Today, Variety published an essay written by actor Leonard Roberts. In it, Leonard describes his time working on the set of Heroes in the first season and the reason his character, D.L. Hawkins, was killed off. Leonard wrote that because his co-star, actress Ali Larter, didn't like him, the showrunners and writers chose to kill off his character. But the way Leonard describes the situation, it seems like the situation was more complicated. Although Leonard claims he was professional, kind, and accommodating, Ali specifically did not care for him as a person — and Leonard theorizes it's because he's Black.
Is Ali Larter racist?
In Leonard's essay in Variety, he wonders if Ali Larter's disliking of him, as a Black man, is the reason why he was fired from Heroes. Variety reached out to 10 people who substantiated Leonard's accounts, which included a particularly saddening moment when Ali (who played Niki Sanders) refused to appear as though she slept with fictional husband D.L. and wouldn't lower her tank top straps (the characters were in bed together, and D.L. appeared nude). Leonard found out that she had no problems getting intimate with other white actors, however.
Another heartbreaking moment Leonard shared was Ali's response to an Entertainment Weekly cover featuring Ali and Leonard. She told him, "I’m hearing our cover is selling the least of all of them." Leonard wrote, "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." Ali seemed to barely communicate with Leonard the entire time they worked together. Earlier in the season, after he gave her a bottle of wine and note to acknowledge his respect for her, she ignored it.
While Ali didn't respond to Variety when the publication reached out to her for comment, she told TVLine, “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. 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.”
What's just as disturbing, if not more, considering these people had the power to intervene and make the right decision to fix a seemingly toxic situation, is that Tim Kring, the creator of Heroes, and producer Dennis Hammer, fired Leonard. They fired Leonard knowing that it was due to Ali's behavior. Leonard wrote, "[Dennis] said he needed me to know I was 'loved' and my co-star was 'hated' by many for her behavior, saying it as if I would join in. I didn’t; I just wanted to be able to do my job and do it well. Hammer then made it clear he would deny what he said if I went public with said revelation."
Dennis added, "Don’t think of this as a situation where the Black man loses and the white woman wins,” Leonard wrote, adding, "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." Leonard shared other horrible details, including that he was billed as a guest star in the following season (in which his death scene is filmed) and was almost paid as such.
Another painful detail? D.L.'s character was described as “a white man’s nightmare" in a draft of the pilot (Variety verified this was true).
Stars have taken to Twitter to show their support, including Yvette Nicole Brown, who wrote, "I believe @__LeonardRoberts and have experienced some of what he described myself on sets with certain actors that shall remain unnamed by me because their shameful, toxic behavior is theirs alone to own."
I believe @_LeonardRoberts and have experienced some of what he described myself on sets with certain actors that shall remain unnamed by me because their shameful, toxic behavior is theirs alone to own. #UnMUTEny#EveryDay#WeSeeYou https://t.co/YJR9LsoP7e— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) December 16, 2020
"Everyone in Hollywood needs to read this. E V E R Y O N E. It is not enough for us to simply 'survive.' I’m so sorry for what you went through. You are NOT alone. Thank you for sharing," DB Woodside also tweeted.
Dennis Hammer's response to Variety was, "14 years is a long time ago, but I remember clearly that Leonard was a great guy and a total pro.” Clearly a lot of people on that set were not.