RadioTimes.com caught up with smiley star Hayden Panettiere to talk the finale of Nashville series one. Hayden plays country music starlet Juliette Barnes in More4’s hit US drama. The series sees Juliette at the start of a glittering career, battling with her chart-topping competition as well as her turbulent private life…
What was it that drew you to Juliette?
I did Heroes for a long time and played the All-American cheerleader, and I knew that it was going to be pretty difficult to break that mould as an actress, especially having blond hair and being 5’2”!
So I love Juliette because she is kind of the villain. But she’s a villain who you love to hate. You get to see the behind-the-scenes of her and that pain, that hurt, that little girl. You understand why she lashes out and why she is the way she is.
Is that what you like most about playing her?
Oh, who doesn’t love being able to have an excuse to be a you-know-what! A biatch.
And you get to wear those amazing sequined dresses…
Those are fun for about two seconds! But when you’re wearing a dress that on most people would be a shirt…
And you have to figure out where the heck you’re going to fit a mic pack. My wardrobe stylist would put me in Spanx and stick it on the inside of my leg, which is very uncomfortable, especially when you have to go to the bathroom. Sometimes I’ve had to be sewn in and I’d have sequins poking me – it’s not fun for 12 hours!
How do you get into Juliette’s mind set?
If I’m supposed to be nasty, I just tell them to call me in at 5 o’clock in the morning and then it’ll be a piece of cake. But I don’t really do anything to get into character. I don’t know if I should be embarrassed about how easy it is for me to be bitchy and be nasty!
But it’s also easy because even though I haven’t grown up in the same industry as her as a country music star and I don’t come from the same background, I still grew up a young girl in an industry where I was in the spotlight. An industry which is very critical and very judgmental – where your entire life is public knowledge, and you have to deal with that.
Juliette’s storylines move a lot faster than most of the other characters. She’s done a lot already in the first season…
Oh yes she has… She’s done a lot, and she’s done many!
Do you find it difficult to keep up with Juliette’s dramas?
No, I love it. It’s fun and it’s exhilarating. When you sign on to something that could go on potentially for seven years and you’re playing one character for 10 months out of the year, it’s very easy to get bored. But I’m definitely never, never, never going to get bored of Juliette.
Juliette and Rayna (played by Connie Britton) have something of a rivalry on screen. We’re assuming you you get on better with Connie once the cameras stop rolling?
Oh yeah. We get along great! But you never know… actors are all different. Some actors are very method, which can work for movies, but for a TV show when you’re spending all that time with people who take their character home with them all the time, every night, and never really break out of character, it can be difficult.
I didn’t know whether they would yell ‘action’ and the switch would turn on and ‘cut’ and it would turn off, or if it was going to stay that way. So I kept apologising to Connie because the first scene I ever had to do with her was when I first meet her and I was extremely passive aggressive and incredibly rude. But as we got to know each other better and developed a relationship, it became fun to go after each other and to push each others buttons and be able to laugh about it afterwards.
So series one comes to a very dramatic conclusion (no spoilers!). What were those last two episodes like to film?
I was in soap operas from ages four to 12 and when I had to cry or be emotional all I had to think about was something happening to a puppy dog and the tears would come in the blink of an eye. But as you get older, and you become a bit more calloused, you really have to trudge those emotions up from deep within you and sometimes you have to sit in it. To be that emotional and to sit in such dark thoughts for such a long period of time is really difficult and really exhausting – it takes me a lot longer to get into it.
That was the first time my life where I’ve felt like that – during the entire episode I really wanted to be in a dark place. I was like ‘Make me look as awful as possible’ so you can see the difference. So you can see what we have to do as public figures – no matter what is going on in our lives, at the end of the day the show must go on.
Juliette had a really tough time in series one. Where would you like to see her go in series two?
I don’t even like to think about it. I find that in this business, and in life, that expectations a lot of the time lead to disappointment. And I love to be spontaneous and I love to not guess and to just wait for it with excitement. And if I do that I will hopefully never be disappointed with what I get.
I have the utmost confidence and trust in Callie Khouri and our writing team to just create something interesting. But I’ll be very, very curious because [Juliette] could go in many, many, many ways and there is only so long that you can play that constant avalanche of a character.
Is it time Juliette’s storylines started slowing down maybe?
But you want to keep her interesting and she is the show’s villain, so…
As fans of the show, we were waiting for the series to be recommissioned. But it was left quite late, were you ever worried it wouldn’t be?
Yes. I think the more impossible it seems that it wont get picked up – the more confidence you have in it – the more nervous it always makes you.
I just kept trying to tell myself ‘You know what, if it doesn’t then I just have be thankful that I was a part of this amazing project, that I got to play this role, and to move on.’ When one door closes, another one always opens. And that’s what meant to be.
Do you know when you’ll be getting back on set?
I believe mid-July. But anything can change!
Very soon. It is shocking to me! I think about it and I go ‘Oh my gosh.’ As much as I love my job, we all love our jobs… the fact that we are doing that all over again so soon is pretty crazy!
When you are on set you are recording the music as well as filming the scenes. That must be really time consuming…
Absolutely. Our jobs don’t stop at the end of our filming days. Then we have to record songs and work on choreography and a lot of other things… which are exiting and amazing to be involved with but also exhausting. Sometimes you get to that point where you go ‘You know what, I should be pinching myself. I should be so exited that I’m involved in this’ but sometimes you’re so tired that you can’t be as exited as you want to be.
Do you find it more nerve-racking, having your signing voice as well as your acting under scrutiny on the show?
No. I find it less so. I’ve always had terrible stage fright. Singers create these alter egos, like Beyonce has Sasha Fierce, so when they go up on stage they have something to hide behind. And I get to hide, to a certain degree, behind Juliette Barnes. I’m not putting myself out there as me, I’m putting myself out there as her.
You’re no stranger to the microphone though… Is recording music something you’d like to do more of?
Absolutely. I’ve always loved country music but I was afraid to do it because I’m from New York and I thought people wouldn’t be able to make that connection or go ‘New York? That just doesn’t make sense. She is trying to be somebody that she is not.’ So I tried other routes but it was just trying to fit a square bag in a round hole.
But whenever I do do it – hopefully, knock on wood – I would love to do country music. I just want to make sure people can differentiate between Hayden and Juliette in my music and in the style, which is difficult and sometimes takes time.
So you’re a big fan of country music? Is that mainly what you listen to?
I have the most eclectic taste in music. Growing up in New York definitely gave it to me. My family were huge fans of country but I grew up listening to rap, R’n’B, hip hop, pop, rock…
I love that I don’t have to chose and I think part of that comes from acting and playing different characters. Everything in my life, all that taste, is eclectic. I don’t have to choose, I don’t have any favorites!
Do you ever listen to the music of Nashville?
Oh yeah, I love it. It’s all so different… You know, I was just doing press in Germany and they were saying ‘Country music is not very popular in Germany’ but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say ‘No, I don’t like country music’ and then they hear the music on the show and they’re like ‘Wait – that’s country?!’
And country has evolved. You know, people hear country songs and love country songs and they don’t even know they love country songs!
The series makes Nashville look like an amazing city. Everyone seems to be a musician! Is the city really that musical…?
Oh absolutely. It’s an unbelievable city filled with unbelievable people and unbelievable artists. You know you could be in a restaurant and somebody will be serving you a beer one second and then up singing an amazing song that they wrote with this incredible voice. The talent is just endless.
People think of Nashville and they think of just country music but it’s not like that. It is just growing and growing. It’s a place that people want to be.
Nashville aside, do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
I have no time to do anything else! I’m really investing my all in this.
On Twitter you call yourself an actress and an activist. How important is that side of your life?
Giving back is incredibly important to me. I am in such an incredible position to be able to stand on a platform and have a loud voice that can reach people and inspire young people to get involved. These amazing activists dedicate their entire lives to these causes and they fight to get heard, and you as a public figure can get up and say one thing and it draws so much more attention. As sad as that is, it’s a beautiful position to be in.
What cause is on your mind at the moment?
I’ve always been involved with dolphins, whales and the health of our oceans, which ultimately affects our planet and us as human beings. I’ve been mostly concentrating on environmental work because, you know, all these developments that we are making and all these things we are working towards as a species will be for nothing if we don’t have a world to live in.
The Nashville season one finale is tonight on More4 at 10pm
The Music of Nashville: Original Soundtrack parts one and two are currently on sale