Although Hayden Panettiere didn’t meet Amanda Knox, based on the testimony given during her infamous trial and through her keen acting skills, Panettiere crafted a character that is Amanda Knox, at least as much as we can know about the American girl currently imprisoned in an Italian jail for murder.
Hayden Panettiere studied as much of the life of Amanda Knox as possible without having the luxury of meeting the person she is portraying. In Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy, airing tonight on Lifetime at 8 p.m., Panettiere and the creative team behind the film have given audiences an opportunity to view the story from all sides. This method of storytelling will allow viewers to reach their own conclusions as to Amanda Knox and her guilt or innocence.
Amanda Knox was a young woman on a tourist trip to Rome when UK student Meredith Kercher was killed. Now, she sits in jail for the murder she swears she did not commit.
Throughout the difficult shoot of portraying a young woman who is a similar age as herself, Panettiere talks to us about how she got into the character so few know anything about and the emotional toll of such a role.
Hayden Panettiere talks
SheKnows: Because of scheduling and everything going on with her, how was it crafting a character when you didn’t get to meet the real person?
Hayden Panettiere: When you spend that kind of time with the main character, you see where she comes from. You see her family. When you see a little bit of her as a person, the audience tends to side with them, tends to at least like them and get to know them a little bit better.
SheKnows: Did it ever concern you that people watching the film would wind up forming their own opinion about Amanda Knox’s guilt or innocence?
Hayden Panettiere: It was very interesting to play a character where you didn’t know if she was guilty or innocent but my job was to be as innocent as I could be. Because of that innocence that she exuded, it made the story all the more interesting. So my job was to play her innocently, to try to capture that. I watched tons of videos and news of her and of her in court, just to get her demeanor and her personality, and also, the way she carried herself. I just tried to stay as true to that as I could.
SheKnows: Amanda’s father has indicated that you were invited to meet Amanda. Why specifically were you not able to meet face-to-face?
Hayden Panettiere: I really wanted to meet her. I would have had to go in the middle of filming to a different city — we were in Rome — and would have had to go with her family to do that. She only gets to see her family for two days (each month) so to impede on that didn’t seem like the right thing to do, one. And two, there were people who had mixed opinions and feelings about me meeting her, whether it had to do with performance or whether it had to do with their fear that she would tell me not to do it, or say that she wasn’t okay with it to which I would respond, “They’re going to do this film whether it’s me playing you or not, so at least I can tell you that I will do my best to do you justice.” It didn’t work out because of the scheduling because she only has two days during the week that she gets visitors.
SheKnows: What is your wish for viewers after witnessing your film?
Hayden Panettiere: They will be able to formulate their own opinion. Our goal is that it’s very fact-driven and people can make up their own minds. It’s a really entertaining story and people want to know about it. People are interested in it. I think people will have a new respect for the situation in terms of what happened.
Amanda Knox: Fair trial by TV movie?
SheKnows: Do you think that, as the Italian authorities are saying, this film will prevent Amanda Knox from having a fair appeal?
Hayden Panettiere: Lifetime is great with doing things like that and fact-checking. I don’t think there’s anything in there that would sway an opinion or have any impact negatively or positively on her appeal.
SheKnows: Why did you tackle this role?
Hayden Panettiere: I was a little bit familiar with the story. I know it was a huge thing here in the U.S. and it’s a very international story you know, in Italy, a British student and an American student. As soon as I became involved in the project, I was flooding myself. I was dreaming Amanda Knox. I just find it such a riveting story. It’s just so interesting and so wild. It’s just twisted. It’s a twisted story and the fact that I got to play somebody that is alive and somebody who was a real person was just a challenge that I wanted and I was really excited to take on.
SheKnows: Do you feel that the stakes are high for you taking this role?
Hayden Panettiere: Yes, it’s true. For me, I want to try new things. That’s my interest and having been on a show for four years and playing the same character for four years — I mean I loved it, I had an amazing time — it was just that I get to spread my wings a little bit.
SheKnows: There are a lot of Heroes fans out there, speaking of your TV show, do you think there is any truth to the fact that there may be a Heroes reunion of some sort?
Hayden Panettiere: You know, there’s nothing that I’ve heard of happening in regards to that but you never know, one day maybe they’ll go for it.
SheKnows: Would you do it?
Hayden Panettiere: Yeah, I think it would be fun. Obviously it would have to be done properly and written well.