Austin Dillon on ‘Nashville’ Debut: ‘The Acting Life Is Tough’
Austin Dillon is making his first foray into acting, but he probably didn't have to attend any method acting classes to prepare for the role -- the NASCAR champion is playing himself on the hit television show 'Nashville.'
The plot of the episode deals with a race car that's being sponsored by a country music label, and the show approached NASCAR, who suggested Dillon for the role.
"I was definitely willing to go and do it," he tells the Boot. "It's an awesome show, and my family is pretty into it -- especially my mom and my brother's fiancee. So I jumped at the opportunity, and went down and took a day to do the filming, and it was awesome."
Dillon's previous acting experience was limited to a few commercials and promotional spots. "I've had to hit some lines, but that definitely was probably the biggest part I've ever had to do," he shares. "It was pretty cool. I just stepped right in, and the director, she was very helpful. I was a little nervous at first; she asked, 'Do you know your lines?' And I said, 'Yeah, I think so,' and she said, 'You'd better.'"
He adds, "Once I got in there she warmed up, and she helped me out, tried to loosen me up. Hopefully I did a good job . . . things go so fast in that environment, there's no messing up. When it's your turn to go, you just go with it."
Dillon shot his scene with series star Connie Britton, who plays country queen Rayna Jaymes. The action centers around her and her daughters on the show, though Dillon was hoping to meet another of the stars.
"I'm a fan of Hayden Panettiere, I'm not gonna lie," he says. "I didn't get to meet her, but it was still pretty awesome."
It's not exactly a stretch for a show about Nashville to depict an overlap with NASCAR; in fact, it's quite common for country record labels to sponsor NASCAR, and Dillon was already very familiar with the Nashville country music scene.
"They just enjoy the same country lifestyle, I think," he reflects. "I'm actually headed hunting right now. We're big hunters, we're fishermen, any time we can get out in the outdoors . . . of course, we love horsepower, and country music goes right along with it."
Dillon is close friends with Curb recording artist Tim Dugger, whom he actually helped score his deal.
"I drove a race for Curb Records, because Mike Curb is a huge race fan," he relates. "He sponsors some different cars in NASCAR, and always had a presence in NASCAR. So when I drove his race, it was a very special anniversary car; we ran a Ronald Reagan car, sponsored by Curb Records, and I introduced him to Tim, and then he ended up signing Tim under his label. So it was pretty cool, because Tim was just one of my buddies, and he's a good writer with a lot of talent. And Mike saw it, too, so he signed him."
In the course of his NASCAR career, Dillon has also become friends with other artists, including Justin Moore and Dustin Lynch.
"All of those guys are race fans, and we're country music fans, so in the off season, when we get a chance to go see them and we're in the same area, we'll stop in. 'Cause we're always on the road traveling," he says.
"It's a similar lifestyle, always out on the road, traveling from place to place -- you kind of get that same mentality, and when somebody comes around to your town, you want to go see them, because you're kind of doing the same thing they are."
Though Dillon's now gotten a taste of Hollywood, that doesn't mean he's looking to make any career changes. "I'm pretty happy that I can drive a race car," he says with a laugh. "The acting life is pretty tough. Their lives are pretty much consumed, once they're inside and acting. They're there 24/7. I was talking to some of the girls on the show, and it was pretty funny to hear what they knew about the outside world, compared to what I knew. It was just a different aspect."
He adds, "It seemed like they were very consumed with the show, and that was cool -- they're very into what they're doing. But it was tough; to remember all those lines, that's a job in itself, and I gained a lot of respect for the actors out there in the world."
Dillon's 'Nashville' appearance airs on Wednesday (Jan. 29) at 10PM ET on ABC.