According to Charles Esten, the actor behind the troubled yet good-hearted Deacon Claybourne on CMT’s Nashville, his character has grown up a lot since we saw him last.

Season 4 of the nighttime soap opera saw him overcome a battle with cancer, grieving over the loss of his estranged sister, getting into a brawl with a friend that landed him in jail and much more drama. That’s not to mention the struggles he’s faced with alcoholism and his violent past since day one of the show.

But the troubled character got a happy ending at the end of Season 4 as he finally married the love of his life, Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton), and reunited with his daughter Maddie (Lennon Stella), who had filed for emancipation from her parents.

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"A lot of it has to do with Deacon's arc where he needed to learn the control,” Esten explains during an on-set interview with Taste of Country. “He's got all the heart in the world and he wants to protect his family, but he didn't really quite know how to do that in a way that was appropriate. By the end of the season, he learned that."

Esten tells Taste of Country that Season 5 begins with Deacon working to be the best husband and father that he can to Rayna and their daughters, Maddie and Daphne. "One of my favorite parts about shooting this season is all the time that we're just together in scenes," he says, citing a scene where everyone has breakfast together or he and Rayna are talking before bed, calling said moments more “meaningful.”

"The gentleness of them, that you're just there together, and those little silences and looks that speak volumes, and that we get to do now because we're around each other so much."

Though battling with demons from his past, Esten feels the dynamic elements of the character and his genuine desire to fight for his loved ones is what makes it such a special role. "What I've always enjoyed about the role of Deacon is how multifaceted it is,” Esten says. “Like every human being, he's many things. There are scenes where I get to be kind and generous and loving and then there's another scene where I'm fighting my sponsor in my living room and choking him out against the wall. There's a huge spectrum in between those things and I love getting to interact with the other characters.”

Nashville debuts on Thursday (Jan. 5) at 9PM EST on its new home on CMT.

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