Hayden Panettiere Gets Emotional in First TV Interview Since Brother Jansen’s Death

The actress fights back tears.

Hayden Panettiere sat down for her first TV appearance since her late brother, Jansen Panettiere, unexpectedly died.

While promoting Scream VI on Monday's episode of Good Morning American, Michael Strahan offered his condolences to the 33-year-old actress who recently lost her sibling. 

“He’s right here with me,” Panettiere tearfully said. 

Jansen was found dead on Feb. 19 in his New York City apartment. He was 28.

At the time, a source told ET, "Hayden is absolutely heartbroken. She loved her brother unconditionally and the two shared a special bond."

In a statement to ET, the Panettiere family, including Hayden, and their parents, mom Lesley Vogel and dad Skip Panettiere, shared the cause of death for Jansen.

"Though it offers little solace, the Medical Examiner reported Jansen's sudden passing was due to cardiomegaly (enlarged heart), coupled with aortic valve complications," the family said.

"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 statement continued. "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."

On Monday, Women’s Health revealed Panettiere as their April cover star, and she opens up to the magazine about battling addiction and postpartum depression. 

Hayden started acting at the age of four, and had roles in popular daytime soap operas, was GRAMMY nominated before she was 10, starred opposite Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans at 11, and was a prime-time television fixture for most of her teens and 20s. 

At age 22, she moved to Nashville and began drinking to cope with stress.

“I was being told how to be and how to live by so many people in my life,” she tells the magazine. “I wanted certain decisions to be my own, and nobody could stop me. What I put in my body was like an act of defiance.”

“Some people work out. I wish that was my coping mechanism,” Hayden says. “Alcohol might make you feel better in that moment, but it makes you feel so much worse the next day, and then you do it all over again.”

The actress admits that her drinking increased after the birth of her daughter in 2014 as she dealt with postpartum depression, during which she says she felt “extreme hopelessness” and “like all the walls are closing in.” 

Around that time, an old neck injury flared up, and Hayden began taking opioids. “I was in a lot of pain,” she says. “My tolerance got so high so fast that it became a problem.” She found herself cycling between opioids and alcohol.

“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 says. “They don’t mix well with alcohol, and I wasn’t ready to stop drinking.”

Hayden entered rehab in the middle of production on Nashville’s fourth season in 2015. “I was the one who put myself in the first treatment center,” she says. “I was drowning.”

In September 2022, Hayden sat down with Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Banfield Norris, and guest host Kelly Osbourne on Red Table Talk, where she revealed that she wasn't aware she was losing custody of her daughter until her little girl was already with her ex, Wladimir Klitschko, in Ukraine.

Despite suffering from depression, Panettiere told People that she "never had the feeling that I wanted to harm my child, but I didn't want to spend any time with her." As for her relationship with Klitschko, whom she split from for good in 2018, she shared, "He didn't want to be around me. I didn't want to be around me. But with the opiates and alcohol, I was doing anything to make me feel happy for a moment. Then I'd feel worse than I did before. I was in a cycle of self-destruction."

The actress later spent eight months in rehab, a place she credits to giving her the tools she needed to "get over the hump" of her addiction. "It's an everyday choice, and I'm checking in with myself all the time," she explained. "But I'm just so grateful to be part of this world again, and I will never take it for granted again."

Therapy is a big reason Hayden is reprising her role as Kirby Reed in Scream 6. “In therapy, I kept wanting to go back to the beginning of the period of time where I was really happy and healthy,” she tells Women’s Health. “We saw Kirby get stabbed, but we never saw her die. We didn’t see her rescued either,” Hayden says of her character’s fate. “She has that human trauma, and it’s changed her. That’s something I can obviously relate to.”

Scream VI hits theaters on March 10.