The music plays on at new home for Nashville

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29 December 2016

CMT, Thursdays, 9/8c

By Lori Acken

Pat yourselves on the back, Nashies. Deacon Claybourne himself gives you credit for saving Nashville.

“I knew that we weren’t done telling these stories or singing these songs,” says Charles Esten, who plays the longtime bandmate and brand-new husband of country superstar turned business mogul Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton). “The love the fans threw our way in that undecided period, that sure helped — you ask any one of our cast members! And then it helped to get us picked up. I was so impressed that they were able to take their disappointment and turn it into action.”

Action that paid off handsomely. Nashville Season 5 debuts Thursday on CMT, bolstered by venerable showrunners Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick — the same guys who brought you thirtysomething, My So-Called Life and Once and Again — and talented new cast members, including Grammy nominee Rhiannon Giddens.

“When I found out Deacon and Rayna were getting married, and we would be dabbling in this ‘married and now what?’ phase, I was as happy as the fans,” says Esten. “It’s fascinating the things you have to negotiate as a married couple with children — and that’s even more true now that we have writers whom I believe are actively looking forward to dealing with that. The future’s wide open now!” Esten says CMT supported Nashville from its earliest days on ABC.

“Last season, they awarded us their International Impact Award, because they saw what we were able to see when we went over to the U.K. and Ireland, and what we see on social media — that the show has created more country music fans, not just in this country, but elsewhere. We’ve been part of their events and they’ve made us feel part of the family here in Nashville for our whole four years here. … [Plus] being on a cable channel means we’re going to get to deliver the product and deliver the show in a different way.”

Including, Herskovitz revealed, a renewed focus on music’s role in the storytelling.

“Music is the lifeblood of the show,” Esten says. “Certainly dramatic events are exciting and thrilling, and I am certain we will have them. But there’s never been a time where I ever felt, ‘Well, we stayed in that song a little too long!’ … I’ve always seen them as continued dialogue. My character, maybe more than any other, is a guy that really doesn’t want to talk to you much about [unpleasant] things, but if you put him behind a guitar, he’ll tell you anything. I’ve always been fascinated by exploring that, because that’s a real thing here in Nashville.”
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