Actress Ali Larter apologized to her former ‘Heroes’ co-star Leonard Roberts, after he claimed that on-set tensions with her led to him being written off the NBC show.
Black actor Leonard Roberts penned an emotional, and very personal essay about his experience as a cast member during the first season of NBC’s Heroes in 2006, as well as how he was dismissed after alleged on-set tensions with his primary co-star, actress Ali Larter. In his essay, Leonard claimed that Ali was uncooperative in scenes with him, and he believes Ali felt that he was “tarnishing her brand.”
In Leonard’s essay, which was published by our sister site Variety on Dec. 16, he recalled his experiences with Ali, 44, as well as the show’s creator and show-runner, Tim Kring, as well as executive producer Dennis Hammer — experience that Leonard believes led to his dismissal from the series.
Following the release of his essay, Ali publicly apologized. “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,” Ali said in a statement provided to E! News. “I respect Leonard as an artist and I applaud him or anyone using their voice and platform. I am truly sorry for any role I may have played in his painful experience during that time and I wish him and his family the very best.”
HollywoodLife has also reached out to Ali, Tim and Dennis for comments, but we did not receive immediate responses.
While publishing Leonard’s essay, Variety noted that “Leonard Roberts first approached [us] about this essay in August through a mutual acquaintance” and “10 people substantiated Roberts’ account, who did so anonymously due to their continued work in the industry.” In his essay, Roberts described how his character, D.L. Hawkins, who was married to Larter’s Niki Sanders, was supposed to first appear in the pilot, but ultimately, his character didn’t get introduced until the sixth episode of the first season.
I want to give a heartfelt thanks to @adambvary @KateAurthur and @Variety for the space to tell my story in this way. Your passion, purpose and patience have helped me feel free of this in a way I only dreamed possible. I am overwhelmed. L
— Leonard Roberts (@_LeonardRoberts) December 17, 2020
Leonard described a privately shot bedroom scene involving D.L. and Niki, saying, “My co-star took umbrage with the level of intimacy being suggested between our characters. In a private rehearsal, Greg Beeman, our director, asked if she was willing to lower the straps of the top she was wearing and expose her bare shoulders only above the sheet that covered her, in order to give the visual impression she was in the same state of undress as me, as I was shirtless. My co-star refused Beeman’s request, and I was instantly aware of the tension on the set”.
He claims that incident led to rehearsal being cut short and Roberts alleged that Ali “then demanded a meeting with Beeman and the producers who were on set and proceeded to have an intense and loud conversation in which she expressed she had never been so disrespected — as an actress, a woman or a human being.” Roberts further claimed that “my co-star never once thought to include me, her scene partner, in any part of a ‘discussion,’ in which I would have gladly participated.”
Leonard later described an encounter between the two during the NBC 2007-2008 season upfronts in New York. A series of Heroes cast covers, which were based on their characters’ relationships, had been released by Entertainment Weekly for a collectors edition. “Upon arriving backstage at Radio City Music Hall for a rehearsal, I caught my co-star’s eye. ‘I’m hearing our cover is selling the least of all of them,’ she told me. It was the first and only thing she said to me that night and I believed the subtext was clear: I was tarnishing her brand,” Roberts recalled.
Leonard claimed that as soon as they returned back to L.A. from the upfronts, he got a voicemail from Kring — his first ever — and it said that “due to ‘the Ali Larter situation,’ when the show returned for Season 2, audiences would learn that D.L. had died and that I was free to call him if I wanted to talk.” The actor did just that, and the two set up a meeting, during which Hammer also attended. “Kring began by reiterating that because of my co-star, he just couldn’t make my remaining on the show work story-wise.” Roberts claimed that Kring “felt my character had been painted into a corner, due to the fact that ‘we’ didn’t have ‘chemistry,’ and that any attempt to create a new storyline for D.L. just felt like ‘the tail wagging the dog.'”
Roberts further claimed that as the meeting ended, Hammer allegedly told him, “Don’t think of this as a situation where the Black man loses and the White woman wins. And that was the first time my race was ever acknowledged while I was a part of the show: not for any creative contribution I could make, but for what I believed was the fear of me becoming litigious.”
In a statement provided to Variety, Tim Kring said: “In 2006, I set out to cast the most diverse show on television. Diversity, interconnectivity and inclusivity were groundbreaking hallmarks of Heroes. So too was the huge, diverse cast that continually rotated off and onto the show, with none ever being written off based on their race. Looking back now, 14 years later, given the very different lens that I view the world through today, I acknowledge that a lack of diversity at the upper levels of the staff may have contributed to Leonard experiencing the lack of sensitivity that he describes. I have been committed to improving upon this issue with every project I pursue. I remember Leonard fondly and wish him well.” Dennis told the publication, “14 years is a long time ago, but I remember clearly that Leonard was a great guy and a total pro.”