“Nashville” Season 4 is missing one key character: Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere). The character developed postpartum depression and finally hit rock bottom in episode 7 when she went to rehab. In an odd twist, Panettiere also revealed that she has been suffering from postpartum depression and checked herself into a treatment facility around the same time. However, with the actress out of treatment, executive producer Dee Johnson revealed that Juliette will soon return to the show.
“She'll have been off the radar for a bit but I think when she does come back, she's going to come back strong and repaired as much as one can repair,” Johnson told the Hollywood Reporter. “We'll try to find where she fits into the landscape. She is indomitable.” Johnson also said that although Panettiere has left rehab, they are unsure of her exact return date.
Writing a storyline that somewhat resembles the actress’ life didn’t worry the “Nashville” scribes, but that’s because they didn’t know it was happening. Johnson explained that Panettiere kept her illness private for a while. “It wasn't a concern because we weren’t aware of anything like that. … I don't think there was really an awareness that these things were dovetailing in the substantive way in which they may have been,” Johnson said. “It was a bit of a surprise.”
Johnson didn’t talk about Panettiere’s personal progress, but her co-stars recently assured fans that she is doing great. “We have connected, and I think she’s doing really well,” Britton told People earlier this month. “She's right where she needs to be, and that's really good, and we all support her in that.”
Even without Panettiere on the show, “Nashville” Season 4 hasn’t forgotten about Juliette. In Wednesday’s midseason finale, the country star was often mentioned, but never seen. Avery (Richard Lee Jackson) wasn’t ready to face his ex-wife yet, but he decided to let her see their daughter. Though Juliette is making progress in treatment, it seems her romance with Avery will still take a while to heal. As previously reported, Avery will get a new love interest later this season. It isn’t clear if it’ll be a long term relationship, but it’s safe to say that Avery isn’t ready to get back together with Juliette.
“Nashville” Season 4 returns March 16, 2016 at 10 p.m. EST on ABC.