Everyone involved with the ABC drama Nashville is quick to point out that the show could not be possible without two very fearless leaders: show creator Callie Khouri and the man behind the music, T-Bone Burnett.
At the PaleyFest panel on Saturday, March 9, Khouri and the cast came onstage at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills to sing the show’s praises. Much of the cast described their eagerness to come onboard once they heard Khouri was behind the show—several mentioned their love of her film, Thelma and Louise. Burnett is actually Khouri’s husband—he’s the much acclaimed musical genius behind the show’s country setting (his previous projects include O, Brother Where Art Thou?, Crazy Heart, and The Hunger Games.)
“There was instant credit by attaching T-Bone’s name,” said Charles Esten, who plays Deacon Claybourne. “He has this ferocious dedication…and he gives us a stable ground to fly from.”
Hayden Panettiere, who portrays the show’s spitfire Juliette Barnes, also echoed how great it is to work with Burnett, saying that he has helped her get over her intense stage fright (something she might have to triumph over if the much-rumored stage tour ends up happening.
“He’s like a music whisperer,” Connie Britton (Rayna James) said. “You talk to any actor who’s been able to have the great, great fortune to work with him, and they will tell you the same thing. Boy, we all got hit by the lucky stick.”
When it came to discussing upcoming plot points though, the cast was a little more mum on the details. Will star-crossed former lovers Rayna and Deacon ever get back together? “It’s textured,” Esten said. “We have this deep, old, abiding, undeniable love. She’s the one for me…but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work out easily.”
The show’s fans are also eager to find out how the relationship of duet partners, Scarlett and Gunnar, will play out. Clare Bowen, who plays Scarlett (with a shockingly good Southern accent considering she’s from Australia), admitted that after the death of Gunnar’s brother, things could get a little out of control. “Grief makes people do odd things… [they’re both] on a rollercoaster of emotions,” she said.
The show shoots at breakneck speed around Nashville. Esten noted that because the cast doesn’t receive scripts very far in advance, “there’s really no ability to play ahead.” He admitted that he doesn’t know what’s happening in his character’s future any more than Deacon does, which allows for more authenticity instead of forced acting.
But the cast agreed that a lot of the chemistry of the show comes from shooting in Nashville. Britton said she was proud that the show gets to “show the beauty and complexity of the city.” Khouri came up for the setting of the show because “I lived in Nashville, I worked a lot of music clubs…and there is so much magic in that town.” She now feels privileged that “everybody’s getting to see my town the way I’ve always wanted to show it.”
New episodes of the show will start airing again on March 27 on ABC.