Connie Britton, Charles Esten
Just as Nashville fans were happily embracing Rayna and Deacon's romantic reunion, a major paternity bombshell ripped the pair apart. When the show returns, is there any chance for a reconciliation?
"You will see happy times between the two. They might not necessarily be the happy times that we want, but we'll certainly be working towards more happy times," showrunner Dee Johnson tells TVGuide.com. "They have to work through their relationship and what it means to both of them and hopefully they'll come to some understanding that leads them back to each other."
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In addition to the drama between Deacon (Charles Esten) and Rayna (Connie Britton), when the ABC series left off, Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) was reeling from her mother's death, while Scarlett (Clare Bowen) was caught between a proposal from Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and reconnecting with her ex Avery (Jonathan Jackson). So where is Nashville headed when the show picks up? We caught up with both Johnson and creator Callie Khouri, who shared their insight into the sophomore season.
Happily ever after for Rayna and Deacon? Not so fast. As much as we'd love to see the pair come together as part of the James' larger dysfunctional family, first Deacon must come to terms with his new role as a father before he and Rayna can consider moving forward. "They are never going to have what you call a smooth-sailing relationship," Khouri says. "They have that thing where two people feel like they're meant for each other and then the universe doesn't seem to support that. But I don't think they ever -- no matter what they've been through prior to the show starting -- think that the other one can just be gone from their life." Adds Johnson, "I think by the end of the season Deacon will come to understand [Rayna's] reasoning for keeping the secret. Whether or not he'll ever forgive her for it is another thing, but I think he'll come to understand it more."
How is Deacon as a daddy? "It's not going to look like Father Knows Best," Khouri says. "I don't think Deacon ever thought of himself as father material and as the season goes on we'll see him grapple with why he feels that way and whether or not he's right." Fortunately, Maddie (Lennon Stella) and Deacon have one thing in common: music. "They can't help but be drawn to each other in that way because they have that musical connection that runs quite deep," Johnson says.
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Can Rayna and Juliette ever be friends? Although the two shared a very sweet and sentimental moment at Juliette's mother's gravesite, Johnson says "that was a moment in time and a place of vulnerability for both of them." She also adds, "As the season begins let's just say they're not going to holding hands and skipping in a meadow. They're oil and water and they always will be, but I do think they come to appreciate each other during the course of the season and maybe even unite in some fashion."
Juliette will remain the girl you love one minute and hate the next. If you're constantly torn between loving and hating the young starlet, expect that to continue. "As awful as she can be, we were able to humanize her and make you feel and empathize with her situation," Johnson says. "After you cry for her, you can turn around in the next scene and just smack her." Khouri echoes the sentiment, adding, " Growing up with that mother, she didn't have such a great start at life and wasn't given the best tools which with to deal with problems. So I don't know if we'll ever see a time when she's not screwing up something for herself."
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New love(s) for Juliette. The girl could use a break from men, right? Too bad it won't happen anytime soon. "I don't think somebody like Juliette is going to take a vow of celibacy," Johnson says. "In many ways, that's one form of medication for her. She is definitely going to have her love interests and maybe some high-end players, but I also think at the core she really has never been in love and maybe during the course of the season she figures out that she is."
What about the Scarlett-Avery-Gunnar-Will love square? Between these four, romance and friendship will only get more complicated. For Will (Chris Carmack), his struggle between being gay and wanting to be a country music star will continue. "Ultimately Rayna is going to have a working relationship with him and it's wrought with all the complications that the audience is aware of and Rayna is not," Johnson says, adding that Gunnar, maybe surprisingly, will end up being a truly good friend to Will in the process. As for Avery, Khouri says, "He learned a lot of lessons and the thing about Avery that made him really attractive to Scarlett when they first got together is that he really is an artist. Getting smacked down a bit really taught him a lesson and reconnected him with the actual person that he is and took him out of the 'who he's going to be.' So he's dealing in a much more honest place." And who, if anyone, will Scarlett ultimately choose? "Avery is her first love and there's always a special place for one's heart for someone like that, but Scarlett is going to be very much on her own journey this season," Johnson says. "But that said, she has strong ties to both of those guys."
What are you looking forward to seeing when Nashville returns?