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‘Heroes’ Worship: A Super-Sized Sneak Peek at the Rest of Season One

The cheerleader has been saved, but the fate of the world is still in question.

But now viewers who have been eagerly anticipating the return of NBC’s Heroes, last year’s super-powered TV phenomenon, will finally get to fly back into the center of the action as the series returns for the second half of its freshman season. With heated battles ahead, both apocalyptic and intimate, Hollywood.com turned to series creator and executive producer Tim Kring and the stars of the show for a super-sized sneak peek at their not-so-secret identities’ upcoming adventures.

“Are You On The List?”
Following the success of the first portion of the season’s seemingly ubiquitous tag line “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World,” the second half of Season One will be driven by a similarly evocative phrase: “Are You On the List?” It refers to the search by geneticist Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) for the list of super-humans identified by his late father Chandra, a search that may unite several of the characters who, until now, have only encountered each other in passing.

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“I think the first half of the season was definitely about the discovery [of powers], and now the second half is more about the realization of it and then the growth,” said Masi Oka, who earned a Golden Globe nomination for his infectiously enthusiastic portrayal of Hiro Nakamura. “You’re starting to see a lot of the crossovers, and the paths of lot of the characters intertwining, because a lot of the stories start to combine here and there. There are some wonderful, wonderful twists coming up.”

Kring says that the use of taglines to evoke a story arc was not part of his initial plan, but something he’s embraced. “‘Save the cheerleader’ was just a line of dialogue from the script, and it caught the imagination of a few people over at NBC in the promo department and they ran with that. And so from then on, we started thinking about, ‘Well, what could we do for this next pod of episodes?’ And sure enough, the script already had another line in it that we also liked.”

“It’s not like we fished around for lines to impose onto the show. They just sort of come naturally out of the show,” Kring explained. “As long as it’s relevant to what we’re doing and something that tells a story or entices and intrigues people, I think it’s been very effective.”

“It also helps T-shirt sales,” added Oka.

Heroic Journeys
Even with Heroes’ large ensemble of characters, there is no shortage of scenes to be spread among the stars. Each of the central actors promised Hollywood.com their character has a provocative plotline ahead.

“My character is a lot happier than where he started,” said Milo Ventimiglia of Peter Petrelli, who had embraced the opportunity to use his power-mimicking skills for good but apparently lapsed into a coma following a disturbing vision of his possible fate in the battle to prevent the apocalyptic destruction of New York foretold by Isaac and Hiro. “That first glance with Peter, he was very brow-beaten and heavy and terrified by the prospect [of his powers], and they just told me to smile more and lighten up a lot more and the way they had written him to be a little more in the vein of Masi’s character: happy, excited about the possibility of where he was going to be. But getting into those heavy times, it’s not fun. It takes its tolls.”

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As Peter is watched over his congressional candidate brother, Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar) will also re-encounter a familiar face: Niki Sanders (Ali Larter), who previously seduced him while under the control of her amoral alter ego Jessica. “Me and Adrian had some great stuff in Episode Four and I think that they will be bringing our characters back together,” said Larter. “One of the things that Niki has to confront is whether she’s a danger to society, to her family, and one side of her will definitely take control. It’s to the point where I feel that I need to incarcerate myself. So for a couple of episodes I am definitely going through some inner battles.”

In one of those battles, we will see Niki and Jessica confront each other for the first time—instead of being separated by their reflections, they battle it out in the flesh, at least in Niki’s mind. “My first reaction when I saw it was, ‘No. I can’t do this.’ I was, like, stricken with fear,” said Larter. “The truth is on this show, we’re so pushed creatively and if by chance it doesn’t work, it’s not going to make it on the air, so for me that really gave me freedom as an actor to go for it 100 percent. You just kind of have to go for it. I separate the two characters. They’re two different people to me and I just really worked on it and then you’ve just got to let it fly.”

Niki’s husband D.L. Hawkins (Leonard Roberts) remains on the run with their son Micah (Noah Gray-Cabey) after using his phasing powers to survive Jessica’s attempt to kill him, but Roberts is holding out hope that the family will somehow reunite. “I hope so,” he said. “I think that it would fall in line with the spirit of the show, which is providing hope and having that optimism. I would love to see that there is something that brought these people together and that’s still there.”

Niki will definitely cross paths with the telepathic cop Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg) as his investigation into the superhumans broadens. “Ali and I did some great stuff together, so I can’t wait for people to see that,” said Grunberg. “I interact with most everyone. I’m sort of the Mulder and Scully of the show so I’m getting closer and closer to finding out the truth of what’s happened to me. The episode we’re shooting right now is a huge undertaking. It’s this monster episode and it’s really amazing. Jack Coleman and I are working together a lot…begrudgingly cooperatively. We have to for a specific purpose.”

Kring has many plans up his sleeve for Coleman’s character, the enigmatic Mr. Bennet, or “HRG”—Horn-Rimmed Glasses—as he’s come to be known. “When we talked with Jack about it early on, we really encouraged him to play both sides of that character with equal passion so he is Father Knows Best on one hand and a ruthless killer on the other, and I think it’s why people are so unsettled by that character because he attacks both sides of his character with the same zeal… He’s clearly in some sort of organization that knows a lot more than we do as an audience right now.”

After HRG’s mysterious operative the Haitian disobeyed his orders to erase his adopted daughter Claire’s memories of the attempt on her life by the powers-stealing serial killer Sylar, the cheerleader is troubled by the notion that she may not be as indestructible as she believed—as is the actress who plays her, Hayden Panettiere.

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“It didn’t really cross my mind until the episode where Syler comes to the school,” says Panettiere. “I have a scene with Thomas Decker who plays Zach, and he says, ‘You know, you could have died.’ And I say, ‘I know.’ I started thinking about what happens, how long it really takes before she can’t regenerate anymore. Like if they hadn’t pulled the stick out of her head, how long would she have survived before she was unable to heal? You realize that the source of their powers come from their brain, so by Syler taking their brain, that’s literally taking my power. And so I do have the ability to die.”

Claire won’t be the only character with daddy issues. Hiro’s about to re-encounter his own father, a stern, powerful Japanese industrialist (George Takei) who required his son to start at the bottom of the family business.” “The relationship is kind of complex, but simple,” revealed Oka. “You’ll find that the father has a lot of expectations of his son. And Hiro is his only male son, and who he expected to be his heir to his company. He views Hiro’s journey to be very childish and foolish, and I think he wants him to grow up. Hiro’s always kind of seen his father as an intimidating figure, and someone who he always has to live up to. We’ll see a little bit of that conflict, and the reason why his dad came to find Hiro in America.”

Many of the show’s fans have been obsessed with the outcome of the scene depicted in the first non-heroin-induced painting by Isaac Mendez (Santiago Cabrera) which features the future version of Hiro brandishing a samurai’s katanna against a menacing dinosaur, and Oka says the mystery will be resolved swiftly. “The first episode comes back, you’ll see the dinosaur in play,” he said. “Our show has always realized Isaac’s paintings, so we know it comes to fruition, in one form or another.

Cabrera says that the tortured Isaac has reached his own turning point, ready to fully embrace his role in preventing the catastrophe in New York. “It’s like the first time where Hiro realizes he has to find that sword. Isaac finds that thing in himself,” Cabrera explained. “He calms down and knows that he has it in him…He’s still tortured inside. When he’s cleaned up it’s still a struggle that’s going on internally. I really like playing him for who he is and when he’s sober or if he’s on heroin, that’s all part of who he is.”

With Peter on the sidelines, Isaac may also be making a play to win back his lost love, Simone Deveaux (Tawny Cypress), who left him for Peter. “Now that he’s clean reality is hitting him much more and he’ll want his girl back. So that kind of triangle will come back again…We want to help each other, but he’s still the guy who took my girl.”

Cypress elaborated on the love triangle. “As a woman who has been in destructive relationships that involve drugs, I will say that I understand her dilemma, and I understand the nice guy versus the not-so-together guy. And I am rooting for my character to be happy…We get to explore the aspects of love. Isaac comes back to me sober and it’s a whole new day. You get to start to see a change in my character and you get to start to see me and Isaac together a little bit more.”
There’s no romance in the foreseeable future for the villainous Sylar (Zachary Quinto), but even though he’s been captured by Mr. Bennet he’s far from out of the picture. In fact, he’ll be troubling the Heroes well into the second season, said Kring. “The organization that Jack Coleman’s character works for is on some sort of obvious research-oriented tag-and-release program, so there are things that they are gleaning by getting each one of these people. And remember, he is a character who seems to be exhibiting more than one power, which is intriguing to them as to how and why.”

“Clearly I really want Hayden’s powers,” said Quinto. “We’ll see where the road takes us in the coming weeks. We meet some new heroes, we meet some new people that haven’t been around yet. Maybe I’ll want to acquire some of theirs.” The actor also has his own sights set on a particular power he’d love to play with. “I really want to fly. As an actor, I really want to get strung up on the wires, because I’ve seen Milo and Adrian and it makes me like I totally want to do that.”

Some characters, however, will probably never discover or acquire any superpowers, most notable the hapless Ando Masahashi (James Kyson Lee). “We have no plans for Ando to have a power,” explained Kring “I th