Today is Saturday, August 19, 2017

Local leader lands gig on hit show 'Nashville'

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Abston waiting between scenes. Submitted
Abston next to a tour case on the set of "Nashville." Submitted
Will Cross of "Nashville."
Hayden Panettiere of "Nashville."

It's not too often common folk get to hob nob with the widely-popular television stars who play the likes of hit ABC show "Nashville's" Rayna James and Juliette Barnes, but if you look real closely this season you just might see a familiar face in a scene or two.

It seems a local politician's landed himself a pretty cool gig on "Nashville," which premiers for another season Sept. 23 (Wednesdays at 9 p.m.).

District 4 City Commissioner Brian Abston, 52, is an unabashed fan of the show.

"I've always loved the show," he said. "It's about country music and politics, and you know I love both."

Abston's "Nashville" saga continues this week on his second "call back" stint as an extra. About a month ago he heard about a call for casting extras for the taping of the fourth season and decided, "What the heck, I'll send in a portfolio." He had to send in a picture and divulge his age, weight, clothes size, hobbies and more.

"I thought it would be cool," said this semi-retired fiber optics exec who starred in an episode of "The Baxter's" back in the day. "But I never heard back from them (Nashville casters). Then about a week later they wanted me to come in for a fitting."

(Bad) Luck had it Abston could not go because of an unavoidable out-of-town business meeting.

"I figured I blew my chance," he said. "But, a week later I got an email and was asked to be one of 250 extras for a shoot at the Grand Ole Opry."

He said it was a blast and not only was he part of the extra "in crowd" during the concert, he was able to watch two of the show's biggest stars perform together. He couldn't say the names, because "of spoilers."

He said it was a 12-plus-hour day rehearsing and taping.

"Yep, after hours and hours of standing clapping and cheering you gotta dig deep for that enthusiasm," he laughed.

But, he was on the fifth row and was fascinated with all the behind the scenes hullabaloo and amazed how many people are involved and what it takes to shoot just a three-minute concert. Abston did reveal he thought Connie Britton (who plays Rayna) and Aubrey Peeples (who plays Layla) were "beautiful."

Abston's big break (he laughed with this term) came last Wednesday when he got yet another call from a "Nashville" casting agent.

"Apparently they are short on ugly, short guys over 50 years because I got asked to do a five-day gig cast as a backstage VIP to a couple of the stars," Abston said. "Whoop whoop!"

He found out on his first day Monday those stars are Hayden Panettiere (who plays Juliette) and Will Chase (who plays Luke).

This weekend he drove to Nashville for a "fitting," but was told to bring some of his "good" clothes that could possibly work for the stand-ins.

"You want to know how uncool I am?" Abston said. "They didn't use a single item of my wardrobe."

But instead they hooked him up with some cool duds.

"The only things I'll be wearing this week that are mine are my underwear and socks," he said.

Abston's kids are pretty psyched about their dad's role as an extra, and his wife Gigi is probably hoping he doesn't go all Hollywood (well, Nashville) on her.

Abston's "costume" for his extra work is laid back, hipster cool; just perfect for the backstage scenes he will take part in. And while this week will be 12-hour days for him with a lot of standing around and retakes, he said they feed the extras "really good," and this gig is paid.

"Yep, breakfast, lunch and dinner, lots of soft drinks and candy," he said.

He doesn't want to fill up too much, just in case he gets an even further expanded role down the line.

"Funny, my roles description is 'older and distinguished,'" Abston said with a smile. "I guess I'll take that. What about handsome and dynamic?"

And though prodded about hush-hush story lines and the future of Rayna and Deacon, Abston is mum and doesn't want to ruin potential acting gigs. So, the drama ensues, all with the beautiful backdrop of Music City. He said he's pretty sure he'll get some good face time in an October episode.

"Maybe next time I'll get a line!" Abston joked. "But, seriously, it's a cool little deal and fun to be a part of something so cool and relevant in Nashville."

Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at

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