Image Credit: Frank Ockenfels/NBCEW caught up with Heroes creator Tim Kring to talk about his next project — creating interactive content for Nokia that’s meant to inspire social change — and whether fans of his popular NBC series will enjoy some closure after the network opted out of ordering a fifth season of the heavy-serialized drama.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Talk about your new project, Conspiracy For Good.
TIM KRING: Hopefully, we are creating a narrative that will play out across multiple platforms. It’s taking what I learned on Heroes. We told a lot of story online and through mobile, publishing, and merchandising. Everywhere you could connect to an audience with the narrative, we were telling stories. This is taking that same idea and rolling it out, literally, into the streets. The exciting part is that the narrative lives all around you — on your mobile phone, on the internet, and starting on July 17, literally on the streets of London for three weeks. The narrative is a deep mythology with good guys and bad guys, but a little more grounded in the real world in that it doesn’t deal with supernatural or super powers. It’s grounded very much in the real world. It has twists and turns and lead characters and all of that.
Who’s your villain?
Our villain is an evil corporation. They’re involved in many things that we associate with greed and corruption. The conspiracy for good is a global movement around trying to fight this corporate greed and social and environmental injustice. It involves a single storyline that makes its way from Africa to the UK in the next several weeks, and then rolls out onto the streets of London. One character in particular is on a real quest to get justice.
Is the character in law enforcement?
No. It’s an average person.
How do you gain access to the content?
There are many points of entry. Right now, the main way in is through Conspiracyforgood.com, which is now up and launched. You go to the webpage that features videos and recaps that point you to the activities that are going on and, essentially, how you can get involved. There is other online content that falls into the category of an alternate reality game. Lots of clues and ciphers and hidden codes, codes in songs embedded into music. You’re using the Nokia maps to find things.
Does it have the potential to become a TV show?
It’s not really meant to be a TV project. It’s meant to be an interactive, immersive, pervasive project as opposed to a laid-back experience where you let content wash over you. This is a participation project and I think it’s playing into where audiences are really heading. We have this mobile phone in our hand for four or five hours of the day. When we’re watching TV, we have our laptops open so we can email our friends. In a sense, we are never offline anymore. For someone like me who is a storyteller, it affords tremendous opportunity to tell stories to wherever you are. That’s what I’m fascinated by and that’s what this project does.
Is TV feeling too old school for you now?
I still have a very active career in the traditional medium of television. I very strongly appreciate what got me to the dance to begin with. I must admit, in the last several years, I’ve seen where the audience is going and how they are consuming content. I’m really beginning to see if you really want to be relevant and really want to reach a mass audience, you have to go where people seem to be going right now. A show like Heroes was very much at the forefront of the paradigm shift of how people are consuming content. Heroes became the number one downloaded show in the world, even while it was having traditional slipping Nielsen ratings. It certainly was a complicated issue for the network. For me personally, I was intrigued by that, [where] people were consuming content.
Have you given up on TV?
Not at all. TV is still an incredibly exciting medium to work in. What I did learn is that television for me is not enough. Heroes really taught me that much of the excitement of it was creating this three-dimensional platform around a show. It used to be thought of as a one-way street. You push content out into the world and if they liked it, you’d find out two or three months later. Now, the feedback loop is so immediate between you and the audience. You can push out content and an hour later you can have people participating in it or voting on it or doing mashups.
Are you working on anything for TV?
I am currently working on some projects that can be perceived as traditional. I don’t think I can ever approach a project again without thinking about how it could also live on other platforms. To me, it’s become second nature.
Are you going to Comic-Con this summer?
Yes. I may be talking a little bit about this. I’m also talking about a book that I have coming out in the summer. Heroes is something I still want to talk about, too.
Will we see a Heroes movie on NBC next season?
No decision has been made. But the Heroes brand is an extremely broad premise. It was a premise about ordinary people, an undisclosed number of people all over the world, who were waking up to these extraordinary abilities. Any number of stories could happen around that. We never posited a single ending or a single premise. It wasn’t about getting off of an island or stopping something from happening. We told stories in volumes that had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Those volumes could go on and on and on with many different characters. As a result, that Heroes universe is something that can be tapped into again in many ways. Certainly, a movie is a way to do that and clearly, there is an entire world and a number of platforms that this property could live in. Movies sometimes need a little distance from the television show.