Warning: Spoilers ahead!
Rayna Jaymes has taken her last bow at the Grand Ole Opry, as Nashville fans found out Thursday, February 23. The country singer, played by Connie Britton, was killed off during the “If Tomorrow Never Comes” episode.
Rayna had been dealing with a scary stalker, Carl Hockney (Linds Edwards), throughout season 5. Last week, she was with police after a scary encounter with Carl when her car was hit by another vehicle. She was hospitalized and visited by her loved ones — including longtime love Deacon (Charles Esten) — before she succumbed to her injuries.
Nashville executive producer Marshall Herskovitz opened up about Britton’s request to leave the CMT series (formerly ABC) during an interview with TVLine. “Basically, when Connie came to me and said that she really wanted to move on creatively — and this is very important because she loved the show, she loved the people on the show — this was a very hard decision for her,” Herskovitz recalled. “At that time, she had a contract obligating her to do this year, and she was torn. I said, ‘Look, if you want to move on, we’ll figure out a way for you to move on.'”
Herskovitz and Britton, 49, brainstormed for quite some time to decide how to write off Raynaf. “We spent a week thinking if was there any way that Rayna could leave the show without dying. And the answer was no, because there’s nothing in the world, I said, other than being taking hostage by the Taliban — she would be in contact with her children and her husband. She just would, that’s who she is. You can’t say, ‘Oh, she’s on tour,’ and never hear from her,” he said. “I could tell there was no way to change her mind. We talked about it a lot. And by the way, I should say that I think that she would probably admit that she herself sort of wavered at various times. ‘Should I do it? Should I not?’ But I could tell that this was really — from a very deep place as an artist that she felt she needed to do — and I respected that.”
Britton told TVLine that the idea for her to leave was “percolating” over time. “I didn’t second-guess my decision,” the Friday Night Lights alum said. “I did [say] to Marshall at one point about, ‘Hey, I could stay on and do a few more [episodes] if we’ve got more story to tell.’ [But] I think at that point we were very committed to [this ending].”
For Britton, filming the hospital scene with Esten, 51, and her TV daughters, Lennon and Maisy Stella, was the toughest to shoot. “We could not get through it. I was lying there, supposedly dying, and just had tears streaming down my face; I was trying not to slobber. And the girls couldn’t get through the song [“A Life That’s Good.”] We did probably five takes where they could barely get three words out,” she told TVLine. “That was really hard — in a very real way. The crew was crying. It was a tough week.”
The American Horror Story star got especially choked up with Esten. “We had several goodbyes,” she added. “Every time I come back, he gives me those puppy-dog eyes and a long hug. There were a couple of very teary goodbyes between us too. With him, we’ll be friends for a long time.”
They may even still see each other on set. Rayna is gone, but flashbacks are still on the table. “I do pop back in after episode 9,” Britton revealed. “And Nashville‘s always going to be important to me, so I’m totally open to whatever as time goes on. But it is really hard to say goodbye to this character.”