Hayden discusses Claire's relationship to Peter Petrelli and Eric talks Thompson and his new role in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight

Having captured the public's imagination with the multilayered and multicharactered Heroes, it is telling that as the first season comes to a close audience excitement still seems to be growing. We recently had a chance to sit in on a conference call with the very popular Hayden Panettiere (who plays the iconic cheerleader Claire on the show), and cast newcomer Eric Roberts who plays Thompson.

Thompson is a new enforcer for the mysterious organization kidnapping and tracking people with special abilities, also is headed to New York to protect the company's interests and stir up trouble for former co-worker H.R.G., Claire and the rest of the "heroes."

Hayden, it seems like in the recent episode "Five Years Gone," your character reconciles with your adoptive father. Can we expect something like that in the near future?

Hayden Panettiere: Well, as the story goes in that episode it's what will happen only if we don't save New York City; only if the the bomb explodes. Something like, I don't even know the first episode of the next season so I'm not positive about a few seasons or the end of this season. I doubt that we'll come to that bad sort of relationship but anything is possible in the series.

How has the fan situation been for both of you guys? Have you had any weird encounters?

Hayden Panettiere: Oh goodness... I'll be driving and people will scream at me from their passing cars, I'm not quite used to it yet. I haven't had too many wacky moments.

Eric Roberts: Every traffic light I stop at it's, "Are you a bad guy, dude? We love the show!" That's every traffic light I stop at I hear something about Heroes.

Eric, how did you get involved in this show?

Eric Roberts: They were casting for a character called Thompson who recruits the Heroes and they had an open call; open auditions. I was sent in and I read for it a couple of times and they offered me the job. It was really neat.

How do you play a role as good or evil if you don't really know what's going on with your character? Has it changed how you look at good and evil?

Eric Roberts: I think good people go after peaceful resolutions and evil people don't. I'm a little of both in this. I think that good is very cut and dry and evil's very cut and dry; you're either one or the other. Even though I think most of us are gray as opposed to black or white... its still pretty easy to decide what's what there.

Hayden, is past roles you've done your own stunts, do you do them on Heroes?

Hayden Panettiere: I do. I have, actually, the same stunt double I had way back in the day on Ally McBeal.

Do you plan to do your own stunts in the future?

Hayden Panettiere: Well, I do, sometimes but she's kind of my coach and she...

Eric Roberts: I'm on the outside looking in and Hayden does everything that they will let her do.

Eric, you were recently cast in The Dark Knight can you talk about your character and what role he has in the story?

Eric Roberts: All I can tell you is that I'm a mafioso in The Dark Knight, and I have not even seen the script. I've only seen the pages they gave me to audition. It's all very hush-hush.

Hayden Panettiere: Dude, you're doing The Dark Knight!

Eric Roberts: Yeah.

Hayden Panettiere: Oh, my God!

Eric Roberts: It's gonna be so much fun, we're gonna shoot in Chicago in a month. I'm so excited, Hayden. I love Christian Bale. Oh my God, what an actor.

Eric, can you give us any more insight into what the The Company is that Thompson works for? Is it a government organization or a private organization?

Eric Roberts: I can't, only because I don't know. I just talk about it like I know but I really don't.

Hayden Panettiere: That is one of my biggest questions in the show. Who's behind it all?

Hayden, can you explain what the bond between Claire and Peter Petrelli is? Other than the fact that he saved your life?

Hayden Panettiere: Well, he's my uncle. Uncle Peter. I don't know, they have a weird, I think it's kind of like... watching the show you see these people discover these abilities and most of them don't want to do anything with it. They want to be normal and go on with their lives and they've all found themselves not ignoring it... but embracing it. It's becoming kind of a sixth sense... and knowing what they have to do with it. Knowing what they have to use it for. I think in a lot ways it's kind of the same thing...

When they met it was kind of a weird sixth sense that they just knew each other and they knew that they felt safe around each other; like they belonged in a way. Other than that I have no idea... they can do anything in the world. At the moment I'm working with he's my uncle and we have this bond because we've kind of had this sixth sense about each other.

Eric, from Heroes to The Dark Knight, do you have a newfound appreciation for that genre? Even though you haven't read the whole script do you know if your interaction is going to be more with Heath Ledger (The Joker) or more with Christian Bale? Are you a villain, are you a good guy?

Eric Roberts: I have interactions with both those guys and I am a bad guy. It was thanks to Heroes, I think, that I've been able to get the appreciation. Heroes is basically a comic book.

NBC has had pretty low ratings for the last few years. Do you think that's helped Heroes in terms of taking creative freedoms with your characters?

Eric Roberts: That's a creator's question. I think you hit it on the head, they allow more freedom because they had more room. They weren't confined to the structure of a hit. They allowed Tim (Kring; Heroes creator) to create... they allowed everybody just to take chances and they made a great show out of it.

Hayden Panettiere: At this stage it could go both ways. It could go with they had pretty low ratings so what's to lose in a way? Or, it can go in the way of, "We really have high hopes for this and don't screw it up! We gotta make sure it's really on track! Really get this right because this could be it!" Fortunately for us it hasn't been that at all. They've been the most amazing group of people to work with all the writers, all the producers, all the directors, all of the actors putting our heads together and just creating and being artistic with each one of our arcs. It's been incredible.

Heroes airs Mondays at 9/8c on NBC.

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Evan Jacobs