‘The Wrong Song’
Episode 7: “Lovesick Blues”
It was funny—when the script came for that episode, I read it, and when I got to the end, I got chills a little bit. I felt as if our show had just begun. In a way it felt to me like, OK, here we go. It felt like a very well-earned and well-wrought moment. Shooting it was a blast. Hayden [Panettiere, who plays Juliette Barnes] and I got to perform on the stage at the Ryman together. I really love working with her, so it was really fun. We don’t end up having that much story together a lot of the time. It was just really, truly a high point for me doing this show. Performing on the Ryman stage—people live their whole lives to step on that stage. Sometimes I really pinch myself when I’m doing this job.
Funnily, my son, who is a 2 1/2-year-old, has a friend, who’s my friend’s daughter. My friend started playing the Nashville soundtrack in the car, and her daughter became obsessed with “Wrong Song.” So my friend would send us these videos of her daughter singing “Wrong Song” and jamming out, like, “Louder, mommy, louder!” It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Now my son, who watched all these videos, is also obsessed with “Wrong Song.” They know all the words, but they say, “You’ve got the wrong song/coming through the sneakers/this one’s about a lion and a cheetah.” [Actual lyrics: “You’ve got the wrong songs/coming through your speakers/this one’s about a liar and a cheater.”] It’s pretty great. I feel like if you can hit the 2-year-old crowd, you really have a hit.
‘You’re Good Enough’
Episode 21: “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive”
After her mother's funeral, Juliette wonders if she ever deserved her success. "You're good enough," Rayna says. That was a really sweet moment. It was interesting, because I had a little resistance to that moment. I thought, had we gotten to this point yet? Ultimately, that moment became about the compassion of Rayna and the compassion of these characters for each other. It was nice for us to have that moment where life intervenes and transcends everything else going on.
The Elevator Kiss
Episode 12: “I’ve Been Down That Road Before”
The first kiss with Deacon [Chip Esten] was sort of a funny moment, just because so much input went into that scene. So many people had an opinion on how that scene had to go, which was really, really funny. There was a lot of attention put on what was going to happen with that kiss. It was a complicated scene to shoot, because there was so much pressure to have all the right angles and all that. But I ultimately liked it, because it hit a lot of the different levels of what their relationship is. It’s that thing in TV when you finally let two characters get together, and once you’ve done that, you can’t go back. I think that’s why everybody felt so much pressure to get it right. If we didn’t get it right, we could never do it again.
Singing on the Couch With Deacon
Episode 19: “Why Don’t You Love Me”
There’s a scene where Deacon and Rayna sing a song on the couch in his house just after they had gotten together. I loved that song so much. It was such a beautiful and simple song. Chip actually created the harmonies for that. I love working with him so much. He’s such a generous actor. I’ve always been terrified of actually singing live on the stage, and there was this Nashville event coming up where a lot of the people from our show were going to perform. They asked me and I was like, “No, no, no. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.” But shooting that scene, we were singing it quietly on set. He told me, “You know what? We have to perform this at that event.” So somehow in the course of shooting that scene, I had reluctantly agreed to doing it. It’s only because of him. He’s so supportive, so generous. He basically dragged me out on stage and we did it, and it was ultimately really gratifying and probably a good continuing education for me in developing this character.
‘No One Will Ever Love You’
Episode 2: “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love With You)”
Rayna and her ex, Deacon, perform one of their old love duets at the Bluebird. That was such a bedrock moment for the show. We really established what the relationship was between those two characters, and that song was so important in doing that.
Crying in the Bathroom
Episode 1e: “There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight”
There was an episode with Rayna and Liam [Michiel Huisman], and I want to escape my life for the night, so we go dancing. We end up doing the two-step at a honky-tonk bar and go back to his place and are going to make out, but ultimately don’t. We end up on the bathroom floor having a heartfelt conversation. First of all, Michiel is such a wonderful actor and guy. There were so many great moments from that. Going into a honky-tonk and doing the two-step was so much fun. And I loved the scene on the bathroom floor. You really get to see Rayna be very raw. It’s such a nice turning point for both of those characters.
Shooting at the Grand Ole Opry
Episode 1: “Pilot”
There wasn’t one scene that stuck out to me when I read the pilot, because I was so enamored by the world of it and who that character is in the world of it. I said to myself, will I actually be doing all this? It’s so funny what a difference a year makes. I so distinctly remember reading the script and thinking to myself, wait a minute—am I actually reading a character where I will actually have the opportunity to perform at the Grand Ole Opry? Is this really happening? How much reality is there to that? It’s so fun remembering it now, because I haven’t really thought about it.
That was such an exciting day, to be able to shoot that scene where we performed at the Opry. I’ll never forget it. It was a Sunday morning, and I think I had a 5 a.m. call or something ridiculous. That was the day we were performing at the Opry, and I walked into my trailer, and there was hanging my sparkly shirt and crazy pants, the great Rayna garb that I was going to be wearing on stage. I felt such a sense of excitement that I was going to be doing this. I was like, this is why I did this show!
That whole sequence at the Opry was so much fun. Nashville’s just been so embracing of the show. We had access to all of these amazing Nashville landmarks. We actually shot several days at the Opry, but that whole sequence where I have the conversation with the managers who say your record isn’t selling and you’ll have to go on tour with Juliet Barnes was in this amazing backstage dressing room at the Opry. The scenes where you see Juliet walking down the hall, and then she comes into Rayna’s dressing room—all that stuff was so fun. I feel like those scenes are really where this show lives. Those scenes that are just in every nook and cranny at the Grand Ole Opry, that to me is the beauty of the show.
‘You Can Kiss My Decision …’
Episode 1: “Pilot”
I also really love that scene where Rayna gets to say, “Well you can kiss my decision as it’s walking out the door.” I feel like it’s a very quintessential Rayna moment. That was definitely one of those lines that I really loved and felt really described who that character is. It was so fun to play. There’s so many different sides to this character, and to see her as this self-made businesswoman really set the tone for what the season was going to be for her.
As told to Kevin Fallon.