Cool. Confident. Connie.

Nashville star Connie Britton can teach us all a thing or two about going after what you want and getting (almost) exactly what you need.
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Sometimes good things do come to those who wait. Just ask Connie Britton. She pounded the Hollywood pavement for more than a decade before landing her greatest, gutsiest roles: First came Tami Taylor, the wise coach's wife on Friday Night Lights, which ended in 2011. Now she's starring as Rayna Jaymes, the fearless country singer on the hit ABC show Nashville. "That story of the fortysomething's over-the-hill struggle has been told so many times," says Britton, 46. "But that's not the story I'm interested in telling. I've had the most opportunities in my 40s. And I'm surrounded by women who haven't become irrelevant because of their age -- they're too busy conquering it all."

Britton's personal life has never been happier, either. In 2011 the single actress became a mom when she adopted a baby boy, Yoby, from Ethiopia. And last year she moved her family from L.A. to Nashville, where the drama is filmed. "Connie brings her son to the set," says Nashville creator Callie Khouri. "We let him call 'Action!' and Connie laughs. You can see what she was like as a kid, too."

On one of her rare days off, Britton talked to LHJ about work and motherhood, and how she gained the confidence to go after what she wants.

DOES TAKING ON CHALLENGES GET EASIER WITH AGE -- OR HARDER?

I think the 40s are a time when you can sit back into who you are and what you've learned. I'm able to challenge myself more because I have a stronger sense of who I am and what I can do. There's a lot of rejection in this business. There's a lot of focus on the way you look. For me it was never worth the sacrifice of my own sanity to try and be the person I thought other people wanted me to be. Instead I tried to figure out early on what it is I have to offer. If somebody wanted that, then I reaped the rewards. If they didn't, then I moved on.

ARE YOU NERVOUS WHEN YOU SING ON NASHVILLE? YOU HADN'T SUNG IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE SINCE YOU DID THEATER IN YOUR 20S.

I'm a believer in pushing yourself outside your comfort zone -- that's what keeps us feeling alive. But I also believe that when you're facing a fear, it's helpful to create a safety net. For me that's working with people who support me. I studied with a vocal coach and I spent a lot of time with the show's former executive music producer, T Bone Burnett, talking about the character. It's scary playing a woman who's been performing for 20 years. But I wanted that challenge.

WHAT'S YOUR LIFE BEEN LIKE SINCE YOU MOVED TO NASHVILLE? DO YOU HANG OUT WITH COUNTRY MUSIC ROYALTY?

I've become friends with Brad Paisley and his wife, Kimberly. My son plays with their kids. And a friend told me that Lucinda Williams gave me a shout-out at one of her concerts recently. She was performing her song "Bitter Memory," which I sang on our show. I gotta meet her one day.

YOU GREW UP IN VIRGINIA. WERE YOU A RISK TAKER BACK THEN?

I did go to college far from home [Dartmouth, in New Hampshire] in a place where I didn't know anyone. And I decided to major in Chinese and study in China the summer after my freshman year. When I look back on it, I guess I've always wanted to live outside the box.

YOU ADOPTED YOBY WHEN HE WAS 9 MONTHS OLD. HAD YOUR ORIGINAL LIFE PLAN BEEN TO GET MARRIED, START A FAMILY -- IN THAT ORDER?

I didn't think I'd have a baby on my own. But there's a lot that comes out of having a plan and then seeing that's there's another way you can go. If you hold hard and fast to the plan regardless of where you're at, then you're going against the flow of your life. My parents died within three years of each other and that's when I thought, What am I waiting for?

WHY DID YOU ADOPT FROM ETHIOPIA?

I've traveled to Africa a lot. I was working on a documentary about Ethiopian orphans for years. And I've worked on behalf of the African Children's Choir, which promotes education. These kids have nothing, but they get such joy from singing. So I saw a real need there.

HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF?

Every morning I try to drink a green smoothie. It has kale, ginger, apple, and lemon. Yoby is like, "I want a sip," and I'm like, "No, this is mommy's gross drink!" I've found that juices and raw foods impact my body in a positive way. And I used to do Pilates, but now that I have Yoby I barely have time for exercise.

WHEN IT COMES TO MEN, DO YOU FIND THAT THEY LIKE THE CHALLENGE OF DATING A SMART WOMAN WHO KNOWS WHAT SHE WANTS?

No. Not at all! Next question! [Laughs.] I actually feel sorry for whatever man tries to come into my life because I have such incredible friendships. I've created a family of friends. It's a high bar for any man to have to live up to.

LOOKING BACK ON THE PAST YEAR, IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?

I thought it would be easy to move to Nashville, a town where I didn't know a soul, start filming a show that shoots long hours, with a son I'd only adopted four months earlier. That was a rookie mom mistake. But when I made that decision I hadn't been a mother for long. I was still in the mode of making decisions for myself. But it's made me wonder -- maybe there is no such thing as a mistake. It's been a challenging year, but there've been tremendous rewards: My son is amazing, and I've had experiences as an actor and as a woman I've never had before. I could be hard on myself about the choice. Instead, I approach it with a little bit of grace -- and embrace it.

 

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