NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The story of how real-life sisters Lennon Stella, 13, and Maisy Stella, 9, got cast as the daughters of Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton) on "Nashville" is about as ideal as such stories come. Lennon plays Maddie and Maisy plays Daphne on the ABC drama (10 p.m. Wednesday, WTAE-TV), which was renewed for a second season last week.
The girls, who live outside Nashville and attend public school (they also have a tutor on the set and at home twice a week), are the daughters of Marylynne and Brad Stella, a Canadian country-folk duo known as The Stellas.
In 2008 Marylynne and Brad got a publishing deal in Nashville and made the 15-hour drive every six weeks from their home outside Toronto to Nashville. They relocated permanently in 2009.
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Lennon and Maisy have grown up around music and have even performed on their own at Nashville's real-life Bluebird Cafe.
A casting agent submitted Maisy as a possible young actress to play one of Rayna's daughters on "Nashville." But Maisy had no head shot, a staple for actors.
"The night before Lennon took a picture of me on her iPhone. I'm sitting on the couch and she took it," Maisy said. "On the way to the audition we stopped at Walgreen's and printed it out and my dad took a glue stick and pasted it to a piece of paper and wrote 'Maisy Stella' on the paper."
In the show's original conception, the daughters were 8 and 6, so Maisy would have played the older of the two.
"I was on my final audition with this one other girl and we were on our way there in the car and, the casting director called and said, 'Is Lennon with you? How fast can you get here?' " Maisy recalled.
"I auditioned and I was so nervous," Lennon said.
Of course, the roles were reconceived and the Stella sisters got the gig and have been in the spotlight ever since, especially after their recent performance of the Lumineers' "Ho Hey," (see the video on the show's website at www.abc.com and on YouTube), which they also sang at the Grand Ole Opry.
And they've made their own YouTube videos that have gone viral, including a cover of Robyn's "Call Your Girlfriend" that has more than 17 million hits.
"My favorite part is working with the cast and learning from them," Lennon said of her "Nashville" co-stars, "because I've never done anything like it and they are the best people to learn from."
The girls do get recognized. Lennon's glasses, especially, give her away. The ones she wears on the show were hers initially and when producers couldn't find a pair they liked better, they decided to use Lennon's glasses as Maddie's glasses.
"That was cool but I wanted a separation between Maddie and Lennon and I didn't want to look exactly like my character because I didn't know how she might turn out," Lennon said. So her mom found another frame for $1 at Goodwill, she says with a note of thrifty triumph, and Lennon now wears those but they are still large glasses that bring to mind her character.
In person, Lennon is more reserved and Maisy is a cutup who's quick to say Lennon is nothing like Maddie.
"Maddie is so rebellious and Lennon is, like, the perfect child," Maisy said.
"Nashville" fans take note: The girls' rendition of "Ho Hey" is on the show's second soundtrack, now in stores.
A version of this story first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. First Published May 19, 2013 4:00 AM