Nashville has long been known as the unofficial capital of country music, but ABC's new series of the same name is about much more than just singing about heartbreak and cheating spouses.
"There's music, there's drama, there's the family story," executive producer R.J. Cutler told reporters Friday at ABC's Television Critics Association fall TV previews. "You're in the music business world. You're in the political world, but at the core of it are these relationships drive everything."
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Nashville centers on a country music superstar (Connie Britton) who is asked to open for an up-and-coming songstress (Hayden Panettiere) while also dealing with her husband's run for mayor.
Britton said it was this unique juggling act that attracted her Nashville. It "felt like something innovative and something we hadn't seen before and as an actor that's exciting," she said. "As an actor, I always want to stretch myself. From American Horror Story to Nashville is a big stretch."
Although Britton and Panettiere will both play country music singers, producers stressed that there will be a "wide range" of genres featured. "We're going to be having a lot of original music and it's not just country music — there's a lot of crossover and pop," executive producer Callie Khouri said. The show will feature several original songs in every episode, from award-winning musicians like T-Bone Burnett and Elvis Costello, and although there is no hard date set yet for a soundtrack (à la fellow musical TV series Glee and Smash), Khouri said there will be one at some point. "Music is the texture of the show," Cutler said. "It's the air that these characters breathe, so it's always there."
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Because music plays such a big role in the hour-long series, both Britton and Panettiere will sing on the series. Panettiere was a professional recording artist from ages 15-19 before her claim to fame on Heroes, while Britton said she's been singing her whole life, just not professionally. "Connie's having a journey, and it's an exciting journey because it's a journey with T. Bone Burnett, but it's a journey," Britton said, who also noted that while she'll be doing more singing, "there probably won't be as many y'alls," as compared to her Friday Night Lights character.
Since the show actually shoots in Nashville, does that mean there will be cameos from real-life country superstars? Not quite. "We're really focused on our cast of real country artists. It's not a cameo-driven show," Cutler said. However, he did note that real local Nashville musicians are featured in the pilot and will be featured throughout the series. "We'll be open to it as it serves story."
Nashville premieres on Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 10/9c on ABC.