The cheerleader saves herself

The cheerleader saves herself 1There was a time when actors thought doing a TV show was slumming it. These days, a solid series is on a par with films when it comes to respectability, and a young actor with a hit show on her resume is in an enviable spot.

Just ask Hayden Panettiere, who plays indestructible cheerleader Claire Bennett on NBC’s “Heroes,” about a group of everyday people trying to come to grips with their hidden superpowers.

“It’s definitely changed things,” she says of the series. “That’s one of the reasons I did the show, because all of the movies I wanted went to actors who had that following from a TV show.”

Now, Panettiere is building just such a following, and she also has an indie movie she’s proud of: “The Architect,” which opened Friday, centers on the conflict between the idealistic designer (Anthony LaPaglia) of a Chicago housing project and an activist who wants to have the drug- and crime-infested project torn down. Panettiere plays LaPaglia’s teen daughter, who is just beginning to embark on her own journey of self-discovery.