Nashville is coming to ABC.
That is, a dramatized, network television version of Nashville. Two fictional country queens call this small-screen Music City home. The first is Rayna James, a middle-aged legend (played by Connie Britton) whose star is quickly fading. The other is Juliette Barnes — a young, nubile crossover sensation (played by Hayden Panettiere) who's making a rapid rise up the charts and into the pop-country stratosphere. And prime-time Music City ain't big enough for the both of them.
But here in the real world, as Alan Jackson might say, ABC is coming to Nashville.
This week, the network announced that it has picked up Nashville — a nighttime soap created by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise) and co-produced with Lionsgate and Gaylord Entertainment — for its fall lineup. Just think Country Strong, but every Wednesday at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. Central).
It's the first network television drama set in Nashville, and the network plans to shoot the show right here in Music City. That means the show's production staff and cast members (including Panettiere, Britton, Powers Boothe and Clare Bowen) will soon be making a second home in Nashville. But more importantly, for local actors, television and film production workers, caterers and proprietors of potential shooting locations, there's a new gig in town.
The city got a taste of the Nashville effect during a 14-day shoot of the show's pilot in March.
According to Kim Petrosky, Nashville's Nashville casting director, 19 of the pilot's 30 speaking roles went to local actors. "They want to hire regional actors because they want the feel of a regional actor, so it's authentic for that pilot being set in the city," Petrosky tells the Scene. Among that flock is revered songwriter and actor J.D. Souther, who will have a recurring role as a fictional famous producer and songwriter, Watty White.
May Hwen, a Nashville actor who worked on the pilot, says the show's production crew aimed to avoid depicting Nashville through a lens of star-spangled, countrified caricature. "They said go for, like, Urban Outfitters or Anthropology — stuff that has little elements of country in them, but that's not over-exaggerating anything," she said of their wardrobe suggestions.
Hwen appears as a writers round emcee at The Bluebird Cafe — where in one central scene, cast members Bowen and Sam Palladio, who play aspiring songwriters, perform a show-stopping cut contributed by The Civil Wars. The crew spent four days shooting at the famed Green Hills haunt. Bluebird general manager Erika Wollam Nichols says the show gave her license to advise actors on accuracy when portraying the club's performers.
"I think that both Callie and [director] R.J. Cutler, the whole production team, was very concerned about being true to what we do particularly," she says. "And I think their mission was to really try and portray Nashville in a way that maybe hasn't been done before."