Rachel Bilson and Kaitlin Doubleday have signed on for roles in the country music drama, Hollywood Insight has learned.
No character descriptions were provided for the characters, but both actresses dropped hints about their characters when announcing their roles on social media Thursday following the CMT series’ midseason finale. (Bilson’s Instagram photo showed a photo of Highway 65, the label formed by Britton’s character, while Doubleday’s was an image of the iconic Bluebird Cafe.) It’s also unknown how big their roles will be when the drama returns later this year.
“We welcome Rachel and Kaitlin into our incredibly talented ensemble,” said series co-showrunner Marshall Herskovitz. “We fondly anticipate the second half of the season filled with surprising twists and turns that make Nashville so beloved by the fans.”
The news comes two weeks after Britton was killed off the series when her character, Rayna James, succumbed to injuries from a car accident. A star and producer on the series since its 2012 premiere, Britton’s future had been in question since August 2016, when it was revealed she was eyeing a reduced workload for season five. She ultimately appeared in just 10 episodes of what will be a 22-episode season.
For Bilson, the role brings her back to TV following a four-season stint on The CW’s Hart of Dixie. Nashville also reunites the actress with her former O.C. co-star Chris Carmack, who has played country singer Will Lexington since season one. Bilson, whose other credits include How I Met Your Mother and Chuck, is repped by CAA and Morris Yorn.
Doubleday’s Nashville stint follows her breakthrough role in Empire. A series regular for seasons one and two, Doubleday’s character was killed off in the season three premiere, however she continued to appear in a recurring capacity in subsequent episodes. Doubleday’s other credits include Accepted and Catch Me If You Can. She is repped by Paradigm and MPG Management.
The exit of Britton, and additions of Bilson and Doubleday, are just the latest cast changes on the Lionsgate and ABC Studios co-production under new season five showrunners Herskovitz and Ed Zwick. Series regulars Will Chase and Aubrey Peeples left the series, and several recurring guests came onboard, including DC Legends of Tomorrow grad Joseph David-Jones, Grammy winner Rhiannon Giddens and Cameron Scoggins, among others.
Herskovitz told Hollywood Insight in December that he and Zwick that they wanted “more diversity” in season five. “We’ve actually expanded the cast is the truth, but we’ve done it in such a way so that the characters are in relationship to other characters,” he said. “So it’s trying to integrate all these characters together in ways that you can tell their stories together.”
Discussing the second half of season five, Herskovitz told Hollywood Insight there will be a time jump onscreen similar to the length of the show’s hiatus. “Certainly everyone is still dealing with Rayna’s death — that doesn’t just go away. For some of the characters, that’s a big part of the storyline, but the other characters are moving on with their lives and trying to figure it out,” he said. “They’re dealing with success and failure and all of the vicissitudes of life in the music business and in a city like Nashville where there’s so much creative energy and creative connections between people.”