After “Nashville’s” cancellation on ABC, we were overjoyed to hear that CMT would be picking the show up for a fifth season so that Rayna (Connie Britton), Deacon (Charles Esten), Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) and the rest of the gang could live on for another year.
However, we were more than a little apprehensive about this new, conservative network taking on some of the big issues “Nashville” has touched on in years past. An openly gay cowboy, domestic abuse, attempted suicide and other various plot lines seemed like they might be hot-button issues for a network like CMT, which tends to lean into “family values” more often than not.
As news leaks out about “Nashville’s” upcoming season, it appears our nerves were for nothing. In a shocking turn of events, CMT seems to be making efforts to make the show more diverse instead of less.
The first big news of the year came from Entertainment Weekly, announcing a casting for a 26-year-old African American character named Clay, who would be trying to hit it big in Music City. “Nashville’s” cast has been predominantly caucasian over the years, with few people of color making their way onto the show in permanent and meaningful ways.
Clay’s addition hopefully marks the beginning of an attempt to racially diversify the show, even if the country music industry does seem to favor white artists.
CMT also announced that “Nashville” has cast transgender actress Jen Richards in a new physical therapist role. This news matches up with previous reports that the show had plans to add a transgender character the cast.
Regardless of this character’s gender identity or sexual orientation, it’s probably safe to say that Richards’ Allyson Del Lago, will be assisting Juliette in her post-crash recovery. It may be too much to hope for “Nashville” to write a love story between the two women, but hope springs eternal.
Hats off to CMT for coming out of the gate strong, so far, with its plans for the country music series.
“Nashville” returns January 6, 2017 on CMT.