Tonight, Nashville starts its swan song as the country-music soap’s final season premieres on CMT. In addition to plenty of dramatic moments, the show has also featured tons of great music and characters viewers loved—including Will Lexington (Chris Carmack), a conflicted gay country star.
We sat down with Carmack to talk about what it was like playing Will for the past five seasons, his favorite moments from the show, and what’s in store for his character this season.
Now that Nashville is ending, how do you feel about saying goodbye to Will?
I don’t think I’ll ever say goodbye to Will. I’ve been playing this character for five-and-a-half years. He’s a part of me and I’m a part of him—it will be sad to hang up Will’s boots. It’s been a great run, and I’ve had a lot of fun portraying the character. He has enriched my life greatly, and I’m grateful for the time we’ve had together.
Will’s had a lot of dramatic moments over the years. Does one stick out to you as the most insane?
I would say one of the big standout moments that shaped Will’s trajectory for a long time was early on in the Season One scene, where he was racing the train with Gunnar (Sam Palladio) in the car. That for me was quintessential Will Lexington. He was on this self-destructive path, a fire burning too bright, and it was dangerous to get near him. That felt like Will for a long time.
Now he has so many moments since then that have tempered his angst, he’s become more comfortable in his own skin. He has a sense of himself and where he belongs in the world. But I think that moment jumpstarted who Will Lexington was.
Do you have a favorite Will scene overall?
In late Season One, I had a scene in a jail cell with Gunnar and that was a very vulnerable and subtle. A lot of the time what you do in the room doesn’t come across onscreen, and that was one where I really felt like, “Man, that’s what it felt like when we were there.” We just started Season Six and there are a lot of scenes with Will, Gunnar and Avery (Jonathan Jackson) and I think that’s going to be extremely memorable because the three of us have a great dynamic. We have fun together.
Last season did not end well for Will and his boyfriend, Zach (Cameron Scoggins). He tried to pull the plug on Deacon’s (Charles Esten) record label, Highway 65. Where does the new season pick up with you two?
Will really cares for Zach. I have to be honest, as Chris, I don’t entirely understand it, but I have to go with it. I feel like Zach really showed some of his true colors, and those were not that sweet. He was willing to sink the lives and careers of people he had come to call friends.
Some time [since the Season Five finale] has passed and we find that Will has tried to make amends with Zach, he’s tried to apologize and get back with him, but Zach holds a grudge. Then we find out Zach is dating some young good-looking guy, and it really throws Will for a loop because Will has a had a hard time moving on.
Zach is not one of my favorite boyfriends either.
Yeah. [Laughs] Part of it is you gotta keep the story moving, part of it is the reality of actors and schedules and other jobs. I think everyone was sad to see [Will’s ex-boyfriend] Kevin (Kyle Dean Massey) go. I think he was such a great match for Will. But what are you gonna do? Surround him with the awesome same boyfriend for three seasons? Probably not.
One of the teasers for the new season shows Will pumping iron at the gym. Is he trying to get back in the dating scene?
Yeah, you know sometimes you have to brush the dust off. Will sees Zach with this young buff dude, and he feels like yesterday’s news. One of the things he has to do is get his mojo back. He hits the gym hard, he starts to get some of his fire back.
In another preview we see Will kissing a new guy. Can you give us any details about the mystery man?
I think I should just let that one play out. Let’s just say Will tries to get back on the horse.
You brought up Kyle Dean Massey, who is openly gay. How was it playing a gay character opposite gay actors? Was it any different than doing a romantic scene with another straight actor?
It was actually a little different. I felt like if we were doing any intimate scenes and it’s two straight guys, it’s just like: “Something’s off…” But when I was with Kyle, he had a tenderness that really drew me in, and made me feel it and believe it. I felt more comfortable in scenes with him.
How has reception been from gay fans been over the years?
I think my portrayal of Will has been well received in the LGBT community, particularly because it’s more representation on TV. Will’s not a stereotype, he’s dealing with a lot of the prejudices the community has to deal with on a daily basis and it’s set right in the heart of country music and the Bible Belt, where maybe those prejudices are greater and sharper than in other places. I think it tells a real and current story that people can relate to.
Would you want to continue playing him? Maybe a Will Lexington Nashville spinoff?
I would gladly go on playing Will! I feel like the writers of Nashville keep coming up with stuff that I enjoy to do. I love my job, I love my coworkers, we get to make music. There are too many wonderful things about this job to say I’m tired of it. If someone wants to renews the series like CMT did, I’m on board!
Do you know how the season ends? Does Will ride off happily into the sunset?
I actually do not know. This conversation is actually the first time I thought about it. “This is going to be the end of Will! We’re not going to see Will Lexington anymore, so how are we going to leave it?” I don’t know how it’s going to end, but I would sure like to know.
Maybe he becomes a huge country music star?
That’s what I would really like to see. I would like to see Will get some mainstream success again because he was a hot rising star and he really got completely derailed, and he’s good enough. I want him to have his day.
For us Nashville fans it’s going to be sad to say goodbye to him.
Well, thank you. I’ve been grateful for the time we’ve had together, it’s been a fantastic run. I’m nothing but grateful.
Nashville Season Six premieres January 4 at 9/8c on CMT.