March 27, 2013 at 12:32 PM ET
"Nashville" returns Wednesday night with a brand-new episode … and a new girlfriend for Deacon.
And y'all, it's not Rayna (Connie Britton)!
"We wanted to see what it would be like for Deacon to be smitten by somebody who's totally outside the world he's dwelled in for the last dozens of years -- an outsider, a civilian, somebody who represents the path not taken," showrunner Dee Johnson told The Clicker at the country music soap's PaleyFest panel.
"Rayna's (marriage) to Teddy kept her from having to deal with things for a long time," she added. "Now it's officially not an obstacle anymore. So what does that mean? It's sort of a new world order for her. But at the same, Deacon, who's been making himself available all these years, is suddenly not available."
"Deacon is thinking this has been pretty tricky, pretty problematic, this relationship," Charles Esten told us. "Maybe he's addicted, maybe there's parts he needs to walk away from, that aren't healthy."
"He meets somebody who's not in the music business," Esten said. "That's about as healthy as you can get in the eyes of a musician. That's definitely attractive. Plus she's a really great person, so maybe stepping into that world -- Deacon wants to give a try."
Thank his new puppy (we'll call him Young Yeller for now) for playing matchmaker with a beautiful veterinarian (Susan Misner) and newcomer to town.
"That dog is awesome," Esten raved about his new co-star. "He's such a great actor. I predict a dog Emmy at some point. I swear you're going to see a lot of good work out of that dog."
But he acknowledged that "it would definitely be hard (for a new girlfriend) to compete with that deep, deep well and reserve of emotion that is between Deacon and Rayna. But meanwhile along the way that doesn't mean that you can't really have a sympatico with someone, a real bond, a real relationship. Thereby maybe there's some collateral damage. That's how people get hurt. There's a lot of people who might get hurt in the wake of Deacon and Rayna's troubles."
That just might include their daughter, Maddie.
"How dare you?" Britton joked when asked about their secret love child. "You calling me slutty? Don't tell him, he doesn't know!"
"I don't know what's gonna happen with Deacon," she said seriously about their chances of getting back together. "For God's sake, it's been long enough, right?"
But Esten warned, "After the divorce, you thought it would be easy. It won't."
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