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Feature: Heroes

Reluctant Hero

Indestructible… Indestructible cheerleader Claire Bennet may be having a tough time, but things are going brilliantly for actress Hayden Panettiere, who plays her…

Heroes might have made Hayden Panettiere the world’s best-known cheerleader, but ironically she’s always been too busy working to ever don the uniform and wield the pom-poms in real life.

While most teenage girls are thinking about school work, make-up and boys, Panettiere has been carving out an impressive acting career for herself, and at just 17 she has a CV that would make actresses twice her age jealous. And that’s before playing the indestructible cheerleader who has become the symbol of Heroes turned her into an international star…

“I love what I do,” the actress says. “But I also do what every normal teenage girl does and my mom makes me do chores. I’d get put back in my place if I got big-headed.”

Panettiere might have the all-American looks of a pre-crack-up Britney, but anyone who underestimates her or dismisses her as a dumb blonde has got a shock in store.

“I find it kind of funny watching people patronize me or think I’m dumb because I’m blonde and young,” she says. “Hopefully I’m mature enough to laugh at them because they’re the silly ones and not me. I know I have a higher IQ than 99 per cent of the brunettes out there. And it gives me more of a sense of accomplishment when I achieve things after people have underestimated me.”

There’s also a lot more than meets the eye to her character, Claire Bennet. While she looks like the perfect all-American teenager, discovering her special powers quickly leaves her feeling isolated from her friends and classmates. As she struggles to make sense of what is happening to her, she survives a deadly encounter with the ability-eating killer Sylar, tracks down her real parents and takes on the high school jock who tried to date-rape her. But even when she discovers that her adoptive father, the sinister ‘Horn-Rimmed Glasses’ guy, knows all about her powers, he warns her not to tell anyone because there are people trying to harm her and it leaves her feeling even more isolated.

“Everyone can relate to not quite fitting in and feeling alone, it’s a normal teenage thing,” says Panettiere. “At some point Claire’s going to have to come to terms with feeling indestructible. We all have to come to terms with who we are, and being indestructible is not the most terrible thing in the world. She’s taking the steps to find out who she is by tracking down her real parents and finding someone she can relate to and to make her feel less alone. 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.”

by Jenny Eden

Read the full interview, plus we talk to Heroes star Milo Ventimiglia, who plays Peter Petrelli, in
TV Zone #214

Photo © The Sci-Fi Channel
Feature © Visual Imagination 2007. Not for reproduction

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TV Zone #214, see below for ordering options
TV Zone #214
May 2007
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