Actress Hayden Panettiere turns 23 today! But it’s likely that that’s the only news you’ve heard in a long while about the girl who, less than five years ago, seemed to be the breakout star of NBC’s Heroes. Hell, she had her own catchphrase: “Save the cheerleader, save the world”! But as we prepped our editorial calendar for this week, we at Crushable found ourselves instead asking, “Where the hell has Hayden been?”
The last big news item I remember about Hayden might not even have concerned her: This past March, Crazy Days and Nights published a blind item about a young B-list television actress whose father would abuse her physically and sexually, and who carried on those same abusive patterns with celebrity boyfriends. The majority of commenters named Hayden based on her then-recent break-up with boxing champ Wladimir Klitschko. Nothing was ever proven, but that rumor hovered like a black cloud over her public persona. Before that, she played Amanda Knox in a disappointingly unsexy Lifetime take on the “Foxy Knoxy” murder trial.
Now, CDaN lost its legitimacy after that New York Post takedown in March, but it says a lot that even so we still associate the blind item with Hayden. Mostly because she hasn’t done much to direct any other attention or press toward her. So, on her birthday, what evidence can we find that Hayden is working at staying in the spotlight for a positive reason?
It turns out she has a new TV show! Hayden will star opposite American Horror Story‘s Connie Britton in Nashville, which seems to be a pretty blatant rip-off of the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Country Strong: Aging country singer has to headline with the Auto-Tuned upstart who’s edging her out of the music biz. Hayden plays Juliette Barnes, who’s basically Taylor Swift if she actually embraced her sexuality.
Hayden appeared at ABC’s TCA Press Tour (where the above photo is from) and actually debunked the T. Swift comparison. She told Collider,
“But, aside from being around the same age and blonde, they’re very different. Once you see her and get to know Juliette, my character, a little bit better, you’ll see that. I really think Taylor would disagree, wholeheartedly, as well. She’s much nicer than my character.”
Hayden went on to say that she had had a brief music career in her teens but had given up after about five years. So it’s been exciting to record her vocals for Nashville and kind of life out that alternate life she might’ve had. She also seemed to be actively trying to refer back to her prior roles and re-establish “Hayden as actress” in our minds, with this quote where she compares Nashville to Heroes:
“They both were grounded, different stories. I was dealing with CGI for four years of my life, 10 months out of the year. It was a very large part of my life, for years. You can’t really compare that. That’s the great thing about this industry, and what I love about being an actor. Every project, you hope, is different and every character, you hope, is different, along with everywhere you get to go and the people you meet and get to work with. That’s what keeps me interested in what I do.”
Could be just me, but it also sounds like the subtext is “If this project doesn’t work out, I’m back!” And honestly, it’s not like she was sitting on her ass for the past few years. Maybe we should be commending Hayden for focusing more of her energy into activism than acting. After all, she has a step up on the other Hayden we profiled on his birthday—Hayden Christensen, who hasn’t seen a steady paycheck since he bombed as Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels over five years ago. At least Ms. Panettiere spent any time out of the spotlight campaigning for whales’ rights and throwing her vote behind Barack Obama.
One thing that Hayden really needs to do for herself is join Twitter. Considering her age, her outspoken political beliefs, and the fact that most of her Heroes co-stars (Zachary Quinto, Kristen Bell, etc.) are tweeting, it’s surprising that she hasn’t set up a profile yet. It would be instrumental in keeping her in the public eye and making sure that, when her twenty-fourth birthday rolls around, we won’t be asking the same question.
Photo: Nikki Nelson/WENN.com