Like most of CMT’s “Nashville” cast, Ed Amatrudo — who plays Glenn, the very patient manager of country diva Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) — is used to seeing all sorts of feedback on social media. He regularly interacts with viewers and live-tweets episodes.
But recently, Amatrudo heard that some fans, die-hard viewers who call themselves “Nashies,” were not happy. In chat rooms and other forums, he was told, there was a lot of disagreement over how people felt about the show and the current story lines.
So Amatrudo did something unusual. Instead of pretending the criticism wasn’t happening — the go-to move for many actors — he took to Twitter to ask the fans what they truly thought of the show, and what they would change, even though he knew it wouldn’t necessarily be positive. The series, which wraps up its fifth season on Thursday, has gone through lots of changes in the last year: A move from ABC to CMT; new showrunners and writers; and the departure of Connie Britton, who played country superstar Rayna Jaymes.
“Sad to hear all the dissension in the ranks of my #NASHIES. Our strength was in our unity. Our collective commitment to @NashvilleCMT. Gone?” he tweeted. “For reasons, S5 has been an adjustment for #NASHIES. Changes always challenge. @CMT stepped up. Unfortunately, some NASHIES stepped out.”
The responses poured in: Not enough screentime for Juliette and her husband, Avery (Jonathan Jackson). The fact that writers killed Rayna off — instead of a less gruesome option when Britton wanted off the show. Not enough original songs. Too much drama surrounding Rayna’s teen daughters. One Twitter user pronounced the show “ruined” by new showrunners.
Amatrudo responded to the critiques and tried to clarify. “So [the fans] feel somewhat betrayed? Misled? I’m just trying to get a handle on what the #NASHIES are feeling right now,” he said.
He urged fans to tweet the network with suggestions, rather than just complaints. “Keep telling them what you want! @CMT is listening carefully.”
In an interview, Amatrudo said he went directly to the fans because he’s amazed at the Twitter community that has formed around the show, and he was disappointed to learn it was becoming less fun for some people. Granted, not everyone had complaints — though as Amatrudo put it, “You don’t have to have a lot of people voicing opinions to impact the rest of the viewership.”
“Like any other family, they don’t agree on everything … the main thing they want is for [‘Nashville’] to be great,” he said. “I wanted that spirit of positivity and unity and excitement to return, because it was so contagious.”
Social media has proved to be important for “Nashville,” as CMT’s motivation to pick up the drama was bolstered after the enormous outcry when ABC canceled it last year. So it makes sense to use the same platform to keep viewers happy. Amatrudo thinks of the fans as investors — they put a lot of time and energy and even money into the show, buying songs off iTunes and going to “Nashville” cast concerts, so they want a good return on their investment.
Amatrudo admits that he’s not sure if the fans’ wishes on Twitter will lead to changes, since it’s all up to the producers. The writers are limited in what they can do if fans don’t like a character or story line, because they film so far in advance. His goal is just to keep viewers engaged, and let them know someone is listening.
In the meantime, Amatrudo has teased big changes for Season 6, which will debut next year. He’s trying to also tell his Twitter followers to keep their “Nashville” requests realistic.
“People say, ‘I want more music.’ ‘I want Juliette to be happy.’ … The main one is if we could raise Rayna from the dead,” Amatrudo said, then laughed. “That’s probably not going to happen. But nothing is impossible!”