Before our current age of superhero obsession and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Heroes told a story about ordinary people with extraordinary powers. From 2006 to 2010, the show from television producer Tim Kring’s focused on themes of interconnectivity in a post-9/11 world. Now, more than a decade after it first debuted, Kring reveals the surprising influences that sparked the creation of Heroes.

Inverse spoke with Kring at a pop-up experience in October during New York Comic Con 2018 in New York City for Unknown 9, a new transmedia connected universe for which Kring is developing a TV series about an occult conspiracy. The Unknown 9 Experience indoctrinated attendees through an interactive performance into a secret society that serves as the focal point for an upcoming comic book series, book trilogy, movie, and video game, along with Kring’s new show.

Kring explains that the same themes that drew him to Heroes years ago, “the tension between how much knowledge we have versus how much wisdom,” are the same ones that convinced him to join up with Unknown 9 for a new series.

“I was interested in what exactly is a hero?” Kring says. “Those were the Bush years when we were kind of thuggish around the world, so it was important to have an international cast where people from all over the world came together.”

The concept of interconnection loomed large in Kring’s mind at the time, but it was also this nugget of an idea about normal people that can do abnormal things.

Kathryn Hahn (right) as Lily in 'Crossing Jordan'.
Kathryn Hahn (right) as Lily in 'Crossing Jordan'.

“I was doing Crossing Jordan when I came up with Heroes,” Kring says, bringing up his 2001-2007 series that follows Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh, a crime-solving forensic pathologist who goes above and beyond to solve crimes for the Massachusetts medical examiner’s office.

“One of the original things that was a spark for that was, we had a character named Lily played by Kathryn Hahn,” Kring says. “We had written a scene where she gets mugged by a guy, but he turns and does this crazy krav maga move. When I watched it in the video for the first time, that cool idea that this mousy intake girl at the crypt could really handle herself. I thought, that’s a cool idea: What if super-ordinary people could do something really extraordinary?”

So much of Heroes involves seemingly normal characters who suddenly realize they have supernatural abilities. But rather than come together like the X-Men, their existential confusion is only compounded by their bizarre experiences. Seeing someone relatable exhibit these abilities and become someone “special” is that much more enticing.

“Then I saw my friend Charlie Kaufman’s film that he wrote, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” Kring continues. “His daughter and my son were in school together. I was really influenced by that movie.”

Kring explained how Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) took two typical people and thrust them into extraordinary circumstances with a bizarre sci-fi twist about deliberately deleted memories.

Trailer for 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'

They begin the film as strangers, both of them odd in their own ways with idiosyncrasies and bad habits, but they evolve through a blossoming romance and other shared experiences — even when that shared experience includes deleting their memories of one another.

“The idea of these hyper-normal characters, the kind of people you’d see walking on the street and never look twice at, they’re not just anonymous but hyper-anonymous,” Kring says. “The idea that extraordinary things could happen in their lives. I hadn’t seen that on television yet.”

Finally, Kring points to another, equally surreal film as the final influence for his superhero TV show.

“The third one with Heroes was the movie Magnolia,” Kring says. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia (1999) interweaves the lives of a staggering number of characters all living in the San Fernando Valley. Despite following many seemingly disconnected plots and characters, Magnolia eventually brings it all together, coalescing into a powerful story about the search for meaning and happiness.

Watch the trailer for 'Magnolia'

But there’s one scene in particular that truly inspired Kring:

“The scene where they all sing the same song together as the frogs are falling. In the pilot of Heroes, we do this whole montage as all the characters experience the eclipse at the same time.”

Photos via NBC