'Nashville's' Chris Carmack on Will's New Romance: "He's Willing to Take a Risk"

"It shakes the foundation of what Will thinks he knows about himself," the actor tells THR.
ABC

Some of the best country songs are about matters of the heart, so it's a wonder that Nashville's on-the-rise country star Will Lexington has never been in love. But as star Chris Carmack says, "That's about to change."

In the most recent episode of the ABC drama, the closeted Will finally acknowledged his feelings for out country singer-songwriter Kevin Bicks (Kyle Dean Massey) and the two shared a passionate kiss. "This is... maybe not the first time he's felt this way, but the very first time he's felt this way, acknowledged it and pursued it," says Carmack. "This is new territory."

Carmack spoke with THR about what's next for the couple, the upcoming arrival of Will's father and why Will is suddenly "willing to take a risk" for romance.

Last week was a big episode for Will, as we saw him actually be honest about his feelings with someone. What motivated Will to do that?

What motivated Will to do that was these honest feelings he was having. He's had encounters with men before and he's accepted his sexual orientation, which is gay, but he has until now looked at other men as objects of sexual fascination. This is the first person on this road that he has really connected with and fallen for. You just see all of his act melt away and he's honest with Kevin and he feels something real and he wants to have something real with him.

What's next after that kiss?

The kiss was pretty electric, so we can assume there's more to come. Will said it last week, too: He doesn’t want people to know. He wants to keep it a secret but he wants to explore this with Kevin, and Kevin seems interested as well, so they're going to go ahead and see where they can take it. There are always the social pressures around. You've got Kevin, who is an out gay man living in the city, and you've got Will, who is a closeted country music star. It's not going to be a piece of cake.

How worried is Will that something could come out or something might leak?

He's very concerned about that. His greatest fear is that someone will explore this and twist it and turn it into a career-ending tabloid nightmare for him. But at the same time, he's willing to take a risk. He's willing to put himself out there because he does feel so strongly for this man, Kevin. He just connects with him and is head over heels for him.

Kevin, as you said, is out in the community and successful in the country-music world. Does that affect Will's feelings about his own coming out? Does Kevin change his perception?

I don’t think his perception about, 'Maybe I can come out and keep my career,' is likely to change. But I think he might reevaluate his priorities in terms of what's going to actually make him happy.

Does that he mean he could see stepping away from country music and putting his relationship before his career?

He's in love with Kevin enough to consider something like that.

Looking ahead, what new sides of Will does this relationship bring out of him?

[Kevin] brings out a side of Will that we've never seen. You saw it in last week's episode. Will, for the first time, is not this confident frontman. He's stumbling and bumbling and nervous and doesn't know how to approach this guy because his heart is beating a thousand times a minute. It shakes the foundation of what Will thinks he knows about himself.

Falling in love is great inspiration for making music, so how will this development impact his music and his career going forward?

Will is a hot, up-and-coming country star, so if he can keep riding that train, he will keep riding that train. We've got some great performances coming up for Will. He's going to be performing "I'm On It," one of his new singles on the show, and he's doing his shtick. He's doing his "I'm a cowboy. I've got my hat and my boots, and I'm flirting with the ladies in the front row." His shtick is working for him so he's going to keep doing it. But Kevin really is peeling away layers like an onion and Will is definitely going to take a much more reflective look at himself and explore himself deeper. I'm hoping it's going to push him to a much more sensitive place in his songwriting and in his music, but that will be a journey for, hopefully, season four.

What is Kevin's take on Will's shtick? Is he jealous? What are his feelings about Will not coming out?

They're going to talk about that. They're going to chat a little bit about the dynamic and is this possible, because that's a question for both of them. Will is a guy who's used to getting what he wants and making whatever he wants happen, and Kevin is a guy who's used to being very true to himself and not selling out who he is or his identity. The two of them are probably going to have a tough time finding common ground, but there is enough of an attraction and enough of a mutual respect and enjoyment of each other to try.

We're going to meet Will's dad later this season. What can you tease about their dynamic?

He's played by Rex Linn, and Rex does such a beautiful job of portraying a man who loves his son and wants nothing more than to have a relationship with his son, but can't get over certain aspects of his son's lifestyle. Will's lifestyle has been portrayed all over the television. He's been married very publicly, and it stands to reason that his father, having seen all of this, suspects that perhaps Will has changed. They are two men who desperately want each other's love and each other's approval, but their new relationship is going to be based on fallacy. [Rex] does not play this archetypal military, ass-kicking father who was just hard as hell on Will when he was younger. He plays this gentle, warm, loving father who you know used to kick the crap out of Will. (Laughs) He has this presence that he just brings with him — a man who has changed and therefore can believe his son has changed.

How does his father's presence impact his relationship with Kevin?

His dad shows up and he puts Kevin on a backburner for a second. He's scared to death that Kevin's going to say something or do something that tips his father off. He's going to need a little space there to protect what he thinks is a burgeoning relationship with his father. His father shows up and he hasn’t seen his father since he was 17 years old so he immediately goes and becomes a 17-year-old. He becomes a kid looking for daddy's approval, and the deeper dynamics of his life go on hold for a moment.

What other challenges will Will face as we get closer to the finale?

There will be some pretty big complications in Will's life. He's forced to make some pretty serious choices between career and happiness.

Nashville airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

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