'Nashville's' Oliver Hudson on Jeff and Layla's "Hyper-Dysfunctional" Romance

"They stab each other in the back, but at the end of the day, they're almost better as one than they are apart," the actor tells THR.
ABC

Jeff Fordham might be the most loathed man on Nashville. And Oliver Hudson wouldn't have it any other way.

"If people are hating you, you're doing your job," says Hudson with a laugh. "He's a despicable character. He's supposed to be hated."

Lately, that's proven to be more of a challenge. Jeff was abruptly fired from Edgehill Records and he's since begun a dare-we-say charming romance with Layla (Aubrey Peeples), whom he is also managing. "Anytime I get a scene where there could be some vulnerability or there could be a moment where there is some sympathy for Jeff, I really think about the audience," says Hudson. "My motivation as an actor is let's see if I can't make people some say, 'Aw, I actually feel bad for Jeff,' because its hard to feel bad for someone who has been so incessantly evil."

Hudson spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about Jeff's tortured romance, loosening him up and hopes for season four.

The second half of the season has been eventful for Jeff. Do you feel like the tide is turning for him? Is he starting to win viewers over?

The minute the tide seems to turn for Jeff, I read the next script and he falls right back into the pit that he's been in. But this season for me on Nashville has been a lot more fun for that exact fact. The writers have really opened him up a little bit. We've gotten to know who he is and why he operates the way that he does. There's been some pain in his life and there have been some tragedies and he's got a lot of resentment and he's very bitter. And you'll discover with Christina [Aguilera] coming on why he is the way he is with women. He's like a man scorned so to speak, but there is some humanity to him and they've shown that. At the same time, he still is the snake he always was.

Can you talk more about the introduction of Christina's character Jade St. John?  What is it like for Jeff to have this person from his past come back into his world?

It's a ghost of the past; a wound that he has probably closed with some scotch tape and it should have been stitched. Now seeing her again has reopened that wound and, of course, it has now affected his current relationship. He's got to do a few things that he doesn't really want to do but he knows it's probably for the best for Layla. You get to learn a little about who Jeff is through her, which is fun.

How does that impact his relationship with Layla going forward?

She comes into our world and shows something to Layla that she really wants. And Jeff doesn't really like what he sees. He doesn't want a repeat of what he went through many years ago with this new girl.

Why do you think that Jeff and Layla work so well together on a personal level?

It's hyper-dysfunctional. And we've all been through a lot of relationships and we've had some great ones and most of them have been dysfunctional. To get two people to match up perfectly is a hard thing to find and even when you do match up perfectly, there's always going to be dysfunction… It's about how you deal with that dysfunction and get through that dysfunction. That Laya-Jeff situation is really fun to explore and fun for people to see because it's relatable in many ways. It's also fun to see these two people who are almost tragically in love with one another. They despise each other but need each other. They stab each other in the back, but at the end of the day, they're almost better as one than they are apart.

What was your reaction when you first heard the writers were pairing these characters together?

It was great for me. Because for me, it was like thank God, I get to have a real human connection with someone. The first season for me, which was the second season of the show, it was more about me delegating and stealing people and getting into tiffs and a lot of record industry jargon. I didn’t feel connected to anyone. As an actor, it’s a lot harder to play when there is no emotional connection. So when it was told to me that Layla and Jeff were going to get together, I was excited and relieved because it was a chance for me to do something or feel something or be something that was other than just a record label head.

How do think losing his job has changed him as a person?

One of the things that I wanted to ease into was – and whether its noticeable or not I don’t know – I talked to [creator Callie Khouri] and talked to makeup and hair wardrobe and said, "Look, now that Jeff Fordham is out of this business as a record label head, let's loosen him up a little bit." Because Jeff, the way storyline went was, he was a musician, he was in a band, he got burned and basically went the route to business school and became a record label head to exercise some demons and take out a lot of anger on these artists because he was a failed one himself. Now he's out of that seat, I wanted to take a different approach and humanize him a little bit more even with the wardrobe and the hair and I kept a little bit more beard. So in that sense, it was a fun transition for me with the character.

What can you say about the season finale?

Layla and I continue our insanity. She finds out certain secrets [about what] I've been up to that blows up in my face, but that desperate love affair still continues. … It's always got to end on some awesome crazy cliffhanger.

And then hopefully there will be season four so viewers aren't left on that cliffhanger.

The crazy thing about this business is you never know. In May, we'll know. I have a good feeling. We've done 66 episodes. I would hope they would want to get us to 88, to a good syndication place and that we get to wrap it up. The fans are so loyal and they're so involved and invested in the show, to leave them hanging would be a disservice to what Callie has done for the last three years.

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

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