Heroes in gay controversy

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NBC's Heroes, the season's highest-rated new series, is finding itself involved in a mini-imbroglio.

On Monday, gay-themed site AfterElton.com posted a story stating that the character of Zach, best friend of the regenerating cheerleader Claire, was originally gay but was quietly changed. It cites instances in the series and an interview show creator Tim Kring conducted before the show premiered wherein Kring says Zach, played by Thomas Dekkar, is gay.

Now, AfterElton says that Dekkar's management insists the character of Zach is not gay. An NBC spokesperson backs up the assertion that Dekkar's character is straight.

Today, show creator Tim Kring told the Web site that indeed, the character was changed from gay to straight. Kring says the change occurred only because of the needs of the story.

"I am very sorry this has caused concern for the readers of your website. It was certainly not our intention to confuse the issue of Zach's character being gay," Kring wrote in an e-mail. "We have too much respect for our audience to do that intentionally. However, it has simply become too complicated behind the scenes to push this issue further with this particular character. We apologize for misleading the audience, and wish that we could have handled things better on our end. But making a TV show is often a very imprecise business."

Zach was the confidante of Claire (Hayden Panettiere), a high-school cheerleader who can magically regenerate herself after suffering mortal injuries. Zach had been understanding of Claire's "different" nature, even keeping a videotape of her abilities a secret. In the most recent episode, his memory was wiped by Claire's shadowy father.

Last week, Dekkar landed the lead role in the upcoming Fox science fiction series The Sarah Connor Chonicles, based on the Terminator films.

Heroes is the biggest hit of the 2006 season, averaging 16 million viewers and helping NBC regularly win Monday nights. The show returns January 22.

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