How ‘Scream VI’ Helped Hayden Panettiere Reclaim Her Narrative


Scream VI was released to critical acclaim, particularly for the return of Kirby in all her spunky, sarcastic glory. Even on a computer screen, Panettiere is glowing and radiant, with a smokier voice than fans of her mid-aughts work might  expect, gesturing often with perfectly done nails. She describes her return to the franchise as “new but old” which also feels like a potential mantra for the resurgence of her career. Returning to Scream brought back a flood of memories, like celebrating her 21st birthday with a huge party with her cast mates in Ann Arbor, and working with franchise creator Wes Craven before his death. “He was a genius at teaching you how to make a horror film– how important the timing of the scare was,” Panettiere recalls. “That scene in Scream 4 where I’m walking towards the closet, he was like, ‘It might feel very slow to you, like you’re walking too slow, but trust me, it has to be that perfect scary moment.’”

Panettiere has been through her fair share of very public life trials and tribulations. She’s had two very public relationships—one that ended in her giving up custody of her daughter to her ex-heavyweight boxing champion ex-partner, Wladimir Klitschko, after a tumultuous relationship with Brian Hickerson that led the actress to speak openly about the domestic violence she experienced with him, alongside her drug and alcohol addiction. In recent interviews, she’s talked about how much of this was the impetus for her to seek treatment and take her acting break.

Much like other highly-paparazzied celebrities, Panettiere could choose the silent route, standing her ground and making her private life private. Instead she’s chosen to speak openly about her struggles with drugs and alcohol, abusive relationships, and postpartum depression. Part of that openness, she says, comes from a desire to reclaim her own narrative. “I do find that if I don’t talk about it, if we don’t say anything about it, they’re going to say something anyway. They’re going to fill in the blanks for you. They’re going to take a wild guess as to what’s really going on and it’s not going to be the truth.”

The thinking makes sense for someone who has been a public figure for nearly her whole life, but in many ways it’s more complicated than that. Aside from wanting to tell her own truth, Panettiere gravitates towards wanting to help people, clearly reflected in her activist work with animal rights, domestic violence, and most recently her work with Hoplon International in raising funds for Ukraine. She sees that drive as something that comes directly from her father, Skip. “It’s an amazing feeling to not be doing something as an actor, but being there, helping just as a human being. My dad was a cop in Harlem and then retired as a lieutenant in the fire department in New York City. Maybe I get that from him. He was my hero growing up,” she says. 

Being honest about what’s going on in her own life is a precedent she’s been setting since Nashville, when the writers wrote Panettiere’s real-life pregnancy into the storyline during season 3. Reality began to blur as Panettiere’s own life reflected Juliette’s. “The first time that it came out of my mouth, I didn’t even plan on talking about it. It was when I said on a talk show, I said, ‘I went through postpartum too.’ We were talking about Juliette Barnes on the show, and nobody knew that I was going to say it. I believe honesty is the best policy, and I’m proud of where I’ve been, I’m proud of how far I’ve come. On my journey, I realized how many people have struggled the way that I have. People need to know that and hear that from the people they look up to.”

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How ‘Scream VI’ Helped Hayden Panettiere Reclaim Her Narrative

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