ABC's decision to cancel Nashville was such a surprise that even the cast members didn't know about it until it had already happened.

The network pulled the plug on Thursday (May 12), setting off intense speculation online as to their motives for canceling the show, which earned a relatively small, but rabid fan base over four seasons. In an interview on Friday (May 13), actor Charles Esten — who played troubled singer-songwriter Deacon Claybourne on the show — revealed the move was just as much of a surprise to him and his castmates.

In fact, Esten tells Storme Warren of SiriusXM's The Highway that he got the news in a text from series creator Callie Khouri at almost the same time it went viral, since “it sort of broke quickly on social media.”

Esten looks back fondly on the run of Nashville, which not only established him in a starring role after years as a working actor, it also allowed him to launch his own music career and tour extensively.

“For me, the biggest feeling, honestly … that keeps running through me … is that feeling of gratitude. I’ve been an actor for a long time. And I had, maybe at my age, given up thinking I would get a role like this or a show like this. In fact, I didn’t even know such a thing existed — it didn’t really until Nashville. I think there was a certain magic in it," Esten reflects.

“I’m very, very grateful that I even got this chance … I’ve never honestly had a second season of anything, so four seasons of the dream job of my life is kind of more than I’d ever asked or imagined," he adds. "Having said that, it’s as bittersweet for me as anybody.”

In fact, Esten plans to remain in Nashville despite the show's cancellation.

“This show has brought me so many blessings that cancelling could never take away,” he says — especially the friendships that he, his wife and children have established. “We’re not going anywhere.”

The May 25 episode of Nashville will now serve as the series finale, but at least fans will get some degree of closure. Esten says the show wrote and filmed alternate ways to wrap up the storylines so they would be "prepared for this contingency."

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