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OTRC: Hayden Panettiere discusses playing 'Nashville' mean girl, dealing with 'Yes People'

Hayden Panettiere and Tilky Montgomery Jones star in an episode of 'Nashville' (air date: Nov. 14, 2012). / Hayden Panettiere talks to OTRC.com and other outlets about ABC's 'Nashville' on Nov. 7, 2012. (Jon LeMay / ABC / OTRC)

Hayden Panettiere can relate to the troubled country music starlet she plays on ABC's new show "Nashville" and is also thankful that unlike Juliette Barnes, she had a great support system early on in her career.

Spoiler alert for those not caught up on season 1!

The actress' character starts out smug, confident and often downright mean towards people she finds threatening - namely veteran country singer Rayna Jaymes. Barnes sets out to poach her guitarist, ex-lover and songwriter Charles Esten as part of a bid to further her career but then life becomes more complicated when her estranged mother, a troubled addict, shows up at her gated home.

Unable to cope well with the family reunion, Panettiere's character starts to break down herself and even gets caught shoplifting, putting her career in jeopardy and bringing to mind real-life meltdowns and publicized troubles of Hollywood celebrities such as former child stars Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes.

Panettiere, 23, grew up in the Los Angeles area and also began her acting career as a kid, appearing on the soap opera "One Life To Live" before she was cast in her breakout role on NBC's "Heroes," which aired between 2006 and 2010. She also released several pop songs but ultimately did not find much success as a singer before she joined "Nashville," which debuted in October.

"'Aggressive in the way that [Barnes] is ... strikes a chord," Panettiere told OTRC.com and other outlets. "It hits a nerve. It's because I've grown up not as a country singer but I've still grown up in a similar industry, where I was a young girl growing up in the spotlight and I came up at a time where all those young girls were getting in trouble and that was a popular thing to do and everyone's sitting there waiting for you to fall."

"I was raised very well," she said. "I had great parents who instilled great morals in me and taught me how to treat people well."

Being mean to Britton on set was not easy for her.

"I went on set in my first scene with Connie Britton ever was doing that passive-aggressive scene in the first episode when I walk into the dressing room and I just kept apologizing to her afterwards - 'I hope you don't take it personally.' 'Cause it just struck such a nerve in me," the actress said. "It just didn't feel right because it was too close to home."

"But then as we got to know each other more and more, the more fun we had pushing each other's buttons," she added.

Being a successful celebrity has a downside - people you work with are often afraid to tell you "No," which could lead to bad business decisions and projects.

"You are so surrounded a lot of the times in this industry by 'Yes People ' - people who are too afraid to tell you the truth, people who are making money from you and aren't gonna just be honest with you," the actress said.

"I know that when I was in that position, I was 16 years old. If I didn't have the people I have in my life that were there before, to yank me back in, who knows what would've happened," she added. "But I owe them for the person that I am today so I can only imagine what would happen to a young girl who is dealing with that all on her own and has never in her life experienced affection."

The reaction of fans to the change in her character's behavior, following the arrival of her mother, has also change.

"It was so interesting for me to see what people were saying about the character up until the scene with my mother in the closet, when I'm on the phone with her, and all of a sudden, that light bulb goes off and you realize why she is the way she is and then everyone just shifted and was going, 'Oh my gosh, I feel so bad for her," Pannettiere said.

"Now I understand and that's the great part about this character - she's not just this one-dimensional witchy girl - she's a very damaged, very hurt little girl who had nobody there to ever give her affection or care for her. Certainly not teach her how to care for others. So, it makes my job fun."

Bonus spoiler:

On the November 14 episode of "Nashville," Panettiere's character continues to try and impove her tarnished public image by going on a fake date with a "squeakly-clean" NFL star. Pictured above is the actress and actor Tilky Montgomery Jones.

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