When we first met Gunnar Scott on the hit drama Nashville, he was a struggling young songwriter hoping to get cuts. Fast forward five years later and he’s toured America in a successful country music duo and performed alongside legends like Elton John.

“He’s grown in so many ways, it’s incredible,” Palladio says of his character's evolution. “I think he’s an ambitious guy, I think he’s got his heart in the right place. He’s always been a bit of a shoulder to lean on for a few people.” One of those people is his on-again-off-again love interest and one-half of the Exes, Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen).

Sparks flew between the two artists in Season 1 when Gunnar helped Scarlett become a songwriter in Nashville, leading to a complicated romance throughout the series. “I would love to see what Gunnar’s capable of and see if he can exist outside of a duo,” Palladio admits on the set of the nighttime drama. “I still don’t think we’ve fully explored him or where he can go because he’s always acted as part of a team really, part of a duo. We’ll see where we end up this year.”

Stars of Nashville Hit New York: Charles Esten, Clare Bowen + More Perform [Exclusive Pictures]

Gunnar is also a major support system for Will Lexington (Chris Carmack), acting as a sounding board for the singer who battles with the decision to reveal he's gay. “I really enjoy those kinds of friendships and bonds that he’s made with some of the characters along the way,” Palladio says regarding his protection of Will's secret. “I like the fact that he has a warm heart. He can be a confidant to people.”

While fans can look forward to a rejuvenated Gunnar in season 5, the actor behind the role also reveals that he’s enjoyed working with the new crew members who came on board for the current season, with Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick (My So Called Life, thirtySomething) acting as showrunners. “I was glad that we had a new team. You do any job for five years and you need a bit of a shakeup,” Palladio admits. “So I think to be on a great new network who are really excited to have us and to bring in new creative teams in musically and script-wise, I think was a really good call.”

The new story lines, music and all the anticipated drama make their return to Nashville on Thursday (Jan. 5) at 9PM EST on CMT.

Which Nashville Stars Could Become Country Stars?

More From Taste of Country