Former star of cult favorite TV series Heroes Leonard Roberts, who played the elusive DL Hawkins on the series’ first season, wrote a powerful essay on harassment and marginalization while filming the hit NBC show. The essay published by Variety addressed many problems Roberts experienced during his brief tenure as a regular series, including conflicts with his on-screen wife and co-star Ali Larter. But Roberts’ essay also describes a disturbing account of a black man who worked in Hollywood, and none of his experiences have been disputed by any of the producers or co-stars he worked with on the show.
Roberts considered his role a series regular Heroes to be his big break in acting, though he describes how his appearances in the series quickly fell back from the original plans. The outlet also confirms questionable references to his race in the pilot’s script, which was eventually removed from the recording schedule. While Roberts has appeared in numerous projects since his time Heroes was cut short, none of them were regular roles in hit series similar to the NBC show.
In the essay, Roberts describes examples with co-star Larter in which she outright ignored his attempts to reach out and in scenes where she got difficult in scenes where their characters were intended to be intimate, leading to arguments with the producers for the crew. A report from TV Guide published in December 2006 seemingly confirmed these cases, although the names were not posted at the time. Roberts later found out from a voice mail Heroes showrunner Tim King would write him out of season two, when the series became a bona fide hit on NBC.
“I took a few days to scold, mope and doubt, after which I decided to accept his offer and make an appointment with him. When I arrived at his office, I was surprised to find that to see [executive producer] Dennis Hammer was there too, “wrote Roberts.” Kring started by reiterating that because of my co-star, he just couldn’t get me to stay on the show as a story. I’m not usually one to refer to herself in the third person, but in that case I felt compelled to channel my inner Alexander O’Neal and pointed out that he fired Leonard Roberts, but only mentioned Leonard Roberts’ co-star as the reason for his dismissal, and that Leonard Roberts found that … curious. ‘
Roberts’ essay describes his frustration as a black actor working in Hollywood. In it, he explains his attempts to come to terms with his time on Heroes by examining how it shaped his career and his state of mind, by trying to take advantage of various opportunities after being sent to ‘the actor’s prison’.
The actor’s story was substantiated by Variety, who spoke to 10 people who worked on Heroes with Roberts. Neither Tim Kring nor Dennis Hammer disputed Roberts’ story, instead complimenting the actor’s professionalism and talent, but also declined to comment on what actually happened on the set of Heroes.
You can read Roberts’ full account of his time filming Heroes and how this affected his outlook on his career by clicking here.
Photo by Paul Drinkwater / NBCU Photo Bank / NBCUniversal via Getty Images