ABC‘s Nashville started as a family soap set against the backdrop of the Nashville music scene that followed one star at her peak, Rayna (Connie Britton), and one on the rise, Juliette (Hayden Panettiere). The country music business was as major part of the tapestry of the show as the twists and turns in the characters’ personal relationship. But then gradually over the first season of the show, which had one of the strongest launches in fall 2012, the soapy content started to rise, a trend that continued this season when the series also moved away from the Rayna-Juliette storyline that was at the heart of the show early on to focus on peripheral characters. (Word is that there will be a course correction in the second half of the season, with Rayna and Juliette’s relationship, plus Chip Esten’s Deacon, taking center stage again.) There have been rumors about pressure from ABC to make the show soapier, with former Nashville music producer T Bone Burnett fanning flames last fall with comments in an interview about “a knockdown, bloody, drag-out fight” behind the scenes over making music drama versus soap opera, and that star Britton too wasn’t too fond of the show’s creative direction.
The 20th annual Austin Film Festival has unveiled its 2013 lineup of screenwriter-focused panels and special filmmaker guests. This year’s fest runs from October 24-31 and will honor Oscar winner Callie Khouri (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) with its Distinguished Screenwriter Award. Confirmed panelists include Robert Rodriguez, Roberto Orci, Jenji Kohan (Orange is the New Black), Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad), Rian Johnson (Looper), the Veronica Mars filmmakers, and Dan Rather. Here’s the AFF 2013 Conference lineup:
Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
Today’s PaleyFest panel on ABC’s freshman drama Nashville raised questions appropriate for a soap opera: When the show returns on March 27, what heat will develop between Connie Britton’s Rayna James and Charles Esten’s Deacon Claybourne? And when (if ever) will Deacon find out he’s really the father of Rayna’s daughter Maddie? Plus a question from the audience: As per news reports, are the stars of the country music series planning to go on a concert tour? The show’s creator/executive producer Callie Khouri joked: “We might go on vacation.” Added Esten: “I know there’s talk about it, but it’s in vague stages, it would make sense to anybody on some level, but there’s nothing very concrete about it.” Esten added that he hoped that the man in charge of the music for Nashville — T Bone Burnett, who is also Khouri’s husband, would be an integral part of the venture. “I would say again that if it ever happened in any form that T Bone would have his warm and loving arms around it and make it all that it could be”.
Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor
Hayden Panettiere, 23, began her career as a child actor on the soaps One Life to Live and Guiding Light, and met an untimely death as Kirby Reed in Scream 4. But she is perhaps best known as Claire Bennet, the high-school cheerleader with supernatural powers on NBC’s Heroes. She’s trying to change that girl-next-door image in ABC’s Nashville, portraying ambitious, conniving country-pop diva Juliette Barnes, youthful nemesis of old-school country star Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton). Apparently the catfight chemistry is working: ABC recently handed the freshman series created by Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise) a full-season order. And both Panettiere and Britton scored big at the Golden Globe nominations: Panettiere netted a nom for best supporting actress in a TV series, miniseries, or motion picture, and Britton is up for best actress in a TV drama.
AwardsLine: This role was a lot to take on with singing. What led you to accept the part of Juliette?
Hayden Panettiere: I love the fact that this character that Callie Khouri created is so multidimensional; there’s so many layers to her. But this was a big deal for me because I really wanted to break away from my character in Heroes. I’m so deeply blessed that I got to play that character, don’t get me wrong, but I knew after that character it would be an uphill battle for people to see me as anything besides the all-American cheerleader.
Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor
Connie Britton, 45, is a multiple Emmy Award nominee for her roles on Friday Night Lights and American Horror Story. But during one of her typical 16-hour workdays for ABC’s freshman drama Nashville, she says of her first Golden Globe nomination—for best actress in a TV drama series—that it never gets old: “I’m far from jaded about awards nominations.” Britton shares the honor with costar and fellow Golden Globe nominee Hayden Panettiere, 23, and talks about why their onscreen duet seems to work.
AwardsLine: What is the appeal of the uneasy relationship between your character, Rayna Jaymes, and her young competitor, Hayden Panettiere’s Juliette Barnes?
Connie Britton: I was talking to (Nashville creator) Callie Khouri last night, and we were both talking about just how much fun it is, particularly now that Hayden’s character and my character are really engaging. What’s funny to me is, in the first five or six episodes, we didn’t really engage that much. There is something really interesting about these two women in very different places in their lives who are fighting for their lives in different ways.
AwardsLine: We hear stories about actors who go to unusual lengths to stay in character on set—fellow Golden Globe nominee Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln is a good example. What about you two?
The Oscar-winning screenwriter of Thelma And Louise and director of The Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood has one of the rare critical hits of this fall TV season, Nashville. Callie Khouri talked to Salon recently about how she went from not wanting to write for TV to realizing that telling stories about women is more respected on the small screen:
I’m just liking TV so much more than features right now, just in terms of what you can get made… I don’t think any studio — it was a long shot at the time – but I don’t think any studio in a million years would make Thelma And Louise right now. But there’s so many other kinds of movies they won’t make right now.
People who make TV also seem much more comfortable making shows for women than people making movies do. Because you’re allowed. You’re allowed to make things for women on television and … you don’t have to go through the humiliation of having made something directed at women. There it’s just accepted, whereas if it’s a feature, it’s like “So, talk to me about chick flicks.”