Coleman was born on 21 February 1958, in Pennsylvania, USA.
A sixth-generation grandson of Benjamin Franklin, and a remote
descendant of the old Earls of Orkney and the ancient Kings
of Scotland, Coleman has performed in theatre, television
and films. He is
a graduate of Duke University, the National Theater Institute
at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut, and the
Writers' Boot Camp in Santa Monica, California. His
TV roles include Dynasty,
most recent role is as Noah Bennet in Heroes.
Online caught up with Coleman as Heroes:
The Complete Season One
was released on DVD...
Online: Is the fact that your character is such an enigma
that is one of the most appealing elements?
Coleman: Yeah, the thing that I love about it is that people
talk about the ambiguity, to me it is more of the specificity
that makes it so much.
say: "Are you good or are you bad?" And the correct
answer is: "Yes". Like many people in life you can
go out and do horrible things and still love your family.
So I think of it as playing light and dark. There are sides
of him, which are light, sides of him that are dark - it's
kind of an equal measure.
are moments when you know that this is the bad ass operative
talking and you are going to behave a certain way and all
of a sudden he is the father who is helping his daughter with
her homework or a boy problem. Then you see him in a much
more domestic light. Whatever bad he has done, he does truly
love his daughter.
My only questions, early on were: "Did I kill Suresh's
father?" The answer to that was no. Then the other question
was: "Does my character truly love Claire"? The
answer to that was yes and that was kind of all I needed to
You have vast of experience of being in a global TV success
(Dynasty) so at what point with Heroes did you
realise that this was history repeating itself?
Fairly early on. The ratings were good from the beginning
and interest in the show was very high. After several episodes
had aired, and the ratings stayed strong, I realised that
my character was being increased, rather than decreased. That
was when I realised that things were really falling into place...
great show, great part and it was a part Tim
Kring and the writers and producers are growing
and expanding. So early on I thought that this was great.
realise that this is a very, very tough business and I have
had many, many misses and a couple of hits and to be on two
international hits in one lifetime is pretty great and pretty
rare. I realise how fortunate I am to be a part of it.
What has the reaction of the public to you been like?
The question I am almost always asked is, as I mentioned before:
"Are you good or are bad".
the other thing that people almost always remark on is how
much younger I look! That is a good thing but it is also a
double-edged sword because you wonder whether you really look
that old on television.
severity of the glasses, and the haircut and the suits and
the basic stone-faced nature of the character definitely serves
to do that and also the way they shoot me.
always shoot from underneath with is not flattering. That
is pretty unforgiving on the old jowls and jaw-line. They
call it a 'hero' shot but it's really more of a fat man shot!
Do you think that you have made glasses fashionable again?
I don't know that I have made them fashionable again but -
maybe this is a coincidence - all of a sudden, after Heroes
starting airing, all these other movies were coming out with
people in horn rimmed glasses.
Damon in The Good Shepherd and I could be related!
When I saw all these posters of him I thought, for a second,
that they were me. They were shot from the exact same angle,
from the back, through the glasses and because we do so much
of that on Heroes that almost every time I saw a poster
for The Good Shepherd I thought it was me. That could
just be my narcissism but I'm hoping that it is something
more than that.
Who had the bright idea for the horn-rimmed glasses that your
character wears in Heroes?
The character was named 'Man In Horn Rimmed Glasses' from
the very beginning. It was Tim Kring's idea and I believe
that the model for that was Max Von Sydow in Three Days
Of The Condor. That was kind of who this guy was fashioned
And how good is your eyesight in reality?
I am blind as a bat and I wear contact lenses because the
vision they afford is much better. So I wear contacts and
then I have to wear reading glasses. My eyes have been bad
- I come from bad eyesight on both sides of my family, so
what chance could I stand, really?
Have you had offers to promote glasses because of the success
You know, I haven't and I think that there are some people
who are not on the ball about this; I think they need to figure
that out. I have not been offered an eyeglass contract. It
guess the reality is that the glasses I wear are not actually
horn-rimmed glasses, they are something else - I can't remember
what they are called. But horn rimmed glasses are even more
heinous. Did you ever see Monsters Inc? Roz the bubble
woman in that film wears what I think horn rimmed glasses
actually look like.
You said your part grew, so was it originally much smaller?
That's true I auditioned for a guest spot in the pilot and
at the time that's all it was. Reading the script at the end
it was revealed that he was Claire's father and I thought
this was too rich, there was too much that could happen and
if the show got picked up I couldn't imagine that they wouldn't
explore this relationship.
inherent drama of a man who is hunting these people while
his daughter, who is right under his roof, is one of them.
She was trying desperately to get away and be normal while
not being found out and yet the man who is her adopted father
has the job of bagging and tagging and studying these people.
It was just too rich in possibility. So I really felt that
the character would have a life beyond the pilot but I had
no idea that it would become what it became.
I think a lot of it was because they started right away to
see the possibilities of how they could connect characters
and stories and the drama right there in the Bennet household
and they liked Hayden [Hayden Panettiereand, who plays Claire
Bennet in Heroes] and me together.
How do you and Hayden get on because there appears to be a
good chemistry on screen?
I am not trying to be falsely modest but Hayden has chemistry
with everybody. When we first started working together we
realised that she was one of those rare actors who invested
in you whatever arc you were playing to her. If you were her
father she would sit down and tell you a story and tears would
flow - and we had just met. But that's just who she is.
an actor she is an open vessel, which is why she is so good.
I think we hit it off right away and had chemistry right away.
William Goldman famously said that in Hollywood no-one knows
anything. Do you have an idea what makes a TV show like Heroes
I think it is the combination of the simple and complex. The
show is both simple and complex. It is wish fulfilment fantasy
and epic in nature and that is the simplicity of it. The complexity
of it is in the people and relationships which are more like
kitchen sink dramas than comic books.
The relationships that the characters have to the people around
them are more complex and deeper than you often see in something
which is "comic book". And I think that that is
one of the strengths of the fact that Tim Kring created this
show - not being a comic book guy - with archetypes that are
very familiar to comic book but which are also richer and
more complex than maybe comic book fans had seen before.
Are you a comic book guy?
When I was a kid I was but not since I was 15 have I really
been invested in comic books. But I do remember as a kid loving
Spider-Man, because I loved Peter Parker. Jeff Loeb
was one of our writer producers and he famously said that
Peter Parker was infinitely more interesting than Spider-Man
and that is one of the mantras of the show.
you do a television show you don't have a $200 million budget
and it can't all be about gigantic battle scenes it has to
be about the people and the characters. So I think that obviously
the focus is much more on the Peter Parker side of things
than the Spider Man side of things.
So is Clark Kent more interesting than Superman and Bruce
Wayne more interesting than Batman?
I would say yeah, generally speaking I think so because the
alter egos are richer - they have things that they are hiding,
things that they are protecting, they are vulnerable in a
way the super heroes are not.
feel for Clark Kent when he is awkward in the newsroom and
I think that is what draws us into these people more than
seeing them flying or pulling the train off the track. It
is the human side that gets you engaged.
I understand that your sixth generation grandfather was Benjamin
Franklin. Were other kids impressed when you were growing
up? Did they expected to be brighter than the rest because
you were related to a genius?
It's on my mother's side that I am related. Nobody in my elementary
school had any idea. It was such a non-issue growing up. For
two reasons - one, my parents in general were very unimpressed
by all things celebrity related and it was never a point of
emphasis in our family. Also being the youngest of seven meant
that so many stories were told and had come and gone so that
by the time I came around everyone just assumed that I would
know what they were talking about without anybody actually
Do you think that being the youngest of seven was the reason
you became an actor - to make your mark?
It was probably the age-old, pathetic look at me, I'm over
here jumping up and down. I'd love to say it was something
deeper than that but the reality is that it was probably something
as simple as: "Hey, notice me." Besides which, every
other profession was taken at that point. There were six ahead
of me and there was very little left - apart from, I think,
candlestick maker and Indian chief.
Thank you for your time.
thanks to Ebla Salvi at CBC
The Complete Season One
is available to buy on DVD from Universal
from 10 November 2007.
to buy Heroes: The Complete Season One on DVD £41.98