It’s a testament to how quickly we’ve come to associate Hayden Panettiere with Juliette Barnes, her character on ABC’s Nashville (Wednesdays, 10 p.m. ET), that you almost slip into a Southern accent the second you start speaking with her. It’s okay it happens. She’ll just laugh it off. “I did the same thing,” she says. “I got lectured before by my best friend that I needed to not go on and put on a Southern accent. It’s not put on. Especially when you’re a singer, you tend to pick things like that up more quickly. But also, I’m living in Nashville now, and that’s what I wanted: I wanted to immerse myself in the culture and the people and to develop that accent and make it natural and not distracting.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When you first read that stealing a bottle of nail polish would take down Juliette’s tour, what did you think?
Hayden Panettiere: Well, it wasn’t necessarily the nail polish that took down the tour, it was the way that she handled herself afterward. People like honesty, and they like recovery stories. If you openly admit to it, apologize, and give them somebody to root for, people are very willing to forgive and forget. And then she just goes into [that interview] and sabotages herself and gets herself into a lot of hot water and has to dig herself out.
In tonight’s episode, Juliette is back in the studio with Deacon, who is aware of her mother’s addiction. How will that affect their relationship?
She’s heavily struggling with her mother, but Deacon is the only person who’s close enough to get her to listen. He has something in common with Juliette’s mother, which is that he had a major substance problem and knows what it’s like. He wants to help Juliette. We’ll see if she lets him or not.
Last week, you presented at the CMA Awards. What did country artists most want to talk to you about regarding the show?
They were all just so complimentary and accepting. They only thing I’ve heard is how thankful they are that we are portraying them in the right light. There’s this definite preconceived notion of people in the South, and people in country music, and country music itself. People have this very narrow image of what country music is, and country music is very broad.
It was just announced that you’re going to be co-hosting the CMA Artists of the Year special on Dec. 8 with Rascal Flatts, and that CMT will be keeping the honorees a secret until that night. When will you find out the names?
You’re asking me?! I have no idea. I have not heard from anybody, gotten any sort of hints, idea, script. I’m assuming it’ll be when we get the script, closer to the time. They’ll probably want to give it to us 13th hour so we don’t have to be tempted into spilling the beans to anybody.