The Source for Youth Ministry

Cool Conversations/Interviews

Interview with Hayden Panettiere
October 19, 2004

Hayden Panettiere Hayden isn't your typical teen actress. 15 year old Hayden has been stealing the show for years now with films such as Joe Somebody, Remember the Titans and Raising Helen. And she hasn't emerged from the typical Disney channel route like many other young popular actresses of today have. She has earned her spot in Hollywood with strong performances portraying serious roles alongside Oscar winning actors and actresses.

So take a peek at the life of this young actress and find out her 2 cents about the pressure to be "the bad girl" or "dress like Brittany" on and off camera. And find out her view of God and the church. It might just be the same view as the kid down the street from you.

JONATHAN: Now, you just turned 15 in August, right?


JONATHAN: What's fun about being a teen actress?

HAYDEN: Umm. You get a lot of free stuff. (laughter)

JONATHAN: Hey, not bad!

HAYDEN: It's true though. It's funny, I said to my friend the other day, "It's funny to think that when you don't have money, you don't get anything. And as soon as you do have money, you get things thrown at you and you don't have to spend a dime.

JONATHAN: So now that you can afford stuff you don't even have to buy it.

HAYDEN: (laughter) I know!

JONATHAN: So what free stuff do you get?

HAYDEN: I get a lot of jeans. I've got like probably 20 pairs of jeans.

JONATHAN: Because they're hoping that maybe when some paparazzi takes a picture, maybe they'll catch that label on the back there.

HAYDEN: I guess so, who knows.

JONATHAN: I'm sure there're a lot of fun aspects to being a young actress. But what's difficult about it?

HAYDEN: It takes a lot of sacrifice. I think it's like anything. It's sort of a give and take business where I have to balance my time between being a regular person with my friends ... and then being on the set and traveling all over the world. But I had to go back and forth from school so much that I had a rough time—a really rough time—in school.

JONATHAN: What was rough?

HAYDEN: Sometimes kids don't handle it the best. I had a lot of trouble with friends, people saying mean things, and people doing mean things ... stuff like that.


HAYDEN: No, not at all. They do the exact opposite. Like, Oh my Gosh, you think you're so hot because you did this and you did that. It's almost as if you can't be human because they think that by you being in a bad mood or getting upset about anything that you are just trying to be a diva and you think that you have the right to be nasty to everyone. And so you can never just have a bad day like everyone else.

I remember going to school with this one girl with the biggest mood swings. Honestly, she would go up and down and be so mean to people. But if I had one bad day ... and let's say that I was just ... not talking. Just not having anything to say. She would go, "You think you're so hot" or "You're just trying to get attention."

So it was rough. I would walk in a classroom and there would be things on the board like "Hillary Duff is better than Hayden."

JONATHAN: So you felt like there were higher expectations for you?

HAYDEN: Yeah. You have to be 100% cheery. And even if you're 100% cheery, then people, you know, they'll come up with, "Oh she is so obnoxious because she is always so fake!" Basically, I've just learned that you have to please yourself. And it really helped me determine who my true friends were and who weren't.

JONATHAN: I bet it did. Now you keep talking about school. Are you at a public school or ...

HAYDEN: I was at a public school up until freshman year in high school. Now I'm home schooling.

JONATHAN: Does home schooling and your busy shooting schedule ever allow you time to just hang out with friends?

HAYDEN: Oh yeah. It was hard this past month or so, but then I was home for a few weeks and got to hang out with all my friends. It was great.

JONATHAN: You talked a little about the pressures of being this "teen celebrity," for lack of a better term. But when, if ever, do you feel like you get to be just a normal 15 year old?

HAYDEN: When I'm home I go to football games, to school soccer games, and I just hang out with my friends.

JONATHAN: When you are trying to have a "normal" night, can you usually get through the night without anyone pointing ... "Isn't that the girl from ... !"

HAYDEN: Yeah. I usually get through the night because the friends that I go out with have known me for so long it doesn't even register with them. They never mention acting or the movies I've been in. One of my best friends, he knows I hate it. I don't think he's ever mentioned anything about acting.

JONATHAN: That's great. That must be nice to have someone who doesn't have ulterior motives. It doesn't feel like they're trying to get something out of the situation.

HAYDEN: Yeah, I even forget. Sometimes we'll go out, somebody will recognize me, and I'll be confused like, "Why are you looking at me?"

JONATHAN: So on one hand, you have that sense of normalcy with your friends. Have you ever wanted to or ... have there ever been opportunities where you got to bring some of them on the set?

HAYDEN: Well, two of my best friends came to the premier of "Tiger Cruise" with me in New York. My friend Christopher turned around and Sylvester Stallone was standing right there. Christopher just stood there for a second and then finally said, "Rocky!" It was funny. He sat there the entire way home going, "I just met Rocky. Oh my gosh! I just met Rocky!" We were going, "Yes Christopher, we know you met Rocky. It's okay!"

JONATHAN: So it was fun "celebing" out for one night?

HAYDEN: Yeah, they loved it.

JONATHAN: That's cool. That sounds like it'd be fun.

Now tell me something. As you see other teen actors or musicians… Hillary Duff, the Olsen twins, Lindsey Lohan ... Some of these girls are turning 18. There is an image that goes along with them; we've seen some of the same trends. What makes you different from these people?

HAYDEN: I think that they've got to do their own thing and I got to do mine. I want to be Hayden. I don't want to be them. I don't want people to think that I look like them, that I act like them, or that I dress like them. I am me and they're them. I want to be separate. I have met them and they have always been nothing but sweet to me and I adore them ... but I want to be myself. I want to do things differently.

JONATHAN: That's neat. Now, I study the trends that kids follow and one of the biggest influence on kid's lives these days is the media. Kids are looking at teen magazines and seeing celebrities like the ones you mentioned: The Olsons, Lindsey, Hilary ... to see what they are doing. We have noticed, that as these celebrities grow up, some of them often change from "Mickey Mouse Club" to "sex vixon" ...

HAYDEN: I definitely want to stay away from that. I don't think that I would ever be the type of person that would go to a premier with tight tiny, tiny mini skirt and like a bikini top.

JONATHAN: Let's talk about dressing for premiers for a second. For example you've got Anne Hathaway (Princess Diaries I and II, Ella Enchanted) ... when she showed up to the School of Rock premier, she's got this see through top on. I mean she might as well not even wear a top. Now, my daughters are 7 and 9 and they loved her in her films. And I'm thankful that they never saw the pictures from that premiere. Where do you ...

HAYDEN: Personally, I am too shy. I don't think that I could ever do that. But I think I might, you know, wear like a little belly shirt once and a while or something like that. You know, if you have the stomach for it. I wouldn't at my age.

JONATHAN: Some other actresses and musicians have shown up on the cover of Rolling Stone wearing very little or at movie premiers with dresses that ‘shock.' Some are highly critical of this kind of thing, others defend it. I would think that there's a line that exists somewhere of ‘what you do and don't do.' Where do you draw that line?

HAYDEN: I think everyone has the freedom to wear what they want and do what they want to do. But I think they should consider what everyone else will think. Rolling Stone can be a "sexy magazine." Personally, I wouldn't do anything like that. I do draw the line at certain things like, ‘that skirts getting a little too short' or ‘that top's getting a little too tiny ...'


HAYDEN: ... and the clothes get less and less and when you wear certain things ... I don't want to judge anyone—they can wear what they want to wear, but I'm going to wear more conservative clothes or something a little more classy.

JONATHAN: I guess the bottom line is this: As you get, older, more popular and get even more roles, and if you know that your poster is going to be on the walls of little 8 year old girls across the country ... would that make you think? Is there a responsibility that comes with this? Are you now a mentor?

HAYDEN: Personally, I think so. But for me- dressing raunchy is just not who I am. I am a little scared to say that's not who I am, because I definitely have a rebellious side along with my more conservative side, but I would never show that through the way I dress. I can be rebellious through other ways than ‘wearing less clothes.' It doesn't prove that I'm more rebellious just because I wear less clothes and feel the need to walk around like that.

JONATHAN: What do you want to be known for?

HAYDEN: I'd like to be known as classy.

JONATHAN: What do you NOT want to be known for?

HAYDEN: I don't want to be known as a party animal, or dressing trashy or ...

JONATHAN: You want to be remembered for your talents and abilities rather than, "Hey, she's the one that got caught on video doing ... whatever!"

HAYDEN: Absolutely. I'd also like to be known for I've recently become an ambassador for the IUCN which is a world conservation union that helps protect wildlife. I would like to be known that way as apposed to—you know—just a teen.

JONATHAN: Good. Now one final thing. Most of our audience is made up of youth workers, many of them from churches and religious organizations. One thing that I am constantly studying is what people think of the church.

In Raising Helen you played a role of a girl who didn't go to church, but transferred into a "Christian school." And the Pastor of this school (John Corbett) was actually a cool guy. Sometimes the media doesn't view the church in such a good light.

What's your opinion of the typical church around the corner?

HAYDEN: You know, I actually live next to a church. Honestly, my back yard borders a church.

JONATHAN: Wow. So what do you think of it?

HAYDEN: Umm, you know I ... I don't want to say the wrong thing here ... but I believe that ... I'm a really logical thinker. So I believe there is something out there. I believe there is an energy. I believe there is Karma- you know- what goes around comes around. And I hope to God that there is an afterlife and hope for that, and not just disappearing to ... whatever.

I'm a bit ashamed, but, I don't go to church that often. I go for like Easter Sunday and I go for certain things like that. But I believe that wherever I am I don't need to necessarily be in a church to pray. I don't need to really sit down and say anything. I believe that if there is a God or there is that energy out there, that he can hear me, or "it" can hear me from wherever. And I believe that we're just meant to live.

JONATHAN: So do you think that maybe that church right next to you has something to offer? I mean, if you ever wanted to find out more about God, do you think that the church would be a place you would ever want to turn to?

HAYDEN: Um. (Silence)

JONATHAN: You can be honest.

HAYDEN: I think they have certain answers. And I think you can go there and feel like if you did something wrong you can feel better about it because you went to church and because you confessed about it and because you feel like you're okay. I think that we have to learn from our mistakes and I don't think that anyone can really solve them. I think that we have to solve them ourselves. I think you just have to learn life lessons on your own. There is such a short period of time to live and I'd rather spend it "living life" as opposed to sitting down and praying. If I want to pray, I'll pray in my head wherever I am. I just think of good thoughts and put good energy out and hope it just comes back.

JONATHAN: Okay, it's good to hear your opinion on that. I'm always fascinated by what people perceive about church.

And ... of course I'd like to talk more but ... I see that time has run out and you've gotta run. I'd love to continue our conversation. You know where to find me. I'm at Feel free to contact me any time ... I'd love to dialogue more.

HAYDEN: Thanks.

JONATHAN: Thank you Hayden.

I wish I had more time with Hayden ... the conversation was just getting good. As a guy who does pray and does like the local church, I would love to have had time to share a little about that.

But Hayden isn't alone. Many people today feel that the church doesn't have answers—they can find it all on their own. I know that I tried to find it on my own ... and didn't. I ended up with a big hole in my heart. And nothing filled it ... until God became real in my life.

For me, Jesus was the answer to all my questions. This amazing man who is recorded in history as walking around healing people, helping people and feeding people. He claimed He was God and the religious people of the day killed him for it. But he came back three days later. History can't deny that ... and neither could I.

Jesus claimed to be the only way ... he's the only way for me.

If you still have questions, I've tried to address
some of the common questions people have on this page.


And Hayden ... if you ever want to talk more, drop me an email at