TV’s Nashville exits after six seasons

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After six seasons, 124 episodes and 13 soundtrack albums, TV’s “Nashville” ultimately had one last scene to shoot.  

In case you’re avoiding spoilers, know that what we’re about to describe isn’t the last shot you’ll see on Thursday’s series finale (CMT, 9 EDT/PDT).

Clare Bowen and Charles Esten – stars of the show ever since it premiered on ABC in 2012 – were once again in a backstage dressing room, saying their final lines as Scarlett and Deacon. Before they knew it, it was a wrap.

“Everyone was standing there, waiting for us to say something,” Bowen recalls. “And I didn’t know what to say except ‘Thank you. I love you all.’ Because they’re my family.”

Over the last six years, the TV drama – shot on location in Nashville and centered on the country music industry – has been a transformative force.

That goes for the fans who fell in love with its characters and songs, the cast and crew who uprooted their lives to make it, and the city that scored an incredible marketing coup through the show’s success.

And that success was often hard-won. Though “Nashville” premiered to glowing reviews and decent ratings, viewership gradually declined over the years. At the end of season four, ABC canceled the show, but thanks in part to rallying by fans (known as “Nashies,”) cable network CMT picked it up and kept it alive for two more seasons.

When season six was announced, it was made clear from the start that it would be “Nashville’s” last – a decision that executive producer Marshall Herskovitz calls “a gift.”

“We could really plan a final season, and a finale that would do justice to the characters,” he says. “I think the whole season was about preparing for that.”

Of course, few were prepared for the surprise “farewell” episode “Nashville” aired last year – with the sudden death of lead protagonist Rayna Jaymes, played by series star Connie Britton.

But Herskovitz says that in its final years, the show’s mission was to lean away from its soap opera side, and focus on “the human drama that people could relate to in their own lives.”

While several of the show’s stars have bought homes in Nashville and plan to stay, new acting gigs are beginning to pull them elsewhere.

Esten has landed a role on the upcoming TNT drama “Tell Me Your Secrets,” which films in New Orleans. Bowen is spending time in Los Angeles, reconnecting with an industry community she’d just started to get to know before “Nashville” changed her life.

One thing’s for sure: “Nashville” isn’t leaving this city the way they found it. Bowen and her castmates were once the outsiders that had to earn residents’ trust — now she’s a six-year resident who’s watched the city transform first-hand.

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