In movie roles from "Varsity Blues" to "Final Destination," Ali Larter is best known as a blonde, but sitting on the Mexico City set of "Resident Evil: Extinction," she's a redhead.
"What do you think? Do you like it?" she laughs. "Do I cut a mythic figure?"
It wouldn't matter how the assembled reporters answer, because Larter -- Claire Redfield in the upcoming video game sequel -- is just three days away from returning her hair to its natural shade, as she begins production on her NBC drama "Heroes."
Hair color aside, "Heroes" marks a major change of pace for Larter, whose television credits are limited to guest appearances on shows like "Dawson's Creek" and "Just Shoot Me." After living in New York for some time, Larter moved back to LA earlier this year and participated in her first pilot season.
"To me, it'd never been something that had truly attracted me, mostly because of the schedule -- that I had to live in LA and the commitment that's involved in that," she says. "But when I moved back this year, I thought it was kind of a great time to see what's out there. I think that the material on television is the best that it's ever been -- the best writers are there. I read a ton of pilots and I just didn't respond to anything and I thought, 'You know, maybe this just isn't going to be right for me' and then I got a hold of Tim Kring's script and I just thought it was fascinating."
Written by Kring ("Crossing Jordan"), "Heroes" is an ensemble about a disparate group of normal citizens who suddenly begin to realize that they have superpowers.
"It's not about 'Oh, now we're gonna save the world.' It's about 'How do we get our kids to school? How do you pay the bills? How do you go on with life when something is happening to you?'" Larter explains. "Are you going crazy? Is this really happening? And it's very much intellectualized and internalized. I think the pilot is in how the characters are dealing with this happening to them. So, I loved that."
The series, which NBC plans to air on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET, co-stars Milo Ventimiglia ("Gilmore Girls"), Hayden Panettiere ("Ally McBeal") and Greg Grunberg ("Alias"). Larter plays Niki, an Internet stripper and single mother who seems to have some problems with debt. Larter has already had the chance to meet with the show's writers and producers and she feels comfortable with the idea of playing this character for the long haul.
"I felt so lucky that Tim allowed me to go into the writers' room," she says. "I don't think you usually get to do that. It's my first experience with television. I've just asked them to keep a really open dialogue with me, because it's not a film. I'm not able to plan an arc of this character, because I don't know where she's going and, as an actor, that's really scary."
Although Larter promises "huge stuff in episode three," she refuses to drop any hints on where the show is going, nor on the nature of Niki's superpower, which remains decidedly ambiguous in the pilot. She's OK with that.
"You know, I love working, so for me, just to see where she's going, I can't wait to do that."