Any fan of Nashville knows the rough road Will Lexington has traveled. But no one knows it more than the actor behind the role, Chris Carmack.

"He's grown tremendously over the course of the show,” Carmack says about his character. “He came into the Nashville scene as a guy who was very passionate, had a dream to be a country singer, but he had not spent very much time becoming who he needed to become as a person."

Speaking candidly with Taste of Country on the set of the country music show, Carmack explains that Lexington initially painted himself as a “lady-slaying, party cowboy” who desperately wanted to fit into the man’s man image he thought would get him famous. Lexington finally reveals that he’s gay in the Season 3 finale, marking a huge step for the character that’s led to an evolution throughout the series and allowed him to become his true self.

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"He's been out and open and he's been on a voyage of self-discovery and he has grown into his skin to the point where it's almost flip-flopped now,” Carmack explains. “Now he goes back and performs the old Will Lexington shtick and he's just not in it anymore, because he is no longer that version of himself. Now he doesn't have a shtick -- now he has a heart, he has a pulse and he has a soul. Those things are harder to sell."

While playing such a dynamic character has been a rewarding experience in itself, Carmack says it’s the fan outreach that’s even more gratifying. He reveals that fans have reached out to him on social media to say how much they appreciate the role, even admitting that they’ve come out to their families in response to the character.

“I actually get emotional thinking about that, just the fact that the story we're telling can affect somebody's life in that way and hopefully in only good ways," he admits, adding that a man once came up to him to say that his daughter came out to him and said the show’s storyline meant so much to her and her community. “I take the role very seriously and I take the responsibility of the role very seriously, because while it's nighttime drama entertainment, it can affect people in a very potent way."

Carmack makes his return to Nashville as Will Lexington in the Season 5 premiere, airing Thursday (Jan. 5) on CMT at 9PM EST.

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