Masi Oka, who plays Hiro Nakamura in NBC's "Heroes," here graciously touching his eager fans during the People's Choice Awards in January, is an unlikely cult hero. A math and computer science major with an IQ of 180, Oka went straight from college to a tech job. On the other hand, the job, for George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic, was doing special effects for the latest "Star Wars" trilogy, "Terminator 3," etc.
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Although Oka plays arguably the most popular character in the hit series, he still works part-time on special effects for George Lucas, shown here with Oka at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Oka, who was born in Tokyo but grew up in Los Angeles, decided on an acting career in 2000. Before "Heroes," he was a regular on "Scrubs."
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Oka is clearly having fun in his new occupation. He gets to hang out with his glamorous co-stars and go to premieres, such as this one for "Rocky Balboa" at Grauman's Chinese Theater, where he mock-boxed with "Heroes" cast member Hayden Panettiere. She plays Claire, a high school cheerleader with the power to heal.
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Critics praised the decision to cast George Takei, who played Sulu on "Star Trek," as Hiro's father in "Heroes." It's not only a tribute to a trailblazing Asian-American actor, it surely reflects the hope that Trekkies will become Heckies and make the show a similar cult success. For his part, Oka told Entertainment Weekly, "I was a huge George Takei fan growing up," but "my allegiance is to 'Star Wars.'"
Oka's character Hiro is Japanese and, like the other characters in "Heroes", has special powers. Hiro's is the ability to travel through time and space, and change the future. Hiro loves computers and Japanese comic books, including one he found in Times Square, to his shock, about himself. At right, Hiro meets another hero (played by Adrian Pasdar), a Congressional candidate who can fly.
Hiro also has a kid-like fascination with many things, including swords. This one at the side of a warrior at the Museum of Natural History figures in the convoluted plot.
In an episode entitled "How to Stop an Exploding Man," Hiro puts a sword to good use against Sylar, played by Zachary Quinto, a manipulative serial killer dedicated to collecting the extraordinary talents of special people by violent means. Though played for laughs, the character is out to save the world.
Masi Oka seems to share some of his character's traits. He is an expert in kendo, or Japanese fencing, is fluent in Japanese (he translates his character's dialogue), collects Japanese comic books, obviously loves computers, and is a big fan of video games. Is it any surprise that he spoke at the Spike TV Video Games Awards, pictured, or that he was given an award for "Coolest Geek."