'Nashville': Rachel Bilson, Kaitlin Doubleday introduce their characters

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Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton) might be gone, but when Nashville returns from its season 5 hiatus, there will be two new women in town. Picking up three months after Rayna’s death, Nashville will introduce Alyssa Greene, played by special guest star Rachel Bilson (Hart of Dixie), and Jessie Caine, played by new series regular Kaitlin Doubleday (Empire). “It was always our intent to bring new characters into the show,” says co-showrunner Marshall Herskovitz. “They each represent parts of stories we want to tell.”

For Alyssa, that story is one of a fish out of water. As a marketing expert from Silicon Valley, Alyssa is brought in to help Rayna’s label, Highway 65, despite the fact that she’s probably never heard a Rayna Jaymes song in her life. “She knows nothing about country music,” Bilson says. Alyssa will focus on the business side, which won’t exactly make it easy for her to find friends. “She’s badass at what she does, but to make her more likable, I’ve tried to add a bit of humor,” Bilson says.

As for Jessie (Doubleday), the established singer-songwriter is a new face only for viewers. After a few years away, Jessie is coming back to Nashville following an ugly divorce. “[Her ex-husband] is a powerful guy in the industry, so he was able to influence people’s opinion of her,” says Doubleday. Thanks to his vindictive bad-mouthing, “her career fell apart. She had to get off the radar for a couple of years. Now she’s trying to get her career back on her own, without the help of a man.”

But that won’t stop Jessie from connecting with Deacon (Charles Esten) and even Scarlett (Clare Bowen), both of whom were fans before she hit pause. “She had some success before her ex-husband ran her name into the ground,” Doubleday says.

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Now the question is whether Jessie can get her career back on track. As far as Doubleday’s concerned, she’d better: “I want to play Ryman Auditorium!”

For more, EW has exclusive videos that take you behind each character’s introduction to the show. Watch them above.

Nashville returns Thursday, June 1 on CMT.