‘Nashville’ is up for season of divine and diverse interventions

“Nashville” has seemingly been a TV drama watched over by angels.  Some of those apparently divine forces were actually earthly viewers who rallied en force after ABC abruptly canceled the series showcasing life in Music City last may, without even a hint of a farewell episode of adieu.  Loyalists proved their love by launching an unprecedented public support campaign, one that won the attention of CMT, with producers pitching the benefits of having such benefactors in front of screens week to week. Hayden Panettiere had a rough day on her first shoot, but also felt an avalanche of support from cast mates as her storyline hit beyond close to home.  Charles Esten is thrilled to go who deeper into the real lives of Deacon and Rayna, and producers reveal more diversity and heavenly revelations lie ahead in Season 5 of “Nashville” per Dec. 28 news in a Chicago Tribune feature.

“Nashville” has dared to be different in every way since its original season in the fall of 2012, demanding that the cast carry off real artistry, really singing, really playing, and for some, really writing and living the lives of their characters.  The lives of those characters also ring with absolute relevance, and Connie Britton got real with Kathie Lee and Hoda in a “Today” preview weeks ago about the simultaneous joy and the challenge of getting her singing chops in shape, no matter the natural chemistry between her and her forever love, Deacon, portrayed by Esten.  Britton has been a steadfast advocate for the direction of her show in promoting equality for all people and the expression of their artistic gifts, as related last season through the evolving acceptance personally and professionally for the character of Will Lexington, portrayed by Chris Carmack. Rayna will experience artistic travel in her own “way back machine” in the new season when the centuries-old, “roots” classic, “Wayfaring Stranger” triggers something unspeakable for her when she hears it sung by a blind man.  The music of the coming “Nashville” season steers back to folk traditions, but new characters and artists keep storylines as fresh as ever.

Rhiannon Giddens, who was a phenomenal folk force as part of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and followed with even greater acclaim with her solo album, “Tomorrow Is My Turn,” under the hand of T Bone Burnett, will have a recurring role on the drama, starting as a “rescuer,” in between preparing for release of “Freedom Highway,” due out in February.  The vocalist and composer who has delved so much into the history of country and Americana insists that “this time for the real history of country music to have a highlight, for people to know that there were lots of black people who played the banjo, that the string band itself came from plantation culture.” There is no one more versed or well-voiced than Rhiannon Giddens to offer that needed education. 

Hayden Panettiere will survive her fateful plane crash, and an angelic vision will come to her, singing “God Shall Wipe Away All Tears.”  Such majestic intercession is sure to please those who live for Panettiere’s portrayal of the fiery Juliette Barnes, but not even God can change the past, and she and Avery Barkley and baby, Cadence, have a ways to go in healing.  The journey is sure to be a worthwhile ride, though.

New “Nashville” show runners, Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick of “thirtysomething” and “My So-Called Life” series history, are adding another heaping dash of diversity with the addition of actress, writer, and producer, Jen Richards, to the cast.  She is the first transgender star ever cast on a CMT show, and has genuinely felt the backlash that can happen in the television industry, because she has lost so many parts, even those calling for transgender actors, “because I look too much like a regular girl.”  The show has no plans to convert to a political agenda as the lives of characters are fleshed out, but Richards herself faces those conflicts just going home to see family in North Carolina.  The gender of her character will not be addressed until further into the season, but “Nashville” will break more needed new ground in giving their transgender audience a “real” character to follow.  Richards already established her own following in her Emmy-nominated web series, “Her Story.”

From heaven's gates to reaching back and moving forward in generations, “Nashville” is going places in Season 5, which premieres Jan. 5 on CMT.