Who doesn’t love a weekly dose of beautiful women with amazing voices? Since 2012, Nashville has been giving country music fans (and newcomers) what they want from a show about the iconic city: catchy music, high-stakes drama, and the gorgeous ladies who run the show. Initially starring Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere as two country music stars with a generation apart, the show eventually has been serving up a glamorous but still relatable portrayal of how fierce and talented women must stake their claim in the traditionally male-dominated industry they work in. Pouring their heart and soul into their songs and persona lives, the is characterized by a whole lot of love, loss, and music.
Thelma and Louise screenwriter Callie Khouri created the series after living in Nashville during the ‘70s and was being inspired by the events that took place there, and watching music hopefuls come in and out of the city as they tried to make it big. “[Nashville] is an incredibly beautiful, cosmopolitan city, and I wanted to show that to the world,” she told The New York Times. “I want to represent it in a way that everybody who lives here would find completely realistic.”
Next up was casting. She had two key characters the fill: country diva Rayna James, and ambitious ingenue Juliette Barnes. Hayden Panettiere had recently come off of the sci-fi drama series Heroes and signed on to play Juliette. After months of searching, and much convincing by the show’s producers, American Horror Story and Friday Night Lights star Connie Britton signed on to play Rayna. Good thing they did as both actresses were nominated for Golden Globes for their intense performances.
For the series to work, Khouri knew she wanted to have original country music songs. To date, there have been no fewer than 21 studio albums released, with two of them reaching the top 10 on the Billboard charts. The soundtracks featured original songs written specifically for the series as well as some classic covers performed by the actual cast! Fans were passionate about the show both on the air and off. The records became just as popular as the show itself.
The show moved from ABC to CMT for its fifth seasons, and its current sixth season will be its last. As we ramp up for the series finale, we wanted to take a look back at the women who stole our hearts with their charm, attitude and stunning vocals. Check out where your favorite stars came from and what they’re up to next, before the curtain closes on Nashville later this year.
Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen)
Scarlett was a fan of country music and legend Rayna Jaymes’ songs before trying her hand at performing. In fact, it’s Rayna who encourages Scarlett to write and sing her own music with her on-again off-again ex-boyfriend Gunnar. The duo proves to be successful and much to her own surprise, Scarlett begins to watch her star rise. In season six, we find Scarlett grappling with life as a single woman (for once) and living a quieter life in the country.
Clare Bowen in real life
Australian actress Clare Bowen moved to Los Angeles after landing the role of Scarlett on Nashville. The newcomer worked for several years as a staple actress in the Sydney theater scene. She is currently prepping her first album as a singer/songwriter. Fans can expect nods to country music as well as elements of folk and pop. She recently married folk musician Brandon Robert Young in a ceremony that featured many of her Nashville castmates and she is currently on tour with her band in Europe.
Alyssa Greene (Rachel Bilson)
Greene is a driven and successful new music executive at Highway 65 Records. She’s brought in to vamp up the brand and give more youthful energy to the company. She’s brutally honest and is always reliable when it comes to delivering the hard truth whether it’s about dwindling album sales or her perception of others’ relationships. “I just thought she was such a cool character,” Bilson says. “There’s a lot of different layers to her.”
Rachel Bilson in real life
If you were a teenager in the mid-’00s chances are you know Rachel Bilson. She starred as the sarcastic Summer Roberts on the teen drama series The O.C. She even won a Teen Choice Award for her performance. She went on to guest star on That ‘70s Show and How I Met Your Mother before starring as Dr. Zoe Hart on the romantic drama series Hart of Dixie. She will star in the upcoming crime drama series Take Two. She recently announced her separation from husband, actor Hayden Christensen. The two have one child together.
Rayna James (Connie Britton)
Rayna is the good-hearted country music legend who initially struggles to accept the new wave of young women vying for the top spot in town. We watch her balance her relationships; her work as an executive in the label she founded, Highway 65; and her wariness of the younger singers battling it out on country music charts. She’s a devoted mother to her daughters and (spoiler alert) before she tragically passes, a dedicated wife to Deacon. That’s right, after four seasons, Rayna met her end after a horrible car accident.
Connie Britton in real life
Britton has become a principal in American TV, starring in hit shows including American Horror Story, Friday Night Lights, and Spin City. After graduating from Dartmouth College she moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting. There she slowly climbed the ranks in the theater world before she was brought over to Los Angeles for a guest spot on the ‘90s Ellen Degeneres sitcom, Ellen. From there she just kept on working and is currently starring as the lovelorn and complicated Abby Clark on the police drama 9-1-1.
Peggy Kenter (Kimberly Williams-Paisley)
Sharp, devious and ultimately troubled Peggy Kenter goes through a series misfortunes as the wife of the mayor of Nashville. She is caught having an affair and after the news leaks she attempts to take her own life. Her divorce rattles her world and she struggles to rebuild her life. When a disgruntled employee attempts to murder her husband Teddy, she gets stuck in the crosshairs and is shot instead. She succumbs to her wounds and passes away as a result.
Kimberly Williams-Paisley in real life
Williams-Paisley is no stranger to the country music world. She has been married to the massive country music star Brad Paisley since 2003. The couple have two children together. She got her start as the sweet and sensitive daughter of Steve Martin and Diane Keaton’s characters in the hit comedy Father of the Bride. She most recently starred in the Hallmark romantic drama The Christmas Train opposite Danny Glover and Dermot Mulroney as well as in the Hallmark comedy Darrow & Darrow.
Layla Grant (Aubrey Peeples)
When we first meet Layla she is the ditsy country music star on the rise who stars in her own reality TV series. After resenting her portrayal on the show she sets out for a start fresh and attempts to create a stronger and smarter persona. She becomes rivals with Juliette who is threatened by her quick rise to fame. The desperation to rebrand herself and seek the top spot causes her to manipulate others, but her plan backfires, and she ends up leaving the city in disgrace.
Aubrey Peeples in real life
Peeple’s first lead role was in the musical fantasy film Jem and The Holograms. She played the central songwriter Jem as she becomes a superstar in a band with her best friends. She will next star in the drama Locating Silver Lake and in the upcoming musical comedy pilot Search and Destroy. She was accepted to Harvard University but deferred to focus on her acting career. She has stated that she intends to go to the prestigious university in the future.
Vita Martin (Jeananne Goossen)
Vita was brought in to shake up the world of Nashville in its fourth season. She moved to Nashville to make it in the big city. She moves with (literally) nothing but a guitar and a dream. In fact, she lives in her car and only has a few items of clothing. Rayna sees her perform her original tunes and organizes a meeting with her over at Highway 65 Records. One day Rayna discovers that Vita’s car is destroyed and she has mysteriously disappeared.
Jeananne Goossen in real life
Canadian actress Jeananne Goossen got her start in the screwball comedy Breakfast with Scot. She moved to the U.S. to guest in the hit series Suits, CSI: New York, NCIS, and The Following to name a few. She recently appeared as the beautiful yet complicated Fiona Duncan on Criminal Minds as well as the quirky Harper Hayes in the comedy reboot of MacGyver. Nashville was the first time the actress displayed her vocal talents and fans especially loved her rendition of Down the Line.
Sadie Stone (Laura Benanti)
When Sadie and Rayna first meet, they immediately click. Their friendship blossoms and after Rayna discovers her unique talent and strong vocals, she brings her over to Highway 65. Her career takes off quickly and she even wins the Country Music Award for Best New Artist. When her abusive ex-husband hears of her success he rolls into town to take a piece of the pie. He resorts to his abusive ways and she kills him in self-defense. The ordeal proves too much for Sadie to bare and she leaves Nashville forever.
Laura Benanti in real life
Broadway Icon Laura Benanti is a frequent face in the New York City theater scene. She won a Tony Award in 2008 and has been nominated for five more. On the small screen she has appeared as the manipulative Astra on Supergirl and as the sweet and maternal Mia on Nurse Jackie. She currently appears as a guest comedian on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and also stars as the suspicious police agent Edie on the comedy series The Detour.
Maddie Conrad (Lennon Stella)
Spoiler alert: after Maddie’s mom, music legend Rayna Jaymes, dies, she is left picking up the pieces. Her grief gets the best of her and she blames herself for the way she treated her mother throughout her life and in turn gets in trouble with the law for accosting a police officer. We find the complicated and distraught Maddie trying to build her life back up in the most recent season. She longs for peace and stability as she attempts to get back on track.
Lennon Stella in real life
Lennon is one-half of the pop duo she formed with her younger sister, Lennon & Maisy. They began posting YouTube videos of themselves singing cover versions, which attracted interests from the producers of Nashville. They asked Lennon to come in and audition for the role of Maddie and the rest is history. She continues to record and release studio covers as part of Lennon & Maisy and the duo are currently prepping their debut album.
Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere)
We first meet Juliette as the talented and gorgeous young country music star aiming for the crown that is held by Rayna James. They get off to a rocky start but eventually become close friends. The rise to the top is not easy for Juliette. She struggles to maintain romantic relationships and her mental health often goes untreated. As she searches for answers, she leaves Nashville to discover her spiritual self and to heal past wounds.
Hayden Panettiere in real life
Panettiere began her acting career before her first birthday. She started working as an infant in commercials and soon after moved to the soap opera world, starring in One Life to Live and Guiding Light for more than six years. She played the feisty Sheryl Yoast in the football drama Remember the Titans, the superhero cheerleader in TV’s Heroes, and the confidant horror movie fan in the scary satire film Scream 4. She married boxer Wladimir Klitschko in 2009 and the couple have one child together.
Jessie Caine (Kaitlin Doubleday)
Jessie is going through a horrible and nasty divorce and custody battle when viewers first meet her in the fifth season. She returns to Nashville to start her life over again and to begin her career as a country star from the ground up. Her ordeal connects her with a grieving Deacon and the two form a bond over their hardships. This bond turns to friendship and into romance and the two form a supportive and loving relationship together.
Kaitlin Doubleday in real life
Los Angeles born and raised actress Kaitlin Doubleday comes from a long line of women in the entertainment industry. Her mother is Christina Hart, an acclaimed playwright and theater producer, and her sister, Portia Doubleday, is an actress currently starring on the tech drama Mr. Robot. She starred as the ambitious Rhonda Lyon on the hip hop drama series Empire before moving to Nashville. She is currently wrapping production on the most recent season of Nashville.