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Huffington Post Nashville Interview

Hayden Panettiere and her “Nashville” character Juliette Barnes are both growing up thanks to the ABC drama.

The 24-year-old actress plays a blonde bombshell country superstar, but in real life has quite a bit of stage fright. But, just like her “Nashville” character, she’s growing and it’s getting easier.

“I have gained even more respect for singers and performers who go out on that stage and sing and dance their butts off and work that stage and manage to make it sound good. It is unbelievable. I don’t understand how they breathe. [Laughs] It’s unreal,” Panettiere told The Huffington Post in a phone interview.

When viewers first met her character, she was a spitfire out to take Rayna’s (Connie Britton) country crown. But this year, Juliette has to watch her back. Read on for what’s in store for Juliette, talk of a “Nashville” tour and more Season 2 scoop.

How has production been this year compared to last season?
It’s been great. You know the second season, everybody knows each other, we know our characters better, we have the run down a little bit more. The scheduling is definitely easier. We found our groove and momentum. We found our pace and how each person works.

Have the residents of Nashville gotten used to the show filming around the city?
They’ve been incredible. I have to say that’s been the best compliment we’ve gotten when people come up to us and say, “Thank you for representing Nashville well” and that means the world to us. When you’re living in the city, and portraying maybe not the people in it specifically, but the lifestyle in this industry, you’re treading on thin ice. They have been so supportive of us, and the city has just embraced us with open arms. We are very, very fortunate.

Has Juliette changed from when you were first sent the original “Nashville” script?
Absolutely. These writers have done an amazing job, watching the way we have played these characters. And the elements that we ourselves as actors have put in these characters and really lean toward our strong suits, and a lot of writers don’t do that, kind of allowing us to pave that path. With my character, that was a very important thing for me. I love playing the kind of villain, if you will, of the show but I needed her to have that heart. People need to find empathy and sympathy in the villain, at least the damage behind it. What has led for her to make these decisions and this behavior? I’m constantly surprised, and I allow myself to be that way because I don’t wanna have any expectations with a TV show.

Coming from “Heroes,” you saw that it could go any which direction, you had no idea, which is a very exciting part as well. But you cant have expectations because expectations lead to disappointment. I rely on these wonderful writers to take us in a multitude of directions that are exciting, and allow us to expand ourselves as actors and explore the characters a little more. So it’s a constant surprise every episode.

Can you explain in a few words how Juliette is now? Anymore family or past come back to haunt her?
She’s grown up. I want people to see that, that she didn’t completely regress from where she was last season. She’s matured, but it doesn’t mean that she’s making better decisions. But by singing “Nothing in This World …” last season, she really wants to live by that and emotional walls can cause a lot of damage and recklessness and not thinking things through. She’s matured but it doesn’t mean the recklessness is out of the picture.

Juliette is a fan favorite on the show, is she gonna cross paths with more characters coming up?
You know that’s a good question. I hope so. Another thing I love that the writers have done with her is that her doors are open to meeting new people; she’s not tied down specifically to any one character. Its fun, it really adds a different dynamic. It’s weird because the first season I was with Chip [Charles Esten who plays Deacon] so often, and I haven’t really gotten to see him much this season, and I haven’t really gotten to see Connie [Britton] that much this season, so you really never know the hand they’re gonna deal you.

What’s going to happen with Juliette realizing that a fresh crop of new talent is coming to take her spotlight?
Knowing Juliette, she will not handle it very well. [Laughs] She doesn’t have the most patience in the world, but it’s wild to see that exchange of positions. That’s what she was trying to do to Rayna at the beginning in the first season, and how there are constantly people always nipping at your heels. There will always be people who are younger, smarter, better, that’s the case in any industry. She’s definitely not gonna handle it well, but she’s gonna get a taste of her own medicine for sure. It’s comin’ to her.

Any plans to do a video/single release for other songs like you did for”Telescope?”
I would love to do it. At the moment we don’t have a specific plan to, but we’ve been putting together CDs and they’ve been doing incredible on iTunes, and they’re gonna definitely continue on with that.

Were you well-versed in country music before you got the role?
I wouldn’t say well-versed but definitely a huge fan, I grew up listening to country music. I love country music, my dad loved it. One of my favorite songs was “The Boy Who Couldn’t Hoe Corn” by Alison Krauss and Union Station, and I listened to Faith Hill. I definitely grew up listening to country music. That’s one of the reasons when I went down the music road nine years ago, I had the passion for country music, but being from New York I thought people would never be able to make that connection between the two. So I decided not to put myself through the ringer, but I’ve been a country fan for as long as I can remember. My dad’s from Louisville, Kentucky, so I’ve got country in my blood.

Any plans to sing any of your “Nashville” songs live on a tour or do a “Nashville” Live show?
I will. I will eventually, that’s kind of my life goal, to conquer that last crippling fear of mine [stage fright]. Here’s hoping that people will accept my missteps along the way, but I absolutely do hope I get there. I just need to take that big leap.

“Nashville” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EST on ABC.