Hayden Panettiere bounds across the lobby of a deeply fashionable New York hotel. She waves and grins broadly before settling into an armchair and seizing the cocktail menu. ‘You’re British, you’ll drink with me,’ she declares. At just 23 years old, the actress could justifiably be claiming her carriage clock by now. 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.
She spent most of her formative years on sets instead of at school, appeared in adverts by the time she could walk and talk, and landed her first full-time role in a television soap opera aged four. Since the winter sun is just about over the yard-arm, I join Panettiere in accepting the waiter’s recommendation of a couple of potent-sounding creations. Just 5ft 1in, and sporting skinny jeans, an orange sweater and brown fur-lined boots, she is so fresh-faced she looks barely old enough to be quaffing cocktails.
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. It’s a gratifyingly grown-up part for Panettiere. 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.
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