Connie Britton on Her Risky Path to Happiness

She studied Mandarin, got certified as an aerobics instructor and counts a U.S. senator among her friends. So how does "Nashville" star Connie Britton stay so down to earth? She talks about taking risks, dealing with disappointment—and becoming an adoptive single mom

by Leah Rozen
connie britton image
Diane Von Furstenberg sequined silk dress; bergdorfgoodman.com. Jimmy Choo suede sandals; jimmychoo.com.
Photograph: Peggy Sirota

The hair is tawny, thick and tousled to casual perfection. And it’s all her own.

“It’s funny because every day people compliment me on it,” says Connie Britton, running her hand through that long strawberry blonde mane. “I don’t have a Twitter feed, but I’m told my hair does. Apparently, there’s a blog—I haven’t seen it—about my hair.” (It’s at conniebrittonshair.tumblr.com.)

Ryan Murphy, who cast her in the first season of his show American Horror Story, echoes the obsession. “She has the best hair in Hollywood,” says Murphy, who is also the co-creator of Gleeand The New Normal. While she was starring in American Horror Story, he says, “her hair was its own side character. She’d run and scream, and her hair would swing and sway. I love her hair—and I love Connie even more.”

It’s hard not to love her, even from afar. Britton brings authenticity to every character she plays, whether on TV’s Spin City (1996–2000) and Friday Night Lights (2006–11) or in such indie films as The Brothers McMullen (1995) and last year’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. That ability has earned her consistent critical praise as well as three Best Actress Emmy nominations and, this year, a Golden Globe nod for her performance in her current series, ABC’s Nashville.

“With Connie, you get the truth,” says director Peter Berg, who cast her in the 2004 movie version of Friday Night Lights, about high school football in a small Texas town, and the spinoff TV series. “She does it by being very honest and present. She’s able to find multiple bits of emotion in just a moment. Just pouring a cup of coffee becomes an event.”

Actress Carla Gugino, a close friend since they costarred in Spin City, says, “In all these different shows, she stood out because she has this steadfast commitment to the truth. And that’s who she is as a human being, too.”

Since last fall, Britton has been bringing her sense of truth to Nashville. She stars as Rayna Jaymes, a long-reigning queen of country music whose place at the top is threatened by an ambitious young rival, Juliette Barnes (played by Hayden Panettiere). Rayna has a rich power broker father (Powers Boothe), a weakling husband (Eric Close) and a soul mate (Charles Esten), an ex-beau who’s her longtime musical collaborator. Nashvilleis Dallascrossbred with All About Eveor, as Slate TV critic Troy Patterson waggishly dubbed it, Y’all About Eve.

 

Over a late lunch at an upscale bistro in Nashville’s Belle Meade section, Britton candidly talks about the joys and challenges of her life today. But first the star, dressed in jeans, a white T‑shirt, a navy cardigan and Ugg boots, pulls out an iPhone to check on her son, Eyob, whom she adopted from Ethiopia. “My little boy has been sick with stomach flu this week, and I want to make sure everything is OK,” she says. A text from his nanny assures her that Yoby (his nickname) ate a full lunch and is on the mend. Britton exhales in relief. “He woke up without a fever, and he hasn’t thrown up since yesterday, so I’m thinking maybe we’re good,” she says.

Then she settles in to chat. “I’m always honest in interviews, to a fault, really,” she says. She doesn’t lie about her age (46 as of March 6) or her politics (liberal; last fall she cowrote a USA Today Op-Ed piece endorsing Obama for president). During an interview on Lifetime’s The Conversation last year, she felt sure that host Amanda de Cadenet would press for personal details, so Britton pre--emptively told her that between working long hours and tending to her new son as a single mom, “I have no sex life.” To her chagrin, that quote was picked up and bannered across celebrity websites.

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