Thursday February 28, 2013
By RACHAEL BOON
After finding fame in Heroes, actress Hayden Panettiere is back on TV as a catty country singer.
American actress Hayden Panettiere may have borrowed a guitar from country pop star Taylor Swift but inspiration for her latest role was borrowed from country music singer and American Idol winner Carrie Underwood.
Panettiere, 23, plays Juliette Barnes, a rising young, ambitious star, in new musical drama series Nashville, and she has previously said Juliette “is not based on anybody”. Nashville, Tennessee, is home to stars such as Swift, and country music.
“But when it comes to the stage presence, I watched a lot of Carrie Underwood because Carrie has that energy about her, not super choreographed on stage, but she can just go up there and own it and just take over.”
This is her first major project since sci-fi drama Heroes, where she played the indestructible cheerleader Claire Bennet for four years.
“I played her for four years, and I knew that playing a role so specific, the all-American cheerleader, it was going to be an uphill battle for me after that to be seen as any other character,” says Panettiere in a phone interview from Los Angeles recently.
It took her so long to return to TV because she was choosy with her work.
“I was just being very picky with the projects I wanted to do, and this came along and I honestly could not have written it better. I love singing. I love country music. I always have and I love this character.”
As Juliette, who scoffs at fading country music queen Rayna Jaymes (played by Connie Britton), Panettiere’s role brings her career full circle back to music.
At one point, the actress, who started out in commercials as a baby, was groomed to be a pop singer. She “worked on recording an album for about five years when (she) was younger” but decided to focus on acting instead.
She says wistfully: “I knew that I loved country music but I thought that people would not be able to make the connection since I’m from New York and they would think that I was trying to be somebody that I wasn’t.”
Her role in Nashville – created by Callie Khouri, Academy Award-winning writer of 1991’s Thelma & Louise – which requires her to sing, has her pondering over a possible future as a singer again.
She says: “I love that this show is opening doors for me and giving me the opportunity to sing. I love it. My favourite is to sing country music, and I would love to be able to get up there one day and do an album of my own.”
What was it like working with Connie Britton, whom you are really mean to in Nashville?
The first scene we had with each other was where I walk in, meet her for the first time in the dressing room and I’m incredibly passive aggressive. It was very uncomfortable because I’d just met her and she didn’t know me.
As you know, girls can be very, very catty and so, after every scene, after they yell “cut”, I’d be apologising. I would go, “I’m so sorry. I hope you don’t take any of this personally”, and she was like, “You’re crazy. Are you kidding? It’s acting. I totally understand it”.
Do you prefer playing the good girl or the villain?
I’d like to have both. And in this character, I feel like I do have both where I can be the bad character, but then, behind closed doors, we get to see that she does have a heart and she can be a good person.
The grass is always greener on the other side, right? I spent four years playing the good girl, so I was always desperate to play the bad.
How well do you know country music?
I’ve grown up listening to country music and Faith Hill is one of my favourites. Miranda Lambert, the Pistol Annies, Luke Bryan, Rascal Flatts, Jason Aldean, all of them. They’re all so amazing.
Is there something else that stopped you from becoming a full-fledged singer?
I think my New Year’s resolution is to get over my stage fright. I’ve had stage fright for a long time. I love singing and I love being on stage, and I feel like I just need to get over that hump and enjoy it.
I know that once I get on the stage and get rid of the stage fright that I am going to enjoy it, you’re never going to be able to get me off the stage ... ever.
Having been in show business at such an early age, having started out in soap opera One Life To Live from 1994 to 1997, what was it like growing up?
I do feel like I got as balanced a childhood as I could have in this situation.
I went to proms and homecomings. I went to sporting events, had great friends and got to be around, so I do feel like I got the best of both worlds.
But there were many years when I was being taken out of school early to go to auditions in the city, and instead of playing with friends, I had to memorise lines. It definitely was something that included sacrifice, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
How have you changed in dealing with fame since starring in Heroes?
It was totally new to me and I definitely made some mistakes. Luckily, none of them were detrimental enough to not be able to dig myself out of the hole, and you just have to figure out how to stay calm and be happy within yourself because it can get very stressful, very hostile and cruel.
I mean, I avoid reading things about myself, especially nasty things. I always try to keep that to a dull roar. But I seriously don’t know how you handle it. There really is no equation.
It’s most important just to be happy with yourself and find what works for you. And I feel like I’ve finally found that. – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network
Nashville airs every Wednesday and Thursday on beTV (Astro Ch 720) at 8.30pm.