“Nashville” Pits Hayden Vs. Connie
By: Lynn Barker
We see it all the time. New music sensations bumping older greats out of their slots at the top of the charts. In the hot new ABC series “Nashville”, the artists in question are Juliette Barnes (played by “Heroes” Hayden Panettiere), the hot new country/pop crossover sensation aiming to dethrone country queen Rayna James (Connie Britton of “Friday Night Lights” and “American Horror Story”) and she’s using more than her voice to climb the success ladder right into the arms of some of the men in Rayna’s life. It’s “soapy” good… with some great music thrown in (both actresses actually perform the songs).
Hayden as Juliette on the show
Kidzworld: Ladies, talk about your singing in the show.
- Connie: Well, I think that Connie and Hayden would have very different conversations about this. I can talk to you about Hayden because she’s a great singer. She’s a legitimately great singer.
Connie as Rayna
- Hayden: Well, 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. So she’s going to be schooling us all.
- Connie: Connie is having a journey and it’s an exciting journey because it’s a journey with T Bone Burnett (famous musician, songwriter and record producer tied to the show).
- Hayden: I recorded an album when I was younger from about 15 to 19, something like that, and in that period of time, I just was changing as a person. I think music really reflects who you are as a person, so you’re really putting yourself out there. And I quit after about four or five years of recording, and I said “This is not me”. But I said that if I was ever going to do music again, I would do country music, and for this to come along and to get both of the things I love combined in one show, it’s a dream come true. Really. And I don’t mean that in a cliché way.
- Connie: And I would say actually for me it’s a dream come true, too, because as an actor to have the opportunity to stretch my muscles in this way (is great). I have sung my whole life, but not really that professionally. As an actor to be able to work with the best writer and the best music producer, that’s also a dream come true.
Kidzworld: Are your two characters based on like Taylor Swift and Reba McEntire? Are you thinking about specific artists while developing your characters?
- Connie: I ran into Reba McEntire on a plane and she said, “Did you hear that they’re saying that you’re playing me in your show?” And I said, “No. I had no idea.” But I think for me, at least, it’s sort of an amalgam of a lot of different people, but I’m also I think it’s really fun to take from that palette and then just really let this lone character emerge. So I don’t really have any one person that I’m basing the character on.
- Hayden: I’ve heard the Taylor Swift thing quite a bit. And I think, aside from being around the same age and blonde we’re different. I’m not even the same height, I mean, we’re very different. I think once you see her and get to know Juliette, my character a little bit better, you’ll see that. But I really think Taylor would disagree wholeheartedly as well. She’s much nicer than my character.
Connie sings as Rayna
Kidzworld: Your characters reflect Hollywood actresses in a way too. You hear about actresses getting a certain age and being pushed aside by younger women. Is that fun to play? Are you familiar with it?
- Hayden: I’ve grown up doing this my whole life. And it’s one thing that my parents instilled in me was definitely respect for other people. So when I have to go on 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 and I’ll be they’ll cut and I’ll be like, “I’m so sorry. You know I adore you. I respect you.” But it’s interesting and it does make it fun.
- Connie: Yeah. I think some of the most fun scenes that we shot were those we had at the Grand Ole Opry because they were so kooky and it’s just two people behaving in such bizarre ways. I think that we have a real opportunity here to show the complexities of these two kinds of people in show business, and particularly women. And I feel a really strong responsibility to do that in a way that is that is true and dignified. My whole mantra from the beginning is that this is not a catfight. I’m not doing 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 journeys will be.
Hayden, as Juliette, belts out a song
Kidzworld: Will there be a soundtrack of music on the show available?
- Hayden: The music is worthy of it at some point. I’m sure there will be.
Kidzworld: Hayden you come from TV’s “Heroes” and Connie, right off “American Horror Story”. Could you compare your experiences on those shows with “Nashville”?
- Hayden: Our shows previously, I know they were not the same, but they were in the same vein of sci fi (or horror) in a way. I mean, both were grounded, different stories, different shows, but I was dealing with CGI for four years of my life, ten months out of the year. So it was a very large part of my life for years. You can’t compare them.
- Connie: In terms of “American Horror Story” and “Friday Night Lights” for that matter, they both felt like something innovative that we haven’t seen before and as an actor, that’s exciting. And my hope is that “Nashville” will be that, too, and I think it will. I always want to stretch myself and do something that I haven’t done before. So from “American Horror Story” to “Nashville” is a plenty big stretch.
Connie and Hayden at an awards ceremony
Kidzworld: We hear there will be music in each episode and some original songs. So, the show isn’t just for country music lovers?
- Hayden: We get the comment all the time, “Well, what if you don’t like country music?” And one thing I think we’ve all learned is, being especially down in Nashville and working with such talented singers and songwriters, you realize how broad the term country music is. You don’t have to be a fan of country music. There’s soul and there’s blues and there’s bluegrass and it really is a wide variety. It’s American. And I think people will realize that they come to find that they like this kind of music.
Kidzworld: Hayden, we’ve gotta ask. Is Juliette on the prowl for every man she meets?
- Hayden: Oh, gosh. If you have a broken heart, you’re sad, you need a rebound, Juliette is prowling somewhere around the corner.
The cast of Nashville