Former Heroes star Leonard Roberts recently revealed that there were more villains on the early-aughts NBC show than viewers saw on-screen. In an essay for Variety published on December 16, the actor described the toxic work environment that led to his exit after just one season. Specifically, Roberts called out Ali Larter's mistreatment, noting that his on screen wife treated him differently than his white co-stars.
“I pondered why my co-star had exuberantly played a different scene with the Petrelli character involving overt sexuality while wearing lingerie, but found aspects of one involving love and intimacy expressed through dialogue with my character, her husband, disrespectful to her core,” wrote Roberts. “I couldn’t help wondering whether race was a factor.”
Larter didn't originally respond to Variety's initial request for comment, but after the essay's publication, she released a statement acknowledging the allegations and apologizing to Roberts. “I am deeply saddened to hear about Leonard Roberts’s 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 told TVLine. "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.” Refinery29 reached out to Larter but did not hear back at the time of publishing.
Roberts also said that despite having three Black series regulars, Heroes had no Black writers on the show. He claimed that, like his white co-stars, he was told he could meet with writers to give suggestions and develop his character, but the meeting was never scheduled. He also said Black actors were often sidelined in group photoshoots. The tension between Roberts and Larter eventually ended in Roberts' character D. L. Hawkins being killed off the show before season 2. The actor described feeling dejected after his experience on Heroes and it affecting his career afterward.
Variety verified Roberts’ account with 10 other people who worked on the show during Heroes' first season. Heroes creator Tim Kring and executive producer Denis Hammer both didn't refute Roberts' experience on their show. Specifically, Kring admitted that there was a lack of diversity on set.
“Looking back now, 14 years later, given the very different lens that I view the world through today, I acknowledge that a lack of diversity at upper levels of the staff may have contributed to Leonard experiencing the lack of sensitivity that he describes,” Kring wrote. “I have been committed to improving upon this issue with every project I pursue. I remember Leonard fondly and wish him well.”
Refinery29 reached out to Roberts for comment but did not hear back at time of publishing.