Actresses Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere speak onstage at the "Nashville"… (Frederick M. Brown / Getty…)
ABC is really warming up its vocal cords.
Just as the network recently joined the singing competition arena with "Duets" this summer -- following in the footsteps of Fox and NBC -- this fall it will try its hand at integrating music in its scripted fare ... just as Fox did with "Glee" and NBC did with "Smash." ABC will delve into the country music world when it rolls out its soapy drama "Nashville."
The series comes from Callie Khouri, who earned an Academy Award for her "Thelma & Louise" screenplay. While promoting the show at the Television Critics Assn. press tour on Friday, Khouri addressed getting into the musical drama crowd with "Nashville."
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"I think it was a right time," she said. "There has been a great love of music and shows in the last year."
The show centers on two rival female country music stars, played by Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere. And while Panettiere has had some singing experience, having recorded an album when she was younger, Britton seemed more daunted by the experience.
"Connie is having a journey," the "Friday Night Lights" alum said, referring to herself in the third person. "It’s a ... journey. Its an exciting journey because it’s a journey with T Bone Burnett."
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The Grammy winner and Oscar winner, who is also Khouri's husband, serves as an executive music producer in addition to being an executive producer of the drama. The result is a soundtrack that will likely have people singing along. There's a heartbreaking ballad--or two!--in the pilot alone sung at Nashville's famed music club The Bluebird Cafe, where the pilot was shot and which has since been replicated on a sound stage.
Panettiere thinks the songs are catchy enough, and worthy enough, to be released as a soundtrack at some point. And Khouri offered some assurance that there are plans to do so. "Glee" and "Smash" have released songs via iTunes -- with the former often churning out chart toppers.
For those worried about the drama resembling a concert of non-stop music, the producers say the songs pop up only where they fit.
"There are a few songs, at least, in every episode," said executive producer R.J. Cutler. "It’s the air these characters breathe, so it's always there."
So will we see any big-name country music guest stars?
"We're really focused on our cast," Cutler said. "Its not a cameo driven show ... We’ll be open to it as it serves story."
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