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Juliette Barnes won’t be Nashville’s sweetheart for much longer.
On ABC’s freshman musical soap Nashville, the country princess portrayed by Hayden Panettiere reverted to some old — and less than legal — behavior as the young singer struggled with her drug-addicted mother’s return under her roof by stealing nail polish in the clear view of a fan armed with a camera phone.
The move will land Juliette in a heap of image trouble as she will be tasked with doing damage control all while still struggling with her family’s skeletons coming back to haunt her while still reeling from Deacon’s (Charles Esten) rejection.
After the duo connected musically (and sexually), Deacon rejects Juliette’s continued attempts to go on tour, remaining loyal to Rayna (Connie Britton) and the intimate tour they had planned. Only there’s a hiccup in the plan after Rayna ponders sacrificing her career (at her father’s request) to help husband Teddy’s political career. Complicating matters, Teddy isn’t too keen about Rayna and Deacon hitting the road for a tour with the word “intimate” attached to it as the longtime collaborators continue to have the same intense spark that made them such a great pairing in the first place.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Panettiere — who says the cast is taking ABC’s patience with the country series “one episode at a time” — to discuss how Juliette’s mother changes everything and what could eventually get the young singer to co-headline a tour with the legendary Rayna James.
The Hollywood Reporter: How will the arrival of Juliette’s mother impact her?
Hayden Panettiere: Hugely. This is her absolute worst nightmare come true. One reason why she behaves the way she behaves is because she’s running from such a wounding past that this life and her success is her escape. To have her past come back and literally haunt her and bring back all these memories that she has buried and transformed herself into a completely different person is all now knocking on her door. It’s her worst nightmare to have to relive that and that’s why she’ll fight to get what she needs to stay on top. Her mom comes back and unleashes a complete storm and forces Juliette to face the skeletons in her closet. It’s definitely going to be a shit-show (laughs).
We saw the beginning of that with Juliette stealing nail polish when she’s clearly being watched. What’s her motivation for doing so?
That reminded me of the pilot of Heroes where my character’s grandmother steals a pair of socks and Milo’s character asks why she did it and she says she just wanted to feel alive again. With Juliette — you’ll see her talk about this later — about how she used to do that kind of thing when she was younger because it made her feel like she could take care of herself when nobody else would take care of her. It’s a power thing, and to get that power back and be able to provide for herself. It has nothing to do with money.
Is any part of that a cry to Deacon for help?
No, she does it with no intention of anybody finding out. She got away with it when she was younger and she assumes that the same thing is going to happen and realizes that she is no longer just anybody who can walk into a grocery store. It’s definitely not a cry for help for Deacon to come but it’s a door that opens that allows him to be a stronger influence in her life.
What lengths will Juliette go to in order to repair her image after this goes public?
Oh the lengths! (Laughing) But there’s also rebelliousness in Juliette and hostility, anger and a righteousness because she has gotten where she is with nobody’s help. She doesn’t have anybody pushing her to do it; her life is full of people who want to help her be successful but it’s not without their own price: they get a percent of her earnings and push her to direct her image. Juliette brushes it off like it’s no big deal and she sabotages herself along the way before she finally gets it right. The world loves to forgive and they love a recovery success story like that but Juliette crashes and burns along the way. She’s her own biggest enemy.
How will Deacon’s repeated rejection change Juliette?
There’s a certain amount of respect that comes out of that. As Juliette has made clear, nobody says no to her and she’s not used to hearing that. To have that one person in her life be honest and reject her in that way and take away everything about her that she thinks is powerful — her sexuality, manipulative tendencies — somebody like her gravitates toward people like that because they’re not used to it. And when it comes to Juliette’s mom, there’s nobody better to help the situation than Deacon because he’s been in an addict and been to rehab; he was that woman. Right now, Juliette is incapable of helping her mom because she’s tried for so many years and her mother has constantly gone back. The only way she knows how to go about it is through this hostile anger and that doesn’t fix anyone.
Might Juliette and Rayna eventually square off over Deacon?
It’s a different kind of squaring off. Rayna’s dealing with her own issues: her family, father and then her husband running for mayor. She and Deacon still have a love there almost like he was her life sweetheart. The way a woman of her age “squares off” and the way that a young, immature girl does are very different. It’ll be interesting to see how they go about it and in what way it comes out. It’ll be an interesting road. There are problems in both Rayna and Juliette’s careers. In the beginning, Juliette has the upper hand and things may shift and they may end up needing each other in some way.
Juliette and Deacon recorded “Undermine.” How will Juliette use the song to her advantage?
That song is self-expression and it definitely has to do with her mom and she wants to be taken seriously. She understands and respects the position she’s in: the younger audience and the way she’s seen has created a massive amount of success for her but it’s also put her in this category where people only see her as one thing and think she’s incapable of being genuinely talented as an artist and writer. So when she writes this song and the audience sees them — and even Deacon realizes it — that it’s about this girl who’s actually talented. Is she using it to her advantage? Of course — because she wants to be taken seriously but that song comes from a very genuine place.
Is Deacon the key to bridging the gap between Juliette and Rayna and getting them out on the road together?
I don’t know that he’s going to be the sole key. Juliette and Rayna aren’t in the best positions in their careers and we may end up needing each other for separate reasons.
What do you think will prompt Juliette and Rayna to co-headline a tour? Hit the comments with your thoughts. Nashville airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.
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