Hayden Panettiere Reflects on 'Scream' Fandom Surrounding Kirby and If She'll Play Her Again (Exclusive)

The actress looks back on her time in 'Scream 4' and discusses her future in the franchise.

After first playing the fan-favorite character, Kirby Reed, in Scream 4, Hayden Panettiere made a welcomed return to the slasher franchise over a decade later in Scream VI. During a visit with ET, the 33-year-old actress looked back on her first installment in the Scream series and what it has meant getting to play Kirby again, especially now that the movies are as big as ever. 

Released in 2011, Scream 4 was the first long-awaited sequel following the initial Scream trilogy, marking the return of the original three players -- Neve Campbell (Sidney), Courteney Cox (Gale) and David Arquette (Dewey) -- as they faced off with Ghostface once again. Set in Woodsboro, the new film also featured a number of new high school characters played by the likes of Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, Nico Tortorella, Marielle Jaffe and Erik Knudsen. 

After watching the clip of Kirby reciting all the horror remakes as she tries to save Charlie (Culkin) from Ghostface, Panettiere reflected on her longtime friendship with Culkin. "I've been friends with him for years and years and years. We used to have sleepovers," she recalled. 

When it comes to filming that scene, which was written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven, the actress knew she just had to nail it. "I memorized that, like, as soon as I got the script. I wanted to make sure I got that right, so on the day I could just bang it out," she shared. "And they were shocked that I got it." 

She added, "Wes was shocked. And I was like, 'Wes is happy with me. That's awesome, Wes Craven!'" 

Thanks to her performance -- and that scene, which has since become one of the more iconic moments of the film -- Kirby became a favorite among fans. And, it wasn't long before everyone debated whether or not the character was truly dead thanks to a tiny twitch of her body that's visible in the last shot of her in Scream 4

Finally, 11 years later, Scream (aka Scream 5) confirmed that Kirby was, in fact, alive. It turns out, she was the only young survivor of the high school teens attacked by Ghostface, who turned out to be her friends, Jill (Roberts) and Charlie (Culkin). Soon after that reveal, fans started campaigning for Panettiere's return. 

When asked about the fandoms surrounding her character, she admits that she had no expectations that she would resonate with audiences the way she did in Scream 4. "I don't usually have a lot of expectations in life. In this industry, expectations lead to disappointment. So, I usually don't have expectations," she says of keeping herself "never disappointed" by what happens in her career. Instead, "you can always be pleasantly surprised and happy."

She adds, "But yeah, it was thrilling that people fell in love with Kirby. I loved playing Kirby, so I'm glad they love her as much as I did."

Of course, Panettiere didn't disappoint when she finally got to appear as Kirby onscreen again, in Scream VI, which was written by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick and directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. 

While promoting the latest sequel, she opened up to ET about Kirby's fate and getting to come back here. "I willed myself into existence," she revealed. "When I did Scream 4, I made them promise. I was like, 'Please just, like, leave it open because I would love to come back.' And I didn't know, but you never know. You never know you've made a movie until you're sitting in the movie theater watching it… You don't know the fate of [your character]." 

Paramount Pictures

As for returning to the franchise, Panettiere said "it felt like coming home," adding that "my heart was full; my heart was exploding."

"I did this, not just for me, but I did this a lot for them," she said, acknowledging the fans. "I took time off and I didn't know what I was gonna come back doing and what the first project was going to be and then this came along and I was like, 'Absolutely.' And the fans have been so, so loyal, so spectacular… I love being back."

In Scream VI, it's revealed that Kirby is an FBI agent who gets called in from Atlanta to help the authorities after Ghostface starts terrorizing New York City. She teams up with Det. Wayne Bailey (Dermot Mulroney), who is the father of Quinn (Liana Liberato), who gets caught up on the latest killing spree that follows the newest crop of survivors -- Sam (Melissa Barrera), Tara (Jenna Ortega), Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Mason (Mason Gooding) -- from their hometown of Woodsboro.   

Looking back on the experience of making Scream VI, Panettiere says that she had high hopes going in. "I was hoping that it was going to be similar to Scream 4, in just the way that the cast and crew became family. We had so, so, so much fun and it was," she says. "The cast was fantastic and so supportive of each other."

As for how she feels about where Kirby is now, all these years later? "I loved that Kirby came back as the badass that she is," the actress says. "You know, trauma can do different things to different people. It can make you afraid of your own shadow and you put 20 locks on your door… Or it can make you become [someone] special." 

While Scream 7 has not officially been announced, the directors previously told ET that the writers are already working on ideas. "Guy and James are probably holed up somewhere writing right now and have a big, weird plan for Scream 7," Gillett said, before joking that he'd like to bring Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard) back for the next one. (Of course, that opens another bag of theories that has been hotly debated by fans.)

Given that Scream VI made $44 million during its opening weekend at the box office -- which is the highest debut for the franchise -- and that it has already made $119 while in theaters, it's likely that audiences will get another installment. And for Panettiere, that's another opportunity to play Kirby.

When asked if she's returning Scream 7, she keeps things open-ended by saying, "Who knows." 

"There are things in the works. And good things take time, so you will know when it's done," she says with a laugh as she teases what's coming next.   

Scream VI is now in theaters.