On a sunny but chilly January Friday on the "Hart of Dixie" set for the Rammer Jammer bar on the back lot of Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif., George Tucker (Scott Porter) has enlisted pals Wade Kinsella (Wilson Bethel) and Dr. Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson) to help him sort out a question.
While bartender Wade and aspiring Manhattan surgeon -- and current Southern small-town family practitioner -- Zoe have had an on-and-off flirtation on The CW's Monday comedy-drama, lawyer George is engaged to be married to his longtime love, local belle Lemon Breeland (Jaime King), daughter of Brick Breeland (Tim Matheson), Zoe's senior partner in the medical practice she inherited from her father in Bluebell, Ala.
What George doesn't know is that while he was away living for a time in New York, Lemon had a romance with former NFL linebacker Lavon Hayes (Cress Williams), who's now mayor of Bluebell. For better or worse, neither Lavon nor Lemon seems entirely able to put out this particular torch, and that's just fine with a lot of "Dixie" fans.
"You know what?" says Williams during a break inside the bar building, in a room containing several taxidermied deer-head trophies and beer bottles. "Everybody I've met is Team Lavon.
I don't know if it's because they're meeting me. Maybe when they meet Scott, they're Team George. I don't know. Some people are questioning, 'You're such a good guy; you need someone better than Lemon.'
"I don't think we've gotten a chance to see her just drop off the facade."
But according to King, the highly strung Lemon lets her hair down with Lavon -- and vice versa -- a lot more than she does with George.
"I think the audience roots for the underdog, in a way," says King (who threatened to tweet out a picture of the deer heads). "They see Lavon, and they see his earnestness. He loves her, and they see the purity of Lemon when she's with Lavon, and then how she is when she's with George, which is very different.
"With George, she's very uptight, trying to be this perfect thing, trying to be a perfect fiancee, trying to be the perfect Southern belle. I think that people notice when Lemon and Lavon are together, they're both very authentically their true selves, so that is why they root for them.
"Also, because they get a moment of reprieve, seeing Lemon in a different state than they normally do."
On the other hand, according to Williams, Lavon may be throwing a rosier light on his romance with Lemon than it deserves.
"At this point," he says, "he's a bit obsessing over it. A lot of times, when you remove yourself from a situation, you can really idealize the situation and overblow it. You know, they were only together for about six weeks, so that's a honeymoon phase. They never got a chance to really experience the nonhoneymoon phase.
"From what I understand, Lavon hasn't really been in love before. I imagine, being in the NFL, there were a lot of girls, so this is the first time being at home and meeting someone that he really feels comfortable with. I guess it's his first love, and that first love is really intense."
While George obviously wants to hold onto Lemon, Porter takes a more philosophical stance.
"Speaking as Scott," he says, "looking at the situation, it's difficult, because I've been in long-term relationships that end up not working, because, at the end of the day, your love for them is more as a friend. If Lemon was to feel an actual strong connection ... to just take off and abandon everything without any reason, I don't think that would be healthy, but honesty is the best policy.
"If that's what she's feeling, if that's really where her heart is, it's not fair to string somebody like George along, especially when he's fought so hard for them."
Meanwhile, after winding up locking lips briefly shortly after meeting, Wade and Zoe have not quite found their way back to each other. But even though their backgrounds are very different, Bilson thinks there's still a chance.
"Go after what you feel and try," she says. "People are people. Just because someone does something different from you doesn't mean that that you're not equal. So it's nice to see that."
Bethel also sees a chance, saying, "That's shaping up to be the arc of Wade of the season, him becoming a man in some very different ways than he's used to. He's a guy who's very comfortable in his particular routine and has been for a long time.
"And then this X factor arrives on the scene, which is embodied by Zoe Hart, and suddenly he's forced to re-evaluate. The girl from down the road wouldn't inspire such transformation."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun