Hewitt was born in Waco, Texas, to Patricia Mae (née Shipp), a speech-language pathologist, and Herbert Daniel Hewitt, a medical technician. Hewitt grew up in Nolanville, in Central Texas, and has close kinship ties in parts of Arkansas. After their parents divorced, Hewitt and her older brother Todd were raised by their mother. Patricia Mae Hewitt died on June 12, 2012, aged 67, following a battle with cancer. As a young girl, Hewitt was attracted to music, which led to her first encounters with the entertainment industry. At the age of three, she sang "The Greatest Love of All" at a livestock show. The following year, at a restaurant-dance hall, she entertained an audience with her version of "Help Me Make it Through the Night". By age five, she had tap dancing and ballet in her portfolio. At nine, she became a member of the Texas Show Team (which also toured in the Soviet Union). At age ten, at the suggestion of talent scouts and after winning the title of "Texas Our Little Miss Talent Winner", she moved to Los Angeles with her mother to pursue a career in both acting and singing. In Los Angeles, she attended Lincoln High School where her classmates included Jonathan Neville, who became a talent scout and recommended Hewitt for her role in Party of Five.
After moving to Los Angeles, Hewitt appeared in more than twenty television commercials, including some for Mattel toys. Her first break came as a child actor on the Disney Channel variety show Kids Incorporated (1989–1991), where she was credited as "Love Hewitt." She later appeared in the live action video short Dance! Workout with Barbie (1992), released by Buena Vista. She played Pierce Brosnan's daughter in a pilot for NBC called Running Wilde (1993), which featured Brosnan as a reporter for Auto World magazine, whose stories cover his own wild auto adventures. However, the series was not picked up and the pilot never aired. Hewitt later had roles in several short-lived television series, such as Fox's Shaky Ground (1992–1993), ABC's The Byrds of Paradise (1994), and McKenna (1994–95), and finally became a young star after landing the role of Sarah Reeves Merrin on the popular Fox show Party of Five (1995–99). She assumed the role of Sarah after joining that show during its second season and continued it on the short-lived Party of Five spin-off, Time of Your Life (1999), which she also co-produced. The show was cancelled after half a season.
Hewitt's first feature film role was in the independent film Munchie (1992). A year later, she achieved her first starring film role in Little Miss Millions (1993). She appeared as a choir member in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993). Hewitt became a film star after a lead role in the horror film I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), which enjoyed great box office success ($125,000,000 USD). Hewitt and her co-stars gained popular exposure from the film. She appeared in the sequel I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998), which, though not as successful as the first film, took in more money on its opening weekend. She starred in the high-school comedy Can't Hardly Wait (1998). Hewitt starred in The Audrey Hepburn Story (2000). That same year, she was the "most popular actress on television" for her Q-rating (a measurement of a celebrity's popularity) of 37. Noting her "Q-rating," Nokia chose her to become its spokesperson. She starred alongside Sigourney Weaver in the romantic comedy Heartbreakers (2001) and did voiceover work in the animated film The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (2002) as Madellaine, the main protagonist's love interest. Hewitt wrote and performed "I'm Gonna Love You" for the film; the song won "Best Original Song" at the DVD Premiere Awards. She starred alongside Jackie Chan in The Tuxedo (2002), which received negative reviews from critics but was a box office success. Hewitt appeared in If Only (2004) and co-wrote and performed "Love Will Show You Everything" and "Take My Heart Back" for the film's soundtrack. She starred in Garfield (2004), which became her highest-grossing film to date ($200,804,534 USD). She reprised her role for the sequel, Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties (2006), which, though it did not perform as well as its predecessor, achieved a strong box office gross.
Hewitt starred in the television series Ghost Whisperer (2005–2010), which ran on CBS for five seasons before being canceled by the network in May 2010. She reunited with her I Know What You Did Last Summer co-star, Freddie Prinze Jr., in Delgo; but when released in 2008, the film was a massive box office bomb, taking in only US$694,782 domestically. Hewitt's next feature film was the independent drama Café (2010) with her then-boyfriend Jamie Kennedy. She starred in the Lifetime film The Client List (2010), for which she received a Golden Globe nomination. The next year, Hewitt starred in the Hallmark Hall of Fame film The Lost Valentine (2011). In 2011, Hewitt was announced to direct the film Wait Till Helen Comes (based on the novel by Mary Downing Hahn). She had previously directed three episodes of Ghost Whisperer, and this would be her feature film directorial debut. Production on the film was slated to begin in the summer of 2011, but no further announcements about the film have been made as of January 2015. She also starred alongside Ivan Sergei and Joel David Moore in the independent comedy Jewtopia (2012). In July 2014, CBS announced that Hewitt had joined the cast of Criminal Minds as Agent Kate Callahan in the series' 10th season. However, Hewitt became pregnant with her second child during the production of season 10 of Criminal Minds, and left the cast of the show at the end of the season, with the possibility of further appearances left open.
- Hewitt is the first main cast member on 9-1-1 who was born in Texas, with the other being Ryan Guzman. Both Hewitt and Guzman joined the cast of 9-1-1 prior to the beginning of Season 2.
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