Is this real?
A new trailer for the final episodes of ABC-turned-CMT series Nashville teases the return of a character that fans thought was gone for good: Connie Britton‘ Rayna James, who died during the show’s fifth season.
In the final seconds of the clip, Deacon (Charles Esten) is sitting on his bed when he gazes up to see a blurry figure. Though it’s unclear who the silhouette is, Deacon asks, “Is this real?” leading fans to believe he’s seeing the late star.
The 51-year-old actress began her 97-episode stint on Nashville in 2012, when she told Entertainment Weekly she was “terrified” about singing on the show that utilizes its casts’ real vocals.
The fifth season’s ninth episode dropped a massive bombshell when Rayna tragically (and unexpectedly!) died from complications after a car crash. The death scene, set in a hospital room as Britton’s TV family, including Esten and real-life sisters Lennon and Maisy Stella, sing to her, proved to be just as emotional off-camera for the cast.
“It was really hard. That whole week, actually, was really hard,” she told PEOPLE Now’s Jeremy Parsons last year. “I miss all those people that I used to work with who I love so much, and still get to talk to.”
Britton, also known for her role as steadfast football coach’s wife Tami Taylor in Friday Night Lights, asked producers to exit Nashville.
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“Let me just say there were a lot of reasons,” she told EW. “Some of them were personal and some were creative, and I’m probably not going to get much more detailed than that.”
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Britton said farewell to her character in a February 2017 Instagram post, thanking Nashville fans for their dedication to the show.
“You made Rayna. You supported her and loved her and gave her inspiration just as she was able to inspire you. You were the energy source, the power behind her heart and soul and life. Rayna lived for you,” she wrote. “And, from the depths of my heart, I thank you, for her and for me. It has been an honor to be a part of that creation. And as I know she would want it, the show must, and will go on.”
She concluded the post, “Long live Rayna Jaymes.”
Nashville returns Thursday at 9 p.m. on CMT.