Fall TV Preview

Nashville Team on Connie's 'Journey' as a Singer, Hayden's Hussy and Reba/Swift Comparisons

ABC president Paul Lee says it’s “gutsy” for Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere to do their own singing as the leads of the new drama Nashville — a sentiment shared by at least one of the actresses.

Appearing at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in Beverly Hills on Friday, Britton and Panettiere were asked to weigh in on the singing aspect of their roles. Since the Heroes alumna has at least a smidgen of a pop artist background, Britton joked, “I think Connie and Hayden would have very different conversation about the singing. Hayden is a great singer; Connie is having a ‘journey.’ It’s an exciting journey, because it’s a journey with [acclaimed songwriter/producer] T-Bone Burnett. But it’s a journey.”

Britton and Panettiere — who play country music superstars, veteran and shiny-new — addressed the comparisons being made of their characters to Reba McEntire and Taylor Swift. McEntire herself even brought it up with Britton on a plane flight. “I said, ‘No, I had no idea!'” Britton responded to her fellow redhead. The actress then explained to the TCA crowd, “I don’t have any person I’m basing [Rayna James] on.”

Panettiere said she’s heard the Taylor Swift thing “quite a bit,” but “aside from being the same age and blonde — [we’re] not even [the same] height! — we’re very different.” Among other things, she quipped, “[Taylor] is much nicer than my character.”

To punctuate that point, Panettiere went on characterize her crooner, Juliette Barnes, thusly: “If you’re sad, you’re broken-hearted, you need a rebound… Juliette is prowling somewhere around the corner.”

Other topics covered during the Nashville panel discussion:

SHE’S DIFFERENT, Y’ALL | Britton said that Rayna James, despite being a strong, Southern-fried beauty, wife and mom, “is actually incredibly different from [Friday Night Lights‘] Tami Taylor.” Perhaps most disappointing to hear: “There may not be as many y’alls,” she ventured.

VERY SPECIAL GUESTS? | Exec producer R.J. Cutler said that although you’ll see real Nashville musicians playing back-up in scenes, there will be no real-life superstars popping up on the drama’s canvas: “It’s not a cameo-driven show.”

ITUNE IN TOMORROW! | Speaking of the show’s music — and mind you, most of the original tunes you hear in the pilot are dynamite — series boss Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise) said, “There will be a soundtrack,” though details are a ways off. Along those lines, Cutler said to expect “a few songs” in each episode, though probably not as many as are in the pilot.

A PERFECT PAIR | On the casting of British Sam Palladio (Episodes) and Aussie Clare Bowen (Home & Away) as a pair of potential lovebirds/wannabe recording artists who exhibit terrific on-screen chemistry, Cutler said, “The second we met them, we knew they were perfect for this. And the night we heard the song [they duet at the close of the pilot], we were bouncing. We couldn’t believe it. When you know it, you know it.”

NASHVILLE VS. NASHVILLE | Though Nashville is shooting on location in the titular town, certain set pieces needed to be recreated on a soundstage, including the iconic listening room The Bluebird Cafe. “You could fall asleep in The [real] Bluebird, wake up on our set and not know the difference,” Cutler boasted.

Watch the Nashville trailer here, then tell us if you plan to tune in: