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‘Nashville's’ groundbreaking finale sets up openly gay country music star story

WIll comes out on 'Nashville'
WIll comes out on 'Nashville'
Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

On Wednesday night, “Nashville” aired it season 2 finale in which one of the major storylines involved a rising country music star coming out as gay, something that’s never happened in the real world of country music. According to the Washington Post on May 15, this will permit a groundbreaking story for season 3.

Coming into the finale, Will Lexington (Chris Carmack) and his wife, Layla were involved with the filming of a reality show of their lives. Cameras were everywhere. It was only a matter of time before WI’s double life caught up with him in a big way.

After a day that went from bad to worse regarding his debut album launch and his deeply closeted life, Will returned home in a state of distress and near panic. The reality show was stifling. His album is about to tank thanks to the wrangling between his boss Jeff Fordham and his country music superstar and competitor, Rayna James.

He drags Layla into the bedroom to tell her, “I’m gay,” before bursting into sobs. Layla s stunned and so will the producers and audiences of the reality show because a secret recording device captured the whole thing. The cat is about to get out of the bag.

Creator Callie Khouri is aware she is crossing new terrain here, as there are no rising country music stars that are openly out. Khouri had this to say on the subject to The Hollywood Reporter:

“There's no country music star that I know of who is a big star at the top of their game that's out. There's halfway out and then there's really out and at this point, Will is halfway out. He's in a horrible position; Will is as talented as he is gay -- he's as driven for success as he is gay. He's so torn because what he is prohibits him from being what he wants to be, which is a big country music star. That drive for him to have success and do whatever it takes that's been driving him all season, that's the dilemma we put him in -- not whether or not he comes out. That's the least of his worries in a way. Can he achieve the kind of success that he wants to achieve and how much of his soul is he willing to let go of in order to achieve it? To me, it's a much badder place to show what people have to go through because there isn't really a wisely accepted ethos out there for a homosexual in the country music world.”

Carmack says he is often asked by fans if he really knows whether or not a country music star could come out without losing his or her fan base. The actor says the question is beyond his scope of knowledge. He recently said he didn’t think a country music singer could be openly gay and successful in today’s culture, based on what he’d heard from others who might be more in the know than he is.

“People I’ve spoken to say that at a certain level it’d be career suicide for somebody to come out of the closet. That’s a terrible kind of fame. I don’t think executives would give Will the time of day,” Carmack said. “That’s a damn shame, but in country music there’s a stigma that’s insurmountable.”

While the show has received some criticism for being too soapy, it has received praise for getting its depiction of the country music industry right. This latest story line gives the show the chance to tread new ground where no one can criticize their handling of the material as right or wrong because it hasn’t ever happened.

“On the Other Hand” was the season 2 finale of “Nashville” and it left us hungry for more. It’s a good thing ABC picked up the country music drama for a third year. It will be back with new episodes in the fall. Stay tuned to see how Will handles his probable public outing in season 3.

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