Country singer Rayna James (Connie Britton) has got a big voice, big hair and big problems in Nashville on ABC.
Country singer Rayna James (Connie Britton) has got a big voice, big hair and big problems in Nashville on ABC. Katherine Bomboy-Thornton/ABC
If you're a country music fan, the name Rayna Jaymes may not ring a bell. That's because Rayna Jaymes is a fictional character played by actress Connie Britton. Britton stars in the new TV series Nashville, which premieres this Wednesday on ABC.
TV fans will know Britton for her Emmy-nominated roles in American Horror Story and Friday Nights Lights, in which she played Tami Taylor, the wife of a high school football coach in a small Texas town.
For her latest role in Nashville, Britton is belting her heart out as a veteran country singer whose career is being threatened by a new rising star played by Hayden Panettiere. Britton spoke with Weekend Edition host Rachel Martin about singing for her new TV series and studying Chinese in college.
On what it's like to have to sing in character — especially when that character is supposed to be the reigning queen of country music
"It's been just such an incredible experience, hugely challenging, but that's kinda why I wanted to do this role. There are many days that I think to myself: What was I thinking? I must have lost my mind. I've always been musical – I've done regional musical theater. The thing about country music, is it is about story telling. that's my favorite part of being an actor and I thought as an actor, I could tap into that aspect of it."
On playing a woman fighting to save her career in a fickle industry
"What originally attracted me to the role is the comparison of the two different musicians coming from two very different places, and two different world views in terms of their approach to music, their approach to their careers and they're in two different places in their lives. The music business has changed so dramatically in recent years, and I think our show has a great opportunity to give our audience some insight into what that really looks like, what it looks like from the backstage."
On the difference between Rayna Jaymes' Tennessee accent and Tami Taylor's Texas accent
"The difference is really subtle. What I find in Nashville, in particular, is that there are really strong variations in the accent. There are people who have lived in Nashville their whole life who have very little accent. And then, there can be very strong Tennessee accents. I think with Rayna, because she is this polished performer, but she also come from there, I've sorta made a choice that she almost goes in an out of an accent a little bit because she comes from a world where the accents aren't quite as strong. But then she's also in the country music world, and she comes from a country tradition. I grew up in Virginia; I grew up in the South. I also sometimes have no accent but then if I'm around those people, I slide right back into it."
On speaking Chinese
"I always wanted to be an actor. But when I went to college, I had to fulfill a language requirement and so I thought it would be really cool to do it speaking Chinese. My Chinese these days is real, real shaky. Let's put it this way: These days, my singing is better than my Chinese."