'Nashville' Star Connie Britton on Rayna and Deacon's "Difficulties" Ahead, Renewal Chances

The actress, who also serves as an EP on the ABC drama, talks about why she vetoed a season-three wedding for the will-they-or-won't-they couple.
Courtesy of Mark Levine/ABC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Nashville's midseason premiere, "Forever and for Always."]

In an uncharacteristic twist, there was no twist at all on Wednesday's highly anticipated midseason return. Just like the teasers promised, Rayna (Connie Britton) and Deacon (Charles Esten) finally tied the knot on the ABC country series after four seasons of paternity revelations, car accidents, nearly fatal surgeries, canceled engagements and a lot of country-song-worthy melodrama.

The decision to have the two — who have long been the central couple of the series — finally exchange "I do's" even took Britton a bit by surprise.

"There were definitely many moments where I would not have imagined that it would be true, but I was always gunning for them," she told The Hollywood Reporter.

Britton spoke with THR about why it was the right time to make it official, why she was against the couple getting married last season and what the chances are for a fifth season of the drama, which has yet to be renewed.

When did you first hear that they were going to tie the knot? What kind of conversations did you have with the writers about the timing for this?

Actually, at the end of last season, when everything was so up in the air with Deacon's health and they were going through a lot, there was some conversation about having them marry then. I kind of weighed in because I felt like it would be so nice to give them a little bit more, frankly — make more out of the wedding. (Laughs.) I was like, "No, let's have a big beautiful wedding instead of, like, a wedding by a hospital bed." That was when it started to be talked about really seriously and kind of when I knew that I was like, "Oh, OK. I think that they really mean that this is going to happen."

When it came to the TV wedding, were there any specific ideas you had or ways you were able to contribute to the episode?

The main one for me really was the dress, because our amazing costume designer, Susie DeSanto, basically built the dress for me and designed it. Everybody in our costume department was really excited about it and had a bunch of fittings, and I got to weigh in. They had two different ways they were maybe going to go in with the dress, so that, to me, was the most collaborative part of that particular episode and really fun. It was very magical to be able to do that.

Why was now the right time to put them together for good and stop the will-they-or-won't-they?

What I think and what happens on the show sometimes are two very different things. (Laughs.) Because for me, it was very satisfying to have the two of them get married, and I love this relationship. I've loved these two characters together, and it just, to me, I think it's interesting to see. I've sort of been interested in the idea of seeing these two, who have spent their whole lives intertwined but not actually having to commit to each other, and now they're actually in that commitment. I love the idea of seeing what that looks like, and we've definitely played that out toward the end of the season but maybe not in as joyful a way as one might hope. I mean it's Nashville, so things get dark pretty fast. (Laughs.)

You've given a lot of praise for Friday Night Lights for portraying a stable marriage, but things on Nashville tend to be more dramatic. How is it to navigate the balance of trying to keep this marriage grounded but also rolling with these storylines as they come?

It's tricky. Look, I will go with the storylines, and we will play that out. I can sort of feel sad for Rayna as the audience might or anybody else who was like, "Oh, I would have liked to have seen them have a life together that might be a little less riddled with very heightened drama." But it's definitely more the nature of this show. I have been very fortunate to have had the experience of being able to play a relationship where the reality was a lot simpler and the complications were simpler and actually very real and accessible. This is something that's a little bit different.

Even on their wedding day, there were several people in Rayna's life who said they didn't support the wedding: both her daughters and her sister. What do you think it is that makes Rayna decide to tune this people out and go forward with the wedding?

I think at this point in the relationship, she's just listening to her heart. I think she's also letting her own history and experience guide her here. I don't think she's being flimsy about the decision, because she is basing her choices on her history with Deacon and also knowing the fact that basically she can't live without the guy. She can't live without the guy, and now she's got her eyes wide open, and she knows what she's getting into.

When the show started, she was married, but it was a very different relationship. How will that affect her new marriage and her relationship with Deacon?

I think that actually impacts her, when I was talking about her experience and her history. I think that that all plays into it, because she was married before and she was married to a good guy and she ended up going through heartbreak and betrayal with him in different kinds of ways than she has with Deacon. So I think that that maybe helped to encourage her to …

Even to some degree, her marriage to Teddy was a way of trying to cut herself off from her feelings for Deacon, so I think she only learned from her past marriage. I think she learned from almost marrying Luke Wheeler. And I think those things all sort of helped her to get to this place where she's like, "You know, I'm just going to do what I probably wanted to do my whole life."

Beyond this episode, can you give us a hint of what issues are ahead for Rayna and Deacon?

They are going to have a lot of difficulties. (Laughs.) They don't get to relish in the sort of joy of all that we've built up to with this wedding. We don't get to stay there for long.

How do you think their relationship will change once they are officially married and living together?

I think the biggest thing was — certainly on Deacon's side — he was really being a father and husband for the first time. I think that takes some adjusting for him and understandably so. We definitely went through that for a little while. And then there were just bigger issues that end up affecting them and their marriage.

Another talking point from the episode was Highway 65's success. What's next for Rayna professionally now that she's proved herself as a label head to an extent?

I feel like we get to see Rayna sort of in a place of where she's definitely moving along with her label in a nice way. But we do get to a place where she realizes, "Hey, I'm forgetting who I was as an artist. I kind of want to get back to that a little bit." I think by the end of the season, we definitely see she's in a better place with the label, but it gets a little sideswiped by all the things that happen in the upcoming episodes.

It must have been fun to get back onstage. We haven't really seen Rayna perform that much this season.

It definitely was. And that partly came from me, because I was like, "I miss it. I bet if I miss it, Rayna really misses it."

Regarding the future of the show, ABC renewed several dramas for next season but not Nashville. How confident do you feel about season five?

I don't know. It's always so hard to know what's going to be the future. Those things are so completely out of our hands, so I always just wait to hear.

Do you have an idea of how much longer the show will run?

I do feel like we're kind of getting… Again, I guess I can't really say. The answer is, I can't even really speculate. There are so many factors that play into it that I really have nothing to do with, so I defer to the powers that be on that.

A lot of networks in recent years — and Friday Night Lights was an example of this — have announced a final season in advance, to give the writers enough time to wrap things up. Has that been a discussion at all, of getting that heads-up?

No, to my knowledge, there hasn't been any discussion like that. And you're right, we did get to do that on Friday Night Lights. I don't know how that's going to go, but as far as I know — again, I don't feel like I'm ever privy to these conversations — but as far as I know, there hasn't been any conversation like that.

Finally, you're coming off a well-received turn on The People v. O.J. Simpson as Faye Resnick. Have you talked with Ryan Murphy since your episodes aired about coming back to American Horror Story for season six or for season two of American Crime Story?

There hasn't, but I always would. We haven't discussed it. I've been busy in Nashville, and obviously Ryan Murphy is one of the busiest guys in show business. Oh, I'll find him. I'll always find him. (Laughs.)

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

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