The bright stars of ‘Friday Night Lights’
It’s the show that everybody hears is great. But this time, someone on the Emmy nominating committee heard. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, the leads of the DirecTV/NBC drama “Friday Night Lights,” have been delighting their small but fervent audience since the series premiered in 2006. The show takes place in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, where football is as sacred as church and probably better attended. As Coach Eric Taylor, Chandler is only as popular as his last game; everyone in town feels the right to tell him how to do his job. Perhaps the only exception is his loving wife, Tami (Britton), an equal partner in what is routinely hailed by critics as the best marriage on television.
When the actors spoke to The Envelope about their work together, the show had finished up its fifth and final season, shooting in and around Austin, Texas. Each noted that it was probably for the best that they spoke separately — he from Texas and she from Los Angeles after a three-day road trip home — because together they would have been constantly interrupting and speaking over each other.
Congratulations for your twin Emmy nominations. How did it feel to be recognized after all this time?
Chandler: It didn’t feel bad. These things happen very early in the morning. I’m directing the 12th episode. I’ve had little or no sleep. In come three dogs, two kids and my wife jumping up and down on the bed yelling, “You got a nomination!” The first thing I said was, “What … are you doing? I’m trying to sleep.” Then when I realized what was going on, the second thing I said was, “Did Connie get one?” Once I found out that she did, that made the whole day spectacular.
Britton: It really feels like an acknowledgment of the show. Since the day of the nomination, I have just been having this overwhelming feeling of how much I share this sense of accomplishment with everybody. It is such a collaboration.
The Taylors’ marriage is so strong, there’s never a concern that they’re not going to make it. Why do you think this relationship resonates so well with fans?
Britton: I think there’s this misconception, particularly in TV writing, that in order to have something really juicy, you’re going to have to write all kinds of marital problems and deception and betrayal and all that. What we found is that, actually, if the foundation is solid, there is so much freedom. You can go off the rails and have to wake up with each other in the morning. That’s much more interesting and much more realistic.
Chandler: During the five years of the show, whenever they would ask Connie and I to fight in a scene, we’d try to be nice to each other, and whenever they’d ask us to be sweet, we’d find a reason to fight. So it was a fun battle with the writers, and I think they enjoyed it as well.... The more we respect each other, the more we can disrespect each other. Then you have to be contrite and come back and apologize. That’s what’s so great about the relationship, all the obstacles that we have to climb over to get back in that bed instead of sleeping on the couch at the end of the night.
To what do you attribute your great chemistry together?
Britton: We hit it off right off the bat. We really got each other and had similar senses of humor, similar sensibilities, similar senses of values, the way we looked at the characters. Over time, we really have become great friends to each other, and then also great acting partners. We really could trust each other.
Chandler: I know that I can fall and she’ll grab me before I hit the ground, and she knows the same thing as far as I’m concerned. It’s nice to know that, even down to the last centimeter before you hit your head on that concrete, you’re going to stop. You can take it to that limit. She’s a wonderful actress, and very creative and giving. There’s not a stingy bone in that girl’s body. Working with her was just fantastic. I’m jealous of the guy who gets her next.
You’ve just wrapped the show’s finale. How do you feel?
Chandler: Pretty miserable. I don’t know many actors who like wrap parties. It’s hard to say goodbye. Unless it’s a crappy experience, and then wrap parties are great, you can get drunk and tell everyone what you think of them, then go home and pretend you forgot everything you did the night before. In this case it was pretty bitter. The happier the experience, the sadder it is to say goodbye. This is one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.
Britton: It hasn’t sunk in yet. I think the Emmy nomination has certainly helped lessen a bit of the pain, because it gives us something to hold on to a little bit. But it’s hard to leave something so great behind.