Nashville is gearing up for its swan song.
The musical drama begins its sixth and final seasonon Thursday, Jan. 4 on CMT, and only ET was invited to the set for a first look at what the beloved series has in store for fans.
“These last two years, in some sense, have felt like a bonus,” Jonathan Jackson, who plays Avery Barkley, says of the show’s second life. After a cancellation by ABC after season four, Nashville was picked up by the cable network in 2016. Today, the creators are preparing to give fans the sendoff they deserve. Read on for new details straight from the cast about what to expect from your favorite characters in season six.
It wouldn’t be a Juliette storyline without a little meltdown, and Hayden Panettiere delivers right off the bat.
“She’s trying to make a comeback in her career, but she’s not completely ready for it,” Jackson tells ET of his on-screen love. “Avery has this sense of, ‘Maybe we should postpone this’ and she ends up going out there and kind of having a meltdown on stage and reacting to some of the negativity from the fans.”
“The aftermath of that is very intense for her, obviously,” he adds. The scenes that follow even include a cameo from ET’s own Nancy O’Dell, who appears on screen to report on the fictitious scandal. See an exclusive sneak peek in the player below.
In the season’s first trailer, we also get the sense that Juliette will be seeking solace with a cult-like group. Jackson says that it’s something Avery will struggle with, as well.
“He’s in a difficult position, because he really wants to support her and he has a gut check about it,” Jackson says. “Something about it doesn’t feel right and so he is caught in that tension of wanting to be supportive of her, but also not feeling good about it. When Juliette sets her mind to something, she’s not easily deterred.”
Jackson also hints that there will be “huge tests” for the couple’s relationship along the way this season.
“One of the things I love about Avery and Juliette is they’re both kind of strong-willed, hard-headed people. Because Avery was not the most likable guy in the beginning of the show,” he notes. “But they actually help each other in many ways.”
Meanwhile, Avery will be joining forces with Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and Will (Chris Carmack) for an epic musical adventure.
“It’s been so much fun, and one of the most difficult things for me is not laughing when we’re doing certain scenes,” Jackson admits. “You get to know each other so well and there are moments when Sam will just kind of turn his head, and I can’t even look at him, because I know what he’s thinking and he knows what I’m thinking, and Chris is hilarious as well.”
As it turns out, the guys’ super group initially forms as a response to Gunnar’s struggle to perform solo.
“Will sort of jumps up and saves the day at [Gunnar’s] concert, and it sort of sparks the idea of, ‘Why don’t we just have fun with music? Let’s not try and make it into this deep soul searching thing,” Palladio explains, noting that he’s shifted to playing bass this season. “So this new band is formed and it’s just — the songs are fantastic. It’s rock-er and sort of a combo of Avery’s darkness, Will’s showmanship and Gunnar’s folksy stuff.”
“It’s very sexy,” he jokes of the trio.
But could we see a reconciliation between Gunnar and Scarlett (Clare Bowen)?
“The chemistry that was there stems from a creative place. We can’t deny that the magic is there when they sing or when they write or perform together,” he says. “It’s like real life, sometimes things aren’t quite the fairy tale you can imagine and when we pick up at the beginning of this season, they’ve realized that they’re on separate paths and their relationship isn’t the healthiest thing for them both, and I think that’s OK.”
“They’re still friends and I think at the end of it, if they can be at peace with each other in a good place and maybe still have that creative spark, then that’s the best thing,” he continues. “It would be great to imagine the two of them go off happily ever — and, hey, there’s still a chance that it might happen — but I think at this point they’re both on separate paths and I think it’s a good for them both.”
Will’s ex, Zach, will also have an impact on one of the darker storylines this season.
“We find out very quickly that him and Zach are over, their relationship is done, but Will has made a lot of overtures and a lot of attempts to mend the relationship and try to get back with him,” Carmack says. “But Zach’s over it — he’s aloof — and he’s doing his Zach thing by stepping back and tries to get past Will by putting a new piece of arm candy on his arm.”
Carmack describes the revelation as a “knife in the heart” for Will, prompting a cycle of self destruction.
“It makes Will start to feel very self conscious about his looks and his age,” he says. “He starts to sort of obsess about his appearance in a way that becomes unhealthy.”
But perhaps his saving grace is his new musical project with Gunnar and Avery — and, Carmack teases, a fourth addition to the group.
“Later on in the season, we’re gonna throw this new voice into the mix,” he says. “Let’s just say there will be a new dynamic.”
Maddie and Daphne Conrad:
It was only a matter of time before Rayna Jaymes’ (Connie Britton) youngest daughter was bitten by the showbiz bug.
“Daphne is definitely showing a huge interest for making music, writing music, performing music,” Maisy Stella teases, revealing that her character will pursue more solo endeavors later on in the season. But, not to worry, the Stella sisters will still be singing together in full force.
“That whole dynamic is changing, but they’re obviously sisters, so they’re still performing together,” Lennon Stella, who plays Maddie, says.
But it’s Maddie’s love life that takes center stage at the top of the season with the introduction of a new character, pop phenom Jonah Ford, played by Nic Luken.
“He’s really playing the role of a Justin Bieber in the real world,” Lennon says. “He’s very much in the public eye and Maddie’s just kind of thrown into that and doesn’t really know exactly how to deal with that world. It’s just a lot different than what she knows… She gets kind of brought into that whole party scene.”
So, how will papa Deacon deal with his daughter’s new beau?
“Deacon has grown and Maddie has grown — he didn’t used to handle these things so well,” says Charles Esten. “He trusts her to a certain degree, he knows she’s mature, and he also knows that the older methods of trying to stop it, squash it, keep her down and keep the boy away, it never worked. So now he’s just trying to say his piece when he can”
“The thing about this kid, he’s not just a regular guy, he’s incredibly famous,” Esten continues. “Maddie has dealt with the fame of her mother and her own fame and being in the tabloids, but this guy is next level.”
As for Deacon’s own relationships, Jessie (Kaitlin Doubleday) continues to be a source of support — but in a new kind of way.
“The line we’re walking is, what it is like when you lose the love of your life. It would have been very easy for Deacon to curl up in a ball and give up [after Rayna’s death],” he says. “I love very much the way the writers have dealt with Jessie coming back into his world because he’s like, ‘Hey, I’m not interested in anything,’ and she’s like ‘Yeah, me either, that’s not what it’s about.’ So, in a weird way, they’re able to be there for each other as friends.”
Nashville airs Thursday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CMT. Which storylines are you excited to follow this season? Hit the comments below with your thoughts and be sure to follow Certified Country on Facebook Watch for more fun behind-the-scenes scoop from the cast on Friday, Jan. 5.