When the future of Nashvillewas still up in the air earlier this year, members of the show's cast, including leading lady Connie Britton, said publicly that they would have a difficult time continuing to work in Tennessee given the recent passage of a law in the state that discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Perhaps owing in part to the actors' statements, ABC decided to not renew Nashville for a fifth season.
Of course, the show was subsequently picked up by CMT in partnership with Hulu, and since the announcement that Nashville would live to see another season after all, the cast members have remained mum about the legislation, which allows counselors and therapists to refuse service to clients/patients whose lifestyles do not align with the providers' "principles."
Marshall Herskovitz, the new co-showrunner (along with Ed Zwick) of the show, admits that the law "hasn't come up" in his discussions with the stars of Nashville. And though the show features a prominent same-sex relationship storyline in the form of Will (Chris Carmack, who also spoke out against the legislation) and Kevin (Kyle Dean Massey), it sounds like there are no plans for real-life politics to factor into the plot, in conversations or otherwise.
"The Will storyline - which, by the way, is not defined by the fact that he's gay, but he is gay, and we're not shying away from the fact that he's gay - is one we're very excited about," Herskovitz tells TVGuide.com. "I think, from my point of view, this is a national conversation. The particulars of Tennessee, and the laws in Tennessee, that's not something that I really felt we needed to dramatize in the show."
Herskovitz has teased that the Nashville revival will move at a slower pace than the ABC version, with him and Zwick focusing more on "emotional" storytelling. In other words, the show will comment on the legislation in a subtle way, by depicting the types of people who will be affected by the law, rather than explicitly condemning it. "I'd rather dramatize the issues rather than the law, if that makes sense," Herskovitz notes.
"My guess is most people will have no idea that she's trans until we talk about it. We don't talk about it in the first episode, and I think that's, in some way, part of what the conversation has to be in our country," Herskovitz says. "I think so many people don't really understand what it's about, and I think Jen has been great that way. She's great in the show."
Details on Richards' character are being kept mostly under wraps; however, all signs point to her being heavily involved with Juliette Barnes' (Hayden Panettiere) storyline as she recovers from the plane crash at the end of Season 4.
It should also be noted that Nashville's fan base is made up of viewers across the political spectrum, and like any showrunners who want their series to stay on the air, Herskovitz and Zwick have to cater to viewers on both sides of the political aisle. In all likelihood, the best way to do that is probably to avoid politics altogether, while still telling stories that fans can relate to. Speaking about the addition of Richards in particular, Herskovitz adds: "It's part of trying to reflect the world as it is, put it that way."
Nashville debuts on CMT with a one-hour "sneak peek" premiere on Thursday, Dec. 15 at 9/8c, before the official two-hour premiere on Thursday, Jan. 5 at 9/8c. Episodes will be available on Hulu the day after they air on CMT.