Connie Britton is the latest to join the cast of Lionsgate’s American Ultra, the action comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart that recently kicked off production. Eisenberg plays a seemingly hapless and unmotivated small-town stoner who is actually a highly trained, lethal sleeper agent in a government program. That program was created by Victoria Lasseter (Britton). Topher Grace, Tony Hale, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman and Walton Goggins also star. Nima Nourizadeh is directing a script by Chronicle‘s Max Landis. The PalmStar/Likely Story/Circle of Confusion production is produced by Anthony Bregman, Kevin Frakes, Raj Brinder Singh, David Alpert and Britton Rizzio. Ray Angelic is executive producer. Britton, repped by WME and Untitled Entertainment, earned Emmy and Golden Globe noms for her role on ABC’s Nashville and an Emmy nom for American Horror Story. On the film side, she’s up next in This Is Where I Leave You opposite Jason Bateman, Tiny Fey and Adam Driver.
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.
Malin Akerman, Stephen Amell, Connie Britton, Dan Bucatinsky, Emilia Clarke, Jimmy Fallon, Tim Gunn, Jon Hamm, Alyson Hannigan, Mark Harmon, LL Cool J, Mindy Kaling and Heidi Klum were announced today as the final group of presenters for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards. The show is set to air live from the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on Sunday, September 22 at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT on CBS.
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?
Friday Night Lights alumna Connie Britton has closed a deal to star in ABC’s drama pilot Nashville, after lengthy negotiations. Written by Callie Khouri, directed by R.J. Cutler and produced by Lionsgate and ABC Studios, Nashville is described as a family soap about love, country music, family, politics and sex, all set against the backdrop of the Nashville music scene. It centers on 40-year-old Nashville fading superstar Rayna James (Britton) whose label requires her to team up with teen sensation Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) on tour–or else face the loss of her own tour and the label’s promotion of her latest record, whose sales have been underwhelming. Complicating things for Rayna, a married mother of two, is that she is the family’s sole breadwinner. This marks Britton’s return to broadcast television after recently starring on the first season of FX’s anthology horror drama American Horror Story. She previously toplined with Kyle Chandler Friday Night Lights, reprising the role she created in the hit Peter Berg movie of the same name. The drama series, which originated on NBC before migrating to DirecTV, earned Britton two Emmy nominations. On the big screen Britton, repped by WME and Untitled Entertainment, will next be seen in Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World opposite Keira Knightly and Steve Carell.
(WARNING: STORY CONTAINS SPOILERS) The status of American Horror Story leads Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott and the Golden Globe-nominated Jessica Lange remains in flux in the wake of the FX horror hour’s season one finale last night. But if Britton, McDermott, Lange or supporting player Frances Conroy return to the show for a second campaign, it will be as entirely different characters in a brand new storyline featuring a fully (or at least mostly) new cast. Co-creator and exec producer Ryan Murphy and FX president and GM John Landgraf laid out for reporters during a conference call this morning that Horror Story was packaged from the start as a seasonal anthology. “The (haunted) house is done,” Murphy stressed. “Every season of the show will be a different haunting. That’s always been the plan. Every season of the show will have a beginning, middle and end, and all new characters and setting.” But that doesn’t mean that this year’s performers won’t be back. It’s just that McDermott and Britton won’t be starring as Ben and Vivien Harmon, respectively, nor Lange as creepy neighbor Constance Langdon. It would have been tough to pull that off, anyway, since the Harmons all were dead by the time the season drew to a close.
“We’re still negotiating with a handful (of the cast members) about returning,” Murphy said. “We’re also meeting with new actors whom we’ve targeted roles for. I will say that Connie and Dylan will …
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Why She Was Nominated: The TV academy really had no choice. While this is Moss’ third consecutive nomination for Mad Men (two for lead, one for supporting), it’s one that for the first time raises Moss above the crowd. The submitted episode, “The Suitcase” (written by creator-showrunner Matthew Weiner), is an actress’ dream. It elevates her to the favorite’s position in a year when none of the past three category winners (Kyra Sedgwick, Glenn Close and Sally Field) is in the running.
Why She Has To Win: From the time it premiered, “The Suitcase” episode of Mad Men has been hailed as the show’s clear-cut accolade vehicle. It found Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Peggy Olson (Moss) hanging together in the office after hours when Don finds out a close friend has died. They get plastered on booze, and Draper lets loose in a way he rarely does. Moss more than holds her with Hamm in an episode that stands to win a bunch of people a bunch of Emmys (Moss included). “This episode is absolute magic,” a producer tells me, “and Elisabeth Moss is a big reason why.”
Why She Can’t Possibly Win: She’s never won before, and neither has anyone else from Mad Men — yet. If it doesn’t happen this year, we can all start writing about the cast being cursed. It’s also a fact that Julianna Margulies could win here and no one would be the slightest bit shocked.
Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
During a panel for his new thriller drama series for FX, American Horror Story, Murphy confessed a dark family secret that may have led to his fascination with horror: “My grandmother would force me, even when I was sobbing and screaming, to watch Dark Shadows,” he said. “And then when I was bad, I had to watch The Waltons.”
Murphy and fellow American Horror Story co-creator Brad Falchuck said that the present cast and characters would not necessarily only be around for the first 13 episodes as has been speculated. And they assured their audience that many of the questions raised in the pilot episode would be answered fairly quickly in the second and third episodes. “(We have) a pilot that I believe has like eight cliffhangers,” Murphy said. “We had an obligation to the audience in the next two scripts to explain a lot of those things that are set up.” One of those things, he said, will be why the characters stay in the very scary 1920s California house — a phenomenon that has been spoofed a lot, why people in haunted houses in horror films and TV shows just don’t get the heck out of there. Murphy said that very important question would be answered in the third episode. As for questions about the recent controversy over the fate of some of the stars from his other series — Fox’s Glee — Murphy declined to answer those. “I’m not talking about Glee,” he said after the panel. “I’ve said everything I wanted to say about that” (See Emmy Q&A: Ryan Murphy About ‘Glee’ and ‘Glee’s Ryan Murphy Talks For First Time About Spinoff & Firings Missteps.)
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s Emmy coverage.
EMMYS: Comedy And Drama Series Have Become Primetime’s Great Divide
The Emmy nomination for top drama series that so many had been wrongly predicting for years finally materialized this morning for Friday Night Lights, the DirecTV-by-way-of-NBC football drama that since its 2006 start has been at once blessed with lavish critical praise and cursed with spotty ratings. Yet the fact that the series nom comes for Lights‘ final season — long after it can do the show any good — still tasted sweet rather than bitter for showrunner Jason Katims. “It’s fantastic,” Katims said in an interview with Deadline today, referring both to the show’s first series nomination as well as the repeat performing nods for leads Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler (their second in as many years). “It was completely unexpected but totally plays into the whole spirit that guided this series. To use our metaphor, it’s like earning a shot with our last possession in the final seconds of the game. And we’re thrilled to have it.” Lights blazed a decidedly unprecedented path in its fight to survive as long as it did, starting out on NBC where it struggled in the ratings after having its second season cut short by the writers strike and faced cancellation before being rescued from the scrap heap by DirecTV.
Friday Night Lights star Connie Britton has lined up her next TV series project. She is set as the female lead in American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s drama pilot for FX. Murphy is set to direct the pilot, from 20th Century Fox, which will shoot next month, after Murphy and Falchuk wrap production on Glee.
FX and the producers are keeping the premise of American Horror Story under wraps, but a breakdown for the pilot lists its main characters as Ben Harmon, a sensitive therapist, and Vivien Harmon (Britton), his gorgeous wife who is a force to be reckoned with in spite of her vulnerable demeanor. Murphy and Falchuk are executive producing American Horror Story with Dante Di Loreto.
Britton continues to be attached as a producer to another FX project, a David O. Russell drama, now in development. It is unclear whether she would star in that if it comes to fruition.
They are both coming off acclaimed projects. Now director David O. Russell, nominated for an Oscar for The Fighter, and Connie Britton, nominated for an Emmy for Friday Night Lights, are teaming to develop a female-driven drama for FX. According to TVLine’s Michael Ausiello who broke the news, Russell will create the series, with Britton attached to star. The premise is still unclear. The FX project would probably rule Britton out for this pilot season, which would be sad news to casting directors. Who wouldn’t want to see Britton take on Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect, which was just greenlighted to pilot by NBC?
EXCLUSIVE: Now this is what I would call an event: NBC’s freshman drama The Event – which was recently picked up for a full season despite eroding ratings – is pursuing Emmy-nominated Friday Night Lights star Connie Britton for a major recurring role. According to sources, producers – one of whom is Britton’s longtime FNL director, Jeffrey Reiner – put a feeler out to the actress to play a senator’s wife. When her husband suddenly dies, the Harvard grad and former powerhouse attorney is given 90 days to prove herself worthy of his seat. And let there be no doubt that Britton is their first choice for the role; the casting breakdown lists the name of the character in question as “Senator Britton.” Should she bite, this would be the MVP’s first TV gig since wrapping up her five-season stint on FNL last July; the show’s final episodes are currently airing on DirecTV. Michael Ausiello will be contributing to Deadline.com and Movieline.com as he preps for the early 2011 launch of a new TV-centric website.
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s 2010 Emmy coverage. Here’s his scorecard assessing the Outstanding Lead Drama Series Actress race:
GLENN CLOSE, DAMAGES
Why She Got Nominated: If the TV Academy voters hadn’t nominated Glenn Close in this race, they might as well have called off the Emmys. She’s still the gold standard for actresses on TV. Her episode submitted for consideration, “Your Secrets Are Safe”, was the first of this past season and aired back in January. But that’s what screeners are for.
Why She Has To Win: This is Close’s 13th Emmy nomination. She’s won 3, including two in a row in this category. Close’s reputation precedes her: it’s tough to find anyone who can say anything even remotely negative about her. That goes a long way in contests of this sort. It also helps that she hasn’t lost a step in her performance. “Voting for Glenn Close, you never feel like you’re settling,” one actor says.
Why She Can’t Possibly Win: Three-peating is never easy. Things like professional jealousy come into play, as does increased competition. Close also has to fight the “been there, done that” vibe of the multiple winner. Lastly, the fact her ratings-challenged show could no longer cut it on FX and is now moving to DirecTV may hurt.
JULIANNA MARGULIES, THE GOOD WIFE
Why She Got Nominated: Margulies gave the most high-profile performance of any lead actress in a freshman drama, CBS pulled out all the stops publicity-wise for her and the show, and the TV Academy has a obvious soft spot for this actress as …