Times are tough for Nashville's Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson). He's lost his girlfriend and his home, his former bandmates/buddies hate him, and his pursuit of a career in music is leaving him jaded. For a show about country music, Avery's spending a lot of time singing the blues.
"Avery's in a really interesting place right now," Jackson tells TVGuide.com. "His integrity is being compromised left and right, and there's just a lot of conflict going on. ... I feel for Avery, because I feel like he's trying to do the right thing, and at the same time there have been a lot of moments where he's incapable of doing that."
Before Nashville took a brief hiatus (the show returns with a new episode March 27 at 10/9 on ABC), Avery was last seen outside the Bluebird Café, looking through the window at a private party for which he wasn't on the list. What was he watching? His ex-girlfriend Scarlett (Clare Bowen) performing with his former bandmates and her maybe-new boyfriend Gunnar (Sam Palladio) in front of a host of musicians, record executives, and pretty much everyone who could be considered a VIP in the Nashville music scene.
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"I thought that was a really great visual scene," Jackson says. "Avery right now, he's slowly coming to terms with what he's given up and what he's lost in order to advance himself, and that's a very lonely realization. That's what that moment was about, was just peering through the window and just remembering how much he loves Scarlett. And I really do think that he genuinely loved her in a very deep way. ... He's just kind of getting to that point where he's looking around and reeling from this sense of, I'm advancing in my career and yet what I feel about my music is being compromised. I've lost the woman that I love. What is the point of all of this?"
And he doesn't even know Scarlett and Gunnar slept together, which, "on some level would definitely crush him," according to Jackson. Still, let's not cue the pity party for Avery yet. There are plenty of Avery haters who may feel that he's getting his just desserts after ditching his bandmates to pursue a solo career, and treating Scarlett as an afterthought at best in the process. But don't worry — Jackson says he hears from those people all the time.
"People on the street who watch the show, some of them come up and they're like, 'Man, Avery's just a jerk. What he did to Scarlett, what he did to his band,'" Jackson admits. "And then I meet other people, they're like, 'You know, I really feel for Avery. He's got this opportunity and it's just the way things go.' So it's been fascinating to just see people's different reactions to what he's going through."
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As for where he falls on the Avery Hate spectrum, Jackson chooses his words carefully. "I think [Avery] has a really good soul and I think he has a really good heart. And I think that's the conflict, is there's that ambition and that insecurity and that fear that it won't work for him, and that he'll be a failure. That fear and that ambition have driven him to do some things that are contrary to who he really is."
"I think that's why it's polarizing for the audience," Jackson continues. "Because some people feel the empathy for him more and some people just see the choices and just say, 'Man, this guy's just selfish. And in some sense, they're both right. And it's just a matter of which side of him is going to prevail at what time.'"
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So which side is going to prevail? Jackson correctly points out that Avery has demonstrated "moments of unselfishness" in his relationship with Scarlett — namely, when he rejected his new manager's initial advances and when he (grudgingly) supported Scarlett when she decided to record music. "Even in the midst of his own ego being bruised and having this horrible unwanted jealousy and envy towards the woman that he loves because she's all of a sudden skyrocketing, getting all these opportunities that he's been working so hard for over the last few years, still in that moment, he chose to be unselfish and said, 'I want to be there for you,'" Jackson notes. "And that was part of the tragedy of their relationship, was that he really tried to do the right thing and it still imploded."
But at least for now, Scarlett seems ready to put her relationship with Avery behind her. She and Gunnar are on the cusp of getting signed to Rayna James' (Connie Britton) record label, and took their professional relationship to the next level in the most recent episode. Where does that leave Avery?
"People are complicated," Jackson says. "And dealing with that human nature is one of the reasons why we all like to watch stories. So I don't know if Avery's going to be able to redeem himself in that sense, but I do think he's got it in him, and I think that we've shown those moments. But I think the bad choices have outweighed the good at this point."
What do you think? Will Avery turn things around and redeem himself? And is it too late for him to win Scarlett back?
Nashville airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on ABC.