Memories From the Set: Nashville's Charles Esten Recalls His Stints on Cheers, ER and More

Charles Esten NashvilleA new feature in which we ask your favorite stars to reminisce about past gigs

Who knew all it would take was a five o’clock shadow and a low-slung guitar to take Charles Esten from “Hey, it’s that guy!” to “Ooh, it’s that guy!”?

In his one season as Nashville‘s soulful, sometimes sober Deacon Claybourne, Esten has earned heaps of acclaim and bunches of fans. But the breakout role is hardly his first. Or second. Or 20th.

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In fact, Esten has worked steadily since 1993, often on TV’s biggest hits but almost never for more than a handful of episodes. “[I got] these small roles on great, iconic shows that let me get my feet wet, let me learn so much,” he recalls, laughing. “I was in over my head in every single one of them, but somehow I got the role and didn’t ruin it too badly.”

At TVLine’s request, Esten offered up behind-the-scenes insights on several of his pre-Nashville performances. Click through the gallery below to read what he has to say about being a Klingon and booking some Office hours, among other jobs, then sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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39 Comments
  1. Lauren Rife says:

    I knew him as Josh from The Office! Love the info about how he got on the show. Great new feature!

  2. Wow~ I didn’t even realize I’d seen him so many times before! Great article, and great new pics! I think I’m going to live this new feature! =(

  3. A says:

    I think I’m really going to enjoy this feature! It will give you a chance to remember actors that you’ve seen on shows before but have forgotten about because its been a really long time and multiple episodes/seasons have passed. I really enjoy their takes on their past work. I completely forgot he was on The Office.

  4. cjeffery7 says:

    Whose Line. I was so SURE it was him that I actually convinced myself it couldn’t be. It makes no sense, but then I eventually did a proper investigation and felt good about my memory again.

    • Jill says:

      I FOR SURE first knew him as Chip from Whose Line. Every time I see/hear it written as Charles Esten, I’m like, IT’S CHIP, GUYS! SO crazy talented. Remember when he’d do Greatest Hits with Wayne?

      • Lori says:

        I’m the same way. I have been watching CHIP on Whose Line since the British version was first shown on Comedy Central. It’s really weird to see him being all Mr Serious Actor on Nashville. Charles will always be CHIP to me.

  5. nannarpite says:

    Hey, what about ‘New Adventures of Old Christine’? Loved him on that.

  6. Jen says:

    Love him! I’d seen pictures of him in hockey gear and wondered where they were from and now I know. Thanks!

  7. mia says:

    When I watched Nashville my first reaction was ‘ahh! Its Chip from Whose Line!’Lol.
    .
    Awesome to see he played a Klingon though.

  8. Louise says:

    He did a bit once on ‘Whose Line’ where he did the Jitterbug which led to my dad christening him ‘Jitterbug Boy’. Now, years later, whenever he turns up on another show, my dad still calls him that.

  9. Nerwen Aldarion says:

    I had no idea he was Chip until I just randomly looked him up on Nashville. I was SHOCKED! But I have a whole new respect for him as a comedian and a serious actor.

  10. Char says:

    Loved him in Whose Line! Also, he was very good in a guest starring role in an episode of Cold Case.

    • Linda F says:

      John “The Hawk” Hawkins! I loved that episode. It was not only one of the first Cold Case episodes I ever watched, it was the first time I ever saw Charles Esten. He caught my attention immediately, because he was so good in it. That’s why i was thrilled to see he was going to be on Nashville.

  11. Zachary says:

    I knew him from the short lived WB comedy On the Spot. It’s on YouTube. Check it out, it was very cool. I also knew him as Josh from The Office.

  12. Babybop says:

    He was my favorite guest on Whose Line!

  13. dude says:

    OMG It just hit me that he’s the dad from Jessie. Holy crap.

  14. SJ says:

    I recognized him from The New Adventures of Old Christine, where he played Richard’s gay brother. Don’t watch Nashville though…

  15. Auntie Ralph says:

    Pretty sure he played another alien or two on Star Trek Voyager if not also Deep Space Nine. Then there was ‘On the Spot’…

  16. Leo says:

    Loved this new feature “memories from the set”. Great idea!

  17. Eric says:

    I always remember him from the short-lived show The Crew, which was on Fox in 95-96. I was in high school then and it was my favorite show

  18. Tony says:

    GREAT IDEA FOR A NEW FEATURE!!! Looking forward to new postings…..keep up the AWESOME job, TVLINE crew!!!! You are the BEST source for everything TV….and you have in short time brought the iconic TVGUIDE to a runner-up position.

  19. Mary says:

    I love this new feature! Please give us more!! And I recognized Esten from Jessie because my kids love to watch it on Netflix!

  20. iHeart says:

    I am surprised that the writer didn’t bring up his two episodes of Married with Children as Kelly’s love interest. or his arc in the final season of Party of Five?

    I was lucky enough to have played sound effects for Chip when he was in town doing improv with Ryan Stiles and Jeff Davis. In fact Chip IS the main reason I even watch Nashville in the first place.

  21. I loved him on Whose Line Is It Anyway and also in the made-for-tv movie, The Sleepwalker Killings (or Killer) with Hillary Swank

  22. Pat says:

    Great new feature! And as a new Nashville fan and a long term Office fan, I am chagrined I never made the connection!

  23. Amy says:

    Actually, I’d never ever seen Esten before Nashville~but I luvvv him as Deacon. And btw…where’s his Emmy nom?! I actually was searching TVline the other night to see if he was nominated but didn’t see it under either Lead or Supporting. I don’t watch much episodic tv. so I don’t know how he compares to the nominations listed (and I don’t know whether the noms listed on this site are actual or TVline’s choices), but I think he deserves one for Deacon!

  24. Mindy says:

    This is a fun feature. I wish it wasn’t in the form of a slideshow, though.

    I remember this guy on “Whose Line is it Anyway?” Wow. Didn’t realize he had done so many different roles. Good for him for getting a steady role now.

  25. Love this new feature! Looking forward to who else you feature :)

    I used to watch Whose Line reruns on ABC Family all the time. Chip was one of my favorite “guest” comedians who joined Ryan, Colin, and Wayne. So when he appeared on Jessie and then Nashville, my first thought was “It’s Chip Esten not Charles!” I hope he’s able to be on the new Whose Line, even if just for one or two episodes.

  26. Marcie says:

    What a great idea for a feature! Can’t wait for more.

  27. daisyj says:

    I loved him on Whose Line, but I think the most memorable role I saw him in was a motorcycle safety video that I had to watch when I was taking a class to get my license. Not sure when it was made, but as I recall he looked pretty young.

  28. Claire S says:

    What a great article! Love him!! Just watched him yesterday on “The new adventures of old Christine”. Can’t wait for next season of Nashville!!!!

  29. Carol says:

    i never missed one episode of ER and have all the seasons on DVD so I am going to look him up

  30. Lyric says:

    Cold Case – the Hawk

  31. Kathy Brown says:

    The dude was a “working” actor with supporting roles. Even that work is a stroke of luck in Hollywood.
    After years of doing gigs on a bunch of shows, he gets his big break on Nashville. I’m sure he’s “like wow, I don’t believe this.” in real life the dude is smart – William & Mary. Nothing like Deacon at all. Funny and good natured. Shows he’s the real deal.

  32. Lynn says:

    Just saw “Chip” on a game show back when he was about 18 yrs old and won alot of money. He had just moved away from home to L.A. He was cute but more handsome now.

  33. Linda Backulich says:

    Charles Esten is an outstanding actor and human being from everything I,’ve read about him.People magazine should nominate him for the sexiest man alive!

  34. I have to get over Enlightened at some point…

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