SPOILER ALERT: The story includes details about the series finale of Nashville.
Nashville tonight wrapped its six-season run — four on ABC and two on CMT — with an eventful finale that featured the return (in a flashback) of the beloved Rayna James (Connie Britton), a happy ending for virtually every character but baddie Brad and a love letter to the city of Nashville.
It was payback time for the final season’s villain, the arrogant label owner Brad (Jeffrey Nordling). With help of Deacon (Charles Esten), Alannah (Rainee Lyleson), the object of Brad’s unwelcome sexual advances in the final season’s #metoo storyline, pulled off a sting operation, getting Brad’s harassment on tape. She, Deacon and Zach (Cameron Scoggins) then used the recording to blackmail Brad into selling his Shiny New Records to Deacon and Zach for a fraction of its value. And Jessie (Kaitlin Doubleday) got full custody of their son Jake.
Meanwhile, Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) sold her Nashville mansion to move to a farm outside the city with Candace, and Avery (Jonathan Jackson) finally found out that he would be a father again. Maddie (Lennon Stella) broke up with Twig while Daphne (Maisy Stella) did not win the singing competition but stayed true to herself, and her mentor Ilse (Ilse DeLange) offered Deacon to write songs together.
In a flash-forward a few months later at the end of the finale, Avery joins (now heavily pregnant) Juliette and Candace on the farm, his band with Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and Will (Chris Carmack) is successful, as is Alannah. Daphne signs with Highway 65, Zach and Will get back together, while Scarlett (Clare Bowen) is engaged (!) to a guy, played by Bowen’s real-life husband, Brandon Young.
In the most emotional part of the finale, Deacon has a flashback to his wedding night with Rayna, forgives his father (Ronnie Cox) and invites him on stage where the two are soon joined by the cast and crew of the show, including creator Callie Khouri who thanked the city of Nashville, ending the show with “And may we all have a life that’s good.”
In an interview with Deadline, Khouri, who directed the finale, talks about how Britton’s cameo came to be, who couldn’t make it to the big cast reunion in the final scene, what the future holds for all characters, and why Scarlett and Gunnar did not end up together. She also hints that she already has an idea for a Nashville spinoff series.
DEADLINE: Let’s start with the final scene featuring the show’s cast and crew .Why did you decide to end the show that way, speaking directly to the fans?
KHOURI: (Co-showrunner) Marshall (Herskovitz) and I talked about how we wanted to do it for the most loyal fans who have really hung in there with us, seen all kinds of craziness. We really didn’t want to just go out on an and-it’s-over kind of note without thanking them. It just seemed like a really good way to do it.
DEADLINE: Are there any Nashville alumni that you couldn’t get? I didn’t see Oliver Hudson or Aubrey Peeples on stage.
KHOURI: Yeah, Oliver was working, and Aubrey, who played Layla, was working, and there were several people that, it just wouldn’t work in their schedule. But they were with us in spirit, and I was really glad that the people who made it did get to come. It was very emotional.
DEADLINE: How was it reuniting with some actors who hadn’t been on the show in years?
KHOURI: We would be up on stage setting up a shot for Chip and Ronnie’s scenes, and I would look out in the house, and see groups of people sitting there with their arms around each other, and laughing, and it was just one of those moments where you go, “Wow, something really happened in the last six years for all of us,” And to get to all be together at the very end, and finish on that stage was just really satisfying to all of us.
It was a perfect ending to the whole experience, it was like getting to relive the entire show in one day..The fact that we were on the stage of the Ryman, which is really important to all of us who worked on the show, it is our church, and the kind of music that we did, every time we shot there, it was just absolutely incredible.
DEADLINE: Connie Britton was in the Ryman, and the finale also featured the return of her character Rayna. How did that scene come to be?
KHOURI: We made it happen. Obviously Connie was working on another show, 9-1-1, and working on some other stuff too, her son was on spring break, and we just had to figure out how to get it on the day that she could be there. She literally had one day that she could do it. So we just moved everything around in the schedule to make that happen, because it was too important. I was so sure that to finish the show without her would leave on such a wrong note, that it was just impossible.
And I think she, and everyone in the cast, felt that. We all felt like she needed to be there. It would just be some horrible injustice not to get to have that moment with everybody, and she really wanted it, and I think she was really glad she came, Everybody got to hug and kiss on each other, and it was just like old home week., It was really, really beautiful.
DEADLINE: Let’s talk about Deacon.What is in store with him? Will he finally find happiness after Rayna?
KHOURI: Well, we put a scene in there with Ilse DeLange who played Ilse de Witt where she asks him if maybe he’d like to write sometime. So, for me I think, wouldn’t that be great if he found somebody who wasn’t Rayna, but really spoke the same language musically, someone that the girls really liked, and I think the girls really felt like, with the Jessie character, that it was too soon. And even though there was real chemistry between them, I think he felt like, “Oh, I can’t just go off with the first person I meet after Rayna,” And so, I think it was just a little grace note, to say there is life ahead of you. You will go on to love again.
DEADLINE: What about Daphne and Maddie, what happens with them and their careers?
KHOURI: Maddie goes off in a much more pop direction, and I think that she and Daphne will eventually get together and sing again when Daphne’s a little older. But I think both of them want to find out who they are without the other one, which is a really normal thing for sisters to do. And then, I think they’ll come together when Daphne’s older, and maybe find a great career together, because their sound together is not to be matched.
DEADLINE: At the end of the finale, we saw Juliette happily living on a farm and reuniting with Avery. Will she ever return to music or this is it and she’s just content with her new life?
KHAURI :I think what she’ll do is she’ll write. I think she really wants to not be that character with the big shows and all of that. I think she’s going to try to find a much more manageable way of doing that, and that maybe she and Avery would do things together. I think that she is going to get into producing. I think that she is really going to grow up. I think she’s always going to be Juliette, and she’s always going to have that temper, but I think she really went through a transformation. And when you lose everything, then you have to figure out what do you really want.
DEADLINE: When you first started the show, was there an ending you had in mind, and how different is it from where Nashville ended?
KHOURI: No, there wasn’t, because honestly, every step of the way, I just was like, “They’re not going to make a show about Nashville.” I never believed for a second that it was really going to happen. And I was like, “Okay, I’ll write the pilot,” and then I was like, “Okay, well, we’ll get a season out of this thing, but they’re never going to pick us up.” And it just kind of kept going like that. So, I didn’t plan the ending.
DEADLINE: When did you start building towards the ending that we saw?
KHOURI: We started talking about it in season five, because we knew we were going to end, but it wasn’t really until we started working on season six. Marshall came in at the beginning of season five, and he was just such a fantastic partner, I just loved his commitment to character, and the show calmed down quite a bit, it was a little more realistic, I guess, in terms of the drama. It wasn’t quite so melodramatic.
So, we wanted to do something that was a nice result for everybody, but that things don’t work out for everybody. It’s not like, “Oh, Scarlett and Gunnar end up together,” and all that, which…I think is really true. I think if the show had gone on for several years, we would’ve had to decide which of our characters really weren’t going to make it in show business because not everybody does. There’s some of the most talented people in the world in Nashville, and people are scratching their heads to this day, going, “How did that not happen, how is that possible that that person didn’t become a huge star?” That’s what happens, and so we would’ve had to make those kind of decisions.
DEADLINE: In the finale, I think all of the main characters did make it.
KHOURI Right, they made it to varying degrees. A lot of them have their moment, but it didn’t mean that that moment was going to last forever, as I’m sure you’re aware. A lot of careers are short bursts of…
DEADLINE: You mentioned Gunnar and Scarlett.This was one of the show’s favorite on-again, off-again couple. Why did you decide that those two should not be together at the end?
KHOURI: Because sometimes the things you really want just don’t happen, and that was one of those things. I think it would’ve been a little too fairy-tale. Tthe person who looks the most like a fairy should not have the fairy-tale ending.
DEADLINE: And the veteran with PTSD, he will be okay, right?
KHOURI: Yeah. And he’ll have years of therapy.
DEADLINE: Nashville has had a close relationship with fans. Are you planning you keep the show alive through fan events or any other ways?
KHOURI: Personally, I’m ready to go with “Nashville 2.0,” I think we have great characters that we could pick it up with, we’ll just see if anybody wants to make it. I love the characters, I love the show, I love the music, and I think it would be a blast to havea new generation.
DEADLINE: Like a Nashville spin-off?
DEADLINE: Do you have anything in the works at all, or just an idea?
KHOURI: I just have an idea. I have other stuff going on, that I haven’t even been able to think about it for a second. I’m just telling you what’s in my head, I don’t know if it’s in anyone else’s head beside mine. (Nashville producer) Lionsgate or somebody would have to make that happen.
DEADLINE: Is there anything more about that idea you can share at this point?
Khouri: Not at this point. I like the multi-generational shows. I just personally love those, and that was one of the things I always loved about Downton Abbey and shows like that, was that you were with people of a lot of different ages, so I don’t know. That’s all.