Yeehaw! Hayden Panettiere, Kelly Clarkson, Nicole Kidman and more stars have all stepped out of their comfort zones — and into their cowboy boots — to get into the country groove.
Panettiere starred on Nashville from October 2012 to July 2018, portraying former teen sensation and country industry hopeful Juliette Barnes. Throughout the series, Juliette nipped at the heels of longtime superstar Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton), whose reign over the top of the charts appearing to be fading.
Becoming one with her character was a challenge, especially when the show tackled some hard-hitting topics. The Heroes alum told Access Hollywood in December 2016, “You have to ride the waves like the character. When you’re that close to your character, you feel their pain and sometimes things hit close to home, and there’s been a lot of that. … It definitely takes it out of you.”
Two months later, Britton, whose character died at the end of season 5, reflected on her own country journey. “It was incredibly emotional. It was very difficult for me and it still is,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in February 2017. “[Nashville] has become an essential part of my life. It was really tough doing those last couple weeks especially.”
Viewers might not have expected to see Panettiere and the Friday Night Lights alum channeling their inner country songstresses — and some music stars have given fans the same surprise twist. Clarkson, known for her gigantic pop hits, has dipped a toe into the country world. The Voice coach teamed up with Jason Aldean for 2010’s “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” and while she might not be a certified country queen, she has some strong feelings about how the genre has developed over time.
“Country music doesn’t sound country anymore … Country music is gone,” the Kelly Clarkson Show host said during a 2019 Youtube Q&A. “Like, I don’t know who’s making it, but there might be, like, four people. Now it’s, like, weird word rap.”
The “Breakaway” singer’s quibbles with the genre were personal, not professional. “I’m not in the country music industry. I’m not trying to get played on country radio,” Clarkson explained at the time. “Here’s the thing, I just love country music. So, why don’t we all start putting our ’80s and ’90s records on and let’s figure out, ‘What is country music? What’s the sound we like again?’ Because it’s not what you’re playing on the radio. I’m mad about it.”
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Keep scrolling for a look at how some of the biggest names in Hollywood have embraced country roots: