Heroes is back: 'Claire's girl kiss, 'Hiro's bucket list, more

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Lots of momentous things will be happening during Heroes' fourth season, which premieres tonight, with most of the major characters trying to return to their old, normal lives, but all anyone really seems to care about is the news that Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere) will make out with a girl—specifically, Claire's new college roommate, Gretchen (Madeline Zima).

Panettiere and Masi Oka, the show's beloved Hiro, talked to reporters on a conference call last week, and, no shocker here, the topic of that same-sex kiss came up, with Panettiere even serenading everyone with a line or two from the hit Katy Perry song "I Kissed a Girl."

"She has a roommate who is the biggest relationship in this season thus far, because she has finally got what Zach [Thomas Dekker], her friend Zach, was in the first season, which was a confidant and somebody who she can tell her secrets to, who would be there for her and who she could trust," Panetierre said. "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 whole [question of] 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."

The new season of the NBC sci-fi drama will kick off tonight at 8 p.m. ET/PT with a two-hour premiere encompassing the episodes "Orientation" and "Jump, Push, Fall." Panettiere and Oka revealed a few other things that fans can expect to see:

♦Hiro is dying and he's got a bucket list: "I think he's taking life a little bit more seriously, yet at the same time trying to keep hope alive, and it's that dual [element], the juxtaposition between life and death and the hope and despair, that I think Hiro's balancing well," Oka said. "So this is kind of a new thing for him."

♦Claire is... happy, but how long can that last? Really?: "One little misstep and her dad will bring Rene [Jimmy Jean-Louis], the Haitian, in to wipe their memories, and that will be that," Panettiere said. "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."

Excited as both Panettiere and Oka are right now, they've been excited about other seasons only to have critics and fans rip the show to shreds. Panettiere and Oka are used to the roller coaster and consider themselves lucky to be able to share the journey with their longtime co-stars.

"We're a big family and love working with each other," Oka said. "I think it's definitely hard not to ride the highs and the lows. 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. Season four, our backs might be a little bit against the wall because we're, creatively, swinging for the fences, and there's so many like bold choices and risks being made. ... I would probably say this is as favorite a season as season one. 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."

"I just celebrated my fourth birthday on the set, my fourth birthday cake," Panettiere said. "So it's been a while, and I grew up with these guys. These are my family. I was 16, and now I'm 20, and we're still loving what we do and enjoying each other. But I definitely agree, though, that we ride those waves of up and down. [When] everything's good [or] everything's 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."