TV preview: Charles Esten feels at home in 'Nashville'


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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Carnegie native Charles "Chip" Esten has a juicy role in ABC's "Nashville" (10 p.m. Wednesday, WTAE), the fall's best-reviewed new broadcast network drama.

Ratings for the show could be better, but so far enough viewers are tuning in to keep the show on the air. Those who watch may be tuning in, in part, to see how the relationship between Mr. Esten's Deacon and the two women in his life evolves.

'Nashville'

When: 10 p.m. Wednesday, ABC.

Starring: Connie Britton, Charles Esten, Hayden Panettiere.

Singer Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton) is Deacon's soulmate. She paid for his stint in rehab years ago then married another man. Deacon's also been hitting the sheets with Rayna's musical rival, Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere, "Heroes").

Mr. Esten lived in the Pittsburgh area until he was about 9, when his parents divorced.

"But my father was still there all through my youth and growing up," Mr. Esten said. "He passed a couple of years ago and lived in the Sewickley area."

Mr. Esten's father, Charles E. Puskar III, was a financial planner who played football at the College of William & Mary, and his business partner was former Steelers center Ray Mansfield.

"Growing up in Pittsburgh during those Super Bowl years, Pittsburgh is in my blood," Mr. Esten said. "I grew up being in the locker room with Joe Greene and Andy Russell and Terry Bradshaw. I've always had family there."

His sister lives in Washington, D.C., and has season tickets to Steelers games. "She'll bring me along at least once a year," Mr. Esten said. He has a long acting resume, including a regular presence on sketch comedy show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and recurring roles on dramas, including "ER," "The Office," "Party of Five," "Big Love" and "Enlightened." But he says "Nashville" is something new.

"I've been really lucky to have had a lot of great roles, recurring roles like 'The Office' and 'Big Love,' and I was always treated well by everybody there, but it's a different thing to be a member of the cast of a show," Mr. Esten said. "This is perfect for me."

He appreciates that it's a role that allows him a wide range, from some moments of humor -- he describes Deacon as having a "Southern wryness" -- to heavy drama and singing.

"The character description grabbed me," he said. "I read a scene or two and it was nuanced and well written."

As for the singing, he's happy to give his pipes a workout. He was in a band at the College of William & Mary.

"After graduating college, I played Buddy Holly in London," Mr. Esten said. "Now after all these 20 years of acting, this is a great opportunity."

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A version of this story first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. First Published December 14, 2012 5:00 AM


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