'Nashville' star Connie Britton says don't expect a catfight every week
"We have a real opportunity here to show the complexities of these two kinds of people in show business and particularly women, and I for one feel a really strong responsibility to do that in a way that is true and dignified," Britton tells reporters at the 2012 Television Critics Association summer press tour. "My whole mantra from the beginning is 'This is not a catfight.' I don't think anybody's interested in that. We're much more interested in showing these two people at different places in their lives and what their journeys will be."
Britton spent five years playing a strong Southern woman on "Friday Night Lights," and although she says there'll be fewer "y'alls" in "Nashville," there's a kinship between Tami Taylor and her country music veteran Rayna James.
"There's something about Southern women that's so unique and yet so universal, and I think that's why people really respond to [them]," she says. "Because strong Southern women are also allowed to be soft and feminine and have a sense of humor, and there's something that I really love about that."
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Although Britton's James resembles several of country's biggest female stars and Panettiere's Juliette Barnes strongly resembles an ingenue like Taylor Swift, both women say they didn't base their characters on anyone in particular.
"I think for me at least it's sort of an amalgam of a lot of different people," Britton says, although Reba McEntire did confront her before a flight about possibly being James' inspiration.
Panettiere shoots down the Swift comparisons. "I think from aside from being around the same age and being blonde," they're not at all alike, she says. "I really think Taylor would disagree wholeheartedly as well. She's much nicer than my character."
It's true -- Juliette is quite the diva, something Panettiere says is occasionally hard to play. "I've grown up doing this my whole life and one thing my parents instilled in me is definitely respect for other people," she says. "So when I have to go on set and go against the grain and disrespect someone so wholeheartedly, it's new to me."
Aside from the rivalry between the two country songbirds, there's also plenty to look forward to on the show: political intrigue, scandal and of course music.
"That's what the exciting part of the show is for us," says executive producer R.J. Cutler. "There's music, there's drama, there's family story. You're in the music business world, you're in the political world, but at the core of it are these relationships and they drive through everything."
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As for the music, there'll be original songs from Elvis Costello and other amazing artists in every episode, promises creator Callie Khouri. "Music is the texture of the show. It's the air that these characters breathe, so it's always there," Cutler says.
Don't be turned off even if you're not a country music fan. "One thing I think we've all learned, especially being down in Nashville and working with such talented singers and songwriters, is you learn how broad the term country is," Panettiere says. "There's soul and there's blues and there's bluegrass" -- the list goes on.
And of course, you can't talk about a show like "Nashville" without mentioning the influence of the city. "It's a really amazing American story right now. Nashville is probably one of the greatest examples of an emerging, great city," says star Robert Wisdom. "The magic is really there, and that's not something we get to say a lot about a lot of American cities."
Adds star Clare Bowen, "It's the perfect backdrop beause it has all the layers -- these huge rooms full of really happy people because a person or a group of people on the stage telling a story, it's just full of happiness. I think that's the best thing. Also the fried chicken is really good too."
"Nashville" premieres Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 10 p.m. on ABC.