Clearly, there’s some sort of fraternity of people who play cool TV characters. Greg Grunberg, who portrays telepathic and mind-manipulating Matt Parkman on HEROES, exchanges warm greetings with CHUCK’s resident badass Adam Baldwin. Turns out the two actors haven’t had a chance to work together yet, but they know each other from encounters pop TV events.
“I’m a huge fan,” Grunberg enthuses. “He knows I’m a fan. What’s so cool about this is, when you see someone like that – honestly, I love his work so much, and he’s here – they watch [your work], you watch [theirs].” Grunberg is embarking with his cast mates on the fourth season of HEROES, which finds Matt unsuccessfully trying to curb his addiction to putting thoughts into other people’s heads, while a mystical carnival run by a character played by Robert Knepper (T-Bag on PRISON BREAK) starts to cast a spell over most of the leads. iF spoke with Grunberg recently in this exclusive interview.
iF MAGAZINE: At the end of last season and on through this season, Matt has been at the center of the huge plot twist of telepathically convincing Sylar that he’s really Nathan Petrelli. How does it feel to be a story fulcrum?
GREG GRUNBERG: Who knew that they were going to turn to me? Well, we clearly know who the most powerful character on the show is. They turned to me at the end of the year [laughs]. No, I’m so lucky. When that story plan happened, I was loving it, and the writing is really, really good this year. We come back from [that season-ender] and the mind-meld that I did, the transfer that I did, didn’t go as cleanly as planned. So Sylar is looking for his body and he’ll do anything to get it and he comes after me. So it’s very cool. The stuff that we’re able to do right now is great.
iF: You had a huge scene last season where Zeljko Ivanek’s villainous Danko wired you up with explosives, fingered you as a terrorist, and set up up to explode in Times Square. Did you feel that sequence played out too quickly?
GRUNBERG: I always think everything I do on the show goes by too quickly [laughs]. They have a lot of characters to service, but I loved how my character, along with the audience, was just as surprised. When I got thrown out of the van, I didn’t know what was going on. I was drugged, so it was so cool to have that revelation at the same time that the audience did. For me, it was like, "What?" I looked down [and see the explosives and tell] the cops, "No, no, no, I can’t explain it," it’s putting me in a great situation where I couldn’t control everybody, but I had to read their minds and figure out what was going on. It was great.
iF: As an actor, were you thinking, "Where should my concentration be?’"in the way that Matt was thinking it in that scene? Minus the fear of exploding, of course.
GRUNBERG: Of course. Absolutely. By the way, it was all happening so quickly, I didn’t have that much time to react to it. And then you’ve got Adrian [Pasdar as Nathan], who I don’t trust, coming at me, saying, "It’s going to be okay," and I was in the worst position I could possibly be in. It’s one of those things where when you read it on the page, as you’re reading it, you go, "They’re painting me into this corner, how am I going to get out of it?" And then I get out of it. So it’s cool.
iF: Did you find it easy to play being intimidated by Zeljko Ivanek?
GRUNBERG: [laughs] Zeljko’s one of the most intense actors I’ve ever worked with, so it’s not hard to be intimidated by that guy. He’s the best. He won an Emmy for DAMAGES and came over to our show, and the same thing’s happening now. We’ve got Robert Knepper on the show, who’s amazing and playing a really interesting character. He’s going to infuse more life into the show.
iF: Have you gotten to work on the carnival set?
GRUNBERG: Not yet. I hope I will.
iF:: Have you seen it?
GRUNBERG: Oh, yeah. It’s awesome.
iF: What’s happening with GROUP SEX,the film that you wrote and starred in and produced?
GRUNBERG: Apparently there’s a distribution deal. We had a screening recently. I hadn’t seen it in awhile, and it’s pretty great.
iF: What else have you been up to?
GRUNBERG: I’ve actually created an iPhone application and it’s taking up all my time. I’ve been really busy. [displays ‘Yowza!’ iPhone application] It’s a free iPhone application, so everybody who has an iPhone or iPod Touch should download it. You press "Yowza!," it knows your location and it brings up all the stores that are within a proximity that you set. Let’s say you wanted to go to Guitar Center – all the Guitar Center stores [in the designated area] come up and a deal comes up and an offer and a coupon, you save twenty-five dollars, and they scan it right off your phone, so you always have coupons with you at all times. The stores pay to list their offers with us. It’s on millions of phones out there.
iF: Is there anything else you’d like to say about HEROES and/or other projects?
GRUNBERG: Band From TV [a rock band co-organized by Grunberg, who is its drummer, that raises funds for a number of causes] is still cooking, raising money for charity. At a time when it’s almost impossible to raise money for charity, we’re still cooking and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars. [The Heroes for Autism event, which also featured guest performances by Grunberg’s HEROES colleagues Pasdar and Cristine Rose] went really well. They raised a lot of money, a lot of generous donations from cast members and other people – people took pictures, there was a lot of artwork auctioned off and the band – we kicked ass that night. I thought Rainn [Wilson of THE OFFICE, who emceed and sang a number] was awesome.
By ABBIE BERNSTEIN