Aubrey Peeples Discusses Layla Grant’s Journey In ‘Nashville’ and Taking On ‘Jem and the Holograms’

Shannon O’Connor ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor-in-Chief

Aubrey Peeples in the Nashville episode "How Far Down Can I Go." Photo Credit: Mark Levine/ABC.
Aubrey Peeples in the Nashville episode “How Far Down Can I Go.” Photo Credit: Mark Levine/ABC.

Just a few weeks ago Nashville kicked off its third season and drama is already brewing on ABC’s hit musical drama. With Will’s (Chris Carmack) big secret revealed to his wife Layla Grant, things are just beginning to heat up.

Emertainment Monthly caught up with actress Aubrey Peeples who portrays the up-and-coming artist Layla Grant to find out about her character’s journey this season and Peeple’s highly anticipated portrayal of the iconic Jerrica Benton aka Jem in the upcoming film adaptation of Jem and the Holograms.

You are starting your second season on Nashville, has this season’s experience been different from your first year on the show?

It is different in the fact that your character is always changing and Layla is going through a bit of a transition, but it’s still the same group of wonderful people. We are just back at it.

How do you think your character Layla has grown over the seasons?

Last year she hadn’t been through very much. She was kind of fresh off the boat, entering this new world and she was a little naïve, well obviously a lot naïve to a lot of things including her husband’s sexuality; but she kind of grew up last season and is going to continue growing up this season, especially with the new information that she just found out in the season 2 finale. Now she is going to have to grapple with that, and that is a challenge that she is going to have to face and figure out the best way to deal with. Of course whenever anyone meets a challenge that is going to change them as a person, they are probably going to make a few mistakes along the way, so that is going to be a little bit of her journey this coming season.

Definitely, that was a bombshell they dropped in the finale, did you know that was going to happen?

We kind of knew that Will was going to come out to someone by the end of the season. We weren’t sure who it would be or if it would be the mass public; we didn’t know how it was going to happen, but we kind of knew that we were working our way up to it all season. When we found out how it happened – it was such an intimate moment to shoot, it was one of my favorite moments to shoot just because we had been working our way up to that big pinnacle [moment] for Will and Layla, and it was a big moment for both of them (laughs).

Aubrey Peeples in the Nashville episode "How Far Down Can I Go." Photo Credit: Mark Levine/ABC.
Aubrey Peeples in the Nashville episode “How Far Down Can I Go.” Photo Credit: Mark Levine/ABC.

Layla is blackmailing both Jeff Fordham and Will, what do you think is going through her mind?

Well, you know Layla’s whole goal was to make a career out of herself, to make a music career for herself. Basically, everything that has happened to her last season and this coming season, at least the first [couple] episodes that aired, have gotten in her way. She’s basically reached the end of her rope, she found out this information and there is really nothing left for her in the world, she doesn’t have very many friends, she out doesn’t have anything with her career and now her husband she doesn’t have him either. Will was sort of her last standing point last season, he was sort of the only one by her side and now she finds that he really isn’t, so she has nothing to lose. She is all in for what she came here [Nashville] to do in the first place now.

Layla’s “I hate you” to Will was very cold, do you think she really hates him?

I think that she hates him because she loves him. She fell in love with him, she married him and he completely betrayed her, so I think that she hates him but she also loves him. It’s hard to hate anyone without loving them, so maybe it is a little bit of that.

Will and Layla seem headed in a downward spiral, what does the future hold for Layla?

Well like I said earlier, at least with Layla, she is being faced with new challenges that she never had to face before and so in trying to figure out the best way to deal with that she is going to make mistakes along the way. She might be in a bit of a downward spiral, but she is hoping that within that downward spiral she will find something that will help her to go up again.

Will Layla interact with a lot more of the characters this season, like Deacon and Rayna?

They is a little bit more interaction so far, we are on the eight episode and she is starting to branch out to some other people.

What kind of music will we hear Layla sing this season?

Chris [Carmack] and I we just played a duet in the third episode. We had sort of a more modern country duet. Really I think people will be really surprised with a lot of the music that happens for Layla a little bit later in the season, I want to say maybe the sixth or seventh episode. Layla will be going through a transition within herself this season and that is going to reflect in her music, it might go to a darker place because she is dealing with darker emotions, it is going to be interesting. I really like what they have done with Layla’s music and I think it reflects my art a little bit more. I am traditionally a blues singer, but I sang a song for some people at the beginning of the season – a song that I had written [and] – I was just jamming with some people from the show and one of the songs that Layla has coming up is kind of modeled it after one of the songs I had written. So, it is going to a darker place.

Aubrey Peeples in the Nashville episode "How Far Down Can I Go." Photo Credit: Mark Levine/ABC.
Aubrey Peeples in the Nashville episode “How Far Down Can I Go.” Photo Credit: Mark Levine/ABC.

What is it like for you as an actor to play a character that is going through this very dark transition and transition within herself?

I love it, because as an actor those are the kind of things I look forward to doing, that is the material that I want to do most, because that makes her the most human and it really rounds out her character and really brings a lot to her, Anytime a character is facing a challenge you see a lot of different sides of them and a lot of different aspects of their character are reveal, and it is always wonderful because then you become more of a person through your character.

Do you find it better for you as an actor that you get to be able express your character’s feelings and emotions through music on the show or is it harder?

I think it goes hand-in-hand, [music] is a huge part of what we do on the show and I don’t think we could do it just one way or another – just do music or just do script – all of the characters are musicians and we are really musicians in real life as well. I think because we are all musicians we all appreciate the fact that music should express emotion and that is something we are all very passionate about, I think is goes hand-in-hand.

There is always so much drama with all the characters, so when you get the script for the next episode and you see what is happening for you, do you also look to see what is happening with all the other characters?

Of course I read the entire script when I get them and I always say – for at least me reading the scripts – I feel like it is kind of like the audience watching the episode, because I am always looking forward to see who is sleeping with who, who is cheating on who and all the drama of it; they do a really good job with really enthralling people with that. Of course just acting wise I am always super over-preparing (laughs) for my stuff.

How do you think living and shooting in Nashville affects the show?

I think it is integral to it. We are so thankful to still be here and have the opportunity to still shoot this show here. It would be so different if we shot it anywhere else and it is really important to use that we are here. The city is really a character in and of itself; we are doing a show about this city and about the music that comes through here and the careers that come through here, so I think it is really important and we all feel very fortunate to be here.

Poster for Jem and the Holograms. Photo Credit: Blumhouse Productions.
Poster for Jem and the Holograms. Photo Credit: Blumhouse Productions.

I wanted to ask a few questions about Jem and the Holograms, you were cast as the lead in the film, how did you land that role?

I landed that just through rounds of auditioning. I basically went in the first time and ended up going back probably like five more and reading with different girls and what not after we I was the first choice for the role. It was an amazing process; I felt that throughout the audition process I kind of got to know the character and the story. The script changed once we started shooting, the audition scenes were not the same as when we were shooting for confidentiality, but through the audition process I really go to know the director Jon Chu, so amazing, we really worked on what they were looking for and what not. It was a very nurturing audition process, it was super fun. It’s Jem and the Holograms how could it not be.

The film is about a band, do you find that after singing on Nashville you are being cast in musical roles?

I mean I have always gone out for musical roles, because singing is a big part of my life and I have been classically trained for 11 years, so I go in for a lot of those roles and I love them. I am sure that my role in Nashville made everyone feel more at ease with me being able to conquer the material for Jem, but I just feel very fortunate to be able to do both.

What has been the experience filming Jem and the Holograms been like?

It was amazing, it was wonderful. It was crazy because everybody on the project was just so in love with it, it was really a passion project. Getting to do something so iconic was especially amazing, because we really got to immerse ourselves in the crazy Jem paraphernalia and style that went along with it. It was wonderful; I made some of my closest friends through it. Stefanie Scott who plays my sister in it, I have known her for a very long time we played sisters probably about eight years ago, but we became so close with this movie along with the other girls, we kind of have a little family going it is wonderful.

When the Jem and the Holograms hit theaters what should audiences expect?

I think if you are a Jem and the Holograms fan you should expect exactly what Jem and the Holograms really entails, which is a lot of music, female rock stars at their best, maybe a robot (laughs), a lot of really cool fashion and makeup and a very heart-warming story. If you don’t know what Jem and the Holograms is, if you have never seen it, I think that you can expect just a really great modern take on a traditional story and a lot of music and a lot of fun. I think anyone, whether you are a fan of it or not, will be able to appreciate the iconic style of it and have a really good time.

Did you do a lot of studying up on the original series?

Oh my gosh, of course!

Did you find it was easier to play an iconic character that was already created or was it tougher to put your own spin on it?

I don’t know, like I said it is so iconic so you want to get it right, but it is different because we are doing a bit of a modern take – it doesn’t take place in the 80s, it is a modern spin on Jem – so I think both we had to bring new things to it and of course take a lot from the old. I don’t know if it is harder or not, I think it depends on who you are playing, but I just had a blast with it. Every role is a challenge and just want to do it right and hopefully people will like it.

Watch Aubrey Peeples and Chris Carmack Sing “If Your Heart Can Handle It” From Nashville:


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