Tonight, Nashville returns with a second season premiere (10 p.m. ET on ABC) that has a lot of cliffhangers to resolve. We asked exec producer Dee Johnson and Hayden Panettiere to tease what lies head. Here are 10 things you can expect in season 2:
1. Rayna (Connie Britton) and Deacon (Charles Esten) will survive that car crash. No surprise there. But what it does, Johnson says, is “change everything from the point of view of our two star-crossed lover anchor characters. It definitely sets them on totally different trajectories.” After picking up shortly after the crash, there’s a bit of a time jump that will allow Deacon to be back on the wagon. “For any addict, it’s always gonna be an issue. But that is the biggest wake-up call of anyone’s life, so I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say he’s not gonna be stumbling around drunk,” she says. “He has a whole bunch of new information in his life [about Rayna’s daughter Maddie being his], and I think the struggle for him is to look at where he is, why he is, and how he’s supposed to either embrace or reject the role of father.” Rayna will eventually butt heads with the new president of Edgehill (Oliver Hudson). “Having been bought out by a massive conglomerate, it has a very different and new perspective in terms of how it handles its artists. And Oliver’s character, Jeff Fordham, instantly butts head with Rayna in a kind of love/mostly hate relationship.” Will they have sparks? “They’re certainly gonna have a lot of fireworks between them, and whether or not anything ever romantic comes to pass remains to be seen.”
2. The new label exec isn’t high on Juliette’s list either. “He’s a businessman. He cares about numbers and money, which is very common with somebody assuming that position as the new head of a label,” Panettiere says. “He’s just a nasty SOB one second, and then he can sorta just resurrect that in certain moments. We don’t know what kind of person he is, really. Right now the relationship is a little rocky. A lot of rocky.”
3. Juliette will have a new rival. We’ll soon meet new labelmate Layla (Aubrey Peeples), the runner-up of a reality TV competition — who’s from the Northeast. “I think that from somebody like Juliette’s perspective, she just sort of dropped in with a parachute and is suddenly at the top of the charts,” Johnson says. The irony is not lost on Panettiere, who admits it feels a bit like role reversal with her and Rayna. “What’s so great is that you can see the same sort of feisty, fiery Juliette but in a much more justifiable way,” Panettiere says. “The relationship with Rayna and Juliette, you just didn’t understand why Juliette hated her so much and was so bitter toward her — especially since from what I can tell, what I can see, and what I believe, Rayna was a huge part of her growing up. Maybe it was that Rayna reminded her of her mom, that she took her back home. And she was bitter because she felt like this woman had everything handed to her on a silver platter and Juliette had to bust her way free and break through and really work for it. That turned out to not be really true. Just because there’s a white picket fence in front of it doesn’t mean that it’s pretty inside. And it doesn’t mean that it’s calm and there’s not turmoil. So I feel like there’s much more peace there between Rayna and Layla.”
4. Will (Chris Carmack) continues to stay in the closet. “He is going to try really, really hard — harder than maybe anybody has ever tried –to sublimate a part of his personality that he presumes will be an obstacle to his stardom,” Johnson says. Will we see that guy who clocked Will at the bar again? “You can run, but you can’t hide, right?” Johnson says.
5. Scarlett (Clare Bowen) and Gunnar (Sam Palladio) … Okay, she really can’t tease anything without giving away whether Scarlett accepts his proposal or not. What she will say is that Scarlett has a childhood friend, Zoey (Chaley Rose), come to town. “She’s also a singer but not professionally, and has only really sung in church. They did a lot of singing together in their youth.”
6. You’re probably going to continue to like Avery (Jonathan Jackson). “He comes into the season, I think, with a truer sense of who he is and what he wants. He and Juliette kind of embark on a friendship,” Johnson says. Is that all it is? “Is there anything that’s pure friendship? That’s as much as I’ll say about that.” Adds Panettiere, “The thing with Juliette is she’s been through so many relationships that it’s gotta be really different this time. It’s gotta mean something more. And it’s gotta be built up over time. I think they genuinely are going to have a beautiful, much-needed relationship. They’re two very interesting characters with a lot of going on beneath the surface, coming form two very different walks of life, and somehow, they’re paths collide, and they become just a shoulder to lean on and to cry on for each other.”
7. Teddy (Eric Close) isn’t too thrilled about Peggy (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) being pregnant. “He and his whole family have to wrestle with how best to handle that,” Johnson says.
8. The Stella Sisters will sing more! Now that real-life sisters Lennon Stella, who plays Maddie, and Maisy Stella, who plays Daphne, are regulars, we’ll get to hear them more often. “Because of what was revealed in the finale, Lennon obviously is going to be a bigger part in how that story evolves,” Johnson says.
9. The premiere features Juliette’s biggest production number to date — on the lawn of Nashville’s Parthenon. “It’s a giant, massive performance that we’ve never seen her do before. And it’s a kick-ass song,” Panettiere says. “It’s supposed to be a song that she does that’s an old Rayna song. And people might be confused as to the motives behind why she does it.”
10. The show will keep up the pace. “Things just come on more quickly, and I think in a good way,” Panettiere says. “We have much more room for the twists and turns of life. Life can change in a second, and we all know that.”