It’s been one wild ride for fans of the country music melodrama Nashville. After four seasons on ABC, the twangy show was sent packing — only to be picked up by CMT after the show’s devoted fans, or “Nashies,” rallied for its return. And now, after CMT announced Season 6 would be the last, we must say goodbye to Juliette Barnes, Deacon Claybourne and the rest of the Nashville gang for good, so to help us get in the right headspace for that difficult task, we went straight to the source: Nashville’s executive producer, Marshall Herskovitz, who let us pick his brain about the show’s (literal and figurative) swan song.
Believe us when we tell you he’s just as sad to see the series end as the rest of us are. However, Herskovitz felt good about the fact that they were given the chance to shape the send-off in a way that seemed fitting for these characters who’ve imbued the series with so much heart.
“First of all, although we were certainly not happy the show was going to end, we were glad that we had a head’s up from CMT so that we could construct the season knowing that this was the end of the show and in some way do justice to these characters and not leave them hanging, you know, in the ether,” Herskovitz explained.
In doing so, says Herskovitz, he and the rest of the creative team had to dig deep into each character — and as such, the sort of vulnerability and humanity fans have seen since the death of Rayna James will see the show all the way through the series’ end. “As writers, we set about trying to understand what the journey of each character has been and how you would want to leave that person or that character for the viewers to imagine in the future, and that’s a great opportunity,” Herskovitz told us. “So this last season has really been about finding what the path should be for each of these people.”
As any good Nashie knows, losing Rayna (played by Connie Britton) proved brutal emotionally — not to mention it was a bold move to kill off the show’s original lead. Could Nashville really work without Rayna? But just like Grey’s Anatomy, which in a similarly polarizing move killed off Patrick Dempsey’s Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd in 2015, Nashville turned the tragedy into a chance to grow the characters who’d been standing in Rayna’s shadow.
Lo and behold, it worked.
“Personally, I think that the episode after her death that included the funeral was one of the best episodes we ever did. I didn’t write it. I didn’t direct it,” Herskovitz shared. “I can say that because I’m so proud of the people who did create that episode. And I think it gave people a kind of reassurance that there was a Nashville after Rayna, and people then went along for the ride.”
That’s precisely what Herskovitz hopes fans will do when Season 6 premieres. When asked about whether the show will wrap up all the loose ends it left with the close of Season 5, the executive producer (barely!) resisted the temptation to let a few secrets slip.
“I’m going to go out on a limb… oh, God, I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t! I wanted to, but I really want people to go on this journey,” he teased. What Herskovitz could say, though, is that the wait for these final episodes will be worth it for longtime fans.
“Let me put it this way: I hope that people reading this and people watching the show trust that we who are making the show love the show and love these characters and would not do anything that would in some way destroy the six years of experience that people have had with these characters — that we would do justice to them,” Herskovitz promised.
Of course, one of the biggest question marks in the minds of Nashies is the fate of Juliette Barnes (played by Hayden Panettiere). Will she be able to break free from the hold the cultlike Movement for Coherent Philosophy has on her? Will Avery Barkley (played by Jonathan Jackson) even be waiting for her if and when she does?
“What we’re interested in doing with this cult is actually making sure that everything he [the spiritual leader] said is true and profound. This is a guy who has a lot of real insights into what it means to be a person and how to experience yourself, and he actually helps Juliette a great deal,” Herskovitz said.
“So, what happens later? Is there a dark side? All of that is going to be revealed in these final episodes. I mean, people have seen the promos — I think people have a sense that it’s not going so great for Juliette, so I think there’s a dark and a light about this organization, and I think that was important to us from the beginning.”
In other words, Nashies, rest easy! Panettiere will once again be filling your screens with Juliette’s trademark sass at some point this season.
“Yes, I can say that because we see her in the promos,” Herskovitz confirmed, adding, “and because we love Hayden and there was no way we weren’t going to see her! So, yes, she’s coming back. I can’t talk about her experience, but in a couple of episodes, you’re going to see a kind of story about what she’s been going through down there in Bolivia.”
Naturally, we did our due diligence and tried to squeeze Herskovitz for intel on whether Deacon Claybourne (played by Charles Esten) would come full circle and find himself walking down the aisle with his new love. But Herskovitz, through laughter, remained tight-lipped about any potential wedding.
However, while he couldn’t look into Deacon’s future, Herskovitz was happy to weigh in where Nashville could wind up down the road.
“I absolutely could,” he responded when asked if he could envision a reboot. “I think there’s plenty more to tell about these people. I’d love to bring on new people. We’ve often talked about the possibility of the show having a life at another network or whatever. I can’t say there’s anything active happening right now, so I don’t want to give people hope… but from my personal point of view, I’d love to see that and I would love to be involved with it.”
From Herskovitz’s lips to God’s ears, eh, Nashies? Here’s to hoping!