Rayna Jaymes’ song might be finished, but Nashville‘s keeps playing.
After this week’s mid-season finale, which will feature flashbacks of the beloved country star (who died in the Feb. 23 hour), Nashville will take a brief hiatus, and when it returns this summer, the story will pick up three months into the future. “There will be a hiatus after episode 11,” showrunner Marshall Herskovitz tells EW. “We’ll come back and it will be three months later and people are trying to move on with their lives. There’s a balance struck between the new stories, some new people that come into [the characters’] lives, and the fact that they’re still dealing with this incredible loss.”
Perhaps reeling the most is Rayna’s husband, Deacon. After a lifelong romance filled with ups and downs, he’s left to face life without the woman who helped hold him together as he struggled with alcoholism. “The question that he faces is: Did her love just make him strong enough to survive with her or did it make him strong enough to survive without her?” Charles Esten says. However, even with Connie Britton’s Rayna gone, Deacon will find himself having to defend his wife, battling to protect her legacy in the back half of the season.
According to Herskovitz, the show has no plans to replace its leading lady. As he puts it: “We didn’t feel the need to impose any solution on what some might see as a problem. The problem, which is the loss of Rayna, is a problem that the characters themselves are experiencing and what we felt we needed to do is follow in an organic way how they deal with that problem.”
At the end of the day, this is an ensemble show. “There is a life for the show beyond Rayna,” Herskovitz says. “But that doesn’t mean we forget her.”
Nashville airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on CMT.
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