae Kim on Lost, for the first time, those are some pretty high-profile gigs for Asian-American actors on TV. Are you cognizant of that? Because I think that people might not realize that you were born in Korea but you are playing a Japanese character.
JKL: That’s been one of the highlights for me, to study the language. It’s funny because, while I started in college (a little bit), but my father actually used to be an electrical engineer in Tokyo before we moved to New York City so it’s sort of come full circle for me to play this character from Tokyo, Japan… 30 years later, you know it’s just really interesting. I think that’s part of the appeal of our show. That we have these multi-dimensional and multicultural characters from all different parts of the world.
MJ: And now from the Dominican Republic…
(Dania Ramirez says “that’s right”)
JKL: And to add Maya (Ramirez) whose character is from Central America and who will be speaking Spanish.
(Dania Ramirez says “I am Dominican now, that’s what I am. I am coming from Central America, but I am Dominican. I am just explaining it because I don’t know if you know. In the storyline I am Dominican…”)
JKL: But you come from Central America right?
(Dania Ramirez says “you find me in Central America…”)
(Dania Ramirez says “but I just found that out three days ago, that’s why I am telling you!”).
JKL: So we have this amazing international cast and that’s why I think it is so relevant that we actually stop production for a week and we went to places all over the world and meet with the fans and say ‘thank you’ because this was such a fan-driven show.
MJ: Totally, totally.
JKL: So for production of this scale to actually stop and say ‘you know what? We’re going to take the time to travel and actually go and meet these people’ is amazing.
MJ: And finally, I wanted to ask you about where Ando is going to go because I kind of look at Ando as the Lisa Simpson. The voice of reason, the one that doesn’t have any powers but that everybody loves. And everybody is asking me to ask you about your “new look.” Where’s Ando going to go in season 2?
JKL: Well, I think a lot of characters are sporting new looks because there are in new circumstances and new environments but I think we can say that Ando has moved on from the ‘Member’s Only’ jacket which I love because you can’t even get those anymore and he had five in different colors.
MJ: Well you have already got a new look going on right here with the new hair.
JKL: I think being in the stage in season 1, I think he was obviously influenced and trying to embrace the new hipper kind of style. But we’re going to find him back in Japan for part of the time at Yamagato and there’s actually two parallel timelines going on. With present day and Hiro in ancient Japan. There’s going to be a really interesting way of storytelling that the writers have created that gives us a sort of channel of communication. How that’s going to happen? You will find out when the season begins but what happens in one timeline is going to affect the other so the stakes are really high. And of course, Volume 2 which is titled…
JKL: Generations is not going to take up the entire season (which is kind of what Volume 1 did with Genesis) so Episodes 1-11, that’s going to be Volume 2 and then that’s going to conclude and we’re going to see Origins as Volume 3.
MJ: That sounds great, thank you. That’s perfect!
JKL: You’re welcome.
JAMES KYSON LEE
James Kyson Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea, then moved with his family to New York City at the age of 10, where he later attended Bronx H.S. of Science. He studied Communications at Boston University and New England Institute of the Arts, where he also began performing in music, dance, and improv.
In summer of 2001, James sold his used car for $1800, packed one suitcase, purchased a one way ticket, and jetted off to Los Angeles. There he began training in jazz singing, musical theater, and for the first time – acting. In his first ever Television audition, he landed a guest-starring role on CBS’ “J.A.G.”, and since has appeared on NBC’s “Las Vegas”, “The West Wing”, “Heist”, as well as ABC’s “Threat Matrix”, and Fox’s “All About the Andersons”.
In addition to “Heroes,” James will be starring in four feature films in 2008, including 20th Century Fox’s “Shutter” with Joshua Jackson & Rachael Taylor, “Do Over” with Kuno Becker & Al Santos, “The Roel” with Shalim Ortiz & Ginuwine, and “Sleeping Room Only” – directed by David Boyle.
He will also be starring in the upcoming action-thriller video game: “The Darkness”, for Playstation 3 & Xbox 360.
His middle name, Kyson, comes from the first letters of his parents’ surnames (k & y) and the word “son”. It also means “Child of the Spirit”.
James is also a student of improvisation & sketch comedy, performing at I.O. West and Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles. When he isn’t working, he enjoys playing basketball and the piano, as well as reading biographies, and watching documentaries.
He stars on NBC’s Golden Globe nominated hit drama “Heroes.” On the show James plays ‘Ando Masahashi,’ sidekick and best friend to ‘Hiro’. Traveling from Japan to the states, ‘Ando’ begins his journey as a realist and is soon transformed into a believer, as he comes across supernatural events and begins to claim his place on the mission to save the world.
James currently resides in Los Angeles.
– The second season of Heroes premieres on NBC in the U.S. on Monday, September 24 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
– The second season of Heroes premieres on the GLOBAL network in Canada on Monday, September 24 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Sir Linksalot: Heroes