No, that isn’t my name circled. And no, I don’t have any plans to take Mr. Kramer’s job, nor anyone else’s. I’m more interested in the phrase above his name.
My reason is because my biggest dream right now is to one day, see my name under that phrase for this show.
Wow. That would look really nice.
If you aren’t aware, the name of this show is Nashville and it airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET (8 p.m. CT) on CMT.
So, why is it my dream to write for them one day?
I am originally from Baltimore City. The inner city. The poverty-stricken areas. The predominantly black areas. The childhood many blacks had applied to me as well. However, I’ll say that once people observed how I spoke and how I carried myself (even to this day), they’ve accused me of being from somewhere outside of Baltimore or some predominantly white suburb close by, you know…away from everything that epitomized the city or is what came to mind.
I’ll take that as a compliment, I suppose. But I don’t know what to tell you. Again…I am from Baltimore City.
I am a city boy to the core. So how in the world does a city boy fall in love with wanting to write for a show with a primarily country theme?
Growing up in Baltimore, I can recall only one country music station on the radio. I never listened to country music growing up. Good Lord, I wouldn’t be caught dead doing so. Not the area where I lived. That isn’t to say that it isn’t more diverse now and that there aren’t country music lovers within the city. Just not me when I grew up there in the 80s and 90s.
Fast forward to 1999, after I joined the Army and left Baltimore. My first duty station was Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where I met my wife. We got married that year in Clarksville, Tennessee, just outside the base. She is from Iowa, so Clarksville falls somewhat close to the middle of both locations of where we grew up.
Even at that time and later, I still never cared much about country music, despite who I was married to. I was around that community a little more than I was used to growing up, but it didn’t change my thoughts much.
Fast forward (again) to 2012. We see a promotion on television for a show called Nashville. A few years earlier, after a few visits, my wife and I decided that once our Army careers concluded, we would move to Nashville, which is about 40 miles away from Clarksville. After those visits, we really fell in love with the city and the people. By now, I was very much more attached to the southern hospitality. Clarksville was an idea for a bit, but with Nashville that close, we saw that to be a more attractive option for us.
Once we saw that promotion, my wife and I looked at each other and basically decided that we had to watch the show. We didn’t recognize any of the actors or didn’t even really become enamored with anything else. We just knew we had to watch. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t care if the show consisted of people sitting around and playing with garbage. Again, it was something we had to watch, largely because of having decided a few years before that we wanted to move there.
We began watching and loved the show. Did we enter with biased mindsets? Of course we did. Would anyone from the show mind? I’m thinking they wouldn’t.
Fast forward again to about two years later.
I am an aspiring professional screenwriter. I eventually learned that as part of my portfolio, I needed to have written a spec or two of shows that were currently on the air, along with some original work as well. The first time the seed was planted that I wanted to write for this show was in about September 2014, when I was about a month from leaving Afghanistan.
Before that, I knew that I had to do this at some point and with Nashville being the show I was most familiar with, I chose that to be the show I wrote my own spec on.
I had such an amazing time writing it. While some may think this would have been just my time to “take over” and write whatever I wanted, I didn’t look at it that way. Season 3 was close to beginning, so I wanted to really capture the show and the characters, conveying them as appropriately as possible. This wasn’t “my” show to do whatever I wanted with it. That was the challenge. I wrote my version of a Season 3 “premiere.”
Not that this means much, but I entered that script to screenwriting contests and received some pretty encouraging feedback from it. One even had me barely miss the top three. I say that doesn’t mean a lot because I know contest wins aren’t the “end-all” and really don’t hold weight in the grand scheme of things. I get that. My only reason for bringing it up is because it encouraged me to keep going. To not give up on this.
Around the middle of 2015, as I am big fan of lead actress Connie Britton (she plays “Rayna Jaymes”), something she posted on her Twitter page watered that “seed” quite a bit more.
Many of the other actors on the show did country music concerts during the summer break. I saw someone mention one of their shows, but knowing that Connie did not participate in them (she often works on movies during that time), I went to her page to see if there were any movies she was talking about.
For those who have Twitter, I looked to the left where the collection of pictures are. I saw one she had with co-star Charles Esten (“Deacon Claybourne”) posted in April, with the hashtag: “#Spinoff: When Deacon and Rayna get their own sitcom.”
Nashville is a drama, by the way.
When I saw that in the gym one morning, I thought it was a cute idea. However, in being close to finishing one of my other projects, I became curious as to just what this type of sitcom would be like.
Eventually, I decided to write it.
Now, I’m a very intelligent man. I knew that this idea had next to no chance of going anywhere. Honestly, I only wrote it to get Connie’s attention, even if she was just joking at the time she posted the picture. If I sent the contents of the script in a tweet and she as much as “liked” it, I seriously would have died a happy man. I am NOT kidding to say that that was really all I was feasibly hoping for, even though I knew even that was close to impossible.
However, that didn’t stop me.
Writing is such a passion of mine and I know that I absolutely cannot write only when I think it will blow up to be the best of the best. There is a LOT of writing I will do that goes absolutely nowhere, no matter how great I think it is. But my love for writing and for the show is what led me to spend the time writing this Rayna-Deacon “sitcom.”
Those involved in the show would likely laugh at the thought of me doing this, even likely Connie herself. But that’s okay.
It was that point where I asked myself something. I was proofreading that sitcom script and thought,
“Could I write for this show?”
Being an unknown writer, I wouldn’t be shocked to know that those involved would not had given me that kind of chance, especially when their staff is already established. But again…that didn’t discourage me. That was surprising, even to me. But it wasn’t something that made me give up.
Now to 2016. Nashville was cancelled on its original network (ABC). The fan in me was disappointed, but the writer in me was relieved. Not because I didn’t want to watch the show anymore, but for the selfish reason that I could now “stop thinking foolishly that I had any chance of writing for them.” That stress was gone. I could move on from this ridiculous idea of believing I had any real shot.
A few months later, Nashville was revived.
THE FAN IN ME?
THE WRITER IN ME?
It didn’t take long before my heart said that I needed to try this again. There was absolutely NO way I could let it go by then. No one had yet given me a direct “no,” so until that happened, I didn’t want to give up on it yet.
I just couldn’t.
The show getting a second chance, in many ways, told me that I too, had a second chance and that I better not let it pass by, or I would hate myself for the rest of my life. I had to at least put my best effort forward to make this happen.
Now to be a little mean. The ratings for Nashville this year are much lower than last year. Last season, they averaged more than 4 million viewers per week. As of the time I’m writing this, they’ve shown six episodes. They’ve cracked 1 million viewers only twice.
Honestly, I can’t see viewership just straight up dropping off like that. Considering the way we all busted our tails in trying to get the show back on the air (A petition was started, people. A PETITION), it just doesn’t make sense. Not being an expert on this, I think the immense reduction is because of the show changing networks, but also because I’ve heard quite a few people complain that CMT is not included in their current cable packages. No way in the world more than 3 million people just decided, “Eh…no more Nashville for me.” However, the politics involved there are way above my head also. This is just an educated guess.
EVEN knowing all this, though, why is this still a dream of mine? How has this fire not fizzled out by now?
After all, it isn’t like I believe they’ll get “desperate” (for lack of a better term) and try me out, no matter how their ratings look. It isn’t as if they have no one working there already. This isn’t exactly the business where an unknown writer will get a “bone” thrown his way with no regard to his writing ability. They’ll cancel the show again before that happens. I do know that much.
So how am I still so passionate about this?
For me, it’s very simple.
My heart is telling me that I absolutely cannot give up on this. That’s not the same as saying that I “won’t take no for an answer,” but that I HAVE to give it my best effort. I have to try my best.
For me an aspiring professional writer, inspiration doesn’t discriminate. Inspiration doesn’t care that I grew up in Baltimore City. Inspiration doesn’t care that I never listened to country music growing up. Inspiration doesn’t care that I’m black. Inspiration doesn’t care that people still make fun of me to this day for loving a show with this theme, as I’m not “supposed” to. Inspiration doesn’t care about ratings. Inspiration doesn’t care about odds.
Inspiration is what lit the fire in me to want to write for Nashville. And I am not ready for that flame to be put out.