CMT just announced a groundbreaking casting development for Nashville on Tuesday. Transgender actress Jen Richards is set to join the drama in a recurring role for its fifth season. She will play Allyson Del Lago, described by the network as "a tough but understanding physical therapist who helps a series regular through one of their most difficult challenges." While this is an exciting plot development for the show, the significance of this news is, of course, that Richards is the first transgender character and openly trans actor to appear on the network.
Richards is not only an actresses, but an Emmy-nominated writer, producer, and trans advocate. You might recognize her from Caitlyn Jenner's E! docu-series I Am Cait. Her addition to the Nashville cast, which includes Hayden Panettiere and Connie Britton, is a pleasant surprise coming from a network rooted in country music entertainment. More than four million people tuned into the season 4 finale of the show when it was still on ABC. (ABC cancelled the show in May before CMT revived it weeks later.) While it's hard to know how the show's viewership will shift in its fifth season, one thing that's certain is that this move is a step in the right direction towards trans representation on mainstream television.