It’s only six episodes into its second season, but ABC’s soapy indulgence Nashville is firing on all cylinders. Country Queen Rayna James (Connie Britton) has her voice back, Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) is saddling up beside a new teen sensation, and former enemies Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson) and Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio) have begun a bromance that’s resulted in one hell of a catchy tune. Rolling Stone sat down with Britton to get the scoop on Rayna’s vocal cords, discuss a possible return to American Horror Story and find out how Tami would convince Coach to film the Friday Night Lights movie.
It was great to see Rayna not only regain her voice, but also her confidence on stage last week. What was that moment like for you?
That was one of the most fun things that I’ve gotten to shoot on this show. That whole moment was loosely based around this Miranda Lambert moment. It was during the Healing in the Heartland Oklahoma Benefit Concert after those horrible tornadoes had hit in the area. She was performing “The House That Built Me” and, during the song, she got really choked up and the audience helped fill in the song for her while she held out the microphone. What started out as an uncomfortable moment became a beautiful, unified moment between her and her audience. As an actor, those are just my favorite moments, period. End of discussion.
What would you do if you could no longer speak?
I’ve known a lot of people who have – actors and singers. It’s no joke. On our show, the part that was hard for me was when she was keeping it this big secret. As artists, our voices are everything. If you lose your voice, you’ve got a real problem.
It’s interesting to see the parallels between how Rayna is handling it and how Deacon is handling it.
It’s interesting because his character is such a martyr. And Rayna is just like, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get ‘er done!” They have so many similar qualities, and they ultimately often end up in the same place, but they get to it in very different ways.
Is there ever a chance of that relationship being mended or is it just too far gone?
You’re going to have to talk to our writers about that. [Laughs] I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’m totally like, “Yeah! Rayna and Deacon all the way!” But then the writers look at me like, “No. They can’t be together. They’re bad for each other.” I’m just the worst. I guess I’m a hopeless romantic.
You moved to Virginia when you were seven years old, which is not Nashville, but it’s pretty far south. Did you know what the Grand Ole Opry was?
Where I grew up in Virginia was the south – trust me on that. I grew up hearing a lot of country, but it wasn’t the cornerstone of my musical background. But because I was in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it was absolutely a part of the backdrop of that world.
Is that why you moved to Nashville when you started working on the show?
All of us were incredibly committed to the authenticity of the show. Having already shot Friday Night Lights in Texas, I knew that you couldn’t duplicate that authenticity. We knew we wouldn’t be able to do it anywhere else. We had to be in Nashville.
Speaking of Friday Night Lights, how would Tami Taylor convince Coach to do a movie?
[Laughs] Okay. In the come-to-Jesus moment, Tami Taylor would say, “You gotta just get ‘er done!”
It has to happen. Right?
We’ve had conversations, but I think you’re right. Tami would just say, “Stop thinking about it and just do it. Go with your heart. Go be with your people.” I feel badly, because I feel like it’s been turned into this thing where suddenly Kyle Chandler has been made into the bad guy and I don’t think that’s the case. He’s allowed to have the point of view he has. And by the way, he’s not alone. There are plenty of other people on our show who I think are not that thrilled about the idea of having a movie.
He’s coming from a good place. He really has reverence for the show.
Absolutely, and everybody on the show does. Hands down, if there’s a reason not to do the movie, it’s because people believe that the show was the completion of the story. And there’s part of me that can see their point of view for sure.
But you’re saying Tami Taylor is in? She’s on board?
Tami Taylor is in, because I felt like I could have lived in that character forever. And, most importantly, Tami Taylor would be on board assuming and trusting that it’s a great script and that we would be in the hands of Pete Berg and Jason Katims and the other people who created this world. Nobody would want to do anything that would, in any way, take away from how great Friday Night Lights was.
Many American Horror Story people have come back to the show. Any chance you’ll join them?
I hope so. I’ve actually been talking to them this season, because they’re down in New Orleans and I’m in Nashville. I said, “Okay, let’s see if we can try to figure this out.”
So you have your pointy witch hat ready?
[Laughs] I’m like, “I’ll put that on and jump on a plane and go to New Orleans.” Yes, I would do that. As long as we can figure it out with both productions, I’m in. I hope it happens.