Move over “Dallas,” “Nashville” is the hot new drama in town.
The highly anticipated ABC series, which isn’t quite a musical and isn’t quite a soap – and is the best reviewed new show of the season – debuts Wednesday at 10/9c but the pilot episode is available now online for an early first look. Watch it here below.
Shot entirely in Music City, “Nashville” depicts the underbelly of the music industry interwoven with the saga of a high-powered Southern family. The series has an impressive pedigree — it was co-created by Callie Khouri, the Oscar-winning writer of “Thelma and Louise,” and the score (much of it original songs performed by the cast) is in the hands of her husband, music-biz wiz T Bone Burnett.
Then there’s the likable leading lady: Connie Britton stars as Rayna Jaymes, “the reigning queen of country” … whose career is stalling out. When her new album bombs, Rayna’s record label forces her to go on tour with an up-and-coming pop-country tartlet from the wrong side of the tracks named Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere of “Heroes”). The subplots feature a thread of politics as Rayna’s rich and powerful papa (Powers Boothe) pushes her husband Teddy (Eric Close) to run for office, while strumming in the background is Rayna’s past romantic relationship with one her bandmates.
Of course, all this offstage drama is the stuff country songs are made of.
Watch the Pilot Episode of “Nashville” Now on xfinityTV:
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Now, one thing some actors fear is being typecast, but that doesn't seem to be an issue for Connie Britton. The TV star's last three projects have been wildly diverse. And we do mean wild.
Last year, she appeared on FX’s anthology series “American Horror Story,” where her character had sex with a ghost in a black rubber suit and gave birth to the antichrist — for which she earned an Emmy nomination. The risky role was a shock to y’all, especially the legion of fans who adored Britton as the sweet and supportive Tami Taylor for five seasons of “Friday Night Lights.”
Now Britton’s shifting gears again and heading to “Nashville” to play a country singer.
And yes, she does her own singing.
It’s another curve ball in her career, one that is “very much by design,” Britton says.
“I’m trying to do things that are very different, and most specifically, feel scary and risky,” the actress told xfinityTV.
"My biggest fear has been the singing," Britton admitted during our interview. "And when I feel like I sort of pull it off, that's the biggest joy."
"I'm taking voice lessons, and working with T Bone is a joy, he's such a generous, amazing, nurturing person…. If I ever become a good singer, it will be solely because of him," Britton says.
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Never mind that the producers had no idea if Britton would, or could, actually sing when they pursued her for the part, which they did, aggressively.
Britton says she was not looking to return to series TV so soon after her “Horror” story ended (she was in development on three different shows at the time) but, “It was very hard to say no — just FYI, it’s very hard to say no to Callie Khouri. And then, the idea of playing a country music star, and working with T Bone Burnett, I mean, how could I resist that?”
"When I first read script, I said, 'What about the singing? Would we be doing our own?' And they said, well, that would be ideal," Britton explains.
“So I said to them — and Callie reminds me of this — ‘Well, nobody’s paid me to sing in a very long time,’ so in Callie’s mind, that meant, at some point, somebody paid her [to sing], so it must be okay.”
As for the crux of the show, Britton, 45, acknowledges the cougar vs. kitten set-up between Rayna and Juliette is juicy but she doesn’t want it to be the prevailing theme of the show.
"The whole idea of this rivalry has been overdeveloped," Britton told us. "I never saw the show in those terms. I'm going to work pretty hard so the show doesn't become about 'old' - because I certainly don't feel old, and I'm not interested in playing old. So I don't want it to be 'old versus young.'
"Or about one woman versus another woman," she adds. "I think what our two characters represent is two people in very different phases in their lives and in the music business. Our show is called Nashville and our two characters are a very good gateway into that story of what's happening in the music business right now."
“Nashville” premieres Wednesday, October 10 at 10/9c on ABC.