Hayden Panettiere's pop music career may not have taken off, but the 22-year-old actress has gotten a bit of a do-over with the ABC series "Nashville," which sees her play a country music starlet. One that is nothing like Taylor Swift.
The native of southern California made her comments to OnTheRedCarpet.com and other outlets at ABC's Television Critics Association panel in Beverly Hills, California on Friday, July 27, while sitting alongside Connie Britton, several other cast members and producers of the series.
Panettiere's character, Juliette Barnes, is the new sexy "IT" girl in Nashville's country music scene, which was for years ruled by veteran artist Raina Jaymes, played by Britton. Panettiere was quick to shoot down possible comparisons of her character and Swift, one of the most popular pop and country artists in the world, and also one of the most family-friendly singers.
"I've heard the Taylor Swift thing quite a bit and I think besides being around the same age and blond, not even the height, they are different," the actress said. "I think when you guys see her and get to know Juliette a little better, you'll see. But I really think Taylor would disagree wholeheartedly as well. She's much nicer than my character."
Panettiere spoke briefly about her past music career.
"I recorded an album when I was younger from about 15 to 19, something like that, and in that period of time I was just so ever-changing as a person and I think music really reflects who you are as a person - you really put yourself out there," Panettiere told OnTheRedCarpet.com and other outlets at ABC's Television Critics Association panel in Beverly Hills, California on Friday, July 27.
The actress released a pop single, "Wake Up Call," in 2008. It flopped and did not enter the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. She later contributed songs to Disney pop albums and soundtracks of movies such as "Cinderella III: A Twist in Time," "The Ice Princess" and the animated 2011 film "Hoodwinked Too! (Hood vs. Evil)."
"I quit after about 4 or 5 years - I said, 'This is not me,'" Panettiere said about her music career. "But I said if I was ever going to do music again, I would do country music. And for this ['Nashville'] to come along and to get to do all of the things I love ... in one show, it's a dream come true and I don't mean that in a cliche way."
"Nashville" also marks Panettiere's return to television after two years. The actress is most famous for playing the cheerleader Claire on the NBC sci-fi show "Heroes," which ended its run in 2010.
As for Britton - she says she has sung her whole life, although not professionally." She told reporters that Panettiere is a "legitimately great singer."
Britton, 44, is nominated for an Emmy at this year's ceremony for playing Vivien on the show "American Horror Story." Britton, a Boston native who was raised in Virginia, is most famous for her role as Tami on "Friday Night Light," which aired between 2006 and 2011. She was nominated for two Emmys for her performances on the series, which was set in Texas.
"There's something about Southern women that is so unique and yet so universal and I think that's why people really respond to strong Southern women," Britton said. "Because strong Southern women are also allowed to be soft and feminine and have a sense of humor and there's something that I really love about that."
"This character is actually incredibly different from Tami Taylor from 'Friday Night Lights,'" the actress added. "Even her accent is different. There probably won't be as many 'Ya'lls.'"
The two female country singers have very different personalities. Of course, this is a recipe for drama.
"I've grown up doing this my whole life and one thing my parents instilled on me is definitely respect for other people. so when I have to go on set and complete go against the grain and disrespect, so wholeheartedly, somebody, it's definitely something new to me and I even get a little bit shy sometimes," said Panettiere. "I'm like, 'I'm so sorry! I adore you, I respect you.'
"But it's interesting and it does make it fun," she said. "But I think the more we explore it and the more people understand the depths of our characters and less just the straight rivalry on the surface, then it'll get more interesting."
Britton said she felt a "strong responsibility" to help show the complexities of the two singers in a "true" and "dignified" way.
"My whole mantra from the beginning is 'This is not a catfight!'" she said. "I'm not doing a catfight. We're much more interested in showing these different people in their lives and what their journeys will be."
"Nashville" also stars Powers Boothe as Lamar Hampton, James' father and a powerful - and shady - businessman, and Eric Close as Jaymes' husband, Teddy, who is running for office. Charles "Chip" Esten of "Who's Line Is It Anyway" and "Party of Five" fame plays Jaymes' band leader, who is also dealing with some feelings of unrequited love, which are reflected in his songs.
Clare Bowen portrays Scarlett O'Connor, a meek, unknown but talented country singer-songwriter. Jonathan Jackson plays Avery, a misguided musician, while Sam Palladio portrays another country artist, Gunnar Scott.
The series is filmed in Nashville, on sound stages and at popular landmarks and hangouts, such as the Bluebird Cafe. The series also features actual Nashville-based musicians, including undiscovered ones. The producers say the show will not be "cameo-driven," although the door is not closed for famous country artists to make appearances.
"In terms of kind of featuring other artists and throwing focus to them, we'll be open to it if it serves the story," said "Nashville" Executive Producer R.J. Cutler.
Country superstar Reba McEntire, who returns to TV with ABC's other new country-themed offering, the sitcom "Malibu Star," later told reporters that she would love to make a cameo as herself on "Nashville."
"Guest starting on that that would be a hoot," she said.
Like NBC's recent hit "Smash," original music is featured on every episode in "Nashville." The showrunners say the songs featured in the show will also likely appeal to people who are not necessarily fans of country.
"You get the comment all the time - 'What if you don't like country music?'" Panettiere said. "One thing we've all learned .. being in Nashville, is you realize how broad the term 'country music' is. There's soul and there's blues and there's bluegrass. I think people will realize that they come to find that they like this kind of music even if you don't think you like country music."
And yes, a series soundtrack is in the works but has no release date.
"The music is worthy of it," Panettiere added.
"Nashville" premieres on ABC on Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 10 p.m. ("Revenge" has moved to Sundays at 9 p.m. and will premiere on September 30.)