Stephanie Kay Panabaker is an American zookeeper who used to be a child actress and voice-over artist. She was active in films and television during the 2000s. Following in her actress sister Danielle Panabaker’s footsteps, she began performing on stage at an early age. However, she preceded her sister in making her big screen debut, providing additional voices in 2001’s ‘Monster Inc.’. A year later, she appeared on television for the first time in the soap opera ‘Port Charles’. Subsequently, she assumed several guest roles in hit programs such as ‘ER’, ‘7th Heaven’ and ‘Angel’. In 2005 and 2006, she starred in two back-to-back Disney projects, ‘Life is Ruff’ and ‘Read it and Weep’; in the latter, she worked with her sister. At the height of her career, her Hollywood fame was augmented by her academic distinction as she graduated from college even before she turned 18. Panabaker quit acting in 2012 to pursue a career in Zoology.
Kay Panabaker, along with her sister Danielle, started appearing in stage productions as a little girl. She began her big screen career earlier than her sister, with Pixar’s computer-animated comedy film ‘Monster Inc’. The movie, being a critical and commercial hit, was the perfect start for her career. For her next project, she chose Roman Güttinger’s short film ‘Temptation’. She went on to debut on the small screen in an episode of ABC’s Soap Opera ‘Port Charles’, which was a spin-off of another serial ‘General Hospital’. Panabaker also worked with Kiefer Sutherland and Radha Mitchell in the 2002 crime comedy-drama ‘Dead Heat’.
Over the next few years, she built up her experience by doing small yet significant roles in many popular shows. She played Melissa Rue in a 2002 episode (‘The Letter’) of ‘ER’, Alice Brand in the episode ‘Regarding Eric’ (2002) of ‘7th Heaven’, Susie Jenkins in a 2003 episode (‘Cold Comfort’) of ‘The Division’, and Carrie Bauer in the episode ‘Moving on Up’ (2003) of ‘The Brothers Garcia’. She appeared in two episodes of The WB’s supernatural drama ‘Angel’: ‘Forgiving’ (2002) and ‘Habeas Corpses’ (2003).
The year 2004 was an important one in her career. She was cast as Nicole "Nikki" Westerly in Stephen Tolkin and Lori Loughlin’s television drama ‘Summerland’. Cast opposite Zac Efron, this was her first leading role and it won her a Young Artist Award in 2005 for the Best Performance in a TV Series (Comedy or Drama) – Leading Young Actress.
In the science fiction sitcom ‘Phil of the Future’ (2004-05), she played Deborah "Debbie" Berwick, appearing in 13 episodes. Produced by Disney, the show marked the beginning of a business relationship between her and the company that would last her entire acting career. Later, she starred in the Disney Channel movie ‘Life is Ruff’. In 2006, she teamed up with her sister for another Disney television film ‘Read It and Weep’.
Panabaker landed her debut lead role as the titular character in the comedy-drama film ‘Moondance Alexander’ that depicts a girl’s unrelenting determination to transform an ordinary horse into a champion racer. She also played George Fayne in the 2007 film adaption of ‘Nancy Drew.’
She worked with Dylan and Cole Sprouse of ‘The Suite Life of Zack & Cody’ fame in ‘A Modern Twain Story: The Prince and the Pauper’ (2007), and Kelsey Grammer and Charles S. Dutton in ‘Fame’ (2009), a loose remake of the 1980 film of the same name. In 2010-11, she became part of the main cast of ABC’s ‘No Ordinary Family’, portraying Daphne Nicole Powell, a 16-year-old girl with telepathic power. Then she co-starred with Juno Temple in the independent film ‘Little Birds’ (2012).
Her last project as an actress was the 2012 direct-to-DVD comedy ‘Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva la Fiesta!’ Panabaker retired from the entertainment industry after this to study zoology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). At present, she is a zookeeper at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
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Born on May 2, 1990, in Orange, Texas, Kay is the younger daughter of Donna (née Mayock) and Harold Panabaker. Her sister Danielle is two and a half years older than her. Their father’s job was in sales, which meant the Panabaker girls grew up accustomed to a nomadic life of frequently moving around. A wunderkind, Kay spent her childhood growing up in the culturally diverse and creatively fertile communities of Chicago, Illinois; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Atlanta, Georgia, discovering a love for acting and community theatre, just as her sister did before her.
Education was equally important to her. She studied at Crone Middle School in Naperville, Illinois for sixth grade. At the beginning of her seventh grade in 2003, she, Danielle, and their mother moved to Los Angeles, California, so that the sisters could put in more efforts into acting. She finished school as valedictorian when she was only 13 years old. Enrolling at Glendale Community College with two academic scholarships, she studied acting and was on the Dean’s list. Two years later she graduated with honours and then attended UCLA, History Program as a junior, receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in April 2008.
Panabaker is associated with Starlight Children's Foundation as a StarPower Ambassador.
In 2007, she was conferred with the Rising Star Award at the Temecula Valley International Film Festival.