Oct 28, 2014 10:31 AM

2 country stars help shape Will Chase's TV persona

The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) Will Chase's character on ABC's "Nashville" is the quintessential superstar.

Country singer Luke Wheeler has a team of publicists and his own barbecue sauce. His wardrobe staple is a large, black cowboy hat like Tim McGraw, who is the inspiration for his character, Chase says.

"The template that was thrown around to me was always (McGraw), just as far as the enormity of his stardom and star power," the 44-year-old actor said in a recent interview.

"I make it more Blake (Shelton). ... Then there's the dad (side of him). ... A lot of it was my Uncle Wayne. I grew up in Kentucky, so a lot of it was just already in me somewhere. I'd heard these things or I'd seen this guy. I knew this guy, which I think was why I probably got the role. I knew this guy was probably in me."

"Nashville," which airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. Eastern, follows the ins and outs of country music. It also stars Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere.

Luke Wheeler was introduced in season two as a new love interest for Britton's character, Rayna James. His arrival complicated Rayna's on-again, off-again relationship with Deacon Claybourne (played by Charles Esten).

"I do like messing up the story a little bit," said Chase as he coyly stroked the scruff of his beard. Then he joked, "I have my three fans that root for me."

He doesn't know how that story line will pan out, but predicts heartbreak for his character down the line.

In real life, he has fallen for the city of Nashville, Tennessee, where the show is filmed.

"That town celebrates artistry, unlike kind of anywhere else. Here in New York you do, but it's so overwhelmingly big here. There it really is communal and a community," he said.

He also appreciates how unassuming people are in Nashville.

"I went bowling recently, spent a half-hour talking to a guy and he said, 'Oh yeah, I produced so-and-so's albums.' I was like, 'You what? Oh.' He could've led with that. He didn't. He was giving me jeans and a beard and the typical Nashville vibe, but it was not pretentious at all and I love that."

Chase has a Broadway background and was nominated for a Tony Award for "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" in 2013. He also had a recurring role on NBC's "Smash." He enjoys recording music for "Nashville" because it's different than cast recordings and he can perform solo. His favorite experience, though, is shooting the concert scenes.

"They're long days and I feel right at home. I'm getting to play the biggest country star in the world," he said. "... We have (extras) screaming their faces off because they love it and you have this great band behind you and it's a concert atmosphere. Those days could be twice as long."


Alicia Rancilio covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow her online at http://www.twitter.com/aliciar





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