Hayden Panettiere gives 1st interview since brother Jansen's death: 'He's right here with me'
Hayden Panettiere is ready for her comeback.
Panettiere returns to the big screen in Scream 6 after taking a four-year acting hiatus. The 33-year-old retreated from the spotlight to work on her physical, mental and spiritual health after an addiction to alcohol and opioids nearly destroyed her life. However, the actress's first press tour in years coincides with a difficult time as her younger brother, Jansen, passed away two weeks ago. Panettiere appeared on Monday's Good Morning America where she teared up when host Michael Strahan offered his condolences at the end of their interview.
"He's right here with me," the Heroes alum emotionally replied.
Jansen, who was also an actor, was found dead on Feb. 19 in his apartment in New York. He was 28. The Panettiere family announced he died due to an enlarged heart, coupled with aortic valve complications.
"Jansen's heart could be seen in his eyes, and his charm in his brilliant, engaging smile; his soul in his masterful and revealing paintings, and the joy of life in his dry wit," the Panettiere's said in a statement to Yahoo Entertainment. "His charisma, warmth, compassion for others, and his creative spirit will live forever in our hearts and in the hearts of all whom he encountered … We love you so much Jansen and you will be in our hearts forever."
Panettiere is back living in Los Angeles in an apartment she's owned since she was 16. It was the former child star's first big purchase — and she's feeling extra sentimental about it these days.
"This is the last place my family lived all together," Panettiere told Women's Health as the magazine's April cover star. The interview was conducted in January, before Jansen's sudden passing. The actress admitted she was nervous to do the cover as it's been years since she's had something to promote.
Panettiere did not hold back, though, when discussing her grueling sobriety journey. She began drinking heavily in her 20s. A neck injury got her hooked on pills. Bad habits escalated after the birth of her daughter, Kaya, in 2014 as she suffered with postpartum depression.
"I should have gone on antidepressants [to cope with the postpartum depression], but you have to find the right one that works for you," she explained. "They don’t mix well with alcohol, and I wasn't ready to stop drinking."
Panettiere entered treatment in 2015, but eventually started drinking again to cope with anxiety.
"I struggled with sleep deprivation," she shared. "Sleep is massive. It affects your motor skills, your ability to think, and your overall health."
Eventually, her body had "enough."
"I hit 30. My face was swollen. I had jaundice. My eyes were yellow. I had to go to a liver specialist. I was holding on to weight that wasn't normally there. My hair was thin and coming out in clumps," she recalled.
In 2021, Panettiere went back to treatment, enrolled in a 12-step program and underwent trauma therapy.
"I did a lot of work on myself," she explained. "After eight months of intensive therapy, I felt like I had this blank canvas to work with."
However, Panettiere also felt it was time to reclaim her body after childbirth, so she underwent a breast reduction in Nov. 2022.
"My body still didn’t feel like it belonged to me," she shared. “I don’t think there's anything wrong with somebody who wants to tweak something if it makes them feel more confident. That's all I have to say about it. My confidence is back."
That confidence also led the actress to push producers to bring back her character, Kirby, to the Scream franchise.
"In therapy, I kept wanting to go back to the beginning of the period of time where I was really happy and healthy," she explained.
Scream 6 hits theaters on Friday.