10 things you may not know about ‘Get Smart’s’ Masi Oka

Masi Oka, right and Nate Torrence appear in "Get Smart."
(Tracy Bennett / Associated Press)
Special to The Times

Attention “Heroes” fans: Production on Season 3 is well underway, and four episodes are in the can. You may start snooping for spoilers….now! Just don’t ask for any from Masi Oka, the 33-year-old who plays time-traveler Hiro Nakamura and stars opposite Steve Carell in the update of “Get Smart.” “Everyone dies. It’s actually being rebooted this season as ‘Heroes: The Animals,’” he says. No, seriously Masi, is Adam coming back? Is Nathan really dead? Is Nikki? “Seriously! There are alligators and cats and dogs and dinosaurs. It’s going to be awesome!”

OK, so he can’t say anything, save for this tidbit: “A lot of the characters from Season 2 will be back. The season is called ‘Villains,’ so our heroes will be thinking about whether they are good or bad. Really, it’s all about perception” Hmm, might be a better idea to just ask him about stuff he can answer. Here are 10 facts about the Emmy-nominated actor you might not know -- and yes, we already knew he’s got an IQ of 180 and previously worked for George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic.

1. He worked on the original “Hulk,” directed by Ang Lee, and thought it was pretty cool - until he saw it. “I thought it was cool at the time. It was a little plastic-y but that was Ang Lee’s vision. He was actually there at the offices every day in post-production, which was great for us. To have a director’s direct feedback is invaluable. But, I mean, yeah, the movie was a little inconsistent once we saw it.”


2. Philip Seymour Hoffman taught him his most valuable lesson about acting. The two met on the set of the 2004 Ben Stiller-Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy “Along Came Polly,” in which Oka had a small role. “He taught me how to be generous as an actor. Acting can be very solitary even if you’re in a scene with someone else because you worry about your own performance and if you look good. Philip told me that generous actors make their partners look good. And at the end of the day that’s what acting is about. It’s about connecting and sharing the moment.”

3. No, he doesn’t know how the May-December romance between his “Heroes” co-stars, Hayden Panettiere, 18, and Milo Ventimiglia, 30, got started. “I don’t want to comment on their personal lives, but in the beginning when the show started we were all like one big family on set. And since Hayden was so young, all the guys, we were like her older brothers. We’d tell her we’d have her back and would take care of her. She was sort of like a little sister to us.” Interesting way to put it, but OK…

4. The song making the rounds on his iPod is “Make Your Own Kind of Music” by Mama Cass Elliot. Wait, wasn’t that used in “Lost” two seasons ago? “I don’t know why, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind lately. It’s just great music and beautiful lyrics.”

5. He translates his own dialogue into Japanese for “Heroes.” “It’s important to me to translate the English dialogue in a way that I think Hiro would say it. A formal translator would make it too rigid and not colloquial.” But has he ever been tempted to sneak in a Japanese curse word or two? Just for kicks? “I’ve been tempted, but I’d never get away with it. I have sometimes mis-translated things on purpose when we’re shooting and then there’s one person laughing -- the Japanese language coach we work with. So yeah, I’d get caught.”

6. Like everyone else, he had a few problems with the last season of “Heroes.” For one thing, the kendo enthusiast through the show squandered its feudal Japan setting. “It was such a great era full of big samurai sword fights. We did a 10-second one at the end, and it was like, ‘Wha? That’s it?’” He also thought Hiro shouldn’t have moved on to a new girl so soon after Charlie’s death. “It’s different if Charlie had dumped him or something, but she died! She was murdered! He shouldn’t have been in the mood for a rebound.”

7. His dream co-star is Will Smith. Or Rowan Atkinson. “Will Smith is just an all-around amazing talent, and really funny. Rowan is such a great physical comedy actor, it would be so great to work with him. I just love comedy and I honestly believe that laughter transcends everything. If everyone laughed together, laughed more, it would unite the world in peace…”

8. …and that’s why he thinks “Get Smart” is going to do pretty darn well at the box office. “It’s full of funny physical comedy, which can be more universal than dialogue. That’s why I really think this movie will be a global hit.”

9. He doesn’t have cable or own a TiVo. And frankly, he doesn’t miss playing World of Warcraft, a pastime he had to give up once “Heroes” fans learned his handle. “I gave away my TiVo. What I learned when you don’t have cable or TiVo, and you can’t play World of Warcraft, is that you have more time to hang out with your friends, you know? With real people. It’s a good thing. “

10. He’s got some top-secret projects in the works -- but if he told us about them, he’d have to kill us. “They involve me writing, producing, acting, maybe directing projects on multiple platforms. But I really can’t talk about it right now. Maybe soon. Hopefully soon. But not now.”