“Nashville” powerhouse talent, Hayden Panettiere probably can't remember a time when she was not performing somewhere. The 27-year-old leading lady was already stealing the show in commercials as a toddler, and a scene stealer in soap operas as a child. Before becoming Claire Bennett in “Heroes,” Hayden Panettiere already had a big screen role in “Remember the Titans,” and had several singing credits in endless animated features like “A Bug's Life.” She's racked up a long list of stage roles, too, in productions of “Rock of Ages” and in dramas such as “Picnic.” It’s no wonder that Hayden Panettiere is a perfect fit as Juliette Barnes in “Nashville.”

The petite beauty is taking the reins for the rest of Season 5 of the drama, taking a major part in the storylines, and she also endears herself to cast mates like sisters, Lennon and Maisy Stella, because she’s so willing to share skills from her decades of experience.

The versatile actress is also a best friend who’s ready if tears are needed.

Nothing to cry about

Hayden Panettiere not only has a plethora of stagecraft in her professional wheelhouse, she knows how to step in for a confidence boost for her co-stars. Her character feels a calling to manage the career of Maddie, and guide her to make the best personal decisions. That kind of commitment carries over beyond the day of shooting. “She's the best person to ask for advice,” Maisy Stella stresses. “She's been there. She was a child actress, and she's been doing this forever.”

Hayden Panettiere, like the Stella sisters, went to school on a film set. She knows the pressure of balancing real life while portraying a make-believe one.

Especially on “Nashville,” emotions run high and on a roller coaster of extremes. Lennon Stella struggled with crying on cue, feeling the heat from directors who demand, “Do it now!” The older sister would suck in and hold her breath, trying too hard to muster the tears. Panettiere instructed her in a different approach—to always breathe and “let everything out.

Lennon Stella learned to go into a room, take a pause, and start to talk to herself like a close friend who asks, “Are you OK?” Getting the waterworks flowing got easier from then on in the most emotional scenes.

Sharing life and drama

Just as Maddie is learning what it means to be an adult, live in the working world, and face the consequences of her choices, all while still coping with the loss of her mother, the Stella sisters are growing up themselves.

Last month, the entire “Nashville” cast honored the Stella sisters with a surprise graduation luncheon. Maisy was thrilled to be presented with a Langhome Academy sweat shirt (representing her school on the CMT drama). Langhome Academy is pure fiction, but the love between this cast is completely real.

Hayden Panettiere will have to portray Juliette Barnes in an unfamiliar part through the coming weeks—being a mother on her own while Avery takes some time for his own career on “Nashville.” Let’s hope the character can muster the same kind of chutzpah that the actress, singer, and activist has always had.

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