Ali Larter, <EM>Heroes</EM> Ali Larter, Heroes
Ali Larter, whom you have seen on the big screen in such fare as Varsity Blues and two

Final Destination films, is now channeling her inner... something... as superpowered single mom Niki Sanders on NBC's recently premiered Heroes (Mondays at 9 pm/ET). In this Q&A with TVGuide.com, the actress sheds light on Niki's special ability, teases a steamy hookup ahead and surveys Heroes' overall mythology.

TVGuide.com: Obviously you've been paying the bills doing films. What made you decide to commit to Heroes?
Ali Larter: For me it doesnt matter if it's film or television or theater, I'm just looking to play complicated characters, roles that really push me, and Niki is a very complicated, multifaceted, dramatic woman. When I read it I wasnt even thinking about the sci-fi side. For me, it was about a woman whose world was crumbling around her.

TVGuide.com: You seem to play a lot of troubled women....
Larter: I know! What does that say about me? [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: Was the competition fierce for this, the sexiest of Heroes' roles?
Larter: I feel like the business is more competitive than it has ever been there are fewer movies being made, fewer shows being made so I can't look at roles in terms of who I'm up against. If I read something and it moves me, if I feel a natural, instant bond with the character, then it's something I'm going to pursue 400 percent.

TVGuide.com: You're pals with Amy Smart....
Larter: She's a dear friend of mine, and she's so amazing on Smith! She's doing some of the best work of her life.

TVGuide.com: Were you up for each other's roles, by chance?
Larter: No, she got Smith, and I got Heroes afterwards.

TVGuide.com: Now shed some light for me on Niki's ability. I've seen the first three episodes and I'm still unclear about exactly...
Larter: OK, wait until [Episodes] 4, 5 and 6 for me. It really starts coming out then.

TVGuide.com: She obviously has this alternate self, but does it only exist in reflections, or is that just a device to show us...?
Larter: What I'm discovering is that there is a duality to my personality: one side that has to conform to society's rules and laws, and a shadow side that has all these repressed feelings and would love to seek revenge. When you keep those feelings locked away long enough, it becomes very dangerous when they start to come out.

TVGuide.com: I have to smile, because her good side isnt exactly...
Larter: That good! [Laughs] Thats what's great about the show, that we're not these perfect, cookie-cutter characters.

TVGuide.com: It'd be so easy to give nice, wholesome people these powers and know that they'd use them for good.
Larter: All our characters are very flawed people. Niki is a single mom and not a great one, but she's doing the best she can, and that is interesting to play. Thats why people will relate to this show, because nobody's perfect.

TVGuide.com: I recently blogged my theory that each character's abilities almost seem "custom fit." The online porn queen who can't look at herself in the mirror, the drug addict who can't see a future for himself, the unfavorite son who wishes he could fly high....
Larter: That's a very romantic way of thinking about it  I love that! I think the show is really going to tap into people's desire to believe that there's something in them that makes them different and special. [Heroes creator] Tim Kring wrote this as a response to how complicated the world has become, and that people want hope.

TVGuide.com: Tim Kring said this is not about quickly forming a "team" per se, but watching the interesting ways in which the characters cross paths. Episode 3 hints that Hiro might be the first one who Niki meets...?
Larter: Not yet. [Big grin] Somebody else! I have a little "naughty" experience with one of them.

TVGuide.com: Has Tim shared with you the overall game plan?
Larter: I know where we're going, yeah, and when we will ultimately be coming together. What I love about the show is they're not giving everyone exactly what they want. Some people wish that we were brought together in the first episode, but what's interesting is to see what happens naturally. Ours is a theme that has been done in tons of movies and is rooted in Greek mythology, but at the end of the day it's a fresh take, because we are all just ordinary, flawed people.

TVGuide.com: What TV do you like?
Larter: The Office is amazing. The acting on The Wire is superb, just superb. Weeds is incredible and so funny. It does a great job at heightened reality.

TVGuide.com: Was doing Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back as much fun as it looked?
Larter: Definitely. We had the best time. Kevin Smith is a dream, and I love Kevin's wife, Jen [Schwalbach Smith], and Eliza [Dushku].... We were winking at the camera, too, when we showed up and put on those sexy little outfits and started dancing, all in slow motion. It was a great laugh. So fun. Sometimes with entertainment you need to push yourself intellectually, sometimes you need to go and laugh, and sometimes you need to sit in front of a television and leave reality.

TVGuide.com: Youre in the next Resident Evil movie. Is that because once you do something like Final Destination, your name gets on a "list" for horror-type stuff?
Larter: I dont know if it's ever a conscious thing that I choose to do a certain genre. It's just the material I'm responding to and the timing of it all. When that movie came around, I had just shot the [Heroes] pilot and the fan base that responded to the first two [Resident Evils] is huge. I was like, "All right, let's go to Mexico and hang out and shoot some guns and have some fun."

TVGuide.com: What's the status on Marigold, in which you play a Hollywood actress who breaks into Bollywood?
Larter: Waiting to see. When you do independent films, it's not like all of a sudden it gets to a festival and it goes out. That's a very sweet, PG, Princess Diaries-type movie, a comedy of errors of being an American in India.

TVGuide.com: But how does your character, who is obviously terrifically blonde, ever fit in?
Larter: Thats the comedy of it. You see this American actress running around and falling on her face, and it becomes an inner journey for her. I danced, I sang.... I feel lucky that I got the chance to do that. If people respond to it, thats just the buttercream icing on the cake.

TVGuide.com: [Laughs] I've never heard someone use that phrase and specify that the icing was buttercream.
Larter: [Laughs] I love buttercream!

TVGuide.com: Well, yeah, but we just assume it's buttercream. How about one last tease about Heroes' Niki?
Larter: This is what I can tell you about Niki: She's troubled, she's sexy, and while in all of us there's an angel or a devil, you get two-in-one with her!

Somewhat coincidentally, in Tuesday's Interviews & Features: Our Q&A with Smith hottie Amy Smart.

Send your comments on this Q&A to online_insider@tvguide.com.