Though she was only 17, by the time Hayden Panettiere gained stardom as one of the leads on NBC's hit superhero drama Heroes, she'd already been acting for more than 16 years. After appearing in television commercials beginning at 11 months old, flaxen-haired Panettiere was cast as a regular on One Life to Live at five. She remained on the show for three years, before leaving for a stint on another soap, Guiding Light. Meanwhile, she appeared in a number of small movie parts as well as one of the lead voices in Pixar's A Bug's Life. After Panettiere showed up in such films as Remember the Titans and Joe Somebody, her next notable role was Maddie Harrington, the long-lost daughter of the quirky title character on Fox's Ally McBeal. Along with supporting parts in Raising Helen and Racing Stripes and the lead in the second straight-to-DVD Bring It On sequel, several more small TV roles followed before 2006, when she was cast on Heroes as the cheerleader with the ability to spontaneously heal herself. A major hit with television viewers, Heroes was nominated for Emmy awards every year from 2006 through 2010 -- ultimately taking home a trophy for Best Visual Effects in 2009. After Heroes went off the air in 2010, Panettiere seemed determined to show her versatility by taking on the role of a convicted murderess in the made-for-TV movie Amanda Knox; Murder on Trial in Italy, returning to vocal work as Little Red Riding Hood in Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil, and appearing as a successful young pop star in the 2012 ABC drama Nashville.
Biography by Matthew Tobey
- Had done more than 50 commercials before landing the part of Sarah Roberts on One Life to Live in 1994 at age 4. Two years later, was cast as Lizzie Spaulding on Guiding Light.
- Was the voice of Dot in Disney's A Bug's Life in 1998, and received a Grammy nomination in 2000 for her work on the film's companion read-along book.
- Traveled to South Africa to learn to ride zebras for 2005's Racing Stripes.
- Recognition soared when cast as cheerleader Claire Bennet on Heroes.
- Supporter and Celebrity Friend of Ronald McDonald House.