"Not In Odessa Anymore" – Hayden Panettiere on "Heroes" Season 2

Last week, CBR News spoke with actress Hayden Panettiere, better known as Claire Bennet on the NBC show "Heroes," and she discussed with us what was in store for her character in Season Two.

Despite her recurring role on "Ally McBeal," Panettiere had no idea just how grueling the production schedule for "Heroes" would be. "This show is unlike probably any show that anyone shoots, because we shoot it like a movie," Panettiere told CBR News. "In that respect, my past feature film career has definitely prepared me for that."

Similarly, the actress was unprepared for the immense "Heroes" fan following. "You never really know, no matter how good the show is, or how many incredible actors are involved with it, you never really know what's going to happen with it or how the audience is going take it," Panettiere said. "I saw incredible shows this past season just not accepted by the audience. And it wasn't because it wasn't good enough, it wasn't because people didn't like it, people just didn't grab it like they did other shows."

Some of the "Heroes" fanbase are, in a word obsessive about the hit NBC drama, and that's okay in Panettiere's book. "I think it's very cool that they like it, and I think because of the fact that they like it so much, it's a pat on our back every time that they say something about it and love it," Panettiere said.

However, sometimes Panettiere wishes she had the power of invisibility in real life. "When you've got cameras in your face all the time, it leaves you no room to mess up even slightly, and things get turned around on you," the actress said. "So if I could walk out my door or drive me car and not be followed by paparazzi, I'd be a very happy person."

The first episode of Season Two takes place four months after the events of the first season finale, and Claire and her family are trying to stay off the radar of HRG's former employer, Primatech Paper, while the one-time cheerleader is "trying to get in touch with her inner teen self once again. She hasn't given that up, and I think it'd be sad thing if she did," Panettiere said. "She's not in Odessa anymore. I wouldn't say goodbye to the cheerleading outfit quite yet, but she's not it that one anymore."

Panettiere couldn't speak to the whereabouts of her character's blood relatives, Nathan and Peter Petrelli, at the outset of Season Two, but she did go so far as to say, "I'm sure she hasn't seen the last of the Petrellis." Fans can also look forward to a love interest for Claire in the coming season.

Asked Panettiere about a rumor that Claire's adoptive father, Noah Bennet (aka HRG), would be back to his old tricks in the second season, she said, "I think we all have proven that in this show, we all have our dirty little secrets. I wish I could turn bad. I would turn bad in a second. I'd be the villain."

Is there was anything that could truly turn Claire to the dark side? "I doubt it, but anything is possible," Panettiere said. "I'm going to go talk to [series creator] Tim [Kring]."

Panettiere's desire to play a villain stems from her typecasting as a pretty, blond cheerleader. "When you're blond, you don't play villains unless you're Sharon Stone," Pannettiere remarked. "It would be just exciting for me. People look at me as very sweet sometimes, and I say, 'I would never in a million years describe myself as sweet.' But I think it would be a blast. I think it's so much more fun to be bad."

Speaking of villains, the second season will come with its own roster of baddies, but how could they possibly be worse than Sylar? "Oh, it's possible," Panettiere teased, explaining that there are at least two new villains in the coming season, one of which being the bogeyman Molly Walker hinted at towards the end of Season One. Panettiere said the new villains are "freakier in a different way, kind of a mind trip."

As to how Claire has changed between Season One and Two, Pannettiere said, "I think she really grew up. If you guys don't have kids or haven't noticed, teenagers are selfish, and I will vouch for that. She wanted what any teenager would want, she wanted to be normal, she wanted to be popular, she wanted to date the quarterback of the football team. And over time she realized that by dismissing her power like that, that she was risking a lot of people's lives, and that there was so much more she could do if she just came to terms with that. And she just really evolved, really grew up, learned to stand her own and stick up for herself. She matured, and hopefully she'll keep doing that."

In the first season, Claire turned on the waterworks a few too many times for Panettiere's taste. She's hoping there will be less crying for Claire in Season Two, and, more than anything else, Panettiere hopes the new season will see Claire cross paths with some of the characters she didn't have much opportunity to interact with in Season One.

Season Two will also focus on Claire trying to test the limits of her power. "And there's still some unanswered questions for her about her ability, how far her pain tolerance can go, or if she can actually die," Panettiere said.

Fans have actually figured that one out by now. Viewers learned in season 1 that there's a specific spot in the back of the head that can impede the healing process. What Claire doesn't know is how long she can stay in that limbo state before being unable to regenerate anymore.

As to how Panettiere is able to portray a character who is indestructible yet so vulnerable, the actress said, "That's the interesting thing about her; the fact that she's this physically indestructible girl, but she's not emotionally or mentally indestructible, and that vulnerability is what makes people like her. When you approach it as an actor, it's just like playing any other character. When I'm acting, I forget about my abilities, that's not something that takes a toll in it because she has no idea how to handle it, and that's the honest truth, so neither do I.

"When I was younger, I always had that thought in my head, for some reason, I could never imagine dying," Panettiere continued. "When you're younger, death is not something that like clicks in your head. Now it does. Now I don't feel so indestructible even though I'm playing someone indestructible."

Certainly, headlining a hit show like "Heroes" comes with its own pleasures. "I think, unfortunately, in this business, when people start getting all the perks and head down the wrong road, they can lose track of what's important," Panettiere said. "They forget about their craft, they forget about their love of it. I love my craft, I love what I do, I want to mature in it and get better at it every time I do it, and I want to in the future be looked at as a respected actress."

Panettiere said that working with such a large and talented cast has forced her to bring her A-game. "When you're around such good actors, you're constantly working to bring yourself up to their level, and to strive to be better, and to do your best," the actress said. "They make you want to be better."

Panettiere will be turning 18 shortly, that will change her life on the "Heroes" set. "I can now work till the wee hours of the morning," Panettiere said. "There are more stunts that I can do, I think, which I'm ecstatic about. There are stunts that they won't let me do, because I'm a minor, and this season I get to do them."

Panettiere admitted the blood and gore effects she had to endure in Season One weren't always the most pleasant. "It was very sticky," the actress said. "It's actually corn syrup and you can imagine what it does to your hair and your body after ten and a half hours of working. It looks great at the end of the day, but it's not always the most fun or comfortable thing to do, but that's my job." Additionally, Panettiere promised there is plenty of blood in seasons to come. "Plenty of snaps and pops and crackles."

From August 25 through September 2, the "Heroes" cast is embarking on a world tour, and during that week Panettiere and fellow cast members Milo Ventimiglia, Jack Coleman and Adrian Pasdar will be visiting Paris, London and Munich. What is Panettiere most looking forward to about the trip? "Just seeing those beautiful countries and being able to be there, and staying at the top hotels in Paris and London and Munich," the actress said. "What more could you ask for, honestly?" Panettiere is also looking forward to the opportunity to spend some quality time with her fellow cast members.

Who are the actress' own personal heroes? "Everyone I love, everyone I look up to," Panettiere said. "I look up to all my cast mates. I look up to my family." In her chosen profession, Panettiere looks up to the legendary Meryl Streep. "Meryl Streep is an incredible actress, and what she did with her career, and how diverse it was and the grace she has doing it, it's really incredible. It's just somebody you want to emulate."

The "Heroes" Season One box set is slated for August 28 release on DVD and HD. The "Heroes" World Tour kicks off on August 25, and the first episode of Season Two premiers September 24.

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