Nashville is back y'all, that's no secret. But exactly who is coming back to the series when it makes its move from ABC to CMT has been the question.
CMT declined to comment on casting rumors, but it seems like Connie Brittonthat's Rayna James to Nashville fans—will be missing from a large chunk of the upcoming 22-episode fifth season. According to EW, as of now Britton has only signed on for 10 episodes out of the 22. However, Hayden Panettiere will be around for the whole thing. Britton publicly stated she would be back on the series…but she never said for how long.
When CMT announced it was picking up the ABC drama, it didn't reveal who would be moving along with the show. Shortly after it was saved, Will Chase and Audrey Peeples' exits were announced.
But here's the thing—although it would be sad, Nashville can totally survive without Rayna around all the time. The show has always been an ensemble drama, centered around Britton's Rayna and Panettiere's Juliette. We've grown to love many of the supporting characters, and the show has even proven that it can survive without one of its leading ladies as Panettiere took an extended absence to seek treatment for postpartum depression. Juliette was spoken about frequently but not seen, making her return to the series that much sweeter.
Rayna James is busy, y'all. She's the head of a music label and a successful touring musician, so it would absolutely work to keep her involved in the story but not necessarily seen for large chunks of time. Plus, as with Panettiere's absence, the focus can shift to other characters until Rayna's return (or—sob!—lack thereof). We'll have to wait to see how the contract negotiations work out, but there's no reason to fret just yet. Nashville has survived this much, so it can certainly survive another major shakeup.
"CMT heard the fans. The wave of love and appreciation they have unleashed for Nashville has been overwhelming," Brian Philips, president of CMT, said in a statement when the move was announced. "Nashville is a perfect addition to our evolving line-up of big music specials, documentaries, and original series. We see our fans and ourselves in this show and we will treasure it like no other network. Nashville belongs on CMT."
ABC boss Channing Dungey addressed the network's cancellation at the 2016 TCA Summer Press Tour.
"Nashville is a show that I personally truly loved," Dungey said. "To not have it back was a little bit of heartbreak for me."
Dungey told reporters there were extensive conversations between ABC and the studio partners, but they could not work out a renewal deal. "I'm thrilled the show has found a new home on CMT so now that I can keep watching it," she said.
Nasvhille season five premieres Thursday, Jan. 5 with a two-hour premiere at 9 p.m. on CMT.