Who might be the new nemesis for Heroes' cheerleader: A college roommate?

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

When NBC's Heroes returns for its fourth season this September, it will be back-to-school time for Hayden Panettiere's indestructible cheerleader Claire Bennet: After three years (in TV time), the blond superhero will finally graduate high school and head to college, the actress told reporters.

"She's in college, and she's got a great roommate," Panettiere said in a group interview over the weekend in Santa Monica, Calif., where she was promoting the film I Love You, Beth Cooper. "You kind of don't know about [the roommate] in the beginning."

Claire won't be left alone at school, though. The Company may be out of the picture, but there's always someone butting in with people's special abilities. "So there's this new group of people called the Carnival," Panettiere said. "They're kind of the opposite of the Company."

The Heroes writers' room is still smarting from the recent abrupt departure of original writer Bryan Fuller, who had returned to the show briefly following the demise of his ABC series Pushing Daisies. Panettiere said she has been less personally affected by the change.

"You know, since I haven't read all the scripts and haven't been involved in the writing process the way, obviously, the writers are," Panettiere said. "We work hard. We work hard, but everyone's great, and we have a blast together. He's going off, and he's doing some great stuff, so we're all just really proud of him."

Fans have been complaining about character arcs since season two. I mean, Hiro as a 10-year-old, honestly? Panettiere doesn't know what everyone's looking for, but she said she still has faith in the show.

"I think it set a very high bar for itself, and I think it's very scrutinized now because of just the demand," Panettiere said. "You know, it's not an easy crowd to please all the time, but I still enjoy watching the show."

Heroes returns Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.