'Nashville' Boss on Juliette's "Manic" Move, Teddy's Future, a Season 4 Wedding

"Everybody is poised to deal with a total life change in season four," showrunner Dee Johnson tells THR.
ABC/Mark Levine

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Nashville's season three finale, "Before You Go Make Sure You Know."]

The singers and songwriters at the center of ABC's country music drama Nashville will have plenty to croon about next season. In the season three finale, several lives hung in the balance and several were changed forever. Deacon (Charles Esten) went under for his liver transplant from his sister after exchanging not-exactly-legal vows with Rayna (Connie Britton) in his hospital room. Avery (Jonathan Jackson) took the baby and left Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) as she signed with Luke Wheeler (Will Chase) and Jeff (Oliver Hudson) to get her career back on track. Teddy (Eric Close) was arrested on corruption charges.

On the romantic front, Scarlett (Clare Bowen) and Gunnar (Sam Palladio) kissed, again, just as their lives were pulling them in opposite directions. Layla (Aubrey Peeples) discovered the true extent of Jeff's intense control over her. And Will (Chris Carmack) finally came out publicly and declared his love for Kevin.

"Everybody is poised to deal with a total life change in season four," showrunner Dee Johnson tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Johnson spoke with THR about Juliette's "manic" move, Teddy's future on the series and whether fans can expect another wedding next season.

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First off, that's a huge cliffhanger about Deacon and what's going to happen to him. What can you say about the decision to leave it there and what comes next?

As dire as it seems, there are a lot of different outcomes that could spring forth from that situation. We've been dealing with his health issues all season long. We got them back together and then we got them basically spiritually married, and then it's like what happens next given the given. It gives us a lot of ways to go.

If he lives, it seems safe to say that his sister is going to cause a lot of problems for them. What can you say about her return and how she'll figure into the next season?

We haven’t broken next season and we just sort of have some vague ideas, but I can say this: Beverly is really a fun character and she definitely has an agenda that Rayna really witnesses during the course of the finale, and earlier. I think that there are a lot of ways to go with her.

The other big moment in the finale was Avery taking the baby and leaving Juliette. Where does that leave the two of them? 

Obviously it leaves them in a really terrible, terrible place. But any time people have children together, they are tied together for life, and it's just a question of how they make that work or not. A lot of people root for that couple. I have really grown so fond of them, and I think there's so much love there. I don’t think they're done.

How will Avery handle being a single father?

That is not easy for anybody. They're in the real world, and it certainly isn't easy given the emotional blowback of having had that happen with Juliette, so I'm sure that it won't be easy. The character of Avery is such an interesting one because he has so evolved and that's the beauty, actually, of serialized television in the sense that characters actually can grow and change like people do, hopefully, in life. He has really come such a long way. He's such a good guy. He's in a desperate situation, so we'll see what happens.

That was a surprising direction to go with Juliette and her recent struggle with postpartum depression.

We didn't want to do that in a way that was horrible, but we wanted it to be real. She desperately wanted her life back and that became a mask for what was actually happening for her inside.

Juliette is in such denial so if she's going to ignore this problem, will that make it worse? Or will that make it easier once she's not around the baby?

It probably feels for her, at least initially, like the form of a solution. But it's attacking a symptom and not the real cause of the problem. I don’t think things will go quite as well as for her as she thinks they will with that decision having been made.

It was shocking to see her team with Jeff of all people. What can you say about their working relationship going forward?

She had to be in a pretty manic, crazy state to go back to that particular well. But that said, she's a little more informed than she was and she recognizes Jeff for the shark that he is. She feels that that's what she needs at this point in her career to take her to the level she feels she needs to get to.

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There was a lot of movement with Jeff and Layla in the finale. After everything he's done, will she still be able to trust him? How does her discovery in the finale affect their relationship?

They have a very, very unhealthy psychological relationship which is not unknown to players in the entertainment industry. (Laughs) There are so many manager/love-interest/relationships, historically, that you could point to that have very, very blurry lines. We often forget how young that character really is, and because of that, she's susceptible to him in a way. I do think he has very twisted, weird, real feelings for her.

One of the more happy developments was Will coming out. How do you see his life changing — and him changing — after this huge decision?

Certainly everything about his life is going to change. We were very careful to craft a journey here for him that took him through all the steps so it wasn't like, he realized that he's gay and then he comes out and it's all fine. We wanted to earn the moment of him (a) making a decision to come out, and then (b) recognizing that he was finally — for the first time — in love with somebody, which was on some level, an even bigger admission. All of those things having come to the surface, obviously everything changes. He had big, big dreams, and it's not going to be nearly as easy to accomplish. I mean he wanted to be Luke Wheeler. Luke Wheeler can fill stadiums. I'm not sure that Will Lexington can anymore.

Luke was caught off guard about Will and he's just starting to run this label. What is next for him?

Luke is, at his core, a decent guy and I think that he was just taken aback. He wants to do the right thing, but he is also a businessman and that's just not a simple, easy thing. It's not like, "Oh, OK, Will is gay and we'll just sell to that market." It's a very big deal, and maybe they just have to re-jigger their business game plan.

Have there been any talks about a new love interest for Luke?

He's such a fun character and I think the sky is the limit. The door is also left open for Jade, should she decide to pop back into this world, but we haven’t talked enough about whether or not there's a specific love interest beyond that. I'm sure he'll have one. How could he not?

A big moment was Teddy getting arrested. Should fans be worried about his status on the show next season?

He is the father of our two girls. We are forever tied [to him], so it's safe to say that he didn't crash on the table or anything. He's there.

Why do you think it was important to take that storyline in that direction and end on that note for him?

For the longest time, if you really look all the way back to the pilot, there were so many sins that Teddy has been dodging and avoiding. It really came to a point where you can't run away from all that stuff forever, and in covering some of those things up, he's made it even worse. We wanted to get him to a point where he took responsibility for all those missteps. That's where we wanted to land him at the end of this season. "I'm not going to keep protecting myself at the expense of Rayna, Rayna's company and my family. I'm just going to take my medicine."

We got to see a lot of Rayna's children this season. With everything going on with Deacon and Teddy, what's next for them?

Obviously, the Teddy thing can't be good. As the girls have gotten older, they've reached point where — particularly Maddie — she is of an age where you can't keep that genie in the bottle anymore. Our hope is to have those girls perhaps crossover to a point where they are artists themselves in the show. That will be interesting and tricky.

Do you have any ideas of what the theme might be for next season?

My only theme is I need a hiatus from season three. (Laughs

Is there a chance we'll see a wedding next season?

It's always great to have a fantastic wedding. ... With all the romantic entanglements we have going on in the show, I think weddings are always a possibility.

Nashville returns in the fall on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

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