“Friday Night Lights” was a show full of delightful surprises, not the least of which was its continued existence. Almost every year of the show’s five seasons, first on NBC and then in a deal between the network and DirecTV, the question arose whether the acclaimed but low-rated drama would return. But a rabid fan following and good critical reviews kept it alive for five full seasons.
“We had no reason to ever believe that we would come back, and yet we always believed we would,” says Connie Britton, who played Tami Taylor, wife to high school football coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler). She originated the role in the 2004 feature film “Friday Night Lights” before joining the TV cast at the urging of Peter Berg, the movie’s co-writer and director. (Berg created the television show, which was then helmed by Jason Katims.)
Emmy nods came for Britton and Chandler last year for their work on Season 4, just after they had finished shooting the fifth and final season. They were nominated again this year, along with Katims and the show itself. “There’s a certain level of poetry to this whole experience,” Britton notes of all the post-cancellation nominations. “Nothing happened on this show in the predictable television ways.”
Critics and fans have been calling Tami and Coach the best couple on TV since the show started. Did you expect that reaction?
Listen, when I was kicking and screaming with Pete Berg at the beginning of this thing, saying this is a terrible idea for me to play this part, I never could have imagined that this would be a football show that was actually about a marriage. That was a shocker.
Why didn’t you want to take up the role again?
I thought it was going to be the most thankless part. If you watch the movie, there’s not a lot there [for the wife]. I had three scenes in the pilot. So to have the first season end where Tami becomes pregnant, with this beautiful moment between Tami and the Coach, involving so many complex marital and life issues, that was the most surprising thing of all.
Were there any other big revelations that first season?
That Kyle and I had such an immediate liking for each other, and chemistry with each other, was a total surprise to everyone.
You two conveyed so much, often without saying a word to each other.
That was one of our favorite parts. We’d get the scripts, and look at our scenes and say OK, how can we express all this in the most simple, honest way to each other? So we would reduce a lot of long speeches to looks.
You took away your own lines?
I know, how often does that happen, where an actor is like, ‘Actually I’d like to have fewer lines.’
I think it’s just you guys and Clint Eastwood.
It’s all about economical communication.