It’s time to dust off your spurs and polish your saddle, because Nashville is moseying back into town on March 27th. Series creator Callie Khouri and the cast of Nashville, including Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere, Clare Bowen, Joshua Jackson, Sam Palladio, and Charles Esten shared their love of ABC’s sudsy breakout hit with legions of fans at PaleyFest 2013. While the audience would normally expect a preview of what’s to come through the end of the season from the panel, that was not to be. The moderator lobbed softballs like, “describe the casting process” and “what do you identify with in your character,” which mostly elicited professions of love from the cast for each other, Khouri, and country legend T-Bone Burnett. Nevertheless, some interesting tidbits slipped through the cracks.
Panettiere suffers from horrible stage frights. Panettiere mentioned several times that the role of country music star Juliette was particularly daunting for her because she suffers from terrible stage fright. However, she said that T-Bone would help put her at ease by coming and sitting next to her. “Every single time, regardless of my stage fright, I sang it better. He put the emotion back into the lyrics and into the song.” Panettiere wasn’t the only one who was nervous to take the musical stage. When asked if she had been apprehensive about singing, Britton quickly responded, “Uh, yeah.” Her ability to sing hadn’t particularly concerned Khouri when casting Britton. Khouri jokingly admitted,“I didn’t know if she could sing, but I knew she had the hair.”
Esten was a bit starstruck to work with Panettiere and Britton. Esten described that during the casting process, Panettiere was his biggest champion. After his first audition, Panettiere was waiting outside the door clapping and told him, “You are so good!” This was a big deal for Esten, “I knew the cheerleader who had saved the world and all that.” Esten was also a huge fan of Britton’s Friday Night Lights. He described how he would drive his wife crazy when they watched the show by dissecting the scenes. His wife would respond, “Can we just watch it?” Esten appeared genuinely thrilled to be part of the cast and described the role of Deacon as a dream that many actors would love to have.
What’s going to happen with Rayna and Deacon? Nobody knows. The actors are in the dark on what’s happening next, but that’s more a function of the writers getting jammed up on getting the scripts rather than an ultimate plan for secrecy. Britton and Esten confessed that they have no idea what the future holds for Deacon and Rayna. But, Esten gave an explanation of Deacon’s feelings for Rayna that elicited a sigh from every female in the room: “We have this deep old, abiding, undeniable love. She is the one for me.”
Don’t count on any Deacon/Rayna flashbacks. When asked by an audience member if there would be flashbacks to Deacon and Rayna, both Britton and Esten erupted in laughter. Esten said they’d have to check with special effect, who he anticipated would respond, “We can’t do it. We don’t have the budget to make them look that young.” Connie added about their younger selves, “You don’t get them any earlier than 2011.”
Juliette isn’t all bad. Panettiere described Juliette’s lovelife as a series of carcasses left in her wake. At the moment, her focus is trying to rekindle the relationship with her mother. Panettiere bemoaned that Juliette “loves to take two steps forward and two steps back.” Panettiere also isn’t too hard on her character. She believes Juliette has good intentions but goes about things in the wrong way.
Random trivia you may or may not know. Throughout the panel, the cast let slip little facts that viewers may or may not know about them. Panettiere told everyone that Palladio stayed on her couch for a couple months when the show was starting.
Palladio confessed that when he was a child, his grandmother used to take him to tap lessons. Upon this revelation, Khouri responded that she might have to work that into an episode.
Bowen is praised for her singing ability on the show, but in real life she was kicked out of opera class because her “voice was going in a different direction.”
As for Thelma and Louise scribe Khouri, Nashville is her first television show and she acknowledged that there has been a steep learning curve. For her husband T-Bone, Khouri reported he’s enjoyed working on the show. She laughed that when he attended his first Golden Globes, when Panettiere and Britton were up for awards, he told her it was great but asked why nobody was thanking him.
Panettiere once tried to record an album and found it to be like “fitting a square peg in a round hole.” She said that her heart has always been with country music, so the role of Juliette feels natural.
Will Nashville be coming to a fair ground near you? Unlikely. When asked if a concert tour was possible, Esten replied that there’s nothing concrete now, but if it ever happened, he would want T-Bone to be involved. However, he explained that right now their main focus is the show and the world in which their characters exist.
(Photo Credit: Kevin Parry for Paley Center for Media)