New ‘Hero’ Dania Ramirez Is Dirty, Deadly

Photo: Courtesy of NBC

Heroes fans across the nerdosphere have long had their calendars marked for the show's much-hyped season premiere tonight, in which they'll be treated to the introduction of a brand-new hero, Maya, played by Sopranos alum Dania Ramirez (she played AJ's heartbreaking secretarial love interest, Blanca). Vulture spoke with Ramirez about her new job, what to expect this season, and yes, those rumors about castmates Milo Ventimiglia and Hayden Panettiere.

So your ability hasn't been announced yet.
My characters name is Maya Herrera, and I have a twin brother played by Shalim Ortiz. I have a deadly ability, and I have done something horrific, so I am on the run. When you first meet my character, she's on the run from the cops. You find her somewhere in Central America. She is Dominican, though, and eventually you'll find out how she ended up leaving the Dominican Republic and all that. I played a very dark character in season one, a couple episodes in — I'll give you that hint.

Where does the new season pick up?
The first episode is called "Four Months Later," and it takes place after the explosion happened. The heroes are scattered all around, trying to lay low since they have seen the effects of having an ability and what that can turn into. They're trying to be as normal possible, but obviously, it's Heroes. There will be a new villain, a new evil force that is affecting everyone globally.

What's it like having a twin on the show? Does it make it easier to come on to a new show when you've got Shalim Ortiz, who plays Alejandro, to work with you?
Shalim is half Dominican and half Puerto Rican, so the minute I read with him and I was already cast for the role, we just clicked. Maybe it's because we're both Latin and passionate or that we speak Spanish so we have a special bond between us and I think that comes across a lot onscreen. At least, from what I heard — they don't let me see anything!

Your character is constantly running from the cops. Has filming been exhausting?
Oh yeah, it's so physically demanding. I am so sore right now. It's interesting because we film the show everywhere. I get on set, and they tell me I'm going an hour and a half away because I'm trying to cross borders illegally. There are long days. The character is new, so you're opening at a chaotic moment in her life. You're at the peak of my drama, being on the run and trying to get into the U.S. I just run all the time, and I'm so dirty.

So it's not really like The Sopranos then.
The Sopranos was a very East Coast show; Heroes is more organically global. My character on The Sopranos was specific to being a single mother and being from Jersey. And being part of that season finale … wow. That show is always going to be world-renowned and iconic. I got to, like, sit in Tony Soprano's house. It was definitely a huge beginning for me.

You've played a superhero before with Callisto in X-Men: The Last Stand and you were even on Buffy. Are you drawn to those kinds of parts?
I guess I'm an athlete, so I can be tough and vulnerable for Maya and for Callisto. Bring it on! I want to be the next Bond girl.

You’re among a few new actors that are joining an already large ensemble. Does that make it easier or harder to gel with the returning members?
Honestly, it's just been one season of the show so far. I think everybody is aware that we all need good actors and that we are a part of something great.

But being in a stable relationship makes that experience different. [Ramirez has been engaged to director Jessy Terrero for two years.]
[No response.]

I mean, it just means you might be missing some of the cast relationships and gossip. Like the news about Hayden and Milo…
[Laughs.] I'll pass on that one.
—Sadia Latifi

Earlier: Welcome Back, ‘Heroes’: The Vulture Guide