Masi Oka (born 1974 in Tokyo, Japan) is a Japanese-born American actor, comic, and special effects artist (and pianist. And kendo practitioner. And director. And probably something else we've forgotten). Now also makes video games with his studio Mobius Digital. Previously worked at Industrial Light and Magic as a programmer and helped with special effects on things like the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Men in Black, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Of note, the water effects he helped write engine script for in Pirates were adapted to model the explosions in Avatar, since fluid dynamics are quite similar whether you're talking liquid water or superheated plasma. Science!
Has played several noteworthy characters, including:
Tropes associated with Masi Oka
- Actor-Inspired Element: Much of Max's dimensionality as a character was Oka's doing. Yes, Max is a nerd, a savant with limited social skills who often prefers to be holed up inside watching Star Trek, but Oka also wanted him to have surprising parts, such as enjoying skydiving and monster trucks.
- Actor-Shared Background: Hiro and Oka were both raised by single parents (Hiro by his father, Oka by his mother), and at the beginning of the series, Oka held a job as a programmer at Industrial Light and Magic, while Hiro was a Level 3 programmer in his father's company. As of Heroes Reborn, Hiro has become head of a company and trapped in a video game; Oka is head of a company that makes video games.
- Adorkable: Has a tendency to play characters who are this. With his admission that Hiro's personality is a lot like his own with just a little extra excitability and naivete, it seems this is at least partly due to being adorkable himself.
- Asian and Nerdy: Hiro and Max are both major nerds, as is Masi himself.
- Attention Deficit Creator Disorder: While he was pretty focused during the original run of Heroes, even quitting his job at Industrial Light and Magic to focus fully on the role, he has become rather prolific as he's aged. In addition to appearing as Max on Hawaii Five-0 and guesting on Heroes Reborn, he also co-wrote and possibly would have costarred in the pilot of The Correctors for Syfy, co-wrote and was to be the co-producer of a series called ESL (both of which sit on The Shelf of Movie Languishment), produced a live-action Death Note (2017) adaptation (which he also has a part in, in addition to producing), wrote the concept for The Defenders (which also seems to be stuck in Development Hell), works with The Second City to bring Stand-Up Comedy to Japan (and occasionally works as a guest teacher as well as consultant/patron), consults for Japanese start-up companies on how to appeal to international markets, and he's the head of Mobius Digital, the game company he started when he couldn't get someone to work on his project ideas (so far, Mobius has only announced one project at a time, but no one knows if that's Oka's doing or if the kids he hired are just like, "Dude, boss, we can't bend space-time to get more than one thing done at once!"). These confirmed projects alone would deprive him of all opportunities for sleep, but there are also rumors he writes romance novels; it's unknown if he's ever released one, but if he has, it's under a pen name. And then there's the video games he somehow finds time for playing...
- The Cast Showoff: Hiro uses swords, Franklyn sings in Japanese, and Max plays the piano. Why? Because Masi already has the skill.
- Catchphrase: Hiro's "YATTA!" has become a bit of a rallying cry in the fandom. His Japanese fans are known to run up, shout "Yatta!", bow, and then scurry off.
- Character Tics: According to him, it's a way of adding humor; any time you can make a character's actions identifiable, you have something to play with. Thus we have Hiro not only constantly pushing his glasses up by the bridge, but also throwing his arms in the air (usually while shouting "Yatta!" but sometimes while shouting other things), and squinching up his face as tight as he can while using his powers. Often got Lampshaded or otherwise gently poked fun at.
- Dawson Casting: He doesn't look his age, so his characters are usually about a decade younger than him:
- Hiro was 24 when Oka was 32.
- Max hasn't been given a specific age, but it's implied he was born in the 80s, compared to Oka's birth year of 1974.
- Sonny is 28 in the present-day of the film compared to Oka's actual age of 37, but he also plays teenage-Sonny in flashbacks and a current photo is used for his high school graduation picture.
- If the rumors of him playing Touta Matsuda are true, it will become another example of this trope: Oka was 41 at the time of filming, while Matsuda stands out for being one of the youngest members of the task force (25 at the start, 31 after the time-skip).
- Good with Numbers: Holds a degree in mathematics from Brown University. His job at Industrial Light and Magic was basically coming up with more efficient ways for the computers to crunch the numbers that make special effects possible.
- Hat of Authority: When Mobius Digital goes out in public as a group (usually to play real-life Room Escape Games), Oka is almost always the only one in a baseball cap and the other team members are bare-headed. He's probably trying to conceal his identity from passing fans, but since he's the only one in a hat, it just makes him that much more identifiable.
- Identical-Looking Asians: Subverts the trope, because the fact that fans recognize him from behind surprises even him, as he knows the trope exists.
- Improv: Is a member of Second City and has spent a great deal of time trying to bring improv to Japan with them; he's also done some work with other improv groups.
- Interchangeable Asian Cultures: He once played a Chinese man in Without a Trace. His characters are often prone to deal with this issue as well.
- Ivy League for Everyone: Graduated from Brown University and has supported One Laptop per Child, aimed at improving education through computers.
- Large Ham: Claims it's his job to go big, and the crew's job to tell him when he's gone too far. His portrayal of Max is more Cold Ham, as even when he's not talking about causes of death, his volume would rarely be out of place in a library. Given his usual reserved behavior in interviews, it's probably his way of ensuring he acts enough and doesn't end up with a Dull Surprise.
- Promoted Fanboy:
- He was a fan of video games long before he started making them himself.
- He was also a fan of anime and manga before getting involved with Death Note (2017), though never mentioned being a fan of that series in particular.
- The Smart Guy: He has an IQ above 180. Max is likewise introduced as a savant, and Hiro is a level three programmer.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Hiro liked waffles (woohoo!), and Max likes pancakes. He says his next character will like scones. Also doubles as a Genius Sweet Tooth.