Hayden Panettiere: The Child Star Is All Grown Up Now

Hayden Panettiere is one of very few actors who have been able to transition smoothly from the world of child acting to the life of an adult Hollywood actor. The world of entertainment is definitely a tough industry to work in, and a lot of actors who start out very young end up in some pretty difficult situations. Fortunately for her and for her fans, Panettiere became a full-on A-lister in Hollywood. And the popular actress managed to do so while battling a lot of personal issues, which is seriously admirable. 

While many may think of Panettiere's work in later projects like Heroes and Nashville, she actually got her start in Hollywood at the age of 5, and she's been a staple on the scene ever since. In addition to her impressive acting resume, Panettiere has also gone through a lot of personal drama and growth, and to see her turn into the powerful and independent young woman that she is today is seriously noteworthy. Panettiere may be an actor, but she's also a mother, a trailblazer, and so much more.

Hayden Panettiere got her start on a popular daytime soap opera

Believe it or not, but Hayden Panettiere has actually been acting for nearly her entire life. When Panettiere first got started in the entertainment industry, she starred on the popular daytime soap opera One Life To Live as Sarah Roberts. At the time, Panettiere was only a little girl, and she appeared on the show from 1994 to 1997. However, Panettiere's talent was clearly apparent, as she soon went on to star in many other projects as a young child, including the soap opera Guiding Light, starting in 1998 as Lizzie Spaulding. She filmed her last episode as Spaulding in 2000.

In January 2017, Panettiere reflected on her time as a child actress during an interview with Stephen Colbert on "The Late Show," and she explained how she was so carefree back in those days. "Your confidence is through the roof," she said. "I don't know where that went ... I'm saying you could be in your birthday suit and you could be the most confident person in the room at 7 years old." 

Hayden Panettiere lent her voice to this major film

Just four years after Hayden Panettiere got her start in the acting world by starring on One Life To Live, she landed a pretty impressive gig, especially considering her age. In 1998, Panettiere provided a voice for the Pixar film A Bug's Life, playing the ever-adorable, sweet, and lovable Dot. That's right — the cute little voice of the princess in the movie was none other than Hayden Panettiere!

If you've never seen A Bug's Life, then you should definitely check it out. As USA Today wrote of the movie, it's perfect for kids. "Really the only thing A Bug's Life has going against it (besides the race back in 1998 against Dreamworks' Antz) is that it's not one of those cross-generational movies that appeals as much to parents as it does to their kids," according to USA Today. "Bug's is just a kids' movie, about bugs. And it's not trying to be anything more than that." Panettiere was perfect as Dot, but she was just getting started.

Hayden Panettiere starred in her first major motion picture

No stranger to the actor's life and Hollywood, Hayden Panettiere had landed a major film role by the time she turned 11 years old. In the 2000 movie Remember the Titans, Panettiere played the character Sheryl Yoast, the sassy, smart, and kind daughter of Coach Bill Yoast. The movie follows the integration of a high school football team in Alexandria, Va. The movie is based on a true story and tackles difficult issues, such as race, discrimination, and violence, and Panettiere was lucky enough to star alongside Denzel Washington, Ryan Gosling, and Will Patton.

It's pretty impressive that Panettiere was able to take on such an intense role at such a young age. In fact, Panettiere's character has often been heralded as the hero of the movie for bringing people together, as noted by Bustle. Clearly, Panettiere's talent has been there from the start.

Hayden Panettiere joined a popular sitcom

After Hayden Panettiere finished up work on Remember the Titans and Joe Somebody, she quickly landed a role on the popular sitcom Ally McBeal, which starred actress Calista Flockhart, Jane Krakowski, and Portia de Rossi, among others. Panettiere was still young when her episodes of the show aired, but she made a big impact. Additionally, Panettiere didn't have a huge part on the series over many seasons, but she was an important part of the story.

As noted by TV Guide, Panettiere played "Ally's long-lost daughter, Maddie." TV Guide explained, "The 10-year-old shows up on Ally's door one day, the result of a mix-up at the egg bank where Ally froze her eggs a decade prior." In the end, Panettiere was in 12 episodes of the beloved show, and it likely helped the young actress gain a deeper level of understanding of the television industry. While Panettiere did go on to star in more movies, it's clear that her love of television has reigned supreme, and Ally McBeal may have had something to do with it.

Curious about the actors Panettiere starred alongside in the show? Here's where the cast of Ally McBeal is now.

Hayden Panettiere dabbled in music

As anyone who has watched "Nashville" knows, Hayden Panettiere is an incredibly talented singer. What you might not know, though, is that she has dabbled in music outside of the show, too. She cut her first tracks as a teenager and can be heard on the soundtracks of several films including "Tiger Cruise," "The Dust Factory," "Cinderella 3: A Twist in Time," and "Ice Princess." She even starred in music videos for some of her songs, including 2004's "My Hero Is You" (from "Tiger Cruise"), 2005's "I Fly" (from "Ice Princess"), and 2006's "I Still Believe" (from "Cinderella III: A Twist in Time").

Panettiere released the single "Wake Up Call" in 2008 but isn't proud of it, comparing it to Paris Hilton's 2006 track "Stars Are Blind." She told New York Magazine (via Vulture), "When I realized that it sounded like Paris' song I was like, 'ohhh my God.' But at that point, I was a puppet, basically. It wasn't me."

Disillusioned by the experience and her lack of control over her sound, Panettiere's plans to release an album collapsed. While we still might see her launch a music career one day, there's one big thing holding her back. "Performing live has always terrified me," she admitted. "Stages have always terrified me. They never used to when I was little. But when you grow up in the spotlight, and you're constantly reading things that are awful about you ... it sticks with you."

Hayden Panettiere grew up and landed some more big roles

In the 2000s, Hayden Panettiere landed several roles in movies. In Raising Helen, Panettiere played Audrey Davis, and she got to star alongside the stunning actress Kate Hudson. In the movie, Panettiere's character was a gorgeous, young girl, and the role really kicked off Panettiere's career in terms of being America's sweetheart. After that, she got to play the titular character in I Love You, Beth Cooper, but, before that, she secured one of her most memorable roles in Ice Princess.

In an interview with LiveAbout.com, Panettiere explained that her role on Ice Princess was super exciting for her. "I had just come off Racing Stripes and​ ice skating sounded like a blast to me," she told the publication. "It sounded like something new and exciting and fun." She continued, "I'm very much an athlete. I'm a big jock and I love sports, and so, to be able to put another sport underneath my belt, and to learn something new, was amazing." At that point, Panettiere couldn't be stopped.

She joined the Bring It On franchise

Hayden Panettiere's most memorable cheerleading role is probably that of Claire Bennet in "Heroes," but she also played a cheerleader in the 2006 film "Bring It On: All or Nothing." The straight-to-DVD follow-up to 2000's original "Bring It On" movie starring Kirsten Dunst is one of those films that's so cheesy you can't help but watch it. Per Rotten Tomatoes, the film focuses on high school cheerleader and queen bee Britney Allen, who has to move to a new school where she challenges cheer captain Camille, played by Solange Knowles. While Rotten Tomatoes only gives the film a 20% Tomatometer score, it has an audience rating of 70%. 

According to Slate, the film brought in $18 million, but it doesn't hold up well in more culturally aware times. Panettiere's krumping — a style of hip-hop dancing that originated in the African American community— attracted a lot of criticism, with Junkee calling it a "godawful attempt." 

Slate also noted that the "franchise has flirted on several occasions with saying something of substance about race, but has never quite followed through." The outlet added that Crenshaw Heights, the underfunded school Panettiere's character transfers to, is heavily stereotyped, writing, "It's a place where people breakdance before class and must pass through metal detectors to get to homeroom."

One of Hayden Panettiere's biggest breakout roles was in this popular TV show

In 2006, in the midst of Hayden Panettiere's acting career truly taking off, the actress landed a leading role in a major television series, Heroes. The show, which began in 2006, starred Panettiere as Claire Bennet, a young woman who discovers she has supernatural powers. And in an interview with Parade, Panettiere said that the show quite literally changed her life.

"Heroes wasn't just a show, it was a massive, massive production that was ten months out of the year and definitely monopolized my life," she explained. "At that period of time, it was probably a godsend for me. It kept me busy, kept me out of trouble. It was steady. It was a great place for me to be at that point in my life." Panettiere left Heroes behind when the show ended in 2010, but it's clear that the series played a significant part in her career. 

Miss the series? Here's what the cast of Heroes looks like today.

She was in a relationship with her Heroes costar Milo Ventimiglia

While starring on "Heroes," Hayden Panettiere began dating Milo Ventimiglia, who played her uncle on the show. The relationship made headlines, not only because they were costars but also because Ventimiglia was 12 years older than Panettiere, who had just turned 18 when they started dating.

It's an experience that Ventimiglia says he wouldn't repeat, although he doesn't have regrets about the romance. "Never do it again," he told Mr Porter of the lesson learned from the two-year relationship. "There are things that happen to you in your life that shape who you are. Everything I've been through, from jobs to friendships to partnerships, everything has built me to who I am. You learn from it. You learn a better way of doing things. ... But I wouldn't change a thing. When you get knocked over the head in life, it builds your perspective."

A source told People that the couple's 2009 breakup was, at least in part, due to the age gap, saying, "[Panettiere] still has growing up to do and he's very low-key."

Hayden starred in a controversial Lifetime movie

In 2011, Hayden Panettiere starred in the made-for-TV film "Amanda Knox." Per its synopsis on Lifetime, the film "poses the question of whether Knox ... the Seattle honors student accused of murdering her college roommate Meredith Kercher ... actually committed the crime or was herself a victim." The real-life story made headlines in 2007. Knox, who was studying abroad in Italy, "was painted as an oversexed, remorseless killer during her two-year trial leading up to her conviction and subsequent sentencing to 26 years in jail," per Lifetime. 

Knox's family was not impressed with the "Amanda Knox" film and tried to prevent it from airing, worried that it might have a negative impact on her plans to appeal her conviction. "She said she literally started hyperventilating. She felt like she was going to throw up," Knox's stepfather said of her reaction to the trailer (via the Daily News). 

Panettiere told the Los Angeles Times (via The Hollywood Reporter) that she wasn't sure if Knox was guilty or not, but that she sympathized with the young woman, saying, "To a certain degree, guilty or innocent, I want to see her get out and be able to live the rest of her life. She's someone that I root for." 

Knox's conviction was eventually overturned. Per History, she served four years in total and was released late in 2011. Today, Knox is a journalist, wife, and mother, and works with the Innocence Project, per The U.S. Sun.

When Hayden Panettiere met Wladimir Klitschko, their relationship took off quickly

While Hayden Panettiere's professional life was in an upward swing — with all her projects and leading roles — her personal life also changed a lot as well. In 2009, Panettiere met Wladimir Klitschko, a former professional boxer, at a friends' book launch party, according to E! News. It seemed as though the pair really took a liking to each other quickly. 

In an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Panettiere explained that she and Klitschko first met when she was only 19, and her first thought was how tall Klitschko was. "I know that I'm small, but he's large. That's how we met. I said, 'You're huge.' And he said, 'You're tiny.' And that was it." Basically, it was love at first sight. And while Panettiere and Klitschko might have had a complicated relationship later on, when they first got together, it was very obviously something that seemed meant to be.

When Hayden Panettiere started filming Nashville, she really blossomed

One of the biggest career-defining moments in Hayden Panettiere's life was when she landed a role in Nashville. The drama centered around the titular town and all the ups and downs of country music stardom. In the series, Panettiere played Juliette Barnes, a young, up-and-coming songstress with a bit of a villainous streak. And while the series was huge for the actress, she wasn't sure she nailed the part when she first auditioned for the role.

"They obviously had these doubts about me, and you feel kind of like, 'Are they gonna be happy that they chose me?' " she told New York Magazine about her audition. However, they clearly loved her, as her role became more and more central to the story. "The way the show was written originally, I was not as big of a character as it became," she explained. 

On Nashville, Panettiere shined, and that was clear from the start, despite her anxiety about her audition.

Hayden Panettiere got engaged, and it was a huge moment for her

In 2013, Hayden Panettiere and Wladimir Klitschko took their relationship to the next level when they got engaged. Though Panettiere was quite low-key about the ordeal, not posting anything to social media immediately after it happened as some celebs do, she did confirm the happy news during an interview on Live with Kelly and Michael. While wearing a live boa constrictor like a necklace, naturally.

While Panettiere didn't reveal much about her engagement, she did open up a bit about the wedding planning process. During an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show after her engagement, she explained that her fiancé was a bit befuddled with American weddings. "He's very confused about our traditions," she said. "He just doesn't know that the woman's side of the family is supposed to pay for the wedding. We don't need him to know that," she joked. 

Panettiere definitely kept her relationship pretty private, but there was no hiding her engagement ring!

Hayden Panettiere learned to juggle pregnancy and work

In 2014, life really picked up for Hayden Panettiere, along with her then-fiancé, Wladimir Klitschko. While Panettiere never really publicly commented on her pregnancy, Us Weekly broke the news that the actress was expecting, and it seems like the pregnancy was exactly what Panettiere wanted out of life.

In a 2013 interview with Glamour, Panettiere revealed that there was nothing she wanted more than to be a mom. "I've lived a very big life, and I don't feel my age, and I feel like I was born to be a mother," she told the magazine, noting, "Motherhood is the most beautiful, exciting thing, and there's nothing that I feel like I can't accomplish while having children in my life. I would sacrifice having more years of being wherever I want whenever I want for years with my kids." 

Obviously, Panettiere got exactly what she wanted, and she was a total boss as she filmed Nashville while pregnant. Basically, she was doing it all, and that's admirable.

Hayden Panettiere opened up about her postpartum depression

After Hayden Panettiere gave birth to her daughter, she got real about her struggles as a first-time mom. When Panettiere opened up about her own postpartum depression, it really got people talking, and it helped to fight the stigma surrounding the disorder.

"I do feel and hope it's made other people's lives better and more of an understanding because postpartum depression was not something that I ever understood," she told E! News in 2016 about her decision to check herself into a treatment center for PPD after she gave birth. "You could never understand it unless you have a personal involvement with it. I didn't realize how much of a stigma it had about it," she said.

Truly, Panettiere's blatant honesty really made a difference, and it showed how truly brave she is when it comes to helping other women. No matter how long she battled postpartum depression, she did what she had to do to be the best mother for her daughter, and that's what's important.

Hayden Panettiere split from her fiance

Hayden Panettiere has accomplished a lot in her life, including a stellar career and the birth of her daughter, Kaya, in December 2014, as noted by ABC News. Unfortunately, her relationship with Wladimir Klitschko wasn't meant to be, and the two split up in 2018.

An inside source told E! News that the pair had broken up but that they remained committed to their family. "At this point, Hayden is single and she and Wladimir are co-parents to Kaya," the source said. "Kaya is primarily with her dad and his family in Europe and Florida. They also spend time together as a family with Hayden." The insider added, "Hayden and Wladimir are on great terms and friendly. They are a big part of each other's lives and will continue to be. Hayden is back in Los Angeles and figuring out what's next." 

Though it's sad that Panettiere and Klitschko couldn't make it work, it's great they stayed committed to their daughter.

Hayden Panettiere experienced new relationship drama

After Hayden Panettiere and Wladimir Klitschko split up, she began to date someone new. When Panettiere first started dating new beau Brian Hickerson, there was some drama from the get-go. As one source told Us Weekly of their relationship in 2018, it was "not a healthy situation."

Unfortunately, it seems as though that reflection might have been more of a premonition. In May 2019, Hickerson was arrested for domestic violence. Hickerson's bail was set at $50,000 at the time, according to In Touch. Eventually, the charges against Hickerson were dropped, but the couple appeared to split up for a while before getting back together in November of 2019, as reported by People. Though they got back together, a source told the magazine that Panettiere's family wasn't thrilled about her decision. "They are not fans of Brian," the source said. "It's clear that he has issues of his own, not to mention the anger issues, which is obviously a big one." 

In February 2020, Hickerson was arrested for domestic violence again after allegedly punching Panettiere in the head, as reported by TMZ. At the time of this writing, it's unclear if Panettiere and Hickerson are still together.

Hayden Panettiere came out of social media retirement with a new look

After all of the drama with Hayden Panettiere and boyfriend Brian Hickerson, it's understandable that the actress and mother would feel the need to take a break from social media. In fact, her last Twitter post for some time was in February 2019, and she stayed radio-silent for almost a year.

Well, that is until she broke her silence with a sweet selfie on Dec. 10, 2019. "Channeling my inner #Kirby #Scream4 Thanks to my boys ⁦@anthonyleonard⁩," she captioned the tweet, featuring a photo of herself showing off an edgy new buzz cut. After that one post, Panettiere continued to post a little more to her account, ending her hiatus from social media. 

While Panettiere left Nashville in 2018, she remains an actress with a world of possibilities ahead of her. She's clearly gone through more than her fair share of hard times and has come out the other side brighter and bolder than ever.

She opened up about an addiction to opioids and alcohol

In 2022, Hayden Panettiere revealed that she had lived with an opioid and alcohol addiction for years. "I was on top of the world and I ruined it," she told People. "I'd think I hit rock bottom, but then there's that trap door that opens." The actress revealed that her addiction began when she was just a teenager and was given "happy pills." She explained, "They were to make me peppy during interviews. I had no idea that this was not an appropriate thing, or what door that would open for me when it came to my addiction."

In a "Red Table Talk" interview (via People), Panettiere said things got so bad that she was close to doing irreparable damage to her liver. "I looked up liver transplant and it said that they only give you five years," she said. "But to have a death sentence still there, and only five years to live, that was terrifying."

It was a reality check that eventually led Panettiere to seek treatment. "It's an everyday choice, and I'm checking in with myself all the time," she said of her recovery. "But I'm just so grateful to be part of this world again, and I will never take it for granted again."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Hayden Panettiere relinquished custody of her daughter

In the midst of her opioid and alcohol addiction, Hayden Panettiere made the heartbreaking decision to have her daughter, Kaya, stay with her ex, Wladimir Klitschko, in 2018. "It was the hardest thing I ever had to do," she told People. "But I wanted to be a good mom to her — and sometimes that means letting them go."

While Panettiere is now sober, Klitschko still has primary custody of Kaya. The actress said on "Red Table Talk" that Kaya's stay with Klitschko was meant to be temporary. "I thought she was going over to visit him like she always did — she went back and forth between me in Nashville and Ukraine — but once she was over there, [he] was immediately [like], 'I want full custody of her,' which was a shock for me," she said. Panettiere explained that her ex is well-connected in his home country, as a retired professional boxer and the brother of the mayor of Kyiv, which gave him the upper hand in getting custody.

Panettiere's hope was that she and her ex would share custody after she recovered, but she said her ex has kept their daughter from her. While she does visit Ukraine, Kaya has not been allowed to travel to the States. "He thinks he's doing the right thing, he's a fantastic father ..." she said of her ex. "But I don't think he fully grasps that as she gets older, kids need their moms."

She joined the cast of the sixth Scream movie

After "Nashville" wrapped in 2018, Hayden Panettiere took a break from acting and focused on her addiction recovery (via People). The show remained the most recent project on her resume for years, until she joined the cast of "Scream 6," reprising the role of Kirby Reed. Not only did the film mark her return to acting, but it was also her first movie since she portrayed Ally Fisher in "Custody," which was released in 2016. 

Panettiere previously portrayed the character of Kirby Reed in "Scream 4," per Deadline. Her return to the franchise came about after Panettiere asked to be included in another "Scream" installment. "I called them up myself and was like, 'So, you guys don't, like, happen to want to bring Kirby back, do you?'" she said on "Good Morning America," adding, "I wanted to be in it that badly."

"Scream 6" is slated for a 2023 release.