For all of the drama surrounding Connie Britton’s character on ABC’s Nashville, the actress is having a blast.
“It’s been so much fun,” she told CMT Hot 20 Countdown while shooting on location at the Bridgestone Arena. “It’s kind of dreamy because when else am I gonna be a country music star?”
Britton portrays Rayna James, an established country artist with a rebounding career, thanks to the sudden success of “Wrong Song,” which she sings with on-screen nemesis Juliette Barnes (portrayed by actress Hayden Panetierre).
And for those who watch Wednesday night’s (Jan. 16) show, keep your eyes peeled for another familiar face who’s known for chatting with the stars — CMT’s own Katie Cook.
In this interview, Britton discusses the authenticity of filming in Music City, the unraveling of her character’s marriage and the chance that Rayna’s career uptick may be short-lived.
CMT: Those of us who live in Nashville appreciate that you’re out in the middle of it, not doing it from a soundstage.
Britton: Before we even started shooting the show, I had lots of conversations with Callie [Khouri, the lead writer] and R.J. Cutler, who shot the pilot, about that. I felt — and I know they did, too — that in order for the show to really have the integrity that we wanted it to have, we would have to be here to shoot it. I think it really has contributed so much to the authenticity of what we’re doing. Whether it’s just walking out your front door and hearing the accents that are out there or being able to perform at the Grand Ole Opry … it’s just being in Nashville.
Would you recommend being a country star? Is that a job you wouldn’t mind having?
I don’t know. I mean, Rayna is having a pretty hard time. I really like the outfits. Country music stars, from what I can tell, get to wear great clothes. On that level, I would really recommend it. There’s a lot of heartbreak and confusion, at least according to our stories. But the country music stars that are real, that I’ve actually met here in Nashville, seem like they’ve got it pretty good.
Are there any wish list cameos coming up? Who would you like to see on the show?
Oh, hmmm. Bonnie Raitt . Bonnie Raitt would be so great to have on the show. I got to see her perform at the Ryman here in Nashville, and we got to meet her afterwards. And she actually came and visited the set. I’m like, “Whoa, maybe we can get her on our show.” She’s amazing.
Tell me about your music on the soundtrack.
All the songs we got to sing, we developed and created with T Bone Burnett . I think I have a couple of duets on there. I have an awesome duet with Chip Esten [who plays Deacon Claybourne, Rayna’s former guitarist and ex-boyfriend] that we played in the second episode, such a beautiful song called “No One Will Ever Love You.” And there’s this really cool song called “Buried Under” that is really fun and kind of representative of Rayna’s new style. And then there’s a great duet with Rayna and Juliette that was really awesome.
Tell us about that one — “Wrong Song.”
Yeah, “Wrong Song” is such a right song. It’s such a great song. The song comes out of this reluctant pairing of these two characters, and we end up writing the song together. Then it’s really this jammin’ fun song. And we had a blast doing it. It was really fun. After all this buildup and everything, it was really fun to finally be able to get onstage with Hayden and be able to do that. And we had so much fun with it.
Has that rivalry between the characters been fun to play?
It has. It’s actually getting fun now because in the beginning episodes, we didn’t do much together at all. So I’m excited that now we’re going to be able to see these characters together and really get into the nitty gritty of what is going on between them — and the differences and also the similarities. … Before, it was, “I don’t like her, I don’t like her.” It’s more fun this way.
Let’s talk about Rayna’s marriage to Teddy. It’s not on the most stable ground.
No, no, nooo. Rayna’s marriage to Teddy is fraught with difficulty, and it seems to just be getting worse. Everything was just so great. This is an interesting point in time where we find Rayna, because it seems like everything in Rayna’s life is kind of turning on its ear. And that is true with her relationship with Teddy, as well. Actually as an actress, every week when I get a new script, I’m like, “He did that now!” or “What did he do now?!” Teddy, Teddy, Teddy.
You mentioned Rayna’s new musical direction, which sometimes works in real-life country music and sometimes doesn’t work so well. How does that musical direction go for Rayna?
Well, you’d have to ask the writers how that musical direction is going to go for Rayna. But what I think is exciting about it is that Rayna is really taking chances. She’s really taking risks because she’s veering in a different direction. She’s trying to be a little bit more rock ‘n’ roll, but really it’s coming from who she is and her own perspective at this particular time in her life. And she’s got this great producer, Liam, who she’s working with. So I think when artists take risks, it usually pays off in some way. And the thing about taking risks is you can always fall flat on your face. So hopefully she won’t.