WARNING: HUGE NASHVILLE SPOILERS AHOY!
Well she had us fooled. Back in January, on her daytime talk show, Ellen DeGeneres asked Connie Britton about the rumors that she would only recur in the fifth season of the Nashville TV show, which was renewed by CMT, after being unceremoniously cancelled by ABC.
At the time, Britton replied, ““I’m in. I’m in for the duration.” It turns out that wasn’t the duration of Nashville‘s CMT run, or even the duration of season five. Now it’s clear she meant another duration, entirely (revealed after the jump). Hayden Panettiere, Charles Esten, Clare Bowen, Jonathan Jackson, Sam Palladio, Chris Carmack, Lennon Stella and Maisy Stella also star.
Connie Britton Leaves Nashville
Now, Britton’s coming clean with fans about her obfuscation. She meant she would stay with the show for the duration of the Rayna James character. She will still appear on the country music drama series a few more times.
Right now, it seems those will likely be appearances of the dream or spectral variety. After all, last night’s Nashville episode 5.09, “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” ended (for the most part) the duration of Miss Rayna James. Despite an early rally, ultimately, Rayna succumbed to injuries she suffered in (yet) an(other) automobile accident which happened during 5.08, “Stand Beside Me.”
While Britton is a single mother to a young son and lives in L.A., Nashville actually shoots in Nashville, TN. After ten straight years on TV show dramas (she previously starred in NBC‘s Friday Night Lights), the actress probably needed a little breather. Although she doesn’t talk about her reasons for wanting to leave, she said she had been thinking about it for a while.
Here’s more on Britton’s exit, via TV Line:
Connie Britton On Choosing to Exit Nashville
TVLINE | First off, for the record, this was your decision to leave, correct?
It was. It was something that had been percolating over time, and there were lots of different reasons behind it. But my priority was really making sure that the timing was right. My priority has always been Nashville. So when the show was moved to CMT and we got these great new showrunners — Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick — I was [confident] the show would be in a good place. Because one thing we learned over the summer is how passionate the fans are. We would not be on the air right now if it weren’t for the fans. We’ve all been so incredibly grateful for that. But the fans love every single one of these characters. And the show is now in a place where all of these characters can live and just be incredibly dynamic and amazing. I feel like Nashville can go on indefinitely.
TVLINE | Did you feel like you accomplished everything you set out to with Rayna?
Maybe that was part of it. As I said, there were a lot of things that came into play. Some of them were personal… It was just the right timing.
TVLINE | Some fans are going to be especially shocked by Rayna’s death after you assured them last month on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that you would be sticking around for “the duration.”
The duration of Rayna’s character. [Laughs] To be completely honest, I was taken off guard. I had no idea that Ellen was going to bring up [the exit rumors]. I was really [put] on the spot and I had to protect the story. My commitment has always been to the show. But I’m not a good liar! [Laughs] So, “I’m in it for the duration,” in my mind [means] I’m in it for the duration of… what I perceived to be this character. But of course, I understand why it was construed in the way it was. That was a very difficult moment for me.
TVLINE | Did you have any say in how Rayna would leave?
No. Marshall definitely shared his ideas with me. And I was so appreciative of that. It was so important to me, as I said, to do it in a way that felt like it was honoring the character. I really wanted to do justice to Rayna. And I felt like he really did that… I was not excited for Rayna to die though. [Laughs]
TVLINE | Was there ever any discussion of her leaving town versus dying?
When I was talking to Marshall this summer, I was like, “Does she have to die?” [Laughs] But then I realized: She would never leave her family. She would never leave her kids. She would never leave Deacon. So there really wasn’t any alternative.
TVLINE | Is this week’s episode the last we see if her?
I do pop back in in after Episode 9. And Nashville‘s always going to be important to me, so I’m totally open to whatever as time goes on. But it is really hard to say goodbye to this character.
Connie Britton Discusses Nashville’s Rayna James
It seems writing out the character in a way that allowed Britton to leave, but didn’t sideline Deacon, Maddie (Lennon Stella), or Daphne (Maisy Stella), and wasn’t totally out of character for Rayna, left them no real option other than kill her off.
When THR asked if she were invited, would return for the eventual Nashville TV series finale, Britton said, “Sure! Absolutely!”
Although Britton says she will pop in a couple of times after episode 5.09, she didn’t say how. Remember though, the record company was filming Rayna and Deacon’s creative process, as they worked on their album, so perhaps she’ll show up in unseen footage from that.
Will you keep watching the Nashville TV show, now that Connie Britton is gone? Take our poll.
What do you think? Are you sticking with Nashville for the duration of the TV show? How would you have liked to see the Rayna character written off? Sound off, in the comments!