On ABCâs promising upcoming sudser Nashville â an hour-long drama thatâs a little bit country (music) and a little bit political/family potboiler â Connie Britton stars as a fortysomething songbird who finds her career impinged upon by a marginally-talented but brilliantly-marketed youthful sex bomb, played by Hayden Panettiere.
While TV types have had a field day guessing which real-life Nashville doyenne and ingĂ©nue the ladiesâ characters might be based upon, one country legend simply asked Britton outright.
âI ran into Reba McEntire on a plane and she said, âDid you hear that they’re saying that you’re playing me in your show?ââ Britton told TV writers at the Television Critics Association summer press tour this week. âI said, âNo. I had no idea.ââ
But the two have something in common, anyway. McEntire herself will star in the networkâs quirky sitcom Malibu Country, in which she plays Reba McKenzie, a jilted, middle-aged country songbird trying to revive her career far away from Nashville on SoCalâs sunny shores.
McEntire said that while Malibuâs fish-out-water storylines are indeed inspired by her own relocation from Nashville to Los Angeles with her husband Narville Blackstock and their son Shelby, playing a role like Brittonâs might hit a little too close to home.
âI like this [role] better,â she said. âI’m in that business for true life. I want to play an imaginary character having fun in Malibu. Now, guestâstarring on [Nashville] â that would be a hoot. I’d like to do that. Iâd get to play Reba in this one and then go over there and maybe play Reba McEntire as a guest spot. That’s a pretty good idea!â
But she may have to wait a while to make the trip from MalibuÂ to Nashville.
âWeâre really focused on our cast of real country artists,â said Nashville executive producer R.J. Cutler, adding that the performers who serve as Brittonâs and Panettiereâs backing bands are all well regarded Nashville musicians. âIt’s not a cameoâdriven show. âŠ But in terms of featuring other artists and throwing focus to them, we’ll be open to it as it serves story.â
In the meantime, if Britton â who, along with Panettiere, warbles ably in the series â is basing Nashvilleâs Rayna James on a particular country diva (I vote Faith Hill but with way more family drama), she isnât saying.
âFor me, it’s sort of an amalgam of a lot of different people,â Britton said. âI think it’s really fun to take from that sort of palette and then just really let this lone character emerge.â
Nashville premieres Oct. 10 at 10/9CT
Malibu Country premieres Nov. 2 at 8:30/7:30CT
Photos and video: ABC