What to Expect on ‘Nashville’ After Connie Britton Shocker

Nashville
Courtesy of CMT

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched “Nashville” Season 5, episode 9, titled “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” which aired on CMT on Thursday, Feb. 23.

Connie Britton’s “Nashville” character, Rayna, was killed of this week’s episode of the country music series, sealing Britton’s fate — the actress is leaving the show.

Britton’s decision to leave the show was a creative choice that was made soon after the show moved from ABC to CMT, according to “Nashville” showrunner Marshall Herskovitz.

“When CMT picked up the show, Connie came to [co-showrunner] Ed Zwick and myself and said that she felt inner conflict. She felt that creatively, she wanted to move on from the show, and she was very torn because she loved the show. She loved the people on the show and it was like a family, but after four years, she felt she needed a different challenge, which is something I really understand as an artist,” Herskovitz tells Variety. “When we did ‘Thirtysomething,’ we ended the show because we felt we needed to do something else. The network and studio wanted to continue, but we felt we were finished. So I really supported the idea that Connie felt she needed to move onto other challenges.”

Here, the showrunner talks to Variety about filming Rayna’s death scene and Connie Britton’s decision to leave. Plus how “Nashville” will move forward without its original star…

What was it like on set filming Rayna’s death scene?

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It was quite amazing not just for the cast, but for the entire crew. Basically everyone was in tears. It was extraordinary. Everyone was taken a little bit by surprise just by how emotional we were — we knew how sad and difficult it would be, but it just took on a life of its own. It was a very powerful, emotional experience for everyone.

You knew that Connie would be leaving the show, but why did her character have to die?

We had to come up with a storyline that made sense and did justice to the character and to the fans’ connection to the character. We spent a lot of time thinking, “Does she really have to die? Is there some other way we can do it?” And the answer was no. How could you possibly have this character who loves her children and husband so much not be in contact with them? Our joke was she could be held hostage by terrorists — that was the only thing we could come up with. We painfully accepted that the only way for her to exit the show was to have the character die.

There are two more episodes until the midseason finale. What can we expect next week, now that Rayna is gone?

The next episode is the funeral and the aftermath. It’s really one of the strongest episodes I’ve ever been involved with. It’s so remarkable and so emotional and full of grace and elegance and connection and love. The next week’s episode is life without Rayna. Everyone is still completely overcome by grief, but it’s at least beginning to look ahead to what stories might be, and it’s actually worked out from a creative standpoint really well. It’s the love and connection that holds this family together.

Since next week’s episode is the funeral, will Connie be back?

I don’t want to go into too much detail, but she will be seen in flashbacks.

Any chance she could ever come back in the future for a flashback down the road?

I don’t want to be coy, but I think that the 11 episodes that come after the break are very much about what life is like post-Rayna. Any more than that, I shouldn’t say.

How will Deacon and their daughters deal with Rayna being dead?

I can’t answer without spoiling. It will be very difficult, but life will go on. I think it’s important to say that I think we’ve struck a balance as time moves forward in the show between something that could be just utterly depressing and morbid, and something that utterly forgets about how important this woman was to everybody’s life. We found a way to balance the two. Life does go on, but Rayna lives on in these people and we feel the loss — some of them much more stronger than the others. Some of our storylines are about the inability to move on.

How will Rayna’s death impact Juliette (Hayden Panettiere)?

Let me say this: it’s been a real joy for me to work with Hayden and to watch her commit to this change in her character and the struggle she’s gone through and the slow progress that she’s made physically… I think we’re going to get to see a little bit of the old Juliette back in a great way and an exciting way. But more than that, I shouldn’t say.

Did Connie have any input into her send-off?

Input isn’t quite the right word. We worked with her very closely and she really liked the storyline and felt like it was emotionally very resonant. I think she understood that there was a connection between the stalker storyline and the death. We were working on the stalker story before Connie came to us and said she wanted to leave the show. We were always going to do that stalker story. It worked out thematically, once we decided that she was going to die.

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  1. Kathryn says:

    Nashville is an awesome series But because of Connie Britton. Isn”t there some way we can bring her back? Deacon and her just got together. Love the show. Hope it stays on TV. Diaka

  2. James Keatts says:

    I think that they should bring Connie Britton back as Rayna James not a evil twin!! Let it be a dream! She’s awesome on there with Deacon and the girls!! Thank you!

    • tdoa says:

      Nashville is an awesome series But because of Connie Britton. Isn”t there some way we can bring her back?

      Not unless there’s a crossover with Game of Thrones and we get Melisandre to revive her like she did with Jon Snow!

      And please kill off the Scarlett/Gunner relationship once and for all! They are just annoying and pitiful. She can never make up her mind about anything and he’s always been disaster with all his women. It’s seems logical that it’s got to go in the direction that he will end up with Will, who’s just finding his place in the gay world and still experimenting. That guy who’s taking over Highway 65 you just know the way he’s going about it, he’s going to piss him off and they’ll break up.

  3. Brenda Daugherty says:

    I loved Nashville, but it is not the same, and I don’t know if it ever will.I miss her so much.

  4. Nicole Whitfield says:

    Please come back to the show

  5. Anita says:

    I couldn’t believe she will not be back. Finally deacon and her would be together as a happy couple. I cried and cried last two episodes. Love this show. Deacon and the girls need to do a album dictated to Reyna.

    • Carol Johnson says:

      I’m praying for an old Dallas solution. She comes back and this whole season is a DREAM! How can the show go on without Rayna and Deacon, they were and are Nashville! I mean I like all the characters in the show but they had the main story line and I for one person would love to see the album they were writing actually come to life!

  6. Melodie says:

    I admit I was not aware she wanted to leave the show so was so sad to watch her being written off by dying, but now that I know it was her idea I am very happy for her…she will be sorely missed for sure…love love love this show!

  7. Anna says:

    They could have just recast her. Rayna is a central part of this show and if Connie felt the need to move on – we’ll so be it. Recasting Rayna’s role would have been more prudent. Hope this isn’t the end of Nashville.

    • Teena Owen says:

      We are sorry that Connie chose to leave, but she didn’t make up the whole show. The other actors are just as good as she. We enjoy all the others as well. We did enjoy it when there was more music included in the story line. I do hope that they don’t cancel the show because we are wanting to see what happens next in the lives of all of the main characters!

  8. Kristin H says:

    I don’t think they needed to kill her off & if they did, it shouldn’t have been an accident just after Juliette’s. Put her in a coma, on tour, something but death is too final. Somebody mentioned get back to the music & I agree & what’s with Teddy coming back?

    I like the show and will continue to watch – I get she wanted to do something different but making it permanent was a mistake.

  9. Kristine says:

    I had no idea Connie’s character was leaving. She’s the only reason I watched! To me she’s the most pivotal character. Without her it’s not an escape anymore to watch. I watch shows to escape reality; not to experience what normally happens in real life. I don’t need more drama of death and sadness and loss. I have too much of that already!! Nashville show died the day she did! I am not even finishing this episode…I’m disappointed with the writers decision. She could have gone on a world tour and returned for rare guest appearances…or just cancel the show and start a new one with same actors. It will not be the same without her character. They never should have focused on her if she wasn’t going to stay. They could have hired a new actress to play her part. THAT would been much more acceptable!!

  10. Ms. D says:

    I certainly did not see that coming! I figured last week when she flat-lined they would revive her. When this week opened with a funeral I was waiting for it to be someone having a dream. TOTAL DENIAL! When reality hit me I cried like I’m sure many fans did, which led me to this article. I’ve been with this show from day one and through all the drama of cancellation and adoption by CMT. I really don’t know how I feel moving forward without Rayna. If Deacon returns to drinking I’M OUT! The writers have a wonderful opportunity with strong characters to make this show phenomenal. I have to agree with others, bring the music back and take a page from Empire and let some real country artist make appearances from time to time. Connie will be missed but I wish her the best.

    • LeighLeigh says:

      Perfectly said!! I have also been a Nashville fan from day one and want to see this show be what it has the ability to be. I see the possibility of a decline with Rayna gone. Don’t repeat old storylines.

  11. Peggy Menke says:

    I love Nashville and was thrilled when CMT picked it up. I am sad to see Connie go,but I understand. Thank you for putting on one of the best shows ever!!!

  12. Teena Owen says:

    It was such a shock that Rayna died. We certainly will miss her. We love all the other cast as well. We have really become so attached to this show. We hope that it will continue. We look forward to watching what will happen to each and every cast member. It is by far the best show on Thursday night TV.

  13. The stalker should have killed her. The lame exit was just too much to watch. The writing on this show needs to go back to what it was during it’s first two seasons. The music needs to come back — it’s the reason it became popular. Don’t know that I will watch it going forward, because it’s just become to soapy.

  14. Karen says:

    The Rayna character departure from the show is going to be big shoes to fill for sure. There are a lot of really great characters on this show, and some that have left and should be brought back (Zoey, Layla to name a few). Along with the great drama on Nashville, the show needs to get back to the roots of the show which had always been the music. The show has been lacking in that of late, so I hope moving forward, the music starts to come back to help tell the stories of the characters and what it is like for an artist trying to make in Nashville. If they do this, the show may survive losing “Rayna”.

  15. DLOC says:

    Even tho im as shocked & devastated as everyone else, i have to give Connie & the producers alot of credit for having the guts to do it, artistically speaking. The quality of the show has always been the most important factor in its appeal and dealing with this tragic aftermath will be sure to make for some gripping drama. Plus having Reyna in flashbacks is also sure to make for some classic tear-jerking moments- a t.v. soap art form found only in great shows like Nashville! Truth is this show has alot of great characters to work with …….R.I P. REYNA!!!

  16. Judy says:

    I think Connie made the right decision about leaving. I watched Nashville since it has been on ABC but since they moved to CMT I can’t. So I read up on it or watch it on my cell phone. And I know I’m not the only person. Go back to ABC.

  17. Jenna says:

    Connie, I am so sad that you left Nashville! You were my favorite character and will be missed. I sobbed watching episode 9!

  18. Chuck P says:

    With Connie Britton dead, so is the show. Have no intention of watching a show that lost it’s heart AND soul!

  19. Phyllis says:

    Connie Britton shouldn’t have come back if she didn’t want to stay. Now the show is ruined. At least at the end of last season they finally got back together and got married. Now she is dead and the whole thing after all these years is is ruined. I never would have gotten started watching this season if I knew this was going to happen.

  20. millerfilm says:

    How is it a “shocker?” She wanted off the show and they killed her off.

    • It’s a shocker if you didn’t know CB was leaving the show & you didn’t know anything about the upcoming storyline. That’s how it’s a shocker. Not everyone reads the ‘net all day long.

  21. Debbie Stargardt says:

    I think the show will be better without Rayna. There are so many people on the show with more talent – it will be fine. The storyline was as unbelievable as Friday Night Lights. In both instances she had gorgeous men, and she had nothing to offer.

    • Britton was not the best part of Nashville. Not all that great an actress…her vious shows were not really popular. Nashville made her think she ws all that.”

      Chip esten is intriguing and can really sing. Why has all th MUSIC gone away???? The music was outstanding. Chris carmack, Aubrey peeples, Jonathan Jackson, the Luke wheeler character, Chalee Rose….here is a chance to get them back. Much better without Britton. Kindly renew Nashville and bring back the behind the front business deals and MUSIC!!!!!!!

  22. Lucy says:

    I don’t know if it will be the same without Rayna. I’ll watch a few more episodes, but I feel lost already. It’s hard to watch a show that had a lot of singing talent go to such a serious storyline with so much sadness. Can’t imagine it being the same.

  23. I know it is only a tv show but I am crushed Connie Britton is leaving. I just waetched the episode…so powerful.

  24. antiyano says:

    I absolutely love Ms. Britton, but quite frankly I was beginning to find the whole Reyna/Deacon arc of the show a black hole of boredom. Next to go should be Scarlett and Gunnar an even blacker hole than that of aforementioned. If the writers were really courageous then Gunnar should end up with Will, I mean this guy’s track record with women is so halfassed and pitiful.

    • EDashman says:

      The character shouldn’t go, the writers should simply write him better and give him (and Scarlett) better story lines.

  25. I’m kind of glad she’s gone. I used to love her character but when celebrities become so political it ruins the illusion they’re trying to create in film or on tv I don’t like it and turn it off.

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