When you hear the name Adrian Pasdar, the word musical doesn’t exactly leap to mind. Which is why EW.com had to get the man who plays Heroes‘ dark and mysterious Nathan Petrelli on the phone this week to talk about Atlanta, the Civil War musical he has cowritten (with Marcus Hummon, a Grammy-winning songwriter who has penned songs for the Dixie Chicks) and codirected (with Randall Arney). It opened Wednesday at Los Angeles’ Geffen Playhouse.
When he called, Pasdar had another surprising thing to reveal: ”I met with some people from Nick Jr. — just walked out of their office.” Yes, it seems that Pasdar and his wife (that would be Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks) are developing an animated series for kids based on their own experiences… on a ranch in Texas.
But wait, there’s more! By the end of the conversation, Pasdar discussed his other hobby: Between takes on the lot, he films his Heroes pals doing some rather unheroic things. And he posts the clips on YouTube.
So now, when you hear the name Adrian Pasdar, you’ll think dark and mysterious… as well as musicals, kids’ TV, and goofy Internet videos. Read on to hear this man of many talents talk about all of that and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, a musical, eh? Not exactly what people would expect.
ADRIAN PASDAR: It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve never really had the opportunity. Who would come to me to direct musical theater unless I wrote it?
What inspired you to write a musical about a soldier from the North who dons the uniform of his enemy to survive battle?
I remember being 15 [years old] in history class, daydreaming. It was snowing outside, and I was looking out, and we were learning about the Civil War. I remember thinking, what would it be like? I remember learning that all the leaders, all the generals and colonels, they all were at West Point when the war broke out. They had to decide, if they were from the South, whether to go back and fight for the South or stay fighting for the North. A lot of them, obviously, decided to fight for the region that they had come from. And I always wondered if somebody who was from the South elected to stay and fight for the North, and then were trapped behind enemy lines and had to figure a way out. How would that manifest? I had that in my heart since I was 15. It’s been one of those things that truly rested in my soul since I was kid in high school.
How did you team up with Marcus Hummon?
Marcus and I were doing dishes at a dinner party about six or seven years ago, and I shared that story with him. He was drying the dishes and they started backing up, and I went, ”Hey man, step up.” And he’s like, ”No man, seriously, we have something here. We need to make a play out of it.” One of the things I’m most proud of is actually saying I’m going to do something and doing it. So we stepped into the abyss and came out on the other side with this play.
Why are you a codirector rather than the director?
The strike, as unfortunate as it is, could not have landed at a better time for me [to give him more time to work on the show]. I had to agree contractually to codirect, because at the time there was no strike. I had to codirect with Randall Arney [artistic director of the Geffen]. I was a little hesitant about that at first. I thought it was going to be a compromise, but it turned out that the play would not have been as good if Randy hadn’t been involved. He challenged me on every point, and it made it better. It turned out to be a beautiful marriage.
That’s certainly not your only successful marriage. What kind of input did your wife give you on Atlanta?
She came and saw a dress rehearsal, which was a complete disaster. Everybody was like, ”Why did you invite your wife?”
Because the dress rehearsal is supposed to be bad?
Yeah, exactly. If the dress goes well [according to theater lore], you’re in trouble. We didn’t have that problem. Our dress was a disaster, but it was great, actually, for that very reason. It highlighted all the points that we needed to address. Natalie had an armful of notes. Every single one of her notes was valid and insightful. She spoke with such a true voice. She was invaluable to the process.
NEXT PAGE: ”What’s challenging [about making Heroes] is: It’s not stupid TV, it’s not a reality program. It actually is complex. There’s many layers to Heroes.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, what’s this about a kids’ TV series?
ADRIAN PASDAR: It’s the story of a pig and an English bulldog who become friends. It’s based on a true story that we had at our ranch in Texas. We inherited a pig when we bought the ranch, and we had a bulldog that we owned, and putting the two together was like oil and water. But they became friends, and we decided to make a children’s show about the Amazing Adventures of Stella and Ralph.
And then there’s this little show called Heroes. There’s been a lot of criticism of this season, and creator Tim Kring even gave EW a bit of a mea culpa.
We all have great faith in the writing team that puts together Heroes. Season 3 is going to be very interesting to see what happens and how they’re able to take the lessons that we’ve learned, and really tell the story that they want to tell without losing an audience. Because the goal at the end of the day is to have as many people watch the show as you can. What’s challenging is: It’s not stupid TV, it’s not a reality program. It actually is complex. There’s many layers to Heroes. Tim’s not averse to risk-taking, as he has proven in the episodes of season 2. I think it turns a corner; the last three or four episodes have really gotten back to the core of what the show is about.
You cast one of your friends from Heroes, Leonard Roberts (who played D. L. Hawkins), in Atlanta. Did you know his musical talents?
Leonard and I ride bikes together a lot. Saturday, Sunday mornings, we used to do these 50, 60 mile rides, which gives you a lot of time to talk. I told him about the story I had, and how I thought he’d be perfect for this character, and did he sing? And of course, like any actor, he said, ”Of course I sing!” I was like, ”Well, we’ll see.” He had to jump through the hoops. I didn’t give him any favoritism.
The cast of Heroes seems to have fun together, or at least that’s what I gather from YouTube.
I have a channel on YouTube called Buckshotwon. It started off as a kind of joke, just behind-the-scenes goofs. When I got 10,000 hits it was like, wow. Then 400,000. I’ve got like 1.2-something million hits on there from all over the world. It’s a blast, man. The only reason it’s successful, bottom line, is that I have famous people in it. Greg Grunberg, Hayden Panettiere, I have access to them. My favorite one has got to be ”Grunny Goes Nuts!”. To film that took about as long as it takes to watch it. It was between takes on the lot and we started acting like kids like you do in high school in the science lab when the teachers aren’t there. He just started doing this crazy stuff and I started filming it and then edited it together with this Bloodhound Gang song on top of it. It was a fun thing to do.
Has NBC told you it should be on their site?
I have been approached by various people, but the second I start working under the umbrella of GE then I’ve got to deal with all the legal stuff that goes with it. People would say, ”You’ve got to put this on the season 2 DVD.” I can’t. I’m using copyrighted music. It’s just for fun, as long as it’s where it is, and nobody’s making money off it.