Connie Britton (American Horror Story) and Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) star on ABC’s new country music drama Nashville, which premieres on October 10. Britton portrays legendary singer Rayna Jaymes, who is fighting to renew her career, and Hayden plays Juliette Barnes, the ruthless up-and-coming young country singer headed for the top of the charts.
Both actresses spoke of their new series, which has already received raves from the press, at the TV Critics Association tour.
Connie, you’re coming from American Horror Story, and Hayden you’re coming from Heroes, can you both compare your experiences on those show with this one, Nashville?
Hayden: Both of our previous shows were in the same vein of sci-fi, in a way. I was dealing with CGI for four years of my life, ten months out of the year. But you can’t really compare them [to this].
What I love about being an actor is that ever project is different and every character, you hope, is different. That’s what keeps me interested in what I do.
Connie: I’m just going to add to that [by saying] that what attracted me to both American Horror Story and Nashville is that they felt like something innovative and something that we haven’t seen before, and as an actor that’s exciting.
As an actor I always want to stretch myself and do something that I haven’t done before. American Horror Story to Nashville is a plenty big stretch.
Can you both talk about your singing in Nashville?
Connie: I can talk to you about Hayden because she’s a legitimately great singer.
Hayden: What Connie’s not saying is that she’s been amazing since the beginning. But I just recently heard some of the newer tracks that she’s recorded, and they’re pretty unbelievable.
I recorded an album when I was younger and I quit after four or five years of recording.
I said if I was ever going to do it again I would do country music, and for this to come along and get both of the things I love combined in one show is a dream come true.
Connie: It’s a dream come true for me, too, because as an actor to have the opportunity to stretch my muscles in this way [is wonderful].
I have sung my whole life, but never professionally.
Hayden, there are some hints in the pilot that your character might be based on Taylor Swift, and Connie, your character might be based on Reba McEntire. Were you thinking about specific artists when you were creating these roles?
Hayden: I’ve heard the Taylor Swift thing quite a bit. Aside from being around the same age and blonde, not even the same height, it’s very different. She’s much nicer than my character.
Connie: I ran into Reba McEntire on a plane and she said, ‘Did you hear that they’re saying you’re playing me on your show?’ I said, ‘No, I had no idea.’
For me, it’s an amalgam of a lot of different people. I don’t really have any one person that I’m basing the character on.
Hayden, Juliette is so nasty to Rayna, is it fun when you play those scenes together?
Hayden: The one thing my parents instilled in me was respect for other people.
So when I have to go on the set and completely go against the grain and disrespect so wholeheartedly somebody, it’s definitely something new to me and I even get a little bit shy sometimes.
I’ll be like, ‘I’m so sorry. You know I adore you.’ But it’s interesting and it does make it fun.
Connie: I think some of the most fun scenes that we’ve shot were those scenes because it’s two people behaving in such bizarre ways. My whole mantra from the beginning is that this is not a catfight.
I don’t think anybody’s interested in that. I think we’re much more interested in showing these two people at different places in their lives and what their journey will be.