<EM>Heroes</EM>' Hayden Panettierre, Adrian Pasdar Heroes' Hayden Panettierre, Adrian Pasdar

Nathan is the babydaddy! The Feb. 5 episode of NBC's Heroes ended with a stunning and super-sudsy twist: Viewers learned that cheerleader Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere) is the out-of-wedlock offspring of trailer-park mama Meredith Gordon (Jessalyn Gilsig) and ambitious politico Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar). Are we gearing up for a Kennedy-esque scandal here? Series creator Tim Kring gave TV Guide the lowdown on this wild development.

TV Guide: Was it always your plan to have Nathan be Claire's father?
Tim Kring: Yes, from before Day 1. When the show was just a diagram on paper, I drew strings between the various characters, a plan for how they would ultimately become connected. Though some things have since changed, I've stuck to major parts of that blueprint, and Nathan being Claire's father was a part of that.

TV Guide: Did you keep this a secret from Pasdar and Panattiere, or were they in on it from the beginning?
Kring: Adrian and I talked about it literally right after we hired him. I told Hayden one day when we were sitting around on the set, maybe two or three episodes into the show.

TV Guide: Their reactions?
Kring: Adrian was thrilled. He says he's at his best as an actor when he's playing characters who have a secret. Knowing where this was going allowed him to play certain things in scenes between Nathan and his wife [Rena Sofer], certain little subtleties. As for Hayden, oh, she thought it was cool, I guess, but she's a teenager. [Laughs] She doesn't overthink this Heroes thing. Because she's been a professional actor for so long, the work is not angsty for her. She's more interested in text-messaging her friends.

TV Guide: The revelation is very soapy, very Dynasty.
Kring: Tried-and-true storytelling! There's a great scene coming up with Nathan's mother. She is so just out there, and it's such a strange kind of Machiavellian relationship. In the scene, a lot of the past is talked about and hashed out. It's a great family dynamic — the one son who's supposed to be pushed into greatness, and the younger brother who was sort of the ne'er-do-well dreamer who's going to have greatness.

TV Guide: It's very Greek.
Kring: Very Greek. And very Kennedy.

TV Guide: There's certainly the potential for a Kennedy-like crisis. Will this skeleton from Nathan's closet jeopardize his political quest?
Kring: That's the whole idea. It's the eve of the election and suddenly the secret daughter Nathan thought was dead isn't. A scandal rises up. He'll have to drop everything to go stomp out this brushfire.

TV Guide: When will Claire learn her dad's identity?
Kring: She finds out in Episode 15 [airing Feb. 12], but it doesn't mean anything to her. They come close to having an encounter but don't. It's a really tragic, great story. That episode is terrific.

TV Guide: Does Meredith have a future on the show?
Kring: We are building up to a big Season 1 finale in New York, so her story will be lying dormant. But Jessalyn Gilsig is absolutely amazing. Every editor who cuts her stuff says how brilliant her timing is. And she and Hayden look alike. So she may be back. I see Meredith is a very tragic yet hopeful character — a survivor.

TV Guide: Since Nathan, Claire and Meredith all have powers — Dad can fly, Mom can mentally create fire, and the kid is physically indestructible — this further amps up the theory that the heroes are getting their abilities through DNA. Nathan's brother Peter [Milo Ventimiglia] also has powers. Ditto Niki [Ali Larter] and her son Micah [Noah Gray-Cabey]. Are there more familial links to be revealed?
Yes. We're going to explore the idea of evolution and family connections in a big way. There will be other revelations about the inherited nature of these powers.

TV Guide: Will even satellite characters like Matt [Greg Grunberg] wind up being related to somebody else on the show?
Kring: The idea of a lineage lends itself better to some characters than others. We may find out later on that Matt has some connections to other lives, but not right now. He's not secretly somebody's long-lost brother. 

TV Guide: You seem to be hinting that these powers don't just go back a generation or two but, in fact, centuries. Or are we even talking millennia?

TV Guide: Millennia, really? Then isn't that a bit contradictory? You've also been positing the theory that the sudden influx of heroes is Mother Nature's response to a severely screwed-up planet, right? How can it be both something that's been around for millennia yet triggered by the current chaos?
Kring: I'm seeing the earlier waves of this phenomenon as smaller waves; the more recent waves are much bigger. Things are reaching a critical stage, and it's harder and harder to control. There are more and more of these people with powers, and they're popping up everywhere.

TV Guide: Wasn't there a hint of a romantic spark between Claire and Peter? Now that we know they're related, it's kinda creepy.
That wasn't my intention, but I can see why some viewers took it that way. You get two very attractive young people on screen together, and people naturally go there. She looked to him as a hero, her knight in shining armor, and I think people translated that into romance. But it wasn't ever the plan. First of all, there's the age thing: Claire is 16 years old, and Peter is a good 10 years older. And now that he's her uncle, it changes everything. But those two will cross paths again.

For the latest Heroes casting scoop, pick up the Feb. 5 issue of TV Guide.

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