Leonard Roberts Claims ‘Heroes’ Co-Star Ali Larter Was Responsible for His Exit, Actress Apologizes
By Jennifer Drysdale
Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images
Leonard Roberts is speaking out about his contentious time on Heroes. In an essay published by Variety on Wednesday, Roberts claimed that he was written off the show as a result of friction coming from co-star Ali Larter -- but was told not to "think of this as a situation where the Black man loses and the white woman wins."
Larter and Roberts played married couple Niki Sanders and D.L. Hawkins on Heroes, though D.L. was killed off before season 2 began (he later returned for two episodes to wrap up his storyline).
In his essay, Roberts alleges Larter would often push back on scenes with him. He recalled one bedroom scene in particular, in which he claims Larter refused to expose her shoulders, at the request of the episode's director. According to Roberts, Larter then requested a meeting with the show's creators on set and had "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 asked his co-star Adrian Pasdar, who played Nathan Petrelli, if Larter had reacted similarly during their intimate scene to which he recalled her "openness to collaboration."
"I couldn’t help wondering whether race was a factor," Roberts concluded.
The actor said his presence on the show subsequently got smaller and smaller, and he noticed other non-white characters being killed off. "As the first season played out, I learned two other non-white lead characters would be killed off and I started to wonder whether D.L. would suffer the same fate. His presence on the show kept getting smaller, and by the mid-season finale he had been shot more times than 2Pac," he wrote. "I even had my management inquire about the possibility of me being killed off. While I was initially thankful for the opportunity, the experience had become creatively unfulfilling and I thought moving on might be best for everyone. I was told, however, that the production’s response was 'We love Leonard.'"
Roberts went on to say that one of their publicity obligations that first season was a magazine photoshoot, in which the cast members were featured on covers based on their character's relationships on the show.
"Upon arriving backstage at Radio City Music Hall for a rehearsal, I caught my co-star’s eye," Roberts wrote. "'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."
Then, he got a call from Heroes creator Tim Kring. "In a short voicemail message, he 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," Roberts claimed.
In a statement to ET on Wednesday, Larter reacted to Roberts' claim that she was responsible for his exit from Heroes in season 2.
"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," Larter said in the statement. "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."
Roberts also alleged that executive producer Dennis Hammer 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," Roberts wrote.
In a statement to ET, 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, fourteen 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."
Hammer, meanwhile, said in a statement to Variety, "14 years is a long time ago, but I remember clearly that Leonard was a great guy and a total pro."