Leonard Roberts has spoken out about his contentious time on Heroes with Ali Larter — but she says his recollection doesn’t line up with her experience on the show. In a statement to ET on Wednesday, the actress reacted to Roberts’ claim that she was responsible for his exit from Heroes in season 2.
Larter and Roberts played married couple Niki Sanders and D.L. Hawkins on Heroes, though D.L. was killed off before season 2 began (he later returned for two episodes to wrap up his storyline). In an essay published by Variety on Wednesday, Roberts claimed that he was written off the show as a result of friction coming from Larter — but was told not to “think of this as a situation where the Black man loses and the white woman wins.”
“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,” Larter said in a statement to ET. “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.”
In his essay, Roberts described a contentious relationship with Larter, who he alleges would push back on scenes with him. He recalled one bedroom scene in particular, in which he claims Larter refused to expose even just her shoulders, despite the fact that that she had “exuberantly” played a scene “involving overt sexuality while wearing lingerie” with white co-star Adrian Pasdar, who played Nathan Petrelli. “I couldn’t help wondering whether race was a factor,” Roberts wrote.
The actor said his presence on the show got smaller and smaller, and he noticed other non-white characters being killed off. Then, he got a call from Heroes creator Tim Kring. “In a short voicemail message, he said that due to ‘the Ali Larter situation,’ when the show returned for season 2, audiences would learn that D.L. had died, and that I was free to call him if I wanted to talk,” Roberts claimed.
Roberts also alleged that executive producer Dennis Hammer told him, “Don’t think of this as a situation where the Black man loses and the white woman wins.”
“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,” Roberts wrote.
In a statement to ET, Kring said, “In 2006, I set out to cast the most diverse show on television. Diversity, interconnectivity and inclusivity were groundbreaking hallmarks of Heroes. So too was the huge, diverse cast that continually rotated off and onto the show, with none ever being written off based on their race. Looking back now, fourteen years later, given the very different lens that I view the world through today, I acknowledge that a lack of diversity at the upper levels of the staff may have contributed to Leonard experiencing the lack of sensitivity that he describes. I have been committed to improving upon this issue with every project I pursue. I remember Leonard fondly and wish him well.”
Hammer, meanwhile, said in a statement to Variety, “14 years is a long time ago, but I remember clearly that Leonard was a great guy and a total pro.”
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