Charles Esten will reprise his role as Deacon Claybourne on the TV show Nashville when it returns for its fifth season on Jan. 5. After four seasons on ABC, the drama was canceled, then picked up by CMT -- a move for which Esten largely credits Nashville's fans.

"Those fans of ours, they’re called Nashies; they’re not just bystanders to this event," Esten tells The Boot. "They were integral to the pickup of Nashville; CMT itself has said it. When ABC did not pick us up, I was very grateful -- still am -- for the four years we had there. But what I was really grateful for was that outcry of those fans.

"Even if nothing had come of it," Esten adds, "that would have been a nice way to go out, all of that love coming out of the social media airwaves."

Indeed, Nashville's fans knew what to do, and who to contact, to make sure that their favorite show stayed on the air.

"They’re savvy, too," Esten boasts. "They knew hashtags. They knew to get things signed, petitions signed. So, by now, they’re part of this comeback, and we’re very grateful."

When CMT picked up Nashville, the returning cast -- which includes Connie Britton as Rayna James, Chris Carmack as Will Lexington and Clare Bowen as Scarlett O'Connor, among others -- realized that the show's best days are still ahead of them.

"What’s great, to me, is, it’s not a deal where you’re just adding to the end of a season," Esten explains. "We’re all here, and it’s not that on any level ... Being on CMT, the new writing, I think we’re ready to do some special stuff. And that’s really exciting, in the fifth year of anything, to feel brand-new again. It’s perfect for us."

While Esten won't reveal too much about Nashville's upcoming season, he does promise that viewers will be able to pick up right where they left off.

"All the characters are the characters you know," he shares. "No one’s going to go, ‘Oh, he’s really different.’ Because that’s what drew these writers, were these characters."

On a major network, "storylines come fast and furiously ... there’s not as much time for subtext," Esten notes; but now that Nashville is on a cable network, fans will get to know their favorite characters in even deeper ways.

"Some of my favorite Deacon and Rayna moments are when we’re not saying anything," Esten admits. "It’s just those moments where you’re looking at each other. Those moments, unfortunately ... you [sometimes] lose on the cutting room floor. And besides the music, which also you don’t want to lose on the cutting room floor, it’s those moments that I think are really what make Nashville special."

Nashville's two-hour premiere episode airs in its entirety on Thursday (Dec. 5).

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