Seating was scarce at Wizard World Philadelphia's most packed panel yet, a reminder of the power of celebrity and the success of Hayden Panettiere's über-hit "Heroes." The crowd broke into deafening cheers as Panettiere entered and sat right of the center podium with a giggle. A Wizard staffer primed the audience, asking if they enjoyed the first season of "Heroes." The crowd erupted in the resoundingly affirmative. The staffer then asked if they enjoyed Panettiere's role as Claire Bennett on the show, and the audience roared even louder.
The staffer began by asking about "Heroes," which Panettiere said she "loved." She mentioned her independent film, "Fireflies in the Garden" which recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film also stars Julia Roberts, Ryan Reynold, and William Dafoe. Next Panettiere plugged her upcoming album, which she described as "pop-rock" but also "a mix of different things."
The floor was then opened to questions, with fans jumping at the chance for face time with the "Heroes" heartthrob. The first question was whether Panettiere and Milo Ventimigla, who plays Peter Petrelli on "Heroes," have any "off-set chemistry," which made Panettiere laugh. "I'm sensing some bonus scenes on the DVD," she joked. "We're all very close. We're a family."
The next fan asked if Panettiere would star in a Supergirl movie if offered the role. "Would that require a cape?" she asked, before stating, "I'd consider it. Sure."
Another fan asked if Panettiere had ever actually been a cheerleader. "Once," she admitted. "When I was very young. I made it to one game. Our football team was horrible. Then that Halloween I dressed as a dead cheerleader. So sort of, but not really." The crowd laughed, then Panettiere remembered her role in "Bring It On", for which she had to train as a cheerleader.
On the subject of the cheerleader's uniform, Panettiere threw down the gauntlet. "I told Tim Kring – our producer – I'm done with running around in a cheerleading costume and not cheering," she said.
The crowd responded to this with a disappointed "awwww!"
"I didn't say I'm done with the cheerleading costume!" Panettiere exclaimed, before smiling and winking at the audience.
Panettiere proved her skills when the crowd challenged to sing a song, although she refused at first. She took suggestions for what she should sing. "Happy Birthday?" she asked with a laugh.
"Free Bird!" one fan shouted.
"What?" she asked, at which point another fan yelled "Free Bird!" again. Panettiere confessed she didn't know what that was.
"Is everyone here American?" she asked, compromising, then sang a stirring rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner." After the first verse, she yelled to her Mother, who was present, "Don't look at me like that, Mom! You're making me nervous!"
Another fan asked a perennial convention question for Panettiere: if she could have any what super power, what would it be? "Teleportation," she answered, before the fan even finished asking. "I'd be in Fiji. No offense to any of you. You know what? You can come with me. Anyone want to come to Fiji?"
Panettiere admitted that on "Heroes," she'd prefer to have Ali Larder's ("Nikki Sanders") power. "I'm so tired of getting thrown around and beat up," Panettiere said. "I want to beat someone else up."
When one fan asked if she would continue to do voice work, Panettiere mentioned that she voiced a role in an upcoming Scooby Doo project.
Perhaps most interesting for "Heroes" fans, Panettiere speculated on the theme of the second season during the panel. "If the first season was ordinary people dealing with extraordinary situations," she said, "the second is extraordinary people trying to be ordinary again."