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article imageHayden Panettiere & Masi Oka seek Redemption in year 4 of Heroes Special

By Earl Dittman     Sep 20, 2009 in Entertainment
Hayden & Masi give hints to what fans can look forward to in “Volume 5: Redemption,” the fourth season of Heroes. From kissing roomies, dealing with illness to a carnival full of new heroes, Hayden & Masi warn fans to buckle-up for one wild ride.
“I’m really, really excited about this season,” declares Masi Oka (Hiro), when asked about Season Four of television’s hit sci-fi drama series. “If I would probably say this is as favorite of a season as Season One, if not my second favorite season so far. So it’s kind of fun to ride that ride or the wave’s ups and downs, and it’s great to be on the crest again this season.”
The fourth season of Heroes — the epic drama that chronicles the lives of ordinary people who discover they possess extraordinary abilities — begins with most of the longtime heroes trying to put their lives back together. As the dust settles from last season, in year four. subtitles “Volume 5: Redemption,” Claire, Hiro, Peter, Matt, Tracy, Mohinder and others attempt to settle back into their ordinary lives. But, as they will quickly discover, it's not easy to go home again. While they all have their own seperate set of problems, they all face one pressing question: How do extraordinary people lead ordinary lives?
Hayden Panettiere & Masi Oka in Heroes
Hayden Panettiere & Masi Oka in Heroes
For actress Hayden Panettiere, who plays the indestructible, immortal Claire Bennett, her character is finding that her biggest challenges are forgetting her old life and starting college. But, for someone who has led such a big, extraordinary life, Claire has a little trouble assimilating into everyday college life. Any semblance of normalcy is shortly overturned when Claire’s roommate commits suicide. But, Claire quickly discovers that her new friend Gretchen (Madeline Zima) is hiding a secret herself.
And, for actor Masi Oka, his time-traveling, teleporting character, Hiro Nakamura, goes back to his old life in Japan, but soon discovers that he has a terminal illness. When Hiro can no longer keep his illness hidden, he sets out to fulfill his own personal bucket-list — righting the mistakes of his past. As Season Four progresses, viewers will find out if Hiro is able to correct the errors of his ways without severely altering the past and present.
Heroes: Season 4
Heroes: Season 4
Throughout the 18-episode season of Redemption, the biggest challenge facing all the heroes seems to be a strange and dangerous Carnival. Led by the charismatic and powerful Samuel, played by Prison Break star Robert Knepper, the members of the Carnival are a traveling band of outsiders with powerful abilities, . Alongside the mysterious leader is Samuel’s right-hand man, Edgar (portrayed by Ray Park) a deadly Speedster with a talent for knives, and Lydia (guest star Dawn Olivieri) the Tattooed Lady.
Samuel and his flock begin to find ways to cross paths with all of the other heroes, and when they find them, Samuel entices them to join him. And together, they will ask the same basic questions: Who are we? What does having powers mean to the world? How should we live our lives – shameful or proud? Should we hide or live out in the open? And if the world of powers is revealed, how will the world ever recover?
In what is promising to be the most exciting, plot-twisting season since its debut, Hayden Panettiere and Masi Oka reveal (during a press conference call) a few of the things fans can expect from their characters this year, they discuss a couple of the storylines, explain how the cast is like one big family, Masi talks about Hiro’s bromance with Ando, Hayden leaks out Claire’s first girl-on-girl kiss and together they joke about why Peter is like Kenny from Southpark and ponder on what Hiro’s illness could mean to the future of Heroes.
Hayden Panettiere in Heroes
Hayden Panettiere in Heroes
Looking ahead to the new season of Heroes, do the two of you feel like you have a tight grip on your characters or are you still learning things as you go along?
HAYDEN: “It’s a little tough because even though we are playing the same characters, you really do have the whole writing staff taking us in whichever direction they want to. And on this kind of show 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: “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 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, but 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, Claire and Hiro, going through this season that maybe they haven’t before? Any new character arcs?
HAYDEN: “Claire is in college and dealing with a new best friend and roommate, and 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 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: “Well, 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 vulnerable, yet at the same time 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.”
Masi Oka in Heroes
Masi Oka in Heroes
Masi, what is it about your role continues to challenge you?
MASI: “I think the writers give us different people to work with, different situation scenarios to be in and there’s always that fun balance of 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 Heroes?
HAYDEN: “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.”
Did you actually watch last season of Heroes?
HAYDEN: “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 rad show?” (laughs)
MASI: Yes, you did. But, I’ll give you a rad check from now on.”
HAYDEN: “Thanks!”
As far as the media goes, it’s kind of been a roller coaster relationship with this show. How has it been on-set over the years? Has it always been cohesive or have either of you felt some of that tension on set?
HAYDEN: “We hate each other. We don’t get along at all, no.” (laughs)
Joking aside, there’s still a real closeness among all of you, isn’t there?
MASI: “We’re a big family, and we just love working with each other. And I think it’s definitely hard not to ride the highs and the lows of the show. Without a doubt, Season One was absolute lightning in the bottle, and we knew we had something absolutely special. Season Two and Three, it was definitely hard for them to meet the expectations in some senses. But with Season 4, as I’ve said, I think there is a sense, we understand that our backs might be a little bit against the wall, but because of that we’re creatively swinging for the fences. And, 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. I don’t know, but I’m really, really excited about this season. I would probably say this is as favorite of a season as Season One, if not my second favorite season so far. So it’s kind of 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 in Heroes
Hayden Panettiere in Heroes
HAYDEN: “Yeah, absolutely. I think our closeness too during seasons also depends on whom we’re working with the most. And, you know, some seasons, we haven’t seen me with a lot of people. Masi (Oka), the 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. I just celebrated my fourth birthday on the set, my fourth birthday cake. So it’s been a while. I grew up with these guys. These are my family, and I was sixteen years old and now I’m twenty, 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: “I think that is the great thing — that we’re always there for each other no matter what happens and this is a family. And, we’ve got on people who’ve grown into like amazing stars, like Hayden and Zach (Quinto) and they haven’t changed. You know, they’re just still the same people that we’ve always known. 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. It’s just great to be working and growing with 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, how does a film project like I Love You, Beth Cooper affect your work on the show? Did it energize you to help get back into flow for the new season?
HAYDEN: “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, it’s like going home. It just felt good to know your schedule as opposed to getting on set.”
Hayden Panettiere & Masi Oka in Heroes
Hayden Panettiere & Masi Oka in Heroes
How do films differ than doing a television show like Heroes?
HAYDEN: “Well, the first day of I Love You, Beth Cooper, I walked on the set and we shot eight hours later. You walk onto the set of Heroes and you know as soon as you’re there and as soon as they’re ready, you work. 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 on doing anything for the big screen any time soon?
MASI: “If you have something for me, I’d be more than willing, I’m always looking for a job. (laughs) 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 continue this relationship. Hopefully, if I’m writing and producing a project, I can bring along my favorite actors. But, I’m not sure I can afford some of the big stars we have on our show like Hayden and Zach. But when we do — I’m kind of really excited about being in front of the camera and behind the camera.”
In terms of the personal life of your characters, what can we sort of look forward to coming up this season? Any new relationships?
HAYDEN: “Claire has a roommate who is the biggest relationship in this season thus far, because she has finally got what she had with 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 ‘Are we friends? Are we more? 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.”
Hayden Panettiere in Heroes
Hayden Panettiere in Heroes
Did you enjoy playing that kind of complicated relationship?
HAYDEN: “Absolutely. Oh, yeah. (sings) ‘I kissed a girl and I liked it.’” (laughs)
Masi, can you talk about how important your bromance with Ando is to the show?
MASI: “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: “Ando gets married?”
MASI: “Yeah, Ando gets married to Hiro’s sister.”
HAYDEN: “What’d I miss?”
MASI: “Didn’t read episode one?
HAYDEN: “Maybe I missed just a little marriage part. (laughs) I swear to god I read the episode, not just my stuff.”
MASI: 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: I’m not sure. I think it always changes, because characters do have to grow and the relationship does change. But once Ando got his powers 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. There is something to be said about familiarity of the characters and what the audience wants and expects. We also want the characters to grow and relationships to grow as they do real life.”
Robert Knepper & Masi Oka in Heroes
Robert Knepper & Masi Oka in Heroes
Have either of you worked with T-Bag, I mean, new cast mate Robert Knepper, yet?
HAYDEN: “I’m sorry, hold on, can you clarify? Was that T-Bag or D-Bag?
MASI: “T-Bag.”
HAYDEN: “T-Bag? I don’t — should I get that?”
MASI: That’s Robert’s character from Prison Break.”
HAYDEN: “Oh, I didn’t know, sorry. I wasn’t up on that joke, so it kind of threw me a little bit. He is one of a kind. 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 sat there for ten 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.’ (laughs) I actually work with Robert the first time this episode, but we haven’t done it yet. But, 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. He’s really one of those character actors where he can up with anything. He reminds me a little bit like Daniel Day Lewis sometimes. Just the way that Daniel will come up with the little, little quirks about a character and those little choices he makes. He’s awesome. He’s brilliant and it will be very exciting for me to work with him and learn from him.”
MASI: “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. He just adds such a new energy to the show.”
HAYDEN: “He is one of a kind.”
MASI: “He’s definitely one of a kind. He’s great. I mean I love him. It’ll feel like working with Adrian (Pasdar) a little bit, to be honest.”
After four years on the show, what are some of like the special effects that continue to really astonish you?
HAYDEN: “It’s all real. I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s all us. (laughs) 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.”
Since you’ll be doing a shorter season this year, has it affected your work at all yet? Maybe you’re only shooting two episodes at once instead of three or things like that?
HAYDEN: “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 one hundred percent -- or at least, this has been like eighty percent 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 in Heroes
Masi Oka in Heroes
Masi, you said Hiro has a terminal illness. I don’t like the sound of that. 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: “Can you imagine Heroes without Hiro? I can’t.”
MASI: “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 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.”
HAYDEN: “Yeah, he’ll be like our Kenny on Southpark.”
MASI: “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, 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, I want to make sure that it’s going to be something that won’t betray the audience. And that we’re asking them to take this really 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, we think we will do it poetic justice to the storyline…Oh, by the way, I’m not advocating for Hiro’s death, let’s get that out of the way. I love working the show.”
HAYDEN: “Yeah, right, Masi. You’re just tired of us.”
MASI: “I’m just saying that I do want to make sure we don’t cheat death like we have in the past and not give it the wait that it’s meant to be. That’s all I’m asking.”
The cast of Heroes
The cast of Heroes
Heroes: Season Four – Volume 5: Redemption premieres Monday, September 21 in a two-hour special at 8:00p.m./7:00p.m. EST/CST on the NBC Network. Check local listings.
Need a quick refresher course on last season's numerous twists-and-turns? Heroes: Season Three is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
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