William Katt, who played the lead role in the '80s television show Greatest American Hero, is the latest classic sci-fi TV actor to make an appearance on the NBC show Heroes.
"I just filmed it last week," Katt says of his appearance on Heroes. "I play a really, really wonderful, seedy, smarmy-mouthed reporter that goes after Ali Larter. It was a lot of fun."
Although Larter's character, Niki Sanders, was apparently trapped in a house that exploded at the end of last season, not only is she back on the set, but Katt said he worked almost exclusively with her. "She hogged me. She wanted me all to herself," he jokes.
The actor, whose role as Ralph Hinkley on Greatest American Hero lasted three years, joins other stars of cult sci-fi classics who have appeared on Heroes, including Joanna Cassidy from Blade Runner and Star Trek actors George Takei and Nichelle Nichols.
A fan of Heroes since he first saw the pilot, Katt said he got the job because of a friendship with director Greg Beeman. "He's a wonderful director. He's been on the show for awhile after being up in Canada doing Smallville. Now he directs on Heroes quite a bit," Katt says. "I did a show with him a number of years ago when we worked together on a two-hour movie of the week for NBC called Problem Child 3."
Katt compares the comedic Greatest American Hero to the dramatic Heroes. "It's more Hitchcockian. It's a more dark and seedy look at the world of superheroes. It's offering to television viewers what some of the better comic books do," Katt says. "Tim Kring is just an extraordinary writer. And I think there's no end to his creativity. He's kind of mad, in an insane way. And that always makes it interesting. There are a lot of twists yet to come."
A guest star on recent episodes of House M.D. and JAG, Katt says his Heroes character was a "really fun role" for him to play, although the character doesn't have powers. "He has the power of persuasion. That's what he has," he said, then added with a laugh," and no red suit. But periodically, you might see me pop up in that red suit somewhere on TV."
If fans see the red suit soon, it's most likely during Katt's appearance on the sixth annual TV Land Awards show, which airs Sunday on the cable channel, with appearances by stars like Mike Myers, William Shatner, Steve Carell and Justin Timberlake. Katt says he did something for the awards show that he "hasn't done in 23 years," and it's been leaked on the internet that he flies over the audience along with other classic TV stars, including Jimmie J.J. Walker, Gary Coleman, and Jerry Mathers.
"If Robert Downey can get in a hero suit, then what the heck? I'm ready to jump back into the spandex, you know? They have to do something about the crotch, though. It sags," he laughs. "You'll have to watch the TV Land Awards and see what happens. Then you'll probably say, 'Oh my god! I wish I hadn't seen that!' But I had a lot of fun."
Katt is also getting a lot of attention lately because there has been talk of a film version of Greatest American Hero, a movie project that would be likely in the current Hollywood environment where superhero movies and remakes of classic television shows are both popular film subjects.
Since his superhero TV show came years before the recent surge of superhero movies, Katt jokes that he was before his time when he played a bumbling costumed hero in the '80s. "I've been telling everybody for the longest time -- I was before my time!" he laughs. "But I think recently, in the last decade or so, they've taken the heroes like Superman and Batman and they haven't been afraid to complicate them and make them more human and more interesting. They aren't the straight-laced superheroes -- they have a darkness, and they have to remain accountable as individuals. I think that's intriguing for people."
A voice actor on episodes of the animated shows Justice League and Batman, Katt is the co-owner of the new comic book publisher Catastrophic Comics, which releases it first comic book, Sparks , next week. The actor said he will also be stopping by San Diego Comic-Con next month for another comic book-related announcement.