Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere are not playing Reba McEntire and Taylor Swift. The “Nashville” stars insist that any resemblance that their characters Rayna — a veteran country star whose albums are no longer going platinum and Juliet, a young country-pop crossover sensation — have to the real-life stars is entirely coincidental.
“I’ve heard the Taylor Swift thing quite a bit and aside from being around the same age and blonde, not even height, said Panettiere. “They’re very different. Once you see her and get to know Juliet a little bit better, you’ll see that. I really think Taylor would disagree wholeheartedly as well. She’s much nicer than my character.”
Britten even heard about it from the queen of country herself. “I ran into Reba McEntire on a plane,” Britton revealed. “She said ‘did you hear they’re saying you’re playing me in your show?’ I said, ‘No. I had no idea.’ But I think for me at least its sort of an amalgam of a lot of different people but I think it’s really fun to take from that sort of pallet.”
When a record label suggests that Rayna tour as Juliet’s opening act, a rivalry ensues that forms the center of the sophisticated, music-infused soap. But Rayna and Juliet will not be Krystal and Alexis with a twang. Said the show’s writer, Oscar-winning screenwriter Callie Khouri (“Thelma & Louise”), “My mantra from the beginning [was] this is not a cat fight. I don’t think anybody is interested in that.”
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Instead, the series focuses on the music, much of which is written by A-list country composer T. Bone Burnett. There will not be big “Glee” or “Smash”-style production numbers. Rather, the show aims for a realistic depiction of the Nashville music scene.
“The fabric of Nashville is very much the fabric of our show. The musicians you see performing in the round in the pilot are real Nashville musicians,” says executive producer R.J. Cutler. Added Khouri, “Audiences are really accepting, hungry for great music. We’re going to have a lot of original music… I think that helped us… we’re not in the narrow [niche], [where] only country music fans will like it.” There will also be pop and blues songs, reflecting the diversity of the Nashville scene.
However, there are no plans to stunt cast real-life country stars. “It’s not a cameo driven show.” Though there will be original songs featured nearly every week, there are not plans to release them on iTunes the next day. “There will be a soundtrack. I don’t know that we have a hard date yet.”
Both Britton and Panettiere do their own singing. Panettiere has some music experience. “I recorded an album when I was younger… I quit after four or five years of recording… but I said if I would ever do music again, it would be country music. For Britton, however, this is her first recording experience. “I have sung my whole life, but not really professionally… at all.” She characterized her singing as “a journey,” saying, “As an actor, I always want to challenge myself.“