Ahead of Nashville‘s Season Five premiere on CMT in January, more casting news has emerged — and this one marks a series first. Emmy-nominated actress Jen Richards has joined the musical drama as the show’s first transgender character. Allyson Del Lago is described as a “tough but understanding physical therapist who helps a series regular through one of their most difficult challenges,” according to CMT.com. Richards is the first out transgender actor to be featured on a CMT series.
In addition to her acting roles, Richards is the co-writer, star and producer of the Emmy-nominated series, Her Story, and co-producer of the upcoming documentary series More Than T and writer for its accompanying series, Trans 102. Born in Mississippi and now living in North Carolina, Richards is also an author, consultant and advocate working with various national organizations and media projects and has appeared on several additional TV series.
While there’s no official word on which Nashville character will be in need of physical therapy, speculation is high that it will be singer Juliette Barnes, who was missing – and presumed dead – in a plane crash at the end of Season Four. Actress Hayden Panettiere, who was set to leave the role at the end of the series’ four-season run on ABC, confirmed earlier this summer that she will continue in her role as Juliette.
Richards joins Grammy-winning singer Rhiannon Giddens, who was announced earlier this month as a new cast member, playing Hanna Lee “Hallie” Jordan, a young social worker with “the voice of an angel.” Aubrey Peeples (Layla Grant) and Will Chase (Luke Wheeler) will not be returning to the series.
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Nashville‘s two-hour premiere is set for January 5th at 9:00 p.m. ET on CMT. Season Five will consist of 22 episodes, but star Connie Britton will only appear in 10 of those episodes before departing her role as country queen Rayna Jaymes. After premiering on CMT, each episode will be available for streaming on Hulu the following day.