I’ve told you a bit about the upcoming Lifetime movie Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy which airs this Monday February 21st. I was also in on a conference call interview through Lifetime with Hayden Panettiere. Now hear what the star of the movie has to say about playing Amanda, the controversy, and her upcoming projects.
I’m sure you’ve been seeing in the news that there have been reactions from the family and of course from Amanda herself about the release of the film. Could you talk first about your reaction to that. I think Amanda said something to the effect of she wanted to throw up. Can you talk about how you feel about playing this part and knowing the reaction of the person your actually playing?
“Considering that there’s been documentaries that have been done on it. It’s all over the news. Considering there are books written on it. I’m a little surprised. I mean I understand where she’s coming from, but I have to say that the film and the way that it was done. Which was very fact driven. It’s nothing nobody hasn’t heard before. It’s nothing that would incriminate her or sway the opinions of any of the judge or weigh in on the appeal at all. Lifetime’s really great with that. They’re great about crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s and making sure they take the proper steps to be respectful and fact check and all of the above. I think it’s fine. Having seen the film you know when you spend that kinda time with the main character and you see her spend time with her family you kinda see a little bit of her as a person. The audience tends to side with that or tend to at least like them and get to know them a little bit better.”
Her Dad indicated in an interview the other day that they had invited you to come to Italy to meet her. Is that true and why did you choose not to do that?
“It is true. I really wanted to meet her. It more so didn’t work out because of the scheduling because she only has 2 days of the week that she gets visitors. 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 2 days and to impede on that didn’t seem like the right thing to do. 1 and 2 there were people who had mixed opinions, mixed feelings about me meeting her. Whether it had to do with the performance or whether it had to do with their fear that she would you know tell me not to do it or say you know that she wasn’t ok with it. To which I would respond Look they’re going to do this film whether it’s me playing you or not so at least I can sit in front of you and tell you that I will do my best to do you justice.”
A lot of people of course are going to form their own opinion about her guilt or innocence upon seeing your portrayal of her in the film. Can you talk a little bit about the challenges of that as an actress as to how you approach that. One wrong glance you give the camera could sway peoples minds.
“Right. Absolutely. That’s what the interesting that I had a little bit of fun with. It was very interesting to play a character where you didn’t know if she was guilty or innocent. My job was to be as innocent as I could be. That even through all of this. One of the interesting things about the story is that there are all of these facts and this and that prosecutors idea of what happened and what the media did to this girl. Every time you saw her you know she looked like this angel faced, innocent, normal girl. I think 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 her. I watched tons of videos and news of her and of her in court to just get her demeanor and her personality. The way she carried herself and I just tried to sty in tune to that.”
I just wanted to know how familiar were you with the case you wear before you were cast in the role? Is it something you were familiar with? Had you followed it at all before the part?
“I was familiar with it, but not nearly, obviously the amount I am now or even became when I started researching it. During the time that it happened I was on Heroes so we were working quite a bit. News wasn’t something that we always caught, but I was familiar with it. As soon as I was asked to do the film I was immediately youtube and watching every video I could get my hands on”
Did your opinion about her guilt or innocence change as you played the part? I know you said that your goal was to play her innocently, but your personal opinion about her guilt or innocence. Did that change as you played the part and researched the role?
“You know it was really interesting because some weeks it was like this constant pull and tug, back and forth. If she’s innocent. If she’s guilty. If she’s innocent. If she’s guilty. To the point where at the end having to spend as much time as I did on it. I truly have no idea. I really, really don’t have any idea. There is so many things that you see and you go oh my god. It’s crazy she had to have been. Then your like no way. No way she had any involvement. Your opinion does really go back and forth.”
Switching gears just briefly. There’s a lot of Heroes fans who still are kinda hoping for a reunion movie or reunion tv episode. I was wondering if you could comment on the state of that and if there’s any possibility that that will happen.
“You know I’ve been asked about it a bunch. There’s nothing that I’ve heard of happening in regard to that right now, but you never know. One day, maybe.”
Would you be interested in it if they did it?
“Yeah I think it would be fun. I mean it would obviously have to be done properly and written well”
I was just wondering what do you hope people get from watching this movie?
“The way that it’s done. They will be able to formulate their own opinion and that’s the real goal. It’s that it’s very fact driven so 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 so I think people will have a new found respect for her, for the situation, for what happened. It’s visually beautiful and it’s just really wild topic.”
It sounds to me like the family’s reacting to not seeing promos. They haven’t seen the entire film is that correct? If so, do you think watching the entire film could change their minds?
“I would doubt that they have seen the entire film, but it’s possible. I don’t think. You mean change their mind in what regard?”
I mean to their reaction to the fact that they’re saying the film could keep her from having a fair appeal.
“I think so. I think so because, as I’ve stressed it’s very fact driven. Lifetime is great with doing things like that and fact checking. So everything that is in the film is not. I don’t think there is anything in there that would sway an opinion or have any impact negatively or positively on her appeal. So I think if the family saw it then they would probably be much more relaxed about it than they are now. Maybe the parents would. I don’t know if she would or not. I don’t know if that would be a good idea to just have to relive the whole experience of it.”
***Note***Lifetime is not selling the movie or have not sold it to Italy. So in theory no one in Italy will see the film. The trailer is on the Lifetime website and depending on who has seen the website could see the trailer, but again that is not the film. That is not the complete film***
I didn’t have an opinion before the movie and it did help me form it, but one thing I really that caught my attention was that how she seemed to change her story. You said you tried to lay her as innocent, but when she was changing her story to the police did that give you any thoughts? As an actress how does that work for you?
“You know in that case I really had to take in consideration of what that stressful situation could have done. What it’s like being in a country where you speak a little bit of the language. By yourself. A young girl being questioned for an insane amount of time. In a room. In a different language and the stress that brings. Obviously there is a lot of fact and that people have known that kinda pressure and interrogation. Their stories. They tend to kinda have these visions. You have to take in consideration the pressure that she was under. The amount of time she was under that pressure. The fact that she said she was hit by the police. Which is probably true, but it’s a bunch of police officers against her word. So it’s not go gonna go that far. Even though the stories did change I can see how they would have changed. Even if she was beaten. Even if she is guilty. She’s convinced herself that she’s innocent. So I kinda play it both ways like that.”
How was filming in Italy? Did you get to do any sightseeing?
“Oh yeah. We were there for 5 weeks. Italy is amazing. We were in Rome. Amazing pasta! So good. We went sightseeing.”
Did you have to learn any of the Italian language?
“I learned how to say. I still say it. “??” Means face of slappage. Like in an endearing way. A face that you just wanna slap, but in an endearing way. Here and there and the fact that I can speak a little bit of Spanglish.”
What attracted you to the role. How familiar were you with the story.
” I was a little bit familiar with the story. I know it was a huge thing here in the US. It’s very international story dealing with Italy and a British student and an American student. As soon as I got involved with the project. I was dreaming Amanda Knox. I found it such a riveting story and so interesting and so wild and so just twisted story and the fact that I got to play someone that’s alive. That is a real person was just a challenge I wanted to do.”
Do you approach it differently as an actress coming from Heroes which is obviously more fantasy based. I mean the stakes are higher on something when your playing an actual person.
“Yeah it’s true. For me I just want to try new things. Having been on a show for 4 years and playing the same character for 4 years. You know I loved it. I had an amazing time. It was just I get to spread my wings a little bit.”
My question has to do with how people perceive you as an actress and your career. A Lifetime movie is pretty pop culture. I was curious as to what it means to you to be a part of a Lifetime movie?
“I have done one other Lifetime film before and I had the most amazing experience with them. So I was very excited to work with them again and you know the legend that they are. They make such incredible films so i knew it was going to have heart and be one of those passion projects.”
Did you have any hesitation given the kind of controversial story. Whichever way you believe in her innocence or not. Was there ever any apprehension about jumping in that fire so to speak?
“No. For me that was part of the challenge. The fact that it’s so controversial. No. That was just a greater pull for me. You know that was just something that intrigued me more.”
I was just wondering with your preparation for the role as Amanda. Did you get a chance to meet either Meredith or Amanda’s parents?
“I didn’t and that was part of the reason why. I mean there were many things that went into the decision. It wouldn’t have been fair to meet one family and not the other.”
Of course can you relate to Being a young woman and everything. Traveling and not knowing what could happen
“Oh yeah I know that experience. I know how hard it can be to communicate in a different country. To find your way around. To deal with the mentalities of other people and just different cultures. So I do majorly take that into consideration when her story kept changing. You have to take that into consideration. The stress that she was under. The confusion she must have been feeling.”
Has your boyfriend given you any self defense training? Has he taught you ??
“I don’t think he wants me anymore dangerous for him. He’s like a walking punch bag sometimes and I’m a roughhouser. So I love to roughhouse and play around. He’s telling me ‘Stop hitting me. Why does everyone always want to hit me all the time?’ (in a playful voice) I’m pretty feisty. We’re little people and you know we get aggressive.”
I was wondering exactly. I’m trying to word this the right way. What exactly did you use to draw from for your portrayal since you didn’t meet her?
“Just everything. Every ounce of footage I could get my hands on. Sometimes I would have her voice on an iPod on set with me and I would listen to her speaking just before I would go on. Just the footage. Everything from videos with her friends to her family to just watching her in court. Seeing her demeanor and how she carried herself and her kinda aura about her.”
Why do you think people want to take the time and watch the movie?
“Because it’s just an amazingly, interesting, riveting just story. Full of on the edge of your seat. Just such an incredible story to tell.”
How did you get involved with the movie and what was the audition process like?
“Actually I was fortunate enough that they called me up and they asked me to do the film. So, I was lucky in that way. I didn’t have to jump through hoops.”
Do you have any other upcoming projects or movies that your in?
“I have Scream coming out. Scream 4. I’ve heard amazing things about it. I’ve heard it’s incredible. I hear people are loving it.”
I would like to thank Hayden for her time and Lifetime for the opportunity to be a part of this interview. Check out my review of the movie over on the Lifetime Moms website and make sure to tune in to Lifetime February 21st Monday night to watch Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy. Come back and let me know what you think of the movie!