TROUBLE CITY

INTERVIEW: HAYDEN PANETTIERE & ERIC ROBERTS (HEROES)

THUDBrendan M. LeonardComment

THUDI want to preface this conference call interview with Hayden Panettiere and Eric Roberts by saying I had one goal when talking to two of the stars of NBC’s one real breakout hit of 2006, Heroes. One. To ask them about Watchmen. And also Days of Future Past. But mostly Watchmen, which Heroes has and will continue to so egregiously rip-off for a sub-par version. (And like Toby Ziegler, I was going to say it nicer than that.)

I think that Heroes is being allowed to get away with murder because nobody’s calling them on it. In the time since the Watchmen story broke at the Museum of Television & Radio’s Paley Festival – covered here by Devin – and since the completely indefensible plagiarism was proved not to be a hoax once Heroes came back from break, very few members of the mainstream media have covered the numerous examples that Heroes has borrowed from over sixty years of comic books, all the while claiming that they don’t read comics. I’ve seen two articles other than Devin’s written by other tv critics about the Watchmen comparisons, and only one about the Days of Future Past comparisons.

So I planned to ask the Cheerleader and Mr. Brightside about the lifts, and about the controversy…and then NBC switched the time of the call and didn’t bother to tell me. Curses! Foiled again! And with the way these calls run, I was at the back of the line to ask a question – and I’d missed the orientation, too. If I were in a secret cross-country roadrace, I’d be totally fucked right now.

I sat in on the last half hour, though, and let me tell you, Eric Roberts is a guy who can say “baby” many times and not make it sound creepy. The actor and brother of Julia is also in The Dark Knight, Warner Brothers’ upcoming sequel to Batman Begins, and he speaks a little bit about his role here as well.

What was most annoying about this interview when I dialed in to see what I missed was the fact that there were so many guys from sci-fi magazines and websites--including someone from Wizard--on this call, and none of them bothered to ask about Watchmen either. Fellow comic book nerds, the status quo is unacceptable – Heroes cast and crew should be getting asked about this at every possible opportunity. As G.O.B. Bluth would say, “Come on!”

Okay, rant over. Rest assured, though, that if I ever have an opportunity to talk to anyone from Heroes again, these questions will not go unasked. Until that time, here’s Hayden Panettiere (Claire) and Eric Roberts (Thompson) of Heroes, which airs Mondays at 9 on NBC.


There are minor spoilers for previous episodes of Heroes.

It seems like in the latest episode (“Five Years Gone” of 4/30/07), five years ahead of time, it indicates that you have somewhat reconciled with your adoptive father. Even though that’s a hypothetical feature, can you expect something like that to come in the real feature?

Hayden Panettiere: Well, you know, as of course the story of this episode is that it’s what will happen only if we don’t save New York City, only if the bomb explodes. Something like that. I don’t even know the first episode of the next season, so I’m not positive... I doubt that will come to that, that bad sort of relationship. But, you know, anything is possible in the series. But as the story goes in that episode, it’s - five year in the future and that will only happen if we don’t save New York City. So let’s hope we do something about that.

How is the success of this show and the fact that you’re suddenly an iconic TV character, the cheerleader, how - what in fact does that had on your life, plus and minus?

Hayden: Let’s see. You know, plus is it’s always great to be a good role model and especially to have people to look up to you, and I’m big into charities and foundations. I have a bunch - a handful that I’ve been working with. And as an icon to certain people whether I’d be, you know, it’d be the cheerleader or just me as a person, I hope that I can get them to maybe buck up a little bit and see what I’m doing with charities and maybe partake and participate in things like that and things that they believe in. And just to sort of use your - my “celebrity…” Of course, a lot of the media doesn’t want to hear about the good things and they just want to hear about bad. But it is - there’s only so much you could do about that. Minus is, you know, you’re constantly being watched. You’re constantly being looked at to follow up your horse and people are constantly trying to knock you off and see if you threw up and, you know, at the end of the day, I am still a normal teenage girl who’s making mistakes still on her life in trying to find, you know, where I am as a person and going into an adult and, you know, it’s hard when you get that pressure…But it’s been pretty good so far.

Hi, Hayden. How are you doing? You look good as a brunette.

Hayden: Oh thank you. I like it, too. My hair would be dark right now...

There’s a big debate going on in the Web blog on tvguide.com for Heroes about whether Claire is in fact indestructible, whether she can be killed. What can you add to that discussion?

Hayden: I think that that’s a question that was never really answered for me by anyone. It was sort of after time, might kind of put together a series for myself and my head. I think that she is indestructible. She can jump off the highest building. She can go through a wood chipper and she’d be fine. But I do think that there is a reason why she was so scared when Sylar comes along. There’s a reason why Peter Petrelli had to face her. There’s a reason why, you know, that - I mean, face the cheerleader obviously means, you know, the opposite of having her die. So I think in general, yes, she is indestructible, but there is one spot in the back of your head where if we do get…destroyed, then I think we do have the ability to die. Like for instance, the last episode, I think, or the second…

Well the debate stems from…this Monday’s episode where Sylar seems to get the upper hand or head as the case maybe.

Hayden: Yeah. The episode before that when Peter had the glass stuck in his head, he doesn’t come back alive until I pulled that glass out of his head. And the question kind of remains is, well if I left - if you leave it in there, how long can - would we be able to regenerate before, you know, how long - I’m trying to figure out how to word this. How long could we leave the glass in there before we were no longer able to regenerate? And if we were no longer able to regenerate, these questions I still have, so…

Just to be clear, it has to do with that mark on the back of the neck you’re saying? That’s kind of like a…

Hayden: No, there’s no mark on the back. It’s just - it’s a spot near your brain, I think, is kind of my theory.

Okay. That’s like the Achilles’ heel?

Hayden: Yeah, kind of.

At this point, Eric Roberts joined the call.

Eric Roberts: Hey, Hayden.

Hayden: Hey, Eric.

Eric: How are you, baby?

Hayden: Good. How are you?

How would you - how has the fan situation did it for both of you guys? The show is such a major hit and have you had any fond or weird encounters with Heroes fans?

HaydenHayden: Oh goodness. I usually just get screamed at like cheerleader. I’ve almost gotten into a couple of car accidents because I’ll be driving and people screamed at me from their passing cars… I’m not quite used to it, yeah. But I haven’t had too many weird ones…

Eric: Every traffic light I stopped that is, you know, oh you’re a bad guy, dude. We love the show. Are you bad? We can’t tell yet. That’s every traffic light I stopped that I hear something about Heroes.

Hayden: Yeah, yeah. But other than that I don’t think we’ve had any really weird crazed fan. It’s interesting to hear the series of what’s really happening in the show, but…

Eric: Right.

Hey, I wanted to ask the - how much some of this surprised you? For instance, now Nathan turns out to be your father, is that right, biologically? Did you see that coming at all or did they just drop that on you suddenly or how much…

Hayden: I don’t know. I didn’t at all….we stopped guessing. We all kind of stopped guessing. We started guessing in the beginning like what would happen the next episode, but the show is completely unpredictable. The writer, too, really unpredictable, and they like to leave us in the dark a lot of the times. So, no, I had no idea, but I was very excited.

Okay. And you guys were all in different universes at first and all of a sudden, particularly, this last couple of episodes, you’re all going to be in one place, on the plaza and so forth. Had you any experience prior to this with the last few episodes or was this the first time you had actually pretty much met most of these people or…?

Hayden: Yeah. I mean it’s - the show is kind of about people crossing paths and how small the world really is and… Yeah, coming and going. Coming together and, you know, there seems so many…you know, they’re having conversations with each other and they have no idea that they’re in the same boat, so…

Eric: A lot of…separation going on, yeah.

And so, give me example of - maybe of how interesting that was for you when suddenly all of these characters were thrown together on one area for one scene and so forth. What did you find interesting about being with so many of these people?

Hayden: I - that was - I mean, I’m trying to think about what to say before I…

Eric: Every week is like being thrown in the first day of school every year again. It’s like hi guys, and you know some people and you don’t know half the people and everybody is so happy to be there because everybody loves this show. And it’s one of the funniest casts you’ve ever worked with them in drama because they…It’s not like we’re on a drama at all. But it’s like starting school every day. It’s like a, you know, you know half the people and the other half are new and then so-and-so gets, like, killed you, oh no, he’s dead? Oh I loved him and that’s what it’s like, yeah.

Hayden: We’re all really super super close, so…We’re all usually on set. There’s a lot of us who were on set at the same time. But, you know, they’re off doing different scenes. So just to stand there wasn’t really - it wasn’t really that weird but it was just, you know, it was fun. It’s a good cast, two groups of people and there’s a...We - I don’t know. I sometimes question why we’re doing a drama and not a comedy.

Eric: And Hayden is one of the most welcoming cast members…of everybody because, you know, when I got there, you know, she and Greg Grunberg like, hi, do you know how long you’re going to live yet? And we hang out and we talk trash. We have a great time. She…

Hayden: Oh, Eric, you make me blush.

Eric: She was very welcoming and very sweet to everybody. So…

Hayden: I don’t know about to everybody.

Eric: She - anyway, she’s really nice to meet every day when I was the new kid on the block. And it was just - and it’s fun to see Hayden because, you know, she was just always cutting up and it’s not like one of drama at all doing that show.

I just wanted to know. So it wasn’t enough to save the cheerleader one time. There - this is an ongoing task for everyone to keep saving you.

Eric: It’s our damn goal.

Because it seems like, you know, we thought you were saved and then we see in the future that maybe you’re not saved and you have to be continually saved. Is that kind of the feeling that you’re getting from this?

Hayden: Well not really. I mean, save the cheer - it was save the cheerleader in order to save the world in order to save New York and…that episode to five years in the future is only if we don’t save New York City. And so, if we don’t save New York City, I can possibly… But then - I mean I - I don’t know. It’s not - I don’t think it’s an ongoing thing. I think she’s pretty indestructible herself. But she made me - she needs saving. I don’t mind it. I don’t mind being the damsel in distress.

And I know we’re only supposed to have one question, but now we have two people. So I wanted to find out from Eric. We didn’t see you five years in the future. Why was that?

Eric: Because I’m the present and the part of the future in the episode. I wasn’t in, but I wouldn’t scratch me out totally.

I’m just wondering, Hayden, if you could tell us what Claire’s attitudes are towards her two father? I mean, does she still fully love HRG and how does she feel about Nathan?

Hayden: It is a lot of love hate gone on here. HRG, I mean, she’s - he’s a guy that raped her. She still loves him more than anything. I think at this point, it’s just, you know, she’s running that she can’t be so naïve and she’s, you know, so imagine…you go out with someone…you found out this whole dark stuff that you didn’t know and you still love them. But you did question them, I think, more. And I think it’s a relationship that kind of need to just, you know, be - go back and be more understood because, you know, everyone got HRG in the beginning, was kind of a bad guy and he was turning out, you know, that he’s chosen, you know, his daughter over his work, so. And Nathan, I think she’s got kind of mixed feelings about Nathan. She want to love him because she, you know, he is her dad, but at the same time, she listened and she want them show up at her real mother’s door with two kids…And is trying to shape her off and not want to get there. I think she’s a pretty savvy girl. She knows how, you know, that the election is worth more to him than his own daughter, which she might find questionable. But I think that, you know, there’s always room for building in more understanding.

Eric, I’ll keep it simple. Is Thompson a bad guy?

Eric: It’s ambiguous and I like trying a bad guy, I have to say bad guys and everything to bad guys. So I - from my point of view, it’s a no. But I think from everybody’s point of view, it’s still pretty ambiguous.

For both of you, where would you like to see the characters going? Hayden, particularly, would you like to see Claire become a little more - since she can risk running to a burning building and rescue people, would you like to see her do a little more of that in the future?

Hayden: You know, it keeps me entertained. So, it’s fine. I love doing that stuff, you know. She is the invincible one. I’m kind of getting jealous of Milo a little bit because he’s starting to shed more blood than me. And I’m kind of getting jealous…But, yeah, I mean I think we have to keep in mind though that the series is about ordinary people who have extraordinary abilities who are still trying to keep in touch with their lives. You know, she doesn’t want her to be like on South Park…Got to keep it fresh.

Eric: I hope that I recruit heroes to restore world peace that the girl who can change her look and stuff, you know, can become like Donald Rumsfeld and under the Bush administration and stuff.

Before the next question, Hayden was reminded she had to leave for an appointment and there was much discussing whether or not she should break the law by calling when she’s in the car.

Hayden : Let me - I’ll get in the car and I’ll give a call back. Eric, it’s you, buddy.

Eric: Okay, doll.

So my question is, I would just like to know, how did you get involved in the show?

Eric: They were casting for a character called Thompson who recruits the heroes and they had open calls, open auditions. And I was sent in. And I read for it a couple of times. And they offered me the job. It was really neat.

I wanted to know if being on the show, how can you see it starts to impact your career, as someone who is seen in so many different roles in so many different places over the years. Has this stood out as being different for you, as different impact from being on Heroes than you have in your other projects?

Eric: Well, thanks. It’s a combination, I think of Heroes and a couple of big hit music videos. The videos have given me a whole new audience under 15 that I didn’t have before. And like I said earlier to answer a question about the popularity of the show, every traffic light I stop at, literally, I hear a Heroes comment. And I thought I was really famous until I got Heroes. And I had no idea how much more famous I could get overnight. It’s been fun and it’s been silly.

How do you see the difference in the type of roles you’re offered or anything like that just based on playing this kind of mysterious character or is it changed that aspect for you at all?

Eric: No, they still want me to play bad guys and they still want me to play like I want to kill the good guys.

You’re in a lot of scenes with Jack Coleman and I just wondered if you’re talking at all about the sort of the balance of your relationship and one of you trying to play more evil versus more good. How’s the chemistry working there? And you both are pretty committed, too. What is like working with him and how’s that process been?

Eric: We never talked about work at work. We…talked about everything but work at work, and we have our great relationship that’s absolutely high school silly. And we tell jokes all day. I mean, literally. Me, Jack and Greg Grunberg do nothing except tell jokes all day. Do not - I mean we act like adolescence all day long and I’m not just making this up. And Greg kind of leads the way, but Jack and Eric follow. And we’re just kid of like the Three Stooges all day at work. And it will release all the tension of having to be so dead serious on camera.

So, with, you know, this season and playing Thompson, what for you in some of the highlight moment of giving Linderman, to, you know, revealing who he is and, you know, it’s like you said, it’s been very subtle and since obviously you got a very big impact towards the finale of the season..…what has this moment been for you?

Eric: Well he is - I’m almost like proud, too, to say that I recruit the heroes. And to be the guy, obviously, number two under Malcolm. But I’m one of the honchos and I have this ability to know who has powers. And if you can have the powers or at least know who does, so you’re on the right team, you know.

I just wondered for you as it change your perspective about what is - what people’s good, what equals evil and when you say Thompson, sort of how do you imbue that role considering that you don’t really know what side you’re on?

Eric: Yeah. Well okay, good and evil. I think good people, you know, go after peace resolutions and evil people don’t. So I’m a little of both in this and the other part of your question was, has it changed, you know, my perspective on good and evil? No, it hasn’t. I think that good is very cut and dried and evil is very cut and dried and you’re either one of the other. And I think - even though I think most of us are (gray) as opposed to black or white, you know, evil are good is still pretty easy to (decide), you know, what’s there.

In this show, do you think evil and good are black and white?

Eric: No, they say it’s a gray area, real big. But I think in the end result in hindsight, you can always see, you know, what was black, what was white, what was gray. And - but as you go to it, of course, it all has to go through a big gray.

Could you tell us if you’re going to be back next season or not?

Eric: All I can tell you is maybe.

Oh, and in the finale, are there any things we could look for you to be doing in the next few episodes or do you have a stand-out moment?

Eric: Well, the only thing I’m kind of give you a hint about without really giving stuff away is Greg and I have seen in the hallway where I’m like trying to sneak up on him. But he could read my thoughts so he’s getting away from me. And we do have a confrontation although it does not end up with his having to pay with anything, you know, dear.

I’m curious, when you come into a show like this that has an air of mystery about it, how much did they tell you about your character, you know, going in? And does how that affects how you play your role?

Eric RobertsEric: They told me nothing. They told me nothing. It was all - what I got - what I developed for the auditions that I had to do to get the part. That’s what they let me act with. And said, okay, I’m good with that…And they’re really nice about everything. They allow the actor to have fun. And it’s a good group, brother. And it’s also fun. You talked about, you know, walking onto under a show like this, I’ve been on - I’ve been a lot of shows but they haven’t been in the top 10. And also, I’ve never even done a show that I didn’t have to help, you know, make a hit. And I just walk on this. It was already hit. It’s already in the top ten and it’s so much fun to do nothing except show up, you know. And…(During this, Hayden re-enters the call.) And it’s just fun because this show kind of runs itself, you know, story-wise and like fan-wise. And as an actor for hire, you need just you walk into it…

And for Hayden, since you’re back, which - are there stories, you know, than the ones - aside from the ones you’re involved in, have you kind of been a fan of, follow their progress?

Hayden: I’m a really big fan all of them, honestly. They’re just so completely different and it’s like comparing apples and oranges, like it’s - they’re all stories that I’ve seen developed and I’ve seen grow. So to me they are all very kind of…in a way to me because I’ve seen them…So all of them just have these really different elements (to them). They are very diverse. And they’re intertwining and they’re connecting and then they’re sort of coming together. So, yeah, so I can’t really choose.

Hayden, I know that networks are always trying to hook younger viewers and as a younger person yourself, I’m just wondering, do you have time to watch much TV and if so, what do you watch? And I guess, I would ask both Hayden and Eric. If you guys weren’t on Heroes, is it the type of show that you would watch? Would you watch Heroes?

Hayden: I would - I think Heroes is an incredible show. I don’t really watch a lot of TV. The only show I actually watch is Heroes. But when I used to watch…I was more of a - I was kind of a Heroes-ish kind of girl. I used to watch like things like Six Feet Under…But I don’t know. But I think - I mean personally Heroes is definitely a show I would watch.

Eric: I don’t know if I’d be watching it or not, but I know that I’d made to watch it because of my stepdaughter Morgan Simon and my daughter Emma and my stepson Ethan Simons and they would all drive me to the TV room and they, “Got to watch your show, dude.” And I’d be watching it.

You’re in The Dark Knight. You’re on Heroes. What draws you to these superheroes genre movies or shows?

Eric: I think there is drawn towards me as I am to them. They say - they asked me to come addition for them, you know, and they want to see what I’d bring to them.

And, Hayden, are we going to get to see Claire cut loose since she has this ability of not being hurt, you know, she always runs into building, saves people, et cetera, et cetera. But do you guys in the last three episodes…have one big knockdown drag-out fight where Claire gets to use her ability?

Hayden: I remember these last three episodes, what’s going on? I mean anything is possible on the show. I think at the moment we’re really, you know, concentrating on the human stories that are going on with the show. And the fact that there are, you know, there’s bigger more, heart pumping action to concentrate and to deal with than on powers because it’s not just about our powers. It’s about mankind. It’s about the world. It’s about helping it before it becomes completely – you saw the show, Episode 20, where we’re in the future. If we don’t do this, the world will be completely changed. Every one’s lives will be shipped and pointed in a different direction and for the most part as you saw like - it’s not for the good. So at the moment it - I think it’s about more than just our abilities. I think it’s about, you know, doing what’s right and we’re kind of meant to do. But, you know, I am indestructible and things happen all the time.

Do you do your own stunts?

Hayden: I do. I have - actually the same stunt double I had way back in the day on “ Ally McBeal.” She’s the best. She’s fun. She’s very, very cool. And she’s taught me a lot. We have a lot of fun.

Do you wish you could ever do your stunts or do you plan to in the future?

Hayden: Well, I do, I do at times. But, you know, she’s kind of my coach and she leads me as well as teaches me, as well as our stunt coordinator and…

Eric: I’m on the outside looking in and Hayden does a lot.

Hayden: I do. I pulled teeth. I pulled teeth. Please let me do it. I do as much as they will let me do.

Does any of it ever freak you out?

Hayden: No, they couldn’t afford to break me so I’m thinking that they’re going to be pretty careful.

Of all the other characters on the show, if either one of you could take one of their superpowers, what would it be and why? And you can’t choose Peter or Sylar because that’s kind of cheating.

Hayden: Well I’d like to be able to teleport. I would be at the meeting that I have to be at right now and then right after I’d be on a beach somewhere in a deserted island of the tropics.

Eric: And I want Grunberg’s power to be able to read minds.

Hayden: Oh God, I would hate to know how people are thinking.

Eric: I want that power.

Hayden: I would love and hate to know.

Eric: I love that. To always know what everybody’s thinking, yeah…

Hayden: You could never have a relationship. It would go down the drain.

Eric: Well I would like to think that my wife is so blatantly honest. I know everything anyway so it wouldn’t change anything even though it’s probably not true, I know.

Hayden: You’re funny.

Hayden, first for you. I wanted to ask, you talked about Claire’s perspective on her two fathers, but just as an actress, what it’s been like for you to, you know, have all these great teens with Jack but you have an interesting dynamic with Adrian, too, to play out.

Hayden: I love it. I love it. I’m so looking forward to working with every single person on the show. You know, there are so many actors that are on the show that I just haven’t gotten the chance to work with that I have kind of worked closely with them because I’m with then all the time and I’m just - I’m honestly, I’m just dying to work with them, the actors and just, you know, have that connection and, you know, kind of see what you pull out each other.

Eric: And wait till you guys see what Adrian has or does to get reelected.

Hayden: But, yeah, I’m dying to work with everyone and Adrian was definitely one of the people I’m dying to work with.

And then, Eric, for you…can you give any more details about your role in Batman and what role the character has in the story?

Eric: All I can tell you is I’m a mafiosa in Batman and I have not even seen the script. I’ve only seen the sides that they gave me.

Hayden: Dude, you’re doing Batman?

Eric: Yeah, we’re going to film in Chicago and London.

Hayden: Oh you lucky duck.

Eric: Yeah. I’m so excited, baby.

Hayden: You lucky duck.

Eric: And I love Christian Bale. Oh my God, he’s a good actor.

Hayden: Oh my God. I know. Tell him I love him, too.

Eric, my question for you is, can you give us any more insight into exactly what the company is? Is it a government organization or a private organization?