Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Thursday's series finale of Nashville. You will regret it! If you have, read what Charles Esten had to say. Then, come on back...
Nashville saved the best for last.
The country music drama wrapped up its six-season run on Thursday with an emotional series finale, giving its main characters the fitting endings they all deserved. But it was the surprise return of a beloved Nashville character that made the swan song just a tad more special.
Former Nashville star Connie Britton returned for one final scene as country superstar Rayna Jaymes, who died midway through the fifth season following a brutal car wreck.
In Britton's finale cameo, Rayna's widower, Deacon (Charles Esten) -- minutes away from taking the stage at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium -- takes a moment to himself, closing his eyes as he lets his mind wander back to his wedding night with Rayna.
"I'm thinking, 'This is too good to be true. How has it happened that all this stuff I've done, all these things, all these regrets just, what, gone?'" Deacon says in wonderment to Rayna in the flashback scene, after she implores him to share his thoughts. "It's like raindrops in a barrel and it's right at the top -- all that pain -- and just one more raindrop and..." he trails off.
"I know, honey. Yes, we've hurt each other. We have our past," Rayna says in the scene. "But sometimes, once in your life, somebody gets in your bloodstream. It doesn't matter how much you fail each other, we must choose each other. And I choose you exactly the way you are. And I'm going to love you forever. Forever and ever."
The scene wasn't the only time Britton appeared in the series' final episode. At the end of the hour, she joined her co-stars on the Ryman stage for a star-studded performance, a fitting way to bid adieu to a show so steeped in Nashville culture and country music.
Britton opened up about getting the opportunity to reprise her role as Rayna and reunite with her Nashville family one last time.
"Rayna got to do the impossible. She got to come back from the dead," the 51-year-old actress said in a statement to ET. "I got to do the most wonderful [thing], which was to go back to my Nashville family and celebrate all the hard work and love and care that went into that show. Being on the Ryman stage, reunited with six years of cast and crew, is a moment I’ll cherish and never forget. I am grateful.”
Esten revealed that Britton's surprise appearance, which was teased in the series' final season trailer in June, almost didn't happen.
"If I'm recalling correctly, we actually did not know that it was a go until very, very close to it. There were a lot of pieces that had to come together schedule-wise," Esten, 52, told ET exclusively. "I was certainly hoping and praying that that would happen, because to me, it is as it should be. It wouldn't have been, I think, the same ending. It wouldn't have been the same closure. There wouldn't have been the same magic. There wouldn't have been the same Nashville."
"It was Rayna's story from the very beginning. Even after her character passed away, she was such an integral part of the show. She didn't haunt those days, but her character and the meaning her character brought to it informed every other scene after that."
"To me, creatively, artistically it felt like the exact, right thing to have," he continued. "Professionally, another scene with Connie Britton? Yes please. And personally, more time with my buddy and my friend, Connie? Yes please. I'm so glad that it was able to get worked out and happen. I hope that the audience feels the same way as we did."
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