As predicted by myself and many others for months, Rayna James passed away on Nashville this week in a tear-filled episode. It was one of the series best episodes to date and a fitting goodbye for Connie Britton, who said in this interview with TVLine that she chose to leave Nashville. She also addressed her statement to Ellen DeGeneres in January when she told Ellen that she would be on Nashville “for the duration,” and whether Rayna might be seen again in Nashville.
TVLINE | Some fans are going to be especially shocked by Rayna’s death after you assured them last month on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that you would be sticking around for “the duration.”
The duration of Rayna’s character. [Laughs] To be completely honest, I was taken off guard. I had no idea that Ellen was going to bring up [the exit rumors]. I was really [put] on the spot and I had to protect the story. My commitment has always been to the show. But I’m not a good liar! [Laughs] So, “I’m in it for the duration,” in my mind [means] I’m in it for the duration of… what I perceived to be this character. But of course, I understand why it was construed in the way it was. That was a very difficult moment for me.
TVLINE | Is this week’s episode the last we see if her?
I do pop back in in after Episode 9. And Nashville‘s always going to be important to me, so I’m totally open to whatever as time goes on. But it is really hard to say goodbye to this character.
More interviews and Connie’s Instagram message under the cut. Several sites will be posting interviews with the Nashville showrunners later today (Friday), which I’ll also collect and post.
Update: The showrunner interviews are HERE. Herskovitz was unusually open about upcoming storylines and the future direction of the show.
I feel like Daphne is going to think her singing killed her, while Maddie is going to hate herself for not being there more when she was in the hospital.
I said something about that to the writers! I didn’t want the girls to ever think they had anything to do with it. I do feel like we were able to give them a sense of closure but those girls know — Lennon and Maisy know we’re bonded for life, and I feel that way about everybody on the show.
What was it like shooting that final scene where everybody is singing and crying?
We could not get through it. Those blessed girls — who I love with every ounce of my being — they could not get through the song. I don’t know how many takes we did where they couldn’t sing more than three words of the song. It took awhile. I’m laying there, supposedly dying, and I had tears pouring down my cheeks. It was a very tough week. There were a lot of tears all around. The crew, as well.
“Playing Rayna has been a privilege and a deeply enriching experience for me,” Britton said in a statement. “I am going to miss her grace, tenacity and feistiness. And I’m forever grateful and indebted to our unbelievably talented cast and crew, and to the Nashville community amongst whom I have had the honor to work. And then there are the fans. Wow. I’m so humbled by our incredible fans for their unwavering passion and commitment. They are the reason the show exists, and the reason the show will continue. I’ll be watching and cheering alongside all of you. Thanks for the honor of these 5 years.”
In an exclusive video for Deadline, Britton talks about what drew her to the role of Rayna James and shares her thoughts about Rayna’s passing and the future of Nashville. “That was a tough week of shooting, I’ll tell you that,” Britton says about filming tonight’s episode. “It was hard to get through those days without everybody being in tears.”
The Hollywood Reporter- ‘Nashville’ Shocker Explained: Connie Britton Opens Up About Devastating Ending
There had been rumors for a few months that you would have a reduced role. Why leave now, at the halfway point, vs. end of this season?
When I talked about it with Marshall, [the producers] were looking at the season in essence as two truncated seasons. Marshall felt story-wise, that this was a really good way to go. It allows them to use the second part of the season, which is going to feel like a whole separate chunk, as a post-Rayna era or moment. It made sense story-wise.
What was your final day like on set?
My last scene of the final day of the episode where Rayna dies — which in essence was the end even though I did come back and shoot more after that — that scene and putting this character that I’m so connected with to rest was brutal and very emotional. The last scene that we shot of that episode was actually the scene of Rayna with her mother [played by Carla Gugino]. Carla is my best friend and she came in to play Rayna’s mother and that was so special and wonderful. The hero of Rayna’s life is her mother and I really love that scene. So to have this dear friend be there and have that be the last scene we shot was really beautiful.
Did you ask Carla to come in?
I did and she jumped in, as good friends do. It was really remarkable for me and I feel so fortunate that happened.
There are two episodes left in this first half of the season. How many more episodes will you be in after this?
At least a couple.
Hypothetically, should you know ahead of time that Nashville is ending, would you return for a series finale?
[This Hollywood Reporter interview is the most in depth of the ones I’ve posted here, with information the others don’t have. I highly recommend it!]