Hayden Panettiere first burst onto our screens as a high school cheerleader in hit TV series Heroes, and has since continued her success with a star turn as Juliette Barnes in Nashville. Check out her Cosmo covershoot video here set to Nashville track Trouble Is. As well as a glittering career, she’s also found love with fiance Wladimir Klitschko, but as she told Cosmo in her April cover interview, it wasn’t love at first sight.

“We were friends for a year first. On paper, a relationship between the two of us looked crazy. From where we live to where we come from, the differences in our lives are fairly big. On the surface, everything about us is unalike. But at our core, our morals and goals in life are very similar, so our differences become a lot less terrifying… I’m in awe of what he does and who he is – that’s a very strong feeling. He doesn’t let me get away with things; he has the patience of a saint, but he is definitely no shrinking violet.”

Hayden revealed that it was the intelligence factor that got her hooked on Wladimir:

“You could be the most beautiful man on the planet, but if you have nothing to back that up then there is nothing sexy about you. I’ve met guys and gone from, ‘You’re beautiful,’ to, ‘I could not be less attracted to you if I tried’. I want to be with somebody who opens my eyes to the world and helps me to become a better person in every way. Wladimir is not just a boxer; he’s smart [he has a PhD in philosophy and sports science] and caring. It’s been a ride!”

However, the couple, who have been together since 2009, are apparently in no rush to get married…

“We are very laid-back about the wedding plans; we don’t want to rush anything. We want the day to be fun, happy and stress-free. Growing up, the thought of not getting married never crossed my mind. It was always: I’m going to get married and then I’m going to have a family.”

Reflecting on her career to date, she admits there were hard times:

“I didn’t work for a year after Heroes, and that made me nervous. When you’ve been working since you were a kid, you have this feeling of invincibility. The thought of not being successful didn’t occur to me. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought, ‘I’ve been an actor my entire life; what if this isn’t going to work out for me in the long run? What if nobody else will ever give me a chance to prove that I can be more than the all-American cheerleader?’

“Now I’m glad I had that time where I wasn’t cast as a character – it allowed that cheerleader image to dissipate. But it wasn’t just about being on TV; it was my personal life too – paparazzi followed me everywhere; I was under a microscope. One day you wake up and you’re known more for who you are outside of your career than what you do as an actor.”

And it was being under constant media scrutiny that often took its toll:

“Absolutely [I was pushed to tears]. Can you imagine not having control over what’s put out there about you? People don’t sit down and go, ‘I wonder what they were going through’. We are not perfect; we make mistakes. That’s one of the reasons I love playing Juliette Barnes – I understand her so well. The audience gets to see the real story – all sides of it – and how she deals with issues when she goes home.”

Discussing sexism in the industry, she argues women are given a much harder time than men in Hollywood:

“Female actors have a much harder time in the media. Men can get away with a lot more. A guy dates 10 women at once and he’s ‘The Man’, and a girl does the same and she’s what? There’s no nice word for it. It’s very unfair.”

April 2014