Panettiere was born, just outside of New York City. Her mother, a former actress and model, thought she would score some nice baby pictures out of seeing her only daughter in commercials, so she began bringing her on auditions. Thus an 11-month-old Panettiere began her career in a commercial for Playskool. At four years old, she landed a regular role as Sarah Roberts on the daytime soap opera "One Life to Live" (ABC, 1968-2012), where she stayed until 1996 when she moved over to CBS to play Lizzie Spaulding on "Guiding Light" (CBS, 1952-2009). During her four years as Spaulding, Panettiere was put through some serious acting challenges, including battling leukemia, being kidnapped, and shooting her mother's boyfriend. Her efforts did not go unnoticed when she earned a Young Star Award nomination for Best Young Actress/Performance in a Daytime TV Series. Meanwhile, the tireless actress began expanding beyond the daytime market by landing supporting roles in made-for-televisions movies as well as the Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy, "The Object of My Affection" (1998). Her first major film role came later that year by voicing pesky Princess Dot in the Disney/Pixar animated blockbuster "A Bug's Life" (1998). Panettiere's performance earned her a Young Artist Award nomination for Best Performance in a Voiceover in a Feature or TV, and her profile was raised significantly. Panettiere was cast to portray the lonely, preteen version of eccentric heiress Doris Duke in the miniseries "Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke" (CBS, 1999) and went on to give a plucky performance as the nine-year-old daughter of a coach (Will Patton) weathering high school football desegregation in "Remember the Titans" (2000). She picked up a Young Artist Award for her supporting role, and the same year, was nominated for a Youngster Award for Best Young Voiceover Talent for voicing Suri, the tomboy dino-daughter in the Disney hit, "Dinosaur" (2000). As she approached the ripe old age of 12, Panettiere had appeared in more than 50 commercials, a dozen television series, 11 films and innumerable ads - enough that her career demands necessitated that she leave South Orangetown Middle School and opt instead for home schooling. She maintained her growing film presence with roles as a feisty and precocious preteen in the dismal Tim Allen comedy "Joe Somebody" (2001), which earned her another Young Artist Award nomination, and as the younger version of Hilary Swank's character, Jeanne de la Motte-Valois, in the period film "The Affair of the Necklace" (2001). Returning to television, Panettiere scored a regular role on the final season of "Ally McBeal" as the long-lost daughter of McBeal (Calista Flockhart) - the result of an egg donation gone wrong a decade before. Panettiere next tackled more dramatic territory with a pair of guest spots on "Law & Order SVU" (NBC, 1999-). Panettiere began to display real range with back-to-back roles as a troubled 15-year-old suddenly placed in the care of her happy-go-lucky fashion model aunt (Kate Hudson) in the comedy, "Raising Helen" (2004), and as a teen daughter struggling to understand her father's sex change operation in the HBO film, "Normal" (HBO, 2003). She began a recurring role on the offbeat Fox sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle" (Fox, 2000-06) while co-starring opposite Joely Fisher as the daughter of a cash-strapped con mom-on-the-run in "Lies My Mother Told Me" (Lifetime, 2004). Panettiere marked her entry into teen romance with her starring role as a girl who befriends a teenager (Ryan Kelley) after a near-fatal accident propels him into a fantasy world in the little-seen fairy tale, "The Dust Factory" (2004). She rounded out her busy screen year with another Young Artist Award nomination for the Disney original movie "Tiger Cruise" (2004), in which she played a Navy commander's (Bill Pullman) daughter who tries to convince her dad to retire in the midst of the sudden mobilization of his ship post-9/11. That film marked Panettiere's music debut when she contributed her recording of the song "My Hero Is You" to the film.In the family adventure film "Racing Stripes" (2005), Panettiere was one of few human characters in the live action/animated hybrid, sharing the spotlight with an abandoned zebra in her role of an aspiring jockey. She followed up with a string of supporting roles as ambitious, energetic and athletically competitive teens, first appearing as a ruthlessly competitive figure skater opposite Michelle Trachtenberg in "Ice Princess" (2005), and later, as a cheerleading hopeful in the straight-to-video sequel, "Bring It On: All or Nothing" (2006). While the actress was already recognizable to teen and family film audiences, Panettiere was vaulted into the mainstream limelight in 2006 when she was cast on "Heroes" (NBC, 2006-2010). In the allegorical drama about 11 seemingly ordinary people who begin to discover they have supernatural powers, Panettiere played a Texas high school cheerleader who learns that she is indestructible, while at the same time becoming the target of an unhinged wannabe superhero (Zachary Quinto) on a mission to kill in order to gain special powers. The series was one of the best-received of the season and earned plenty of pop culture buzz, fueled by the network's re-use of a catchy line of dialogue, "Save the cheerleader, save the world," into an advertising campaign."Heroes" was picked up for a second season in 2007, at which point the 18-year-old confirmed her relationship with fellow "Heroes" star, Milo Ventimiglia. For months the pair denied their involvement, likely because the rumors began while Panettiere was underage and Ventimiglia was in his mid-20s. That was hardly the last of Panettiere's taste of tabloid life, as later that year she became one of young Hollywood's most vocal animal activists for an incident in Japan where she joined a group of protestors in an unsuccessful attempt to save a group of pilot whales from hunters. Accompanying photos of Panettiere in a bathing suit surrounded by the blood of the whales she had failed to save made an even bigger impact than her emotional pleas about the environment, helping to usher in the new era of the young starlets chased by paparazzi intent on photographing them in skimpy outfits.But while the petite blonde earned household name status, her film career continued to fizzle and her starring roles in comedies "Shanghai Kiss" (2007) and "The Good Student" (2009) were released straight to video. Attempts to launch a side career as a pop singer led to Panettiere's inclusion on family-friendly album releases like the soundtracks to Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (2007) and Music from and Inspired by Bridge to Terabithia (2007), as well as compilations like Disneymania 5. Despite a significant dip in ratings during the third season of "Heroes," Panettiere stayed in the spotlight, balancing her teen-friendly image with a growing fan base among adult males readers of Maxim-type magazines. Her next film project was one that catered to neither audience. "Fireflies in the Garden" (2009) was a melodrama chronicling several generations of a dysfunctional family and was lukewarmly received as a second-rate "chick flick." More in keeping with Panettiere's appeal was her follow-up starring role in "I Love You Beth Cooper" (2009), a high school-set romantic comedy about a socially awkward teen publicly proclaiming his love for the most popular girl in school during graduation ceremonies, and their ensuing night of adventure. The following year, animal-lover Panettiere paired with Justin Long to voice a pair of wolves in the animated family feature, "Alpha and Omega" (2010), just as "Heroes" finally succumbed to a steady decline in ratings and abruptly ended its four year run. Panettiere made the most of her recently opened schedule, first joining the ensemble cast of Wes Craven's return to his popular horror franchise "Scream 4" (2011), voiced Red Riding Hood for the animated sequel "Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil" (2011), and starred as the American exchange student accused of a grisly killing in the true-crime drama "Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy" (Lifetime, 2011). None of these ventures, however, attracted the attention that surrounded Panettiere's next foray on regular series TV. Cast opposite Connie Britton, she played Juliette Barnes, an up-and-coming teen sensation looking to dethrone Britton's fading country music queen on "Nashville" (ABC, 2012-). Combining music, melodrama and a touch of political intrigue, "Nashville" was one of the season's most anticipated new shows.