Laura Benanti Previews the ‘Nashville’ Fall Finale, Shares Secrets of the Set
Laura Benanti is a Tony award-winning veteran of several Broadway shows, which means her transition to musical performer on the ABC drama Nashville wasn’t that much of a stretch. Although she’s extremely disciplined (thanks to a theatrical schedule of eight live shows a week), her introduction to viewers on the series this season hasn’t been without its professional challenges. But as Sadie Stone, new BFF to country superstar Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton), Benanti is making it look effortless.
“In some ways this is music boot camp,” Benanti told Rolling Stone Country during a recent conversation in the lobby of a downtown Nashville hotel. “They’ll send you a track and the vocal with the lyrics, but no music. I read music, so I usually rely on seeing the notes in front of me to help me learn. You just have to learn it from your ear. Then you get into a recording studio, do it really quickly, and sing along to it in the taping. If I did not have years of experience working really hard at something, I don’t know if I’d be able to do this.”
Tonight’s Nashville mid-season finale promises to shed a little more light on Sadie and her troubled relationship with her ex-husband as she also makes her transition from behind-the-scenes songwriter to full-fledged artist. Although viewers have already seen her dodging the paparazzi with Rayna (à la Thelma and Louise) and winning a fictional CMA award as Best New Artist, Benanti says future episodes will reveal that she’s also been running from something.
“In the second part of her career she’s trying to be brave, and I really relate to that,” Benanti says. “There comes a time when you’ve got to say, ‘I’m going to stop trying to please other people and doing stuff for other people. I’m going to do it for myself.'”
Raised in New Jersey, Benanti was just 19 when she stepped into the lead role of Maria in The Sound of Music on Broadway. TV viewers saw Benanti (as the Baroness) alongside Carrie Underwood in NBC’s 2013 live telecast of the musical. She’s also appeared in the Broadway productions Into the Woods, Swing, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Gypsy. She received Tony nominations for each of those shows, winning the award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for Gypsy in 2008. In addition to previous acting roles on television, Benanti is a seasoned nightclub performer and songwriter who released the live LP In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention: Live at 54 BELOW in 2013. While country music wasn’t necessarily part of her upbringing, apart from Johnny Cash, much of the music she was raised on isn’t far removed from the genre.