Wednesday night marks the premiere of the third season of ABC’s drama Nashville, and the stakes couldn’t be any higher for some of the shows most beloved (or despised) characters.
To sum up: Viewers should learn at least a little bit more about which way country queen Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton) will go when it comes to the two men in her life. Having said yes to the onstage proposal from Luke Wheeler (Will Chase), Rayna is then blindsided by her former love Deacon Claybourne (Chip Esten), who assures her he is better equipped to love her now than he was in the past. Meanwhile, Avery (Jonathan Jackson) has been betrayed by Juliette (Hayden Panettiere), who had a fling with Jeff (Oliver Hudson). Panettiere’s real-life pregnancy will impact Season Three as a “who’s the daddy” drama ensues.
The characters of Zoey (Chaley Rose) and Gunnar (Sam Palladio) are also experiencing life-changing events of their own. Rolling Stone Country spoke to both of them, along with Jonathan Jackson, backstage at the Grand Ole Opry this week to find out what the season premiere and the weeks ahead have in store for the series.
“The end of Season Two left a lot of relationships open,” says Jackson, after performing a pair of songs on the Opry stage. “We open up just smack in the middle of that drama. My character, Avery, is reeling, spiraling a little bit from the news of Juliette’s betrayal. And Scarlett [played by Clare Bowen] was leaving town, which is a big deal. So everyone’s in a little bit of a crisis.”
Born in Britain but now living in Music City, Palladio was also performing during Tuesday night’s Opry show, marking his 15th time on the legendary stage. He praises Nashville’s “melting pot” of musical styles and explained that while he grew up being exposed to more folk and rock, he’s now “very aware of country music.” In terms of his character’s arc for the new season, Palladio says that thanks to Gunnar’s songwriting success, the tunesmith has “come into some wealth at the end of last season and he’s getting a bit more stable. I think he’s feeling in a good place right now.”
That could all change for the tall Texan, however, with the arrival of Gunnar’s ex-girlfriend, Kylie, played by singer-actress Alexa PenaVega, who “turns up in town and sort of throws things into chaos. I think viewers are going to be very excited when [she] comes back. It opens up a lot of Gunnar’s past and brings up a lot of emotion in connection to his family and the loss he’s had there, through losing his brother,” Palladio says. “So we start to see some heart to Gunnar and some of his fragility.”
In addition, Palladio acknowledges that Gunnar continues to struggle with his desire to be a successful performer as well as songwriter.
“I think there’s still a part of him that would still like to be the guy up on stage playing to a huge crowd,” says the actor. “I’d like to see that develop somewhat. He’s taken a bit more of a back seat, behind the scenes writing the hit songs, which is great and making him a lot of money, but it’d be cool to see him in the spotlight.”
Rose, as Zoey, is about to embark on a tour with Juliette, and says the situation puts her character in an “anxious place.” She also has some anxiety about her leaving her man Gunnar behind with his former love, Scarlett, still in the picture and the arrival of Gunnar’s high-school sweetheart.
“I spent Season One being the benevolent friend or girlfriend,” Rose tells Rolling Stone Country. “It’s really nice to have some negative qualities. There’s some stuff that isn’t so great about her that you’ll see.”
One character trait Rose says she has in common with Zoey is a tendency to not think before she speaks. “I don’t think Zoey ever says anything to intentionally hurt anybody, and she never says anything that’s hurtful, but she’s got some sass. I have less of a filter than Zoey, though, so I have to process as I talk to you guys.”
To prove that point (and to give viewers a little more to chew on before Season Three starts), Rose inadvertently reveals that she has some inside info she had been prepped not to reveal — mainly the paternity of Juliette’s baby.
“I do know [who the father is],” she says before stopping herself. “No, I have no idea … I know who the father of Hayden‘s baby is. That’s what I meant. Shit.”
Nashville‘s season premiere airs tonight (Wednesday, September 24th) at 10:00 p.m. ET. A landmark episode, it will include live performances — on both coasts — from cast members Esten and Chris Carmack, as well as Florida Georgia Line.