Hayden Panettiere ('Heroes'): success, depression and a tumultuous relationship
"Save the cheerleader." That was the first sentence of one of the best shows of the early 21st century: 'Heroes'. And Hayden Panettiere played the leading role.
It was 2006 and Hayden was the cheerleader, Claire Bennet. The role would shoot her into fame at just 17.
Along with Milo Ventimiglia (Peter Petrelli on the show), the actress became a strong force that would shake sci-fi TV even before the Marvel Cinematic Universe did.
What seemed like a promising and successful career for a young actress, turned into a series of awful events that included depression, domestic violence, and a divorce.
Everyone thought Hayden Panettiere was about to become Hollywood's 'Next Big Thing'. This young New Yorker had everything to succeed: talent, a dashing smile, and a nonchalant attitude that made her irresistible to the camera.
Before landing Claire Bennet, the actress already had some decent acting jobs on her resumé. Starting at only 11 years old and doing commercials, Hayden got recurring roles in shows like 'Ally McBeal', 'Malcolm in the Middle', and 'Guiding Light'.
When the time came, she proved to everyone that she was perfectly capable of leading a show. She did so in 'Heroes’ (2006-2016) and in 'Nashville' (2012-2018), where she played Juliette Barnes.
Yet, little by little, Hayden Panettiere's star began to fade away and, in the end, the actress seemed to become a thing of the past…
What happened to make such an amazing talent disappear like that?
Well, a lot of things happened, and almost none of them were good.
Hayden Panettiere and her 'Heroes' co-star, Milo Ventimiglia, had a romantic relationship between 2007 and 2009. They were 18 and 30, respectively, when they began dating.
After breaking up with the actor, Hayden Panettiere started an unexpected relationship with Ukrainian boxer Wladimir Klitschko, a tough guy who would later gain fame as one of the resistance fighters against Russian invaders in 2022. The couple married in 2013.
It was the philanthropist Diana Jenkins from 'Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' who introduced the couple. They had met while working on the controversial coffee table book 'Room 23'.
Just a year later, in 2014, the actress welcomed her first daughter, Kaya. After giving birth, however, the actress suffered from postpartum depression.
Hayden Panettiere was confident to share the problem. "There's a lot of people out there that think that it's not real," she explained on the 'Live with Kelly and Michael' show in 2015.
In the same interview, she revealed that "it's something that's completely uncontrollable. It's really painful and it's really scary and women need a lot of support."
Depression led Hayden Panettiere to take a break from 'Nashville' in 2015. Curiously, the 124 episodes she did in the show would be her last job in any TV series or film.
In 2018, 'Nashville' was canceled. Meanwhile, after 10 years together, Hayden Panettiere and Wladimir Klitschko divorced. Strikingly, it was the ex-boxer who got Kaya's custody.
Hayden began a romantic relationship with real estate agent Brian Hickerson during that same year. It would be a turbulent relationship with many dark moments.
The first signs of trouble came in May 2019, when an argument between the couple in Los Angeles got Brian Hickerson arrested on severe domestic violence charges.
Hickerson was ordered to stay 100 yards away from the 'Heroes' actress, but, due to Panettiere's lack of cooperation, the case was dismissed in October 2019. Just a month later, the couple reunited.
Things didn't look very promising, and on February 14, 2020, Brian Hickerson was arrested again for domestic violence. This time, Hayden did get a restraining order against him
The abusive relationship continued, though, and the drama of violence and arrest happened a third time. In April 2021, Hickerson was sentenced to 45 days in jail on charges of domestic battery and obstructing a law enforcement officer, People magazine reported.
According to the L.A. District Attorney's Office, Hickerson was not only sentenced to jail but also to a four-year probation, 52 classes in a domestic violence course, the payment of a 500-dollar bill, and a 5-year restraining order.
At last, Hayden Panettiere managed to get away from Brian Hickerson. On her Twitter profile, she told fans: "I am prepared to do my part to make sure this man never hurts anyone again."
In a statement released to People, the actress reassured that she wanted to "take her life back" after she was the victim of "psychological, emotional, and severe physical abuse."
The reality was different. After his release from jail in 2020, the couple was seen again in 2021 dancing with friends in a southern bar.
In March 2022, reports about the couple suggested that Panettiere and Hickerson had been involved in a bar fight outside the Sunset Marquis Hotel in Los Angeles The on-and-off couple can't seem to be out of trouble.
With all the drama in her life, Hayden Panettiere hasn't had much time to see her daughter, Kaya. The girl had been living with her father in Ukraine. But when the Russian invasion started, Hayden and Wladimir decided to get Kaya to a safe place, outside the country. Wladimir and his brother Vitali, who's the mayor of Kyiv, are now involved in the struggle against Russia.
Hayden's support for her ex-husband and the people of Ukraine is evident. After letting her fans know that her daughter was safe, she wrote on Instagram: "What Putin is doing is an absolute disgrace!"
What will be next in Hayden Panettiere's life? Is she resuming her acting career? Whatever she decides, there's no doubt that, at just 35, the actress has plenty of time to come back.