Rachel Bilson (The OC, Hart of Dixie) and Kaitlin Doubleday (Empire) are joining the cast of Nashville for the second half of Season 5 of the series, produced by Lionsgate, ABC Studios and Opry Entertainment.
No details about their characters are being given, but the actresses provided clues by posting images of Rayna James’ record label Highway 65 (Bilson) and the Bluebird Café (Doubleday). Both are expected to play major characters associated with the label and the cafe, respectively. Bilson and Doubleday’s castings follow the recent departure of original star Connie Britton.
“We welcome Rachel and Kaitlin into our incredibly talented ensemble,” said Marshall Herskovitz, executive producer and showrunner. “We fondly anticipate the second half of the season filled with surprising twists and turns that make Nashville so beloved by the fans.”
For scoop on the twists and turns in store for the second half of Season 5 and the first trailer for the upcoming episodes, read our story.
Two weeks ago I asked Herskovitz was asked if they were planning to add another major female character to fill the void left by Britton’s departure. “We made casting additions in the fall, and it was always our intention even before we decided that Rayna would die that we would make additions to the cast in the second part of the season, don’t think any of them is related to her death.”
The news comes on the heels of record ratings for the country music drama. Last week’s emotional episode, entitled “I’ll Fly Away,” hit season highs on CMT with adults 18-49 (1.02) and total viewers (2.2M) to rank as the most-watched and highest-rated original series telecast in CMT history with A18-49, W18-49, A25-54 and W25-54. On CMT, Nashville originals are pacing up 46% among A18-49 versus year ago.
Bilson rose to fame with her four-season run on the Fox series The O.C. She most recently starred as Dr. Zoe Hart in the CW’s Hart of Dixie. Bilson is repped by CAA and Morris Yorn Barnes.
Doubleday is best known for her role as Rhonda Lyon on Fox’s hit Empire. She is repped by Paradigm Talent Agency and MPG Management.
Nashville is set against the backdrop of the city’s music scene and follows the lives of country music superstars as well as the up-and-coming performers and songwriters trying to get ahead in the business. The series stars Hayden Panettiere as Juliette Barnes, Clare Bowen as Scarlett O’Connor, Chris Carmack as Will Lexington, Charles Esten as Deacon Claybourne, Jonathan Jackson as Avery Barkley, Sam Palladio as Gunnar Scott, Maisy Stella as Daphne Conrad and Lennon Stella as Maddie Conrad. In addition, this season features Joseph David-Jones as Clay, Rhiannon Giddens as Hallie Jordan and Cameron Scoggins as Zach Welles in recurring roles.
The series is executive produced by Thirtysomething creators Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, along with Steve Buchanan and creator Callie Khouri.