Hayden Panettiere bounds across the lobby of a deeply fashionable New York hotel.
Panettiere was a millionaire before she was out of her teens, thanks in part to her award-winning role as Claire Bennet, a cheerleader with healing powers in the sci-fi series Heroes.But Panettiere appears to have pulled off the notoriously tricky transition from child and teenage stardom to serious adult acting with aplomb.Earlier this year she earned a Golden Globe nomination for her role as the catty, conniving country-music singer Juliette Barnes in the new More4 drama Nashville. With her bad-girl persona, sequinned dresses and eye-wateringly tight denim hotpants, Barnes is a delicious departure from the good girls the actress is used to playing.‘After Heroes I knew it was going to be an uphill battle for me to be seen as anything other than the all-American cheerleader,’ she says.It’s certainly true that with her perky blonde prettiness she perfectly resembles that icon of American high-school culture, straight out of central casting.
Perhaps it was an ill-advised effort to shed her wholesome image that made Panettiere take on the contentious role of Amanda Knox in the television film Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy (2011).At the time, Knox was serving a 26-year sentence for the murder of Meredith Kercher, though she has since been acquitted.Panettiere found herself fending off intense criticism after calling Knox ‘brave’ and ‘spirited’ and talking of her joy and excitement at winning the role.Kercher’s father, John, called the film ‘extremely distressing’.He said, ‘To actually see [Meredith’s murder] like this is very distressing. It’s awful what these film people have done.’ With hindsight, would she take the role again? ‘But I can completely understand the feelings of the Kercher family…I apologise deeply for any pain that was inflicted.