8:21pm PT by Kate Stanhope, Lesley Goldberg
'Nashville': Two Series Regulars to Exit; Talks With Remaining Cast Going Well
Two of Nashville's series regulars are looking to exiting stage left.
Will Chase and Aubrey Peeples are likely to depart the country music drama ahead of its season-five move to CMT, sources confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.
The news comes less than two weeks after CMT officially picked up a fifth season of the now-former ABC drama in a pact made that will allow Hulu to keep next-day streaming rights. ABC surprised many in May when it cut the veteran series despite its small but loyal fanbase.
Sources tell THR that the duo will likely be the only departures as talks with all the remaining series regulars are going well, including stars Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere. The latter's future on the show was in question after the major cliffhanger in the season-four finale.
Lionsgate, which co-produces the series with ABC Studios, and CMT declined to comment.
In terms of story, the news is not entirely surprising. Luke Wheeler (Chase) was introduced as a new love interest for Rayna (Britton) in season two. Chase was promoted to series regular in season three, but once the writers opted to reunite Rayna with on-and-off love interest Deacon (Charles Esten) once and for all — the two married this past season — it became more of a struggle to intermix Luke with the rest of the ensemble, save for his recent friendship with Juliette (Panettiere) and Will Lexington (Chris Carmack).
As for Peeples, she was promoted to a series regular in season four after recurring heavily for two seasons as up-and-coming singer Layla Grant. Layla's main love interest, Jeff Fordham (former series regular Oliver Hudson), was killed off at the beginning of season four after the actor signed on for another series, Scream Queens. Peeples was subsequently absent from several episodes due to commitments to the Jem and the Holograms remake, in which she starred.
Nashville is no stranger to cast shake-ups. Other former series regulars include Powers Boothe, Robert Wisdom, Eric Close and Hudson.
The show has already welcomed two fresh faces for season five: new showrunners Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick (My So-Called Life, thirtysomething), who replace longtime showrunner Dee Johnson.
Nashville is expected to return with new episodes sometime this fall.
The departures were first reported by TVLine.