What the cast of Heroes looks like today

The year is 2006. Marvel's Avengers have yet to assemble, X-Men: The Last Stand has just proven that Professor X's crew needs to regroup, and the MCU hasn't even begun. In the midst of that malaise, Tim Kring and future Marvel TV guru Jeph Loeb rose to bring superhero fans something they'd been begging to see for years—a high-concept science fiction series built around a modern superhero mythology.

Over four wildly uneven seasons, that's just what they did. The show was called simply Heroes, and even if it felt like an obvious homage to Marvel's X-Men universe, Kring and his creative team managed to deliver a complex vision of humanity waking up to a brave new world of heroes and villains. Much of Heroes' success was built around Kring's insistence on casting little-known actors to fill in the show's massive, international cast of characters. Here's what some of those faces look like 10 years on.

Spoiler Alert: Heroes has been off the air for almost 10 years, so you really should have watched it by now, but just in case you've been procrastinating, count yourself warned that there are serious spoilers ahead.

Hayden Panettiere - Claire Bennet

The phrase, "Save the cheerleader, save the world" ultimately became the rallying cry of the good guys during Heroes' first season on NBC. That cheerleader's role in Heroes' overarching narrative would also become one of it's most beguiling mysteries. That meant casting the role of Claire Bennet—a.k.a. The Cheerleader—was vital to the show's overall effect. Hayden Panettiere was plucked from relative obscurity to play the would-be savior. Her fresh face and charismatic portrayal of the quick-healing Claire brought a youthful edge and a welcome innocence to the show's ever-expanding clan of "evos."  

While Panettiere had been working steadily for a decade prior to landing Heroes, Claire Bennet remains the role that really put her on the map. In the years since Heroes went off the air, she's kept herself busy with film roles in I Love You, Beth Cooper and Scream 4, and voiceover work on the video game series Kingdom Hearts. Panettiere has most recently been seen showing off her pipes in the musical drama Nashville.  

Zachary Quinto - Sylar

Intensely expressive eyebrows and a soul-piercing gaze might have made Zachary Quinto the ideal actor to bring the soulful intelligence of Dr. Spock back to the big screen—but first, those features were used to a dramatically different end for the actor's turn in Heroes. Over the show's run, Kring and Co. used them to breathe pitch-black humanity into the show's central villain, the super-powered, ability-stealing serial killer Sylar.

Though he didn't officially step into the role until the show's eighth episode—Sylar was facelessly played by stunt doubles and voice actors prior—Quinto's marvelously malicious, often emotionally complex turn as Sylar remains one of the highlights of the series—and of Quinto's career. He's gone on to become one of the more prominent names in Hollywood, producing and appearing in dozens of films and TV shows since. Hey, did we mention that he became the new Spock?

Masi Oka - Hiro Nakamura

Few of the Heroes cast saw their star rise quite as much as Masi Oka. Prior to taking the role of the show's comic-loving, space-time manipulator, Oka was probably best known for his small, recurring role on Scrubs. Once he landed the role of Heroes' katana-wielding—and aptly named—Hiro Nakamura, Oka became a household name, and a Golden Globe Nominee to boot. It helped that Hiro's hopelessly yearning, office-drone persona made him the true "everyman" in the Heroes universe. Watching that everyman learn to use his newfound powers was one of the more entertaining elements of the show.

For his part, Oka looked like he was having as much fun with Heroes as anyone, imbuing his character with a genuine sense of wonder and bringing a patently earnest, real-world charm to his numerous promotional appearances. That charm has served Oka well in his post-Heroes career, helping him land roles in films like Death Note and The Meg, not to mention landing him a seven-season gig on CBS' Hawaii Five-O reboot.

Jimmy Jean-Louis - The Haitian

Jimmy Jean-Louis only appeared in about half of Heroes' episodic run, but his mind-wiping, ability-blocking Haitian remains one of the show's more enigmatic characters. That may have to do with the fact that Jean-Louis' character was near mute for much of the show's run as well—and when the Haitian did talk, his religious belief that superpowers are gifts from God brought an unexpected weight to the action.

Those beliefs often made the Haitian the moral voice of good and evil in a series full of characters who tended to bounce back and forth. Of course, that moral compass—and his particular set of abilities— just as often made the Haitian a danger to both sides. Jean-Louis captured that duality with an unnerving sense of calm. While he's largely eschewed Hollywood fare in the years since Heroes, he's continued to bring that eerie sense of calm to dozens of roles since, including a memorable turn as the Captain on CW's Arrow.

Milo Ventimiglia-PeterPetrelli

Prior to his breakout role on Heroes, Milo Ventimiglia was mostly known as the irascible, romantic Jess Mariano on Gilmore Girls. As it happens, Ventimiglia made his final appearance in Stars Hollow (well, sort of) the same year he turned up as Heroes' hyper-sensitive empath Peter Petrelli. Throughout the series' four seasons, Peter's ability to absorb and mimic the powers of other "evos"—not to mention his families complicated lineage—landed him right in the middle of many of Heroes' biggest showdowns.

Through every action-packed moment, Ventimiglia never failed to find the aching humanity in his character, and was often the heart that held the series together. If you've been watching Ventimiglia over the years, you've probably noted he's brought that same humanity to his voicework as Logan in the Wolverine animated series, and TV appearances as super bad boy Jason Lennon on Gotham and super complicated good guy Jack Pearson in Fox's runaway hit This Is Us.

Greg Grunberg - Matt Parkman

Fans of J.J. Abrams' series Felicity and Alias would be quick to tell you all about the heartfelt, common man sincerity of actor Greg Grunberg. They'd also be likely to tell you that Grunberg's "aw, shucks" appeal would likely keep him restricted to supporting roles in his career. Lucky for us, Tim Kring had something else in mind for Grunberg's role in Heroes. Though the show is an ensemble piece by nature, Grunberg's telepathic detective is about as close as the actor has come to a legit starring role.

Grunberg took the opportunity and ran with it, crafting one of the series' most heroic and deeply flawed characters and proving himself one of the few genuine threats to Zachary Quinto's powerful baddie Sylar. That Grunberg captures his character's complexities with such humanizing grace is proof that the actor deserves a shot to work on a bigger canvas. Still, most of Grunberg's post-Heroes roles have been of the supporting variety—i.e. a six-episode arc on Masters of Sex and a small but memorable turn as Snap Wexley in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He can next be seen showing off his pipes in Bradley Cooper's directorial debut, A Star Is Born.

Clea DuVall - Agent Audrey Hanson

Of course, if you want humanizing, look no further than one of Heroes' few non-evolved characters, Agent Audrey Hanson. Played with equal parts determined grit and blind hubris by the brilliant Clea DuVall, Agent Hanson enters the Heroes fray as the agent in charge of the FBI's ongoing investigation of the serial killer Sylar. She quickly joins forces with telepath Matt Parkman and the pair spend much of the first season in hot pursuit of the superpowered killer.

If you're unfamiliar with DuVall, she's been a steady, edgy presence on the indie film scene since breaking through in Robert Rodriguez's The Faculty. That she turned up in a high-profile network drama came as quite a surprise to fans, even if her stellar work as Agent Hanson wasn't. As surprising as DuVall's turn in Heroes was, so too was her unceremonious and abrupt departure from the series. While it's still uncertain just why DuVall left the show, we can only imagine her heavy workload in film and TV—Argo, Veep, American Horror Story—might have caused some scheduling conflicts. Considering all the amazing work she's delivered since, we can hardly blame her for walking away.    

Jack Coleman - Noah Bennet

His name is Jack Coleman, but you can call him the "the man in the horn-rimmed glasses," or just Mr. Bennet if you must. Noah Bennet, in fact—aka adoptive father of the aforementioned Cheerleader. Posing as a straight-laced business man with the highly suspect Primatech Paper Company, Coleman actually spends his days tracking "evos" with the Haitian by using "morally questionable" tactics.

Of all the characters in Heroes, Noah Bennet's motives are frequently the most difficult to pin down. Coleman's deeply internalized performance is key in building the character's overall mythos; and yes, you've seen that mix of icy resolve and warm-hearted vanity from Coleman before. The former soap opera star has brought it to dozens of TV shows—The Vampire Diaries, Burn Notice, Scandal—over the years. It just so happens that he brought it best to Heroes.

Ali Larter - Nicki Sanders/Jessica Sanders/Tracy Strauss

Ali Larter's career has been one of fits and starts. She broke into Hollywood on the strength of that now iconic whipped cream bikini scene in Varsity Blues, and scored raves opposite Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde. Now 20 years in, Larter's acting resume still feels a little bit light. Over the years, the actor has had more success in genre fare like the Final Destination and Resident Evil franchises.

It's only fitting, then, that her biggest TV role came in a genre-centric show like Heroes. One that sees Larter deliver not only a physically imposing performance—her character has superhuman strength—but also an emotionally duplicitous one. That last bit comes at the hands of Dissociative Identity Disorder, which leaves her character slipping in and out of three separate personalities. Over four seasons of Heroes, Larter delivered one scene-chewing moment after another, moving on from the series only after her character met a most heroic end.

Kristen Bell - Elle Bishop

In 2007, Kristen Bell was still a little-known actress whose culty WB series had just met an untimely end. Tim Kring was a fan of Veronica Mars, so when Bell reached out looking to score a role on Heroes, he set pen to paper and re-wrote a new character to suit the young actor's strengths.

Elle Bishop appeared early in Season Two of Heroes, fully formed with a complex backstory, a trove of mental problems and electrokinetic abilities to boot. The character quickly became a fan favorite—so much that her untimely demise at the hands of Sylar was met with genuine shock. Still, Bell scored Saturn and Teen Choice Award Nominations for her role and, well, we all know what the fork she's been up to in the years since.

James Kyson - Ando Masahashi

Of all the characters on Heroes, Ando Masahashi is probably the one who changed most over the show's run. He spends much of the first two seasons battling insecurities and worrying that he's little more than a sidekick to his friend Hiro Nakamura's time-shifting shenanigans. Newcomer James Kyson spent those first two seasons building Ando's character arc on a potent sense of self-doubt, and an noble desire to become the hero he knows he can be.

Ando finally got in on the action during the third season, when he started developing his ability to enhance the power of people he touched and even create energy projectiles. Kyson took Ando to the action as easily as he expressed his self-doubt. Along the way, Ando became an invaluable ally to Hiro and a true MVP of the series itself. Fans of AMC's Preacher might recognize Kyson from his notable one-off appearance as the Technician.

David Anders - Adam Monroe

Adam Monroe is another one of the Heroes short-timers who left a lasting impression on the series. The centuries old, cell-regenerating baddie only made it through 15 episodes, but he remains one of the show's most well-liked villains. Well, as much as you can like a near immortal hellbent on cleansing the world of humanity.

It's a testament to actor David Anders' abilities that so many people enjoyed watching Monroe try to end the world. It helped, of course, that the 400-year-old villain had one of Heroes' more colorful backstories, and that he met one of the show's more epic ends, but it still feels like we didn't get to spend quite enough time with Mr. Monroe. Just FYI, if you want to check in with Anders these days, he's bringing that same mix of wit and intensity to his recurring role as Blaine DeBeers on the CW's iZombie.  

Zeljko Ivanek - Emile Danko

Speaking of short-timers who made a big impact in Heroes, say hello to Emile Danko. The so-called "hunter" of the evolved appeared in only 13 episodes, but the non-evolved G-man still managed to wreak havoc in the Heroes landscape by hunting for Nathan Petrelli, trading barbs with Samuel Sullivan, and even getting his hands on a compass. Like so many of the characters from Heroes, Danko also dared to tangle with Sylar—losing several of his agents in the process—before meeting his end at the hands of of the mysterious Edgar.

The character of Emile Zanko was brought to maliciously mirthful life by character actor Zeljko Ivanek. You may not know his name, but you've certainly seen his face over the years. It's appeared in TV shows like Oz, Big Love and Madame Secretary; not to mention films like Dogville, In Bruges, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Sendhil Ramamurthy - Mohinder Suresh

Heroes is one of the more hardcore science fiction shows to make its debut on network television, and Sendhil Remamurthy's genetics professor Mohinder Suresh is one of the characters that kept science in the equation by unlocking the genetic secrets behind evolved humans. That breakthrough has as far-reaching an effect on the Heroes world as you'd think—mainly because Mohinder takes matters a step further by developing a technique that can give normal humans abilities, and then uses it on himself.  

As you can imagine, Suresh's life only gets more complicated from there, and Remamurthy traverses the character's peaks and valleys with a knowing, detective-like stoicism that bolsters both the character's intellect and his heroism. It says a lot of a then 34-year-old Ramamurthy's talent that he landed this role at all—it was reportedly written for a 55-year-old—even if it felt like his character never quite got the due he deserved. Here's hoping Ramamurthy finds a way to stand out opposite Marisa Tomei and Joe Keery in the upcoming dramedy Shotgun.

Tessa Thompson - Becky Taylor

We're betting you don't remember current "it girl" Tessa Thompson appearing in Heroes. That may be because she didn't show up until the show's much-maligned fourth season—and when she did, it was for a relatively forgettable three-episode arc as villainous Becky Taylor, the invisible woman who kidnapped Claire's sorority sisters in hopes of ensnaring the do-gooder in some nefarious plot.

To be honest, the Becky Taylor subplot was one of that season's more forgettable storylines—which is saying a lot, because the entire season was less than memorable. Still, Thompson managed to bring an unexpected depth to Becky, proving that the future Valkyrie had the acting chops necessary to make it big in Hollywood. Frankly, we're surprised it took as long as it did.