Nashville will live on despite the recent loss of its leading lady.
CMT on Monday handed out a 16-episode season six to the country music drama. Additionally, the Viacom-owned cable network announced that Jeffrey Nordling (Big Little Lies) will recur in the second half of season five, which kicks off Thursday, June 1, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Nordling will play Brad Maitland, an extremely successful, charming, egotistical, narcissistic owner of the most successful record label in Nashville. The actor, whose other credits include Desperate Housewives and 24, is repped by APA.
Season six of Nashville is expected to premiere in early 2018. The series still has yet to air 11 season-five episodes. In the second half of season five, Nordling joins fellow new additions Rachel Bilson (The O.C.) and Kaitlin Doubleday (Empire), who have signed on for major roles.
"Nashville is our biggest hit and we're thrilled its fans have now become consistent CMT viewers," CMT president Brian Philips said in a statement. "As fans ourselves, we couldn't be happier with our hometown show's creative resurgence! We can't wait for you to see what comes next."
The surge of fresh blood comes several weeks after Nashville said goodbye to star and producer Connie Britton, who exited the series midway through season five when her character, Rayna James, was killed off following injuries sustained from a car crash. The second half of season five will pick up 10 weeks after her sudden passing.
CMT estimates that the show has been averaging 2.1 million viewers a week with seven days of delayed viewing factored in, a steep drop from its broadcast network days. However, Paramount Network (soon-to-be-former Spike TV) president Kevin Kay was optimistic about Nashville's future given the post-Rayna ratings bump when speaking with The Hollywood Reporter last month.
"There was the Rayna death and funeral, which was more highly rated than her death episode. And then there was only one episode after that," he said. "I can't tell you that there's data to support my notion that Nashville should continue, but I believe it should continue. We're trying to figure out how we continue Nashville because the fans want it. If the ratings were to fall off a little bit? Who cares! I feel very bright about the future of Nashville."
It remains unclear if season six will be Nashville's last. The drama is poised to hit its 100th episode in the second half of its fifth season.
Britton's onscreen death, which had been rumored for several months, came right as the series jumped from ABC to CMT. ABC surprisingly pulled the plug on Nashville in May after four seasons. A month later, CMT partnered with Hulu to resurrect the show for a 22-episode fifth season. Lionsgate, ABC Studios and Opry Entertainment produce the series. New episodes continue to stream on Hulu the day after they first air on CMT.
Hayden Panettiere, Clare Bowen, Chris Carmack, Charles Esten, Jonathan Jackson, Sam Palladio, Maisy Stella and Lennon Stella also star on Nashville.
Season six will not only mark the show's second at CMT, it will also mark its second season with showrunners Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick. The writing duo, best known for thirtysomething and My So-Called Life, aimed to "slow down the storytelling, go deeper and tell more intimate, more emotional stories" in season five as Herskovitz told THR in December. The duo executive produce along with creator Callie Khouri and Steve Buchanan.
The pickup comes as CMT prepares to unveil the rest of its upfront slate in the coming weeks. The network's other original series includes period drama Sun Records and comedy Still the King. (CMT has also since launched an aftershow for Nashville, called NashChat, on Facebook Live.) There has been much changeover across Viacom's cable properties in recent months as the company has refocused its energy on six core brands, which include MTV, Nickelodeon and BET, but not CMT.
In addition to Nashville, Lionsgate's original series slate includes Netflix's Orange Is the New Black, E!'s The Royals, OWN's Greenleaf, CBS' MacGyver reboot and Epix's Graves.
Find out what Nashville's showrunners have in store for the second half of season five in the video below.