Interview: Hayden Panettiere & Masi Oka from Heroes

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Hayden Panettiere and Masi Oka to talk about the new season of Heroes. Check it out below!

As we’re going into the fourth year of the show, do you feel like you have a tight grip on your character or are you still learning things as you come along?

Hayden Panettiere: Well, I’ll — I have an answer for that. It’s a little tough because even though we are playing the same characters, you really do have the whole writing staff, you know, taking us in whichever direction they want to. And on this kind of show, you know, there’s infinite amount of possibilities of where you could go, whether you stay good, whether you turn bad, you know, who you’re working with.

So it’s always a surprise. I think you can only — I mean we know our characters so well now that we can see what they — or figure out what they would do in these situations and go from there. But really you never know what you’re going to be playing.

Masi Oka: Yeah I agree. And I think that’s what keeps it interesting and challenging, you know. There’s definitely something to be said about the familiarity that we want to give the audience with our character portrayals but, you know, the writers put us in very different situations and combinations and I think that’s always the fun part.

So we might have a grip on our character, you know, like as we do in life as we grow the characters grow and evolve as well so there’s always a constant change and surprise.

What do you see your characters going through this season that maybe they haven’t before, new arcs?

Masi Oka: Well for my character, you know, Hiro’s going through the whole terminal illness and the bucket list. So I think he’s taking life a little bit more seriously and feeling more (unintelligible) yet at the same time, you know, trying to keep hope alive and it’s that duel and the juxtaposition between life and death and the hope and despair that I think Hiro’s balancing well. So this is kind of a new thing for him.

Hayden Panettiere: Yeah. I think I’m personally in college and dealing with a new best friend and roommate with a very — who has — we have a very interesting relationship together. But she’s really the first person that she’s been able to let in on her secret and somebody that’s really a confidant. But that’s a very delicate balance that can easily, you know, fall apart.

And one little misstep and her dad will, you know, bring Rene the Haitian in to wipe their memories and that will be that. And she’s happy that she’s semi caught up to normal life, that normal life that she’s been chasing. But where exactly we’re going to go, I think there’s going to be some manipulation and just some fun stuff. We really don’t know so that’s why we get so excited to read the scripts every week.

Masi, what about your role continues to challenge you?

Masi Oka: I think, you know, the writers give us, as, you know, kind of Hayden said, different people to work with, different situation scenarios to be in and there’s always that fun balance of, you know, trying to keep it light and, you know, light-hearted and put in the comedy while trying to make it into drama.

So especially this season I’ve just been absolutely creatively excited and jazzed about where the writers have been going with our characters and the constant evolving and new challenges they throw me, it’s always — I think that’s what’s real exciting for me.

Hayden why do you think people continue to tune in and watch the show?

Hayden Panettiere: I think because just like we get excited to read our scripts and see what we get to do next, they get excited to see what adventure we’re going to go on next. And there’s always these little twists and turns that are exciting and it’s just a really fun show to watch.

I found myself Tivoing because I was working so much last season, I Tivoed all of the episodes so I could come back and watch them back to back to back and I found myself like I could not put my remote down. I was like, “Just one more episode, please.” And this is a show that I’m on and I don’t generally like to watch myself. But it’s just exciting and it’s smart and I don’t think it belittles the audience and I think it’s just one of those rad shows.

Did I really just say that?

Masi Oka: What?

Hayden Panettiere: Did I really just say rad show?

Masi Oka: Yes, I…

Hayden Panettiere: Wow, I did.

Masi Oka: I’m giving you a rad check.

It seems like at the end of the day this is going to come down to a battle between Claire and Sylar on some level. So what can we expect on that relationship this season?

Hayden Panettiere: Wow. You sound like you know more than I do. I actually have no idea. And I’ve not seen anything thus far that has the two of us going at it or even in the vicinity of each other. But I assume there’s going to be something with him ultimately because Nathan and the whole Nathan and Sylar thing that’s going on right now and what happened at the end of the third season because he’s my dad, our paths are obviously going to cross.

I don’t know what’s going to happen yet. I’m still reading the scripts and chugging away and excited to hear about it. But, yeah, I’m not positive yet, but it’d be fun.

Masi Oka: You don’t want to talk about the Sylar/Claire kiss scene?

Hayden Panettiere: Masi, they told us not to say anything.

Masi Oka: Oh, shoot. Well actually Sylar says, “Claire, I’m your father,” or something like that.

Hayden Panettiere: God.

Masi Oka: Okay.

Thanks Masi for those little nuggets. Very cool. You know, obviously as far as the media goes, as far as all of us critics, you know, it’s kind of been a roller coaster relationship with this show. How has it been on set over the years? I mean has it always been cohesive or have you felt some of that tension on set?

Hayden Panettiere: We hate each other. We don’t get along at all, no.

Masi Oka: It’s — you know, we’re a big family and we just love working with each other. And I think it’s definitely, you know, it’s hard not to ride the highs and the lows of the show. Without a doubt Season 1 was absolute lightning in the bottle and, you know, we knew we had something absolutely special and, you know, and Season 2 and 3 it was definitely hard for them to meet the expectations in some senses.

But Season 4 as I said I think there’s some senses — there is a sense, you know, we understand, you know, our backs might be a little bit against the wall but because of that we’re swinging — creatively swinging for the fences. And we’re taking — there’s so many like bold choices and risks that are being made and a lot of creative freedom in some senses because of that.

And I don’t know but I’m really, really excited about, you know, this season. I would probably say this is, you know, as favorite of a season as Season 1 if not my second favorite season so far. So it’s kind of — it’s fun to ride that ride or the wave’s ups and downs and it’s great to be on the crest again this season.

Hayden Panettiere: Yeah.

Would you agree with that Hayden?

Hayden Panettiere: Yeah, absolutely. I think our closeness too during seasons also depends on whom we’re working with the most. And, you know, some seasons, you know, we haven’t seen me with a lot of people. Masi, lucky duck, got to work with a lot of the cast but some of us just don’t cross paths all the time, not frequently. It’s exciting when we get that chance, that one scene or that one episode where we get to do that.

But we are — I just celebrated my fourth birthday on the set, my fourth birthday cake.


Hayden Panettiere: So it’s been awhile and, you know, I grew up with these guys. These are my family and I was 16 years old and now I’m 20 and we’re still loving what we do and enjoying each other. But I definitely agree though that when we ride those waves of up and down and everything’s good, everything’s, you know, teetering a little bit, you feel it and you just try to be there for each other and make it the best you can which is I think what we’re doing.

Masi Oka: And I think that is the great thing that, you know, we’re always there for each other no matter what happens and this is a family. And, you know, we’ve got on people who’ve grown into like amazing stars, you know, like Hayden and Zach and they haven’t changed. You know, they’re just still the same people that we know that…

Hayden Panettiere: I paid him to say that by the way.

Masi Oka: Oh, thank you — the check’s in the mail — no but seriously they’re just all constantly still amazing to work with and they’re just so creative and I just love working with everybody. They’re all humble.

I don’t know, it’s just great to be working and growing with, you know, people who I could call my family and my colleagues and my mentors in many ways. So hopefully we’ll get a chance to work more together because I really loved our scene together.

Hayden Panettiere: I know. Those were so much fun.

Masi Oka: And everyone talks about it. So it’s — hopefully we’ll get a chance to have that happen.

Hayden Panettiere: We’ll see.

Masi Oka: We’ll see.

Now how do — I guess Hayden first off, how do your film projects — does it energize you to get back into the season? How does it affect your work on Heroes?

Hayden Panettiere: Well it does make me excited to go back to Heroes when I do movies. I love to do movies. That’s something that I find so much joy in, in being able to travel around and play new characters.

But there is also something settling about coming back to a place where you know where you’re going to go every morning, you know who’s there and who’s waiting for you and you’ve known them for such a long time and you’ve spent so much time with them. So there is — it’s like going home.

It would be the — it just felt good to know your schedule as opposed to getting on set — the first day of I Love You, Beth Cooper I walked on the set and we shot eight hours later. You walk on to the set of Heroes you know as soon as you’re there and as soon as they’re ready, most of the time, 99.9% of the time you are not sitting down for more than five minutes.

But yeah, they do help each other and they help us be able to spread our wings a little bit and we get — I know I personally get a little rusty when I’ve jumped back and forth. But yeah, they definitely help each other.

Masi are you planning to do anything on the big screen any time soon or…

Masi Oka: If you have something for me I’d be more than willing…

No, I think I’m very fortunate to work with (Steve Ferrell) but personally I’m — as much as I love Heroes and I love acting I’m also finding creatively something exciting about working behind the scenes.

I have an opportunity to work with some of the most amazing people and amazing cast on our show and my dream is kind of like, you know, continue this relationship. Hopefully if I’m writing and producing a project, you know, bring my favorite actors. Hopefully they’ll give me a costar discount…

Because I’m not sure we can afford, you know, some of the big stars we have on our show like Hayden and Zach and (Myra). But when we do that’s — I’m kind of really excited about being in front of the camera and behind the camera.

Well do you all have a chance to work with your — I mean do the writers sometimes come to both of you and say, “Hey, what do you think about this idea?” Or is it pretty much, “Here it is, go for it”?

Masi Oka: Our writers are very collaborative in that (manifest). But at the beginning of the season we kind of talk about the arc and where are characters might go and they’re very open to it and, you know, and on set as well as (unintelligible) and stuff.

But at the same time, you know, we’re kind of respectful for the process that by the time the script comes into our hands it’s gone through, you know, hundreds of thousands of (unintelligible) to get that one word, to get that — you know, and the same time because of many revisions that goes through, sometimes you kind of lose focus of what the original intention was and by the time it gets to us it kind feels (muddled) because we do know our character really well.

But overall it’s been an amazing (and fun) experience. I’ve been on other shows where the writers have been a little bit more rigid with their work but – and the story but our writers have been very open…

And for you Hayden?

Hayden Panettiere: I mean if you think about it, you know, I agree with Mas, but you know, 25 episodes you’re going to ask every cast member to come in and tell them what you want to do and try for them to try to weave through that and somehow find a way to connect the story line is probably not going to happen. And they have such deadlines, you know, we move so quickly. And we’re constantly working and when we’re on set we’re — it’s all the time, it’s constant.

And they do have so much information and so many little pieces and little connections to string together. How does this person run into this person? How does this match to this?

And so much history to remember too because this is a big show of those little tidbits that you have to keep in mind, those powers you have to keep in mind, what somebody said when, you know, that you keep in mind and if you drop one of those by accident which it can happen easily.

I’ve seen it happen on set where people go — somebody goes, “Oh, well what if — don’t you remember when…” And we go, “Oh, crap.” You know, we would have been screwed if we didn’t catch that before we did this stuff.

Masi Oka: Yeah, definitely a butterfly effect there. It’s great that we do have a great crew to kind of keep that (unintelligible) so we can just focus on…

Hayden Panettiere: Masi I think they actually think I kissed Sylar.

Masi Oka: What?

Hayden Panettiere: They’re going to be like, “Yeah, Claire and Sylar having a relationship.”

Masi Oka: Let me add a “just kidding” into that. I’ll add a “just kidding” to that then.

I can’t speak for anybody else. But I’ve interviewed Masi enough times not to believe anything he says.

Masi Oka: Oh, great. I’ll just be quiet.

After so much time, after so many seasons of playing these characters, how territorial and possessive are you about them?

I mean for example I remember when Battlestar Galactica made one of the actors on their three years in turned out his character was the Cylon, unbeknownst to him all those times. And he was outraged. He took it personally.

How possessive and territorial are you about your characters if — not even necessarily if they said, “Okay, you’re a villain forever now,” just some little thing?

Hayden Panettiere: I’d be very excited. I’d be like, “Yes!”

And Masi, you are allowed to lie some more.

Masi Oka: Oh, really? Awesome.

Okay. Go ahead.

Hayden Panettiere: Masi are you a liar, liar pants on fire?

Masi Oka: I guess I am. I guess I’m a liar, liar…

Hayden Panettiere: Oh, that’s new news to me. Four years in, you think I’d know that by now but…

Masi Oka: No, I just think that tone doesn’t read on in print media – so I need to put quotes around everything I say…

Hayden Panettiere: He says in a joking manner.

Masi Oka: Yes. This dry humor. But anyway…

Hayden Panettiere: I don’t think we’re — I mean looking at the stuff that we do and the character — the changes we’ve had and all these different places that they’ve taken our character, it’s a little — it would be a little difficult if we were territorial. Because I mean — I’m not saying that there aren’t story lines that you go, “Wait hold on, she really wouldn’t do that.”

Or you’re not such a fan of — rare occasion but you’re not such a fan of or little lines here and there that they put in and you go, “I just can’t figure out how to say that the way Claire would say it. I don’t feel like that’s something maybe that she would say.”

But I mean we’ve gone to the future and back again. We’ve gone to the past. We’ve gone all over the world. We’ve become good and bad and I just think there’s nothing but excitement that we all get from that, especially being on a show for four years, you want nothing but spontaneity and change. You’re like, “Yeah, let’s make her this.” And you get excited from that kind of stuff. But I personally don’t. I won’t speak for Mas.

Masi Oka: Well I mean you definitely care about your character because you wear it and you’re associated to it by all means and I love the change and spontaneity. At the same time, you know, acting is a profession and you realize that this character is not necessarily your property. It is the property of Tim Kring and, you know, of NBC Universal and of the audience as well. It’s a character that’s shared by everybody.

So I think, you know, as we kind of mentioned that the writers have such a great — a bigger picture towards the whole thing, you know, of where the whole season goes, where each character’s arc will go.

So I think it’s our job as professionals to kind of go with the flow. It’s important to fight for your character but at the same time realize there’s a bigger picture involved and, you know, this is a character that’s shared by everybody. It’s not just purely your own.

Just kidding. Ha, ha, ha.

Hayden Panettiere: Isn’t it just me on the show, no?

Masi Oka: What?

Hayden Panettiere: It’s not just me on the show?

Masi Oka: It is just you on the show.

Hayden Panettiere: I thought this was Claire’s show.

By the way everyone that was a joke. Ha, ha.

Masi Oka: Just kidding. Ha, ha.

So looking back at Season 1 and where your characters were then, going into the fourth season is this how you thought your characters would evolve?

Hayden Panettiere: God, I didn’t even try to guess. My brain never even went there. It couldn’t. I couldn’t let it.

Masi Oka: Well it’s good that you’re going to college at least. That’s definitely…

Hayden Panettiere: Yeah, but I mean there was always that discussion of it but did I know that it was per se going to actually happen, no. I knew high school because I don’t think they wanted to put out there that Claire was a dropout, a high school dropout. But college is something, you know, that’s optional, obviously because I didn’t go to college.

But no, I never — I didn’t specifically know that she was going to be there, that she was going to be bad at one point or that we were going to go to the future and come back. So I just didn’t really try to guess. The scripts just surprise me so much all the time and they have such a tough job to do our writers and creators so I don’t even try to guess.

Masi Oka: By the way, even though Hayden hasn’t gone to college, I think she’s smarter than I would say 90% of the people who have graduated college so…

Hayden Panettiere: Oh, thanks Mas.

We do too, don’t worry.

Hayden Panettiere: Your checks in the mail.

Masi Oka: Oh, thanks, thanks.

Hayden, what’s it like for you playing a character going to university when you haven’t had that experience yourself?

Hayden Panettiere: You know what, they’re all kind of similar. Similar in the way that being around friends and feeling out of place sometimes and for me being new in any situation. So I think it’s all — you can pretty much figure it out how it would be.

And I really had a rough time in middle school. And middle school to me was the way most people explain high school. And then high school I had a blast. And I basically did everything that you would do in high school or in college. So it really wasn’t a difficult thing to pull out.

Would you like to go to university maybe after you finish working on Heroes?

Hayden Panettiere: I love to learn. But just going back into school because of what I do I’m so set in this path that I’m on right now and I’m so excited about it and I love doing it so much that I like to focus myself on one thing at a time.

But I’ve found that I really don’t like — as most people don’t about school that there are subjects which are necessary to learn but you don’t really want to learn on top of those ones that you do want to learn. So to take a class for me, a class or two on subjects that I’m really, really interested in and curious about would be awesome.

But I spend so much time with the brightest and most talented and well-rounded people. I’ve had the privilege of having long and very intellectual conversations with people and sometimes I just sit there and listen. It’s like a better version of a class. So I’m — even though I’m not per se sitting at a desk and in school, I’m still learning all the time.

Masi Oka: And what you don’t know is that Hayden will be getting her Ph.D. next year from…

Hayden Panettiere: What you don’t know is I’ll be running for the president.

Masi Oka: Yeah, that’s it.

I wanted to talk about the personal lives of your characters, what we can sort of look forward to coming up this season. Hayden, I know that Claire’s been pretty unlucky with love up to this point. What’s going to happen with her this season?

Hayden Pannettiere: She has a, well, she has a roommate who is the biggest relationship in this season thus far because she has finally got what Zach, her friend Zach in the first season. Which was a confidante and somebody who she can tell her secrets to, who knew, who would be there for her and who she could trust. And she hasn’t had anyone like that since then.

And then this new character, Gretchen, who becomes my roommate comes along, and she becomes that person for me. And it’s a very interesting relationship because there’s a little bit of a flirting with the –

Masi Oka: Right.

Hayden Pannettiere: –whole are we friends? Are we more? Like do I have feelings for you in that way? So, that’s the relationship so far, and where exactly it’s going I have no idea.

Masi Oka: The two key words is flirting and roommates.

Hayden Pannettiere: (Bad) girls.

Masi Oka: I know.

Was that – did you enjoy playing that kind of complicated relationship?

Hayden Pannettiere: Absolutely. Absolutely. Oh, yeah. (sings) I kissed a girl and I liked it.

And, Masi, can you talk about how important the hero Ando bromance is to the show?

Masi Oka: I think the bromance is there. Unfortunately it’s going to get broken up because Ando go and gets married, so. There’s no really – and sometimes it becomes a real bromance.

Hayden Pannettiere: Ando gets married?

Masi Oka: What?

Hayden Pannettiere: Yeah –

Masi Oka: Yeah, Ando gets married to Hiro’s sister.

Hayden Pannettiere: What’d I miss?

Masi Oka: Didn’t read episode one, did you?

Hayden Pannettiere: Maybe I missed just a little marriage part.

Masi Oka: Maybe, maybe.

Hayden Pannettiere: I swear to god I read the episode.

Masi Oka: Well, it –

Hayden Pannettiere: Not just my stuff.

Masi Oka: Not just your stuff. Meh, it happens. I think it’s through the – on the third (white) pages that it’s happened.

Hayden Pannettiere: Oh.

Masi Oka: But no, I think it’s important to have that – you know, that duo. The kind of relationship progress from you know being kind of like a friend, like partners, like brothers in a sense and literally they become brothers, at least brothers in law for real. And of course you know, it was like he was going through his own trauma dealing with a terminal illness. You have that great happy news and it’s all about Hiro kind of trying to kind of -in some sense he’s sacrificing himself to make sure other peoples’ lives are happy at his own expense.

Do you think it fundamentally changed the relationship when Ando got his powers?

Masi Oka: I’m not sure that – if it did. I think it always changes and – because characters do have to grow and the relationship does change. But once Ando got his powers, you know, it’s more kind of on equal footing that they became partners so it wasn’t more of the Batman and Robin, they became more of a Batman and Superman.

And I’m not sure if that was good or bad. You know I – there is something to be said about familiarity of the characters and what the audience wants and expects. But there’s also – you know, we also want the characters to grow and relationships to grow as they do real life.

What’s your sci-fi convention experiences been like?

Hayden Pannettiere: It’s not real. It’s been very, very interesting experience. They’re just – the cool thing is you just run into true, die-hard fans. They don’t want a – they’re not fans necessarily of you all the time, they’re fans of what you do in your character. Which is a very cool thing is they’re all, you know, very legit and very real and just genuinely love and live for the show. They don’t want anything from you. They don’t – they’re not there for that reason. They’re just there for the love of the show.

Masi Oka: Yeah, and it’s great. I mean they’re definitely the cool fans and it’s always great to be able to talk to fans and interact with the fans. I kind of wish I’d been to these sci-fi conventions before I was on Heroes just so I could experience it from that side.

Hayden Pannettiere: Yeah.

Masi Oka: That was the only thing. Oh, actually to be able to kind of do that, I went to a (BlizzCon) just two weeks ago, and that was kind of fun just to see if from that side. It’s amazing how much people – the time that they put in for something that they love.

And that’s something that we really appreciate. And when people do love our show and they put on the costumes, they know everything about our characters. And it is overwhelming at the same time. But you know, it’s something that we’re grateful and that’s the reason why our show’s continued to succeed.

Hayden Pannettiere: We’ve been known to put on a stormtrooper mask from time to time.

Masi Oka: Time to time, yeah.

Hayden Pannettiere: We’re running around the convention.

Masi Oka: Yeah. If you see a Wookie and a stormtrooper making out, that could be us.

Hayden Pannettiere: If you see that, or – but a really, really short stormtrooper. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a stormtrooper as short as I am.

Masi Oka: Aren’t you a little short to be a stormtrooper?

Hayden Pannettiere: Absolutely, but look how big my gun is.

That being said, what is your interaction been with (Ray Park)?

Masi Oka: Oh, wow, yeah. (Ray) –

Hayden Pannettiere: (Ray’s) awesome.

Masi Oka: He’s amazing you know and he comes from that world and it’s funny because I think he’s – I’m not sure if he said it was his first – no, it couldn’t have been the first time he’s been to (ComicCon), but –

Hayden Pannettiere: No.

Masi Oka: — he came with us to the (Comic-Con) panel, (I think it was Comic-Con). He was like a kid in a candy store and his eyes were wide and like he really, really was excited about that whole process. And I thought he was, you know, (he was part) of that fan world. So to see – to have him be part of a different world, you know, a different property and still be part of that world and expand his fan base, that’s pretty (nice).

Hayden Pannettiere: (Ray) is usually at (Comic-Cons). I’ve known (Ray) for a while and I met him at (Comic-Con), so that’s how I met him. And he’s generally doing some sort of lesson or Jedi fight with light sabers somewhere in the (Comic-Con). So for – I think for him to be up on a big panel like that and see all the people that he’s generally just sitting there, you know, screwing around with and fighting with and just being one of them.

For him to sit on the other side of that probably was cool, and I don’t want to speak for him, but he was like a kid in a candy shop. He was like ah! This is awesome!

But yeah, (Ray) goes to tons of those things and he turns into a kid. It’s very funny and fun to see.

Hiro has a terminal illness. I don’t like the sound of that.

Masi Oka: Dun-dun-dun…

I’m just wondering, is it possible that we might see the last of him because I know his power is not going to be able to save him.

Hayden Pannettiere: Can you imagine Heroes without Hiro?

Masi Oka: I don’t know.

Hayden Pannettiere: I can’t.

Masi Oka: I can. I mean, I think it would be a very bold move. I don’t think anything has been set in stone yet, to be honest with you. But we don’t know which way we’re going. At the same time, you know, we already have our, you know, Kenny from Southpark on our show, that’s Nathan Petrelli, so. I can guarantee that Nathan Petrelli will die this season finale. It just happens. Every season finale Nathan will die, so.

Hayden Pannettiere: Yeah, he’ll be (on like) Kenny like in Southpark.

Masi Oka: Yeah. So it will happen. Regarding Hiro we don’t know. We really don’t know which direction we want to take it. Whatever it is, you know, because it’s a terminal illness and a whole bucket list, it’s something that we’re going to be asking the audience to go on a real emotional ride on.

Whatever that’s decided, you know, I want to make sure that it’s going to be something that won’t betray the audience. And that, you know, we’re asking them to take this really, you know, emotional, sincere and sweet ride with Hiro, and we don’t want to just pull the rug and say, oops! It’s not that. Or just kill him silently.

So whatever outcome we come up with, you know, we think we will do it poetic justice to the storyline.

Have either of you worked with T-Bag – I mean (Robert Knepper)?

Hayden Pannettiere: Oh.

Masi Oka: Oh, yeah, I’ve had a lot of scenes with (Robert).

Hayden Pannettiere: I’m sorry, hold on – can you clarify? Was that T-Bag or D-Bag?

Hmm. T-Bag.

Hayden Pannettiere: T-Bag. I don’t – should I get that?


Masi Oka: It’s Prisonbreak.

Hayden Pannettiere: Oh, I didn’t know –

Masi Oka: No, Hayden. She’s not asking you if you’ve been T-bagged.

Hayden Pannettiere: I – sorry. I hadn’t – I wasn’t up on that joke, so it kind of threw me a little bit.

Masi Oka: Yeah, (Robert) – ah, he’s such a phenomenal actor and I had the opportunity to work with him on two episodes or three episodes, I can’t keep track. I think maybe two episodes, but he’s wonderful. We’re having a blast together and he’s – ah, he just adds such a new energy to the show that, you know –

Hayden Pannettiere: He is one of a kind.

Masi Oka: He’s definitely one of a kind.

Hayden Pannettiere: He has the same car as me, but except the difference between our two cars is that he has a taxidermy mouse with wings dangling from his mirror. Which is really uncomfortable. I was like I sat there for 10 minutes, staring at it, going I hope nobody thinks this is my car, because mine’s the exact same car. Just one small, minor difference.

I actually worked with Robert the first time this episode.

And I haven’t – we haven’t done it yet, so.

Masi Oka: He’s great. I, you know, I mean I love him. It’ll feel like working with Adrian a little bit, to be honest.

Hayden Pannettiere: Really?

Masi Oka: He’s generous – he’s very generous and very focused.

Hayden Pannettiere: Yeah, he’s such a talent. You know he’s one of those actors and – the character that he’s created on this show is just awesome. You know, he really – he’s really one of those character actors where he can – he comes up with – he reminds me a little bit like Daniel Day Lewis sometimes.

Masi Oka: Yeah.

Hayden Pannettiere: Just the way that Daniel will come up with the little, little quirks about a character and –

Masi Oka: It’s the detail that’s really amazing.

Hayden Pannettiere: Yeah.

Masi Oka: And those little choices he makes.

Hayden Pannettiere: He’s awesome.

Masi Oka: It’s really fascinating to watch him get into that character right before we shoot. It’s a really great learning experience.

Hayden Pannettiere: Yeah, he’s brilliant and it will be very exciting for me to work with him and learn from him.

Masi Oka: Yeah, just be sure you don’t get T-bagged by him.

Hayden Pannettiere: Yeah, no Bueno.

Rob Knepper played a character called Theodor Bagwell that the other character shortened to T-Bag, so that’s where the T-Bag thing is coming from. It’s not some strange thing they showed on channel 11 that you don’t get to do on NBC.

Hayden Pannettiere: Yeah, I didn’t – I realize that afterwards, but it was a little – it was just shocking to hear at first. It was like, oh was that – because I didn’t know whether he said D-Bag, which would be – I didn’t know if he had a thing with Robert.

Masi Oka: And ironically, T-Bag was a D-Bag as well, so.

Hayden Pannettiere: God, we’ll just call him that on set all the time. He’ll love us.

Are you studying any particular type of illness to play for Hiro this year?

Masi Oka: If I was a good actor, I’d say yes. But I’m not. I’m just kind of imagining what would go through – I’ve personally, I have had people near me with a (similar types of) illness and you know, personally for me–

Hayden Pannettiere: Usually mental illnesses, but.

Masi Oka: Yeah, yeah. My mom went through kind of the whole breast cancer thing last year and the whole idea of teetering on the brink of life and death, you know, kind of brought me a realization and appreciation for life. And just talking through my mom and just what she had to go through kind of helped me prepare.

That’s kind of like the wrong word to say, but understand a little bit. You know, there’s no way, of course, to fully understand what an illness does to someone or what emotional state or physical state it puts you in, but to show respect, yeah, definitely I’ve had a chance to talk to many people that – it wasn’t really a specific illness that quote-unquote, I researched, and as I said, if I was a good actor I would have done that. But you know, I just wanted to pay respect without putting too much into it.

Hayden Pannettiere: No, but this – it’s also one of those things that you don’t – there’s not a specific reaction to when somebody says you’re dying –

I just meant in terms of playing the symptoms, are you moving any differently or –

Masi Oka: Oh, I mean, just kind of you know, feel weak and that stuff. But – although I’d been (that’s probably completely gone on a big fast and) lost about 80 pounds.

Don’t do that. You’d disappear. And Hayden, Claire didn’t use her powers too much in third season. Are we going to get to see you get to do any sort of actiony stuff this season?

Hayden Pannettiere: I hope so. I know there’s – I mean my power does come into play, but actually – we just – there’s an episode that we just shot that’s pretty action packed and it’s in the (often) episode. I always choose to use the word often instead of (unintelligible).

Just changing it up, changing it up. And yeah, so we do. Yeah, you’ll see it. Maybe not quite as much as in other pockets of time in different seasons, but definitely use it.

Masi Oka: The awesome action sequence involved stale French bread.

Hayden Pannettiere: Yes! Awesome.

Masi Oka: Awesome.

Hayden Pannettiere: They’re much sturdier that way.

Masi Oka: Yes.

So, you’ve discussed, you know, your affinity for fighting with French bread, now I want to know after four years on the show what are some of like the special effects that continue to really astonish you?

Hayden Pannettiere: It’s all real. I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s all us. I lend my blood to the show all the time. You gotta take one for the team. All of it. I mean, Masi’s probably not quite as astonished because this is something that he’s very, very good at in computer graphics and that kind of stuff. So it’s something that I don’t understand in the slightest. So it’s all shocking to me.

But yeah, I don’t know, does it shock you, Mas?

Masi Oka: Well, I am an effects snob, so – but no, but I do have to say that I am impressed about the speed and what they can do. Because I know the budget that they’re given and how much time they have and the resources they have to do what they have to do. And the quality they maintain on the show is quite impressive without a doubt.

Now you guys were talking a little bit about the convention fans earlier, and Masi I know you’ve told us lots of times you’ve had some pretty wacky fan encounters. Anything lately that you guys have come across? I mean I’m sure you still get people who are like, oh, show me your powers for real.

Masi Oka: Oh, um…

Hayden Pannettiere: I’m just afraid somebody’s going to stab me one day and think that my power is real and they expect me to start healing.

Masi Oka: Oh no!

Hayden Pannettiere: I just – I’ve been thinking about that since the first season, I’m like what if somebody really thought I was indestructible. Because I’ve heard some wacky things come out of people’s mouths that you go, guys, it’s not real.

Masi Oka: Definitely don’t give people ideas.

Hayden Pannettiere: I know, right? Keep my mouth shut.

Masi Oka: I’m actually kind of more adventurous. I like to go out on the floors and try to be incognito. Because it’s more fun to be out there. But when people do recognize you it’s a little bit scarier. I’ve had someone chase me down the hall and –

Hayden Pannettiere: You didn’t tell me this, you had somebody chase you down the hall?

Masi Oka: Yeah, this year, I mean – it’s one of those things, you know, you walk slow, you know they recognize you so it’s like then you kind of start brisking it up. And then they start to match your exact rhythm, pace per pace, and then you start running –

And then you’re sprinting. Running for dear life.

Masi Oka: Yeah, I did get chased by someone with the Hero (Katana) and then they like fell to their knees and like presented it to me and said, you know, master Hiro, would you knight me?

Oh my gosh. Did you knight him?

Hayden Pannettiere: That’s awesome!

Masi Oka: You know I did my best knight impression whatever it is. I mean first of all, knighthood is a British thing, so you wouldn’t do a (Katano). And it was like – a weird reaction. It’s like well, okay, sure.

Hayden Pannettiere: I don’t know how to – I wouldn’t know how to react to that.

Masi Oka: Well, when in Rome, do what the Romans do, right? So.

Hayden Pannettiere: Yeah.

Well, it’s good to know you guys have really die-hard fans like that.

Masi Oka: Yeah, it is great so.

Hayden Pannettiere: Yeah, it’s good to know. It’s a little scary when you – I got – I just got a box to my house for my birthday from this girl who writes – I mean it’s a box of like – just like body lotions and stuff like this. And like this little box of dog toys in there. There’s – you name it, candles, it’s like this little box that she put together for my birthday. But she wrote in it and it came to my house. And she wrote in it things like, you know, I’m so glad to be able to call you friend and I tell you everyday what an amazing – just things that were like – basically saying that she knew me and I have no idea who it is. And that’s like when it gets that close to home then it gets a little nerve wracking.

Masi Oka: So, Hayden, you’re saying that you didn’t like my birthday gift?

Hayden Pannettiere: Well, unless your name is like (Shayna).

Masi Oka: I’m very shy, so I write my name as (Shayna).

Hayden Pannettiere: I mean it was very nice, but, Mas, it’s a little creepy.

Masi Oka: Oh. I’ll have to try a different (name).

Does doing a shorter season has effected your work yet at all. If maybe you’re only shooting two episodes at once instead of three or things like that.

Masi Oka: It’s actually fantastic, to be honest with you.

Hayden Pannettiere: Yeah.

Masi Oka: You know, doubling up always puts a strain because it becomes about quantity and not quality. And I think 25 episodes as much as it’s great to have that work, it stresses out a storyline that should have been perhaps in 22 (into 25). You’ve got to (route) it. You’ve got to (route) every episode incoming, out one episode. You have to dilute a storyline and make a filler. And that last episode is not going to be as strong as it should be.

Having 19 allows you to be really creatively tight. Make every episode so packed with story, you know, character development, action, all that. And I think ultimately it’s just great for show and that’s the one thing I say about the great British shows. You know, I see it on the series on HBO where the season is shortened to like 12 or 6 or whatever it is.

You know there’s a reason why there’s a quality behind that. Because I think the writers as well as the crew and the cast do get burnt out after doing continuous episodes after and over and it feels like a factory rather than something of a creative process. And we get tapped out. That’s just my opinion.

Hayden Pannettiere: No I agree. I definitely, definitely agree. I feel like the past four years have kind of at the same time been like one run-on season, not that we’re doing anything the same or the characters haven’t changed or the storylines aren’t different. But you know, this has been 100% – or at least, this has been like 80% of our life for the past four years and our time. But it does get drawn out sometimes and sometimes you’re trying to slow yourself down and with this amount of story it’s just nice when you can get – keep it moving. There doesn’t have to be any fillers.

Masi Oka: The one thing about season one was that it was so fast paced and so much thought (with Eaton). It’s hard to maintain that pace and 19 is just such a perfect number. You know it’s not like the writers’ strike in season two where we got cut short.

Knowing that we have 19 allows everybody, especially the writers and creators, to come up with that perfect arc for the 19 episodes. And what would usually take 22 would be compressed to 19. That means we get to pack more stuff in there. So as long as it’s not cut short involuntarily, a shorter season is actually, in my mind, more preferred. Of course I would rather have the crew to have more work, but creatively, for longevity’s sake, I think it’s a better decision.

Interview By: Emma Loggins

Heroes Official Site


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