Fans of Nashville, if you have not watched Thursday night's episode (Feb. 24), do not read any further. Major spoilers ahead!
The country music drama had everyone on edge the entire episode, since last week, Nashville's leading lady Rayna Jaymes, played by Connie Britton, was rushed to the hospital following a terrible car accident.
Throughout the entire episode, her character was facing complication after complication, had emergency surgery, was doing well, then all of a sudden her organs were shutting down. She passed away in the last seconds of the episode surrounded by her daughters and husband, Deacon.
Before the premiere of the 5th season of CMT, TV Guide reported that Britton had only signed on for 10 of the season's 22 episodes, leading fans to believe she would be killed off somehow. However, Britton herself addressed those rumors, not confirming or denying them, but she did say, "I don’t know where that stuff came from. It’s kind of crazy the things that come out.”
Unfortunately, the rumors were true and her exit served as the most heartbreaking episode of Nashville that we have ever seen. Britton took to Instagram to say goodbye to her character she played for 4 1/2 years and to thank the actors, creators, crew, songwriters, producers, and fans.
Thank you Rayna Jaymes. For your magic and your dignity. And thank you to all the creators of Rayna Jaymes, for there were many. Callie Khouri, who gave her life. Deacon, Maddie, Daphne, who shaped her as her family. Teddy, Tandy, Lamar too. Juliette, Scarlett, Bucky and the ones who crafted her into a business woman. Along with countless other compatriots and combatants. And then of course the crew of “Nashville" who brought her to life, every crew member in every department who made Rayna live each week. And then there’s the music. T Bone, Buddy, Tim, Frankie and all the brilliant songwriters who gave Rayna a voice. There was no music, and no Rayna, without you. But finally and most importantly, the fans. You made Rayna. You supported her and loved her and gave her inspiration just as she was able to inspire you. You were the energy source, the power behind her heart and soul and life. Rayna lived for you. And, from the depths of my heart, I thank you, for her and for me. It has been an honor to be a part of that creation. And as I know she would want it, the show must, and will go on. Long live Rayna Jaymes. #RIPRayna #NashvilleCMT
Maisy Stella, who plays her youngest daughter Daphne, took to social media to thank Britton for everything.
"Connie has taught me everything I know as an actor. She has been a set mother to me since I was 8," the young actress wrote. "She has been someone I look up to so much. Rayna Jaymes is a character that inspired and changed people's lives. I love you. RIP Rayna. Thank you Connie for being such an amazing person."
Her TV husband also said his goodbye on social media.
I took this picture almost 5 years ago on my first day of shooting #Nashville with @conniebritton. I was already a fan....Posted by Charles Esten on Thursday, February 23, 2017
Co-showrunners Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz revealed to Entertainment Tonight that they explored every option to write Britton off without killing her, but because she is so connected to Deacon and her daughters, death was the only way it would possibly make sense.
“Maybe there’s some way she leaves. She goes somewhere. She goes on tour. She’s going around the world, whatever it is -- some way to imagine that she could stay alive,” he said. “But we quickly realized that that would just never work -- that Rayna Jaymes is so connected to her children and her husband, there’s no circumstance we could put her in where she would not be in constant contact with them.”
Herskovitz also revealed that although Britton's contract had her attached to more episodes, she felt it was her time to move on from the show.
“When CMT picked up the show [in June 2016], Connie Britton came to Ed Zwick and myself and said that she was very torn, but that she felt that creatively, she needed to move on with her life,” Herskovitz told ET. “[She] felt bad about it because she loved the show and loved everyone who worked on the show. But it felt [like], on some level, that she needed to find other challenges, which is something I understand and sympathize with."
Although her character may have died, she will be in a few more episodes. Herksovitz told Entertainment Weekly that there "will be a few flashbacks." He says that even when people die, they are still very much present in their loved ones' lives.
Watch Britton talk about her emotional exit below.
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