Panabaker was born in Orange, Texas to Donna and Harold Panabaker. She started acting at various community theatres in Chicago, Illinois; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Atlanta, Georgia. She has an older sister, Danielle Panabaker, who is also an actress. In Naperville, Illinois she went to Crone Middle School for sixth grade, moved out to Los Angeles, California when she was going into seventh grade.
While in between projects, Kay focuses on her academics. She graduated from high school as valedictorian when she was 13 years old and received her Associate's Degree at age 15. Kay received two academic scholarships from the community college she attended and was on the Dean's list, graduating with honors. She was accepted to UCLA as a junior history major when she was 15 and completed her BA in History from UCLA before she turned 18. Kay was inspired by an elementary school teacher who made learning exciting, and she wants to do the same for others, hoping to teach 4th or 5th grade once she gets her teaching degree.
Panabaker has guest-starred in several television dramas and soap operas. She portrayed "Alice Brand" in 7th Heaven; "Melissa Rue" in ER; "Sara" in Port Charles; "Carrie Bauer" in The Brothers García; "Ellisha" in Medium; "Lindsey Willows" in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation; to name a few. In film, she appeared in Dead Heat as "Sam LaRoche"; and did some voice work in the Disney/Pixar film, Monsters, Inc.. Panabaker's breakout role came when she starred in The WB's Summerland as "Nikki Westerly", in the 2004-2005 season. She also appeared as "George" in the 2007 Nancy Drew: The Mystery in Hollywood Hills alongside Emma Roberts and Amy Bruckner.
Panabaker had a recurring role in Phil of the Future as strait-laced Debbie Berwick, a friend of, and foil to, Pim Diffy (played by Amy Bruckner). She starred in Life Is Ruff as "Emily Watson" alongside Kyle Massey and Mitchel Musso. In July of 2006 she starred in the Disney Channel Original Movie Read It and Weep (based on the book How My Private Personal Journal Became a Bestseller), in which her sister Danielle Panabaker also stars. In 2006 Panabaker was in the first ever Disney Channel Games, on the Red Team, with Zac Efron, Anneliese van der Pol, Moises Arias, Dylan Sprouse, and Shin Koyamada as part of the Disney Channel's So Hot Summer!. Her last movie was the Lifetime Television movie Custody which aired in September 2007. She is also starring in Happy Campers, an ABC Family pilot. Her other recent movies include Moondance Alexander, The Prince and the Pauper with Dylan and Cole Sprouse.
Awards and honors
|2003||Young Artist Award||Best Performance in a TV Drama Series - Guest Starring Young Actress||Nominated|| Melissa Rue in ER|
For episode "The Letter"
|2004||Young Artist Award||Best Performance in a Commercial||Nominated||Youth Anti-Smoking PSA|
|2005||Young Artist Award||Best Performance in a Television Series - Recurring Young Actress||Nominated||Debbie Berwick in Phil of the Future|
|Young Artist Award||Best Performance in a TV Series (Comedy or Drama) - Leading Young Actress||Won||Nikki Westerly in Summerland|
|2007||Temecula Valley International Film Festival||Rising Star Award||Won|
|Dixie Film Festival||Outstanding Actor/Actress in a Motion Picture||Won||Moondance Alexander in Moondance Alexander|
|2008||Young Artist Award||Best Performance in a Feature Film - Leading Young Actress||Nominated||Moondance Alexander in Moondance Alexander|
|Young Artist Award||Best Performance in a Feature Film - Young Ensemble Cast||Nominated|| Georgie in Nancy Drew|
Shared with rest of cast
|2002||Dead Heat||Sam LaRoche||Supporting|
|2005||Life Is Ruff||Emily Watson||Lead|
|2006||Read It and Weep||Jamie Bartlett||Lead|
|Moondance Alexander||Moondance Alexander||Lead|
|A Modern Twain Story: The Prince and the Pauper||Elizabeth||Lead|
|2002||Port Charles||Sara||Guest role|
|The Jamie Kennedy Experiment||Kelly||Guest role|
|Angel||Mesekthet, the White Room Little Girl||Recurring|
|7th Heaven||Alice Brand||Guest role|
|ER||Melissa Rue||Guest role|
|2003||The Division||Susie Jenkins||Guest role|
|The Brothers García||Carrie Bauer||Recurring|
|2004||Summerland||Nikki Westerly||Series regular|
|Phil of the Future||Deborah Hortence "Debbie" Berwick||Recurring|
|2006||CSI: Crime Scene Investigation||Lindsey Willows||Recurring|
|American Dragon: Jake Long||Lacey||Guest role|
|Disney Channel Games 2006||herself||Series regular|
|2007||Two and a Half Men||Sophie||Guest role|
|The Winner||Viveca||Guest role|
|The Suite Life of Zack & Cody||Amber||Guest role|
|Boston Legal||Abby Holt||Guest role|
|Ghost Whisperer||Marlo Sinclair||Guest role|
|2008||Being Bailey||Bailey||Unaired pilot|
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