As country-music superstar Rayna Jaymes, Boston-born Connie Britton takes the y'all she perfected as Tami Taylor on Friday Night Lights and sets it to music on ABC's highly anticipated Nashville, premiering tonight. Set in the change-on-a-dime music industry, the series charts the fates of veteran Rayna and It Girl Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) as they compete for downloads and dollars. For Rayna, those two things will prove ever more elusive in the next few episodes, as secrets from her personal life begin to threaten her career — and her bandleader ex, Deacon (Charles Esten), grows closer to catty rival Juliette. We caught up with Britton on the Tennessee set of her new show.
TV Guide Magazine: You do all of your own singing. How has that been for you?
Britton: My journey on this has been different from everybody else's, because all these people are incredible singers and musicians. I have been grateful to our vocal coach and also to [Nashville executive music producer] T Bone Burnett. I'd be nowhere without the two of them. T Bone is from another time but he also has some amazing ability to bring out the voice in people. He's helped us define who these characters are and what they're singing.
TV Guide Magazine: You relocated to Nashville for the role. What do you like about shooting here?
Britton: When doing a show like this or Friday Night Lights, it's really helpful to be in the environment. For me, the main thing I love is feeling the energy, and hearing the dialect of this place. Meeting the people and seeing how they behave and live their lives, that informs what we're doing.
TV Guide Magazine: Are you a country-music fan?
Britton: I'm a music fan, period. I haven't been as avid a country-music fan specifically, but I've now grown to love it.
TV Guide Magazine: So can we expect many upcoming fireworks between Rayna and Juliette?
Britton: It's funny, there has been a lot of initial conversation about the rivalry, but we're still fleshing out what that is going to look like. It's less about rivalry. They don't impact each other directly very much at all so far. My hope is that we'll use these characters to show different types of musicians, and how the changes in the music industry have impacted Rayna and are helping Juliette.
TV Guide Magazine: How is it working opposite Hayden?
Britton: She's awesome. I worked with Zachary Quinto on American Horror Story and he was on Heroes with Hayden, so he thinks of her as "little Hayden." She has such a wisdom about her even though she is still so young. She's a lovely human being.
TV Guide Magazine: Speaking of American Horror Story, your season and its creepy material seemed arduous for you.
Britton: But it was actually so much fun. I was surprised by that, because part of the reason I did it is because it scared the hell out of me. It was fun because we were working with such wonderful people. Ryan Murphy is a genius, and that cast was unparalleled. I felt if I'm ever going to do horror, this is the time and the place to do it.
TV Guide Magazine: Did you know your character, Vivien Harmon, was going to die?
Britton: I did. That was part of what excited me about it, that I was going to get to have a death scene!
Nashville premieres Wednesday at 10/9c on ABC.
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