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Feature: Heroes

Playa Haitian

Jimmy Jean-Louis In Season 1, the Haitian revealed himself to be friend not foe. What will we learn about him next? We asked actor Jimmy Jean-Louis

Starring as The Haitian on Heroes, Jimmy Jean-Louis delivered arguably the most memorable line of Volume One: “Tell me, Claire, can you keep a secret?” Not bad for a character, who – despite plenty of screen time – didn’t utter so much as a single word through the first six episodes he appeared in in Season One.

And while Claire the cheerleader (Hayden Panettiere) struggled at times playing along with Primatech Paper’s top mind-wiping employee, Jean-Louis has no trouble guarding company confidentiality. “The character does have a name, but I guess the producers felt that people really liked ‘The Haitian’,” laughs the actor. “There is more mystery to it.”

According to Jean-Louis, one mystery he would like to see explained is why some viewers consider the name The Haitian a derogatory term. “There are a couple of people that think it is completely racist to call me The Haitian. But that’s what I am,” said Jean-Louis. “I am very happy about the name. Please don’t change it, Mr Tim Kring.” Kring is, of course, the creator of the smash American hit and international phenomenon. It’s very exciting,” continues Jean-Louis. “Come on, man. I am from Haiti, okay? And you know Haiti is doing not good at all. So to actually be on the TV show Heroes and then you actually have one character called The Haitian, that brings some pride in me and in my people. Big time! That means a lot to me. I don’t care what people say about the name. I love that name.”

Born in Petionville, HAITI, Jean-Louis moved to Paris at a young age to pursue a modelling career. After landing some acting roles in France, he transplanted to Los Angeles to become a full-time actor. His first big break was in a small part as a bodyguard for a deposed African dictator, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost), in the 2002 film The Bourne Identity.

Jean-Louis originally auditioned for another part on Heroes, but months later found he was answering a call about The Haitian instead. “I first read for the character of DL Hawkins [the father of Micah Sanders and husband of Niki]. I read three times for him and obviously they [the producers] didn’t give him to me. Then, a few months later, when I was away doing promotional tours in England for a small movie called Phat Girlz, that’s when they called me for the character of The Haitian,” explains Jean-Louis.

“I couldn’t see them in America and the character was actually supposed to be from New Zealand anyways. They were looking for people from New Zealand, so I don’t know how my name came up but they decided to go with me and then they named him The Haitian because I am from Haiti. So really, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into at all.

by Jeff Renaud

Read the full interview in
Cult Times #147

Photo © NBC
Feature © Visual Imagination 2007. Not for reproduction

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Cult Times #147
December 2007
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