Exclusive: Heroes’ Hayden Panettiere

Watch out Wolverine!

If you think you’re tough and can heal fast, then you obviously haven’t had the chance to face Claire Bennet, a high school cheerleader who suddenly learns that she can’t be injured.

She’s one of the title characters of the new NBC show “Heroes,” and if she looks familiar, that’s because she’s played by Hayden Panettiere, the 17-year-old actress who has been acting since the age of 5, appearing on television shows like “Malcolm in the Middle” and starring in hit movies like Warner Bros.’ Racing Stripes.

Unlike the “X-Men” movies, where Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine heals from rather innocuous injuries, Claire’s powers are put to the test every week, forcing her to heal from broken bones, internal injuries and body burns, all shown in their gory details!

In one of her first interviews for the show, ComingSoon.net’s Superhero Hype! talked to Hayden while she was driving around on an off-day from shooting. After talking to her, it was obvious that anyone who’s seen Hayden in her recent movies might not know what the actress is really about. Besides being really smart, especially about her career, she also seems to be a lot tougher, but that impression might just come from the crazy things she does as Claire on the show.

Superhero Hype!: Your film career has been going really well, so why did you decide to go back and do a television show at this point?

Hayden Panettiere: I think at the age I’m at, it’s really hard for a film career, and I’m at a point in my life where I thought it would be a good idea to be a part of a good show and to be able to finish school. It was just time. It was a good point in my life to have my stability that a show gives you, and I thought about the whole “doing a show” thing for a while. I would always back away a little bit from it, and I just read this script and I thought it was so incredible. I was like, “You know what? If I’m going to do a show, this is going to be the show I’m going to do.”

SHH!: So were you interested in the premise of having superpowers?

Panettiere: It was that, it was such a great combination of everything. It’s powers, sort of an “X-Men,” if you please, sort of quote-unquote sci-fi genre, as some people have said, but it’s also a human story. Each character, people all over the world can relate to. Different people relate to different characters, and it just had the perfect combination of everything all at once. And it was bold, it was brilliant and it was intelligent. Also, it was serious, which was something that I also wanted to do.

SHH!: You’re sort of the Wolverine of the characters.

Panettiere: Yeah, exactly, but less hairy and without claws.

SHH!: When you found out about the powers Claire would have, what did you think of some of the stuff they were going to have you do?

Panettiere: I thought it was awesome. My character deals with a lot of stunt work, which I love, because I like really hands-on things. It keeps me entertained. It keeps me wanting to come into work in the morning. I was absolutely thrilled when I heard that my character was going to be really involved in stunt work… and fire. She’s constantly getting broken into pieces and constantly getting killed in very interesting, unique ways, and what’s more fun than that? Hm, how am I going to die today?

SHH!: Usually, with a TV show, you don’t get the script until just before shooting, so is that weird for you?

Panettiere: I don’t know. We had up to Episode 4, and they still haven’t given us any more, which is cool, ’cause we’re sort of in the dark. It keeps it entertaining for us, but it’s good. It’s been exciting. It’s kept me on the edge of my seat. It takes a lot sometimes to keep me entertained, so it’s keeping me wanting to come into work, wanting to do my job and loving my job.

SHH!: Since you’re not in every scene of every show, what’s your schedule been like for shooting?

Panettiere: It’s such a lenient, incredible schedule, because there are so many characters and so many different storylines that are going on at the same time. It can be literally come in for two or three days, work all day, get your scenes done and then get off for a couple weeks, and then come back for another couple days and do a little bit more. It’s just an incredible, really laid-back set. Really awesome and really lenient, so I’m thrilled with the schedule. (laughs)

SHH!: I guess that’s another big difference between doing television and movies. Has it been easier to schedule things around the show, like school or doing movies, or is it too early too tell?

Panettiere: I don’t know how that’s going to work quite yet, with the whole breaks in between. I can see it a lot more lenient and being a lot more helpful in our schedules, just being able to be involved with other projects. We’ll see how it goes. So far, we haven’t been filming for that long. It’s all a work in progress, and we’re just going to have to see how it goes.

SHH!: Do you know how many episodes you’re going to be shooting in this first batch?

Panettiere: We’re signed on for thirteen, as of now, I believe, and that’s probably changed since I heard and will be changing some more. We’ll hope for the best and see if we can go farther.

SHH!: Have you actually gotten to the point in the show where your character gets to meet any of the other characters with powers?

Panettiere: Not quite yet, but our show really doesn’t belabor things much. It’s not like a movie that has a really slow beginning. Our show’s pretty fast. You have to keep up with it and you have to keep track with it, and it’s seeming to move along. As I said, I probably know about as much as you guys do about what’s in the future, but it’s all very exciting and I think people will really, really love it.

SHH!: Back in March, it was already being compared to “Lost” even before you started shooting it. What I saw was pretty cool in that it introduced all the characters, but it didn’t really give you any idea where it was going to go from there.

Panettiere: The show allows for a lot of twists and turns, a lot of different things that will go on with each character, and it’s a struggle between every character in the show, whether they’re going to use their power for good or whether they’re going to turn evil. Whether they’re going to use it for themselves or whether they’re not going to use it at all, just sort of pushing it aside and try and be normal people, which is sort of like my character. She’s a normal teenage girl, who is trying to fit into a high school life, and all of a sudden, she has to deal with this major conflict. You don’t know whether she’s going to push it aside, but I think she knows deep down inside what she has to do.

SHH!: In the first episode, we get to see Claire save someone, so we have some idea that she knows that her powers should be used for good. You’re probably one of the younger members of the cast but you have so much experience, having acted for so long. How is it on the set when you’re working with the other actors?

Panettiere: It’s awesome. We’re all really complimentary of each other. We haven’t gotten a huge chance to work with each other, because obviously, our storylines have not yet crossed, but no one really seems to have an ego. With seven people, you would think that there would be, but there’s not. Everybody’s just doing their own thing and enjoying being there and enjoying each other. It doesn’t really seem like anyone’s better than anyone else. Nobody thinks that and no one thinks “Well, she’s been doing it longer.” We treat each other the way we would like to be treated, all the same. We’re all good friends.

SHH!: You’ve done four episodes, so has this been a different director on each episode?

Panettiere: It is different for each episode, so we’ve had some funny, hectic schedules where it’s been like popping around. I know a lot of directors will probably come back and do more, and I don’t know how many directors we’ll have shooting how many things, but we’ve done scenes where we have one scene from one script in one episode and one scene from another episode and have to pop back and forth with like two completely different crews. The other crew will come out of the dark and all of a sudden be sitting there ready. (laughs)

SHH!: In the pilot, you had to do some pretty sick things to get yourself back together after a stunt. It was pretty gory, actually. Was it strange doing that kind of make-up effects or do you enjoy doing it?

Panettiere: I LOVE doing that kind of stuff. That is just right up my alley, which was also a big turn on for this. I know it’s really gory, and a lot of people’s stomachs will probably not like me for it, but that is just awesome, just being able to be bloodied up and have different body parts put on. That’s right up my alley. It’s so awesome. We have such a great visual effects crew, and I did this whole body cast work. It’s all been really cool.

SHH!: Have you done anything else exciting as far as stunts?

Panettiere: I’ve tried to think what I’ve done. I’ve done a few things, but I’m not sure how much I want to give away. I’ve done a lot of stunt work, and she does die more than the usual person, let’s put it like that! (laughs) You might almost think it’s unrealistic sometimes, but if you really think about it, it’s almost like breaking your nose or hurting yourself in a certain spot on your body. And it’s like you don’t want to touch that spot, but as soon as you’re not supposed to touch that sport or you’re trying to be careful of it not being touched, it gets touched, and it gets banged up more than if it wasn’t hurt. It’s seemingly karma.

SHH!: In most cases, when actors get a script and they find out they die, they’d be upset, but you must be used to it.

Panettiere: Well, no, it’s not unnecessary, so it doesn’t seem to be overplayed yet.

SHH!: By the way, I had a chance to see “The Architect” recently. I haven’t seen that many of your previous movies, but I was really impressed with your work in it. Are you looking to do more of that kind of stuff when you have your next break?

Panettiere: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. That’s a very unique film with an amazing cast. The acting in that is absolutely breathtaking, it’s incredible. It’s a great script, and it’s very heartfelt, which is the stuff that I really want to do.

SHH!: How did they find you for that part? It seems like a bit of departure from stuff like “Racing Stripes.”

Panettiere: The reason why is that I’ve done a lot of stuff like that. The funny thing is that people see one film like “Racing Stripes” or “Ice Princess” and all of a sudden, slip me into this category of “that’s what she’s always involved in” but people don’t remember that I did “Normal” with Jessica Lange and Tom Wilkinson for HBO, which was very dramatic. They don’t remember that I did “Lies My Mother Told Me” which was the Lifetime film with Joely Richardson and Colm Feore, which was also extremely dramatic. They don’t remember that I did “Remember the Titans.” They seemingly focus on those and say, “Oh, she’s the girl from this and that and that’s a different role,” but it’s really not, because as I grew up, that’s what I did and that’s what I enjoy doing. But those seemingly don’t stick in people’s head, as much as something that’s really in front of your face like those other films.

SHH!: Well, I’m embarrassed to admit that you almost made me cry twice in that movie because I was really touched by your character.

Panettiere: Awwwwwwwww…

Having fully humiliated myself by being consoled by Hayden, it seemed like a good place to end the interview. Regardless, a lot of people will be talking about Hayden this fall when “Heroes” debuts on NBC on September 25. The first episode will be available for free download on iTunes starting September 1.

Source: Edward Douglas