It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions lately for fans of TV’s twangiest series, Nashville. First, Nashies were dealt a blow when ABC dropped the show. Shortly after, in response to the impassioned cry of fans, CMT saved the day by revealing their plans to pick up the show for a fifth season.
And now, nearly two weeks after CMT’s joyous announcement, news has broken that series regulars Will Chase and Aubrey Peeples won’t be returning when the show does. Sad face, y’all. Sad face.
In a perfect world, all of our beloved series regulars would have signed back on for at least one more season — if for no other reason than the fact that we need closure. Both Chase, who played hunky country superstar Luke Wheeler, and Peeples, who played up-and-comer Layla Grant, ended Season 4 with open-ended arcs.
Chase’s character, Luke, just scored a major win against a homophobic TV host when he staged a concert for Will Lexington (a gay artist signed to his label) right outside her studio. Based on a conversation between Luke and Will afterwards, it seemed like a safe bet Luke was going to try to win his ex-wife back.
As for Peeples’ character, Layla, her arc didn’t end nearly so well. After manipulating Avery (played by Jonathan Jackson) into a relationship, she began making even dicier movies like staging photo ops with paparazzi and leaking news about Avery’s ex, Juliette Barnes (played by Hayden Panettiere).
So, here’s the truth: I’m not super heartbroken to see Peeples go. While I think she is a lovely actress and a truly talented musician, I just didn’t like her character. Too needy. Too scheming. Plus, she got in the way of Juliette and Avery, and I’m a total Javery shipper.
However, I am deeply saddened to see Chase go. The growth his character has shown in the last four seasons has been tremendous. His story arc last season was actually my favorite. I feel like TV needs characters like Will Lexington, absolutely, but also like Luke Wheeler — the advocates and allies who aren’t afraid to say what needs to be said because, to borrow one of Wheeler’s lines, they ultimately know they’re on the right side of history.
Plus, if we’re being completely honest, I really wanted to see who they would cast as Wheeler’s wife should he try to rekindle that relationship.
While there’s no official word yet on either star’s departure, Peeples could be leaving to pursue her career on the big screen — she starred in last year’s Jem and the Holograms — or to hit the books. In April 2015, she told Refinery29 that she had Ivy League aspirations prior to landing the part of Layla.
It’s oddly comforting to me to know she clearly has such a bright future ahead of her. It makes me feel less bad about not mourning her character’s exit on Nashville. But join me, won’t you, in a moment of silence for the loss of our dear Luke Wheeler.