Ford’s Theatre gala: Condi Rice meets the stars of ‘Nashville’

A rare pairing: Condoleezza Rice spotted chatting with one of the male stars of ABC’s “Nashville.” Rice had just been honored with the Lincoln Medal at Ford’s Theatre Annual Gala Sunday night, and actor Sam Palladio, along with his on-screen love interest, Clare Bowen, was part of the evening’s entertainment.


Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio from ABC’s “Nashville” perform at the Ford’s Theatre Annual Gala. (James R. Brantley)

Huh. Does the former secretary of state watch the country music soap? “I’m going to,” she declared. Big praise for the performance by the stars, who dueted on two ballads from the show. “That was wonderful,” said Rice.

While the “Nashville” actors were two of the event’s “gets,” it was Rice and fellow medal honoree NBA star Bill Russell who had guests clamoring for pictures at the post-performance dinner at the National Portrait Gallery. (The Lincoln medal goes to people who “exemplify the lasting legacy and mettle of character” embodied by President Lincoln.)

Condoleezza Rice receives the Lincoln Medal from Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil. (Margot Schulman)
Condoleezza Rice receives the Lincoln Medal from Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil. (Margot Schulman)

Amid a crowd of VIPs that included Eric Holder, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and NBA legend Bill Russell (also awarded a Lincoln Medal) — Joe Biden bailed out early after brief remarks — Palladio and Bowen got to play the star-struck naifs, sort of like they do on the show, this being their first trip to D.C. (She brought her manager; he brought his parents.)

But don’t be fooled by his Texas drawl or her Southern twang.

“A lot of people are surprised I’m English,” Palladio said in his crisp British accent; Bowen is Australian. Whoa, did this blow the president’s and first lady’s minds when the actors visited the White House? Probably not, he laughed. “I don’t think they were briefed” on who he is.

Updated 8 p.m.

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Emily Yahr covers pop culture and entertainment for the Post. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyYahr.

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Amy Argetsinger · June 3, 2013