Even if you’ve never watched “Friday Night Lights,” chances are you’ve heard the most famous line from the hit TV show: “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”
The show, based on the 1990 book by Buzz Bissinger and the 2004 movie of the same name, is highly regarded by fans, even if the ratings at the time didn’t always reflect it. From 2006 -2011, the series followed a fictional high school football team in Dillon, Texas.
Here are surprising things you probably didn’t know about “Friday Night Lights.”
Taylor Kitsch drank beer during his audition tape for Tim Riggins.
During a “Friday Night Lights” reunion at the ATX Television Festival, Scott Porter (who played Jason Street) said Kitsch downed one tall-boy after opening it with one hand, then opened another one.
When he finished, he said, “This is Taylor Kitsch, reading for Riggins.” Porter added, “And then he begins the scene by the pool where he says, ‘Texas forever’ for the first time.”
Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton drove from Los Angeles to Austin together before filming to get to know each other.
Once Chandler and Britton were hired to play husband and wife, they decided a long road trip together would help their on-screen chemistry.
The idea terrified creator Peter Berg, who told Grantland, “Connie and Kylie developed a very flirtatious, precocious relationship right off the bat. And Kyle, of course, is married.” He added, “I was convinced they would be having some torrid affair by the time they reached Sante Fe and Kyle’s marriage would be over by the time they got to Austin.”
Britton almost didn’t take the role of Tami Taylor because she didn’t want to just be Coach Taylor’s wife.
Britton played the coach’s wife in the movie version of “Friday Night Lights,” and when Berg offered her the role in the show, she said no.
Berg told Grantland, she said, “Are you f—ing kidding me? You think I’m going to spend 10 years sitting on a hardwood bleacher getting splinters in my a– and cheering on Kyle Chandler? You’re out of your mind.”
Berg had to promise Britton they would give Tami a job, “dimension,” and a “real voice.” They had to promise to make her role significant in order to get her on board.
Jason Street’s story was inspired by a real person.
Scott Porter played the character Jason Street, who is based on David Edwards, an Austin-born high school football player who was paralysed from the neck down after an injury in 2003. He died three days before his 21st birthday in 2008 from complications related to pneumonia.
Porter never got to meet Edwards in person, but he did meet his father. Porter later told Vanity Fair, “David was just a light. It was heartbreaking when we lost him.”
Minka Kelly originally auditioned for the role of Tyra Collette.
Although Kelly ended up playing Lyla Garrity, she originally read for the part of Tyra Collette. She didn’t get the role because producers thought she was better as a sweet girl.
In one cast interview, Berg also said that Kelly was told to read her lines as if she “was on heroin.” After she did that, he said, “No, no, that’s coke.”
This was the second time NBC tried to make a “Friday Night Lights”-inspired series.
Before “Friday Night Lights,” there was, “Against the Grain.” It was a 1993 NBC show inspired by the book.
According to two former heads of the network, it aired on Friday nights, and QB1 was played by a very young Ben Affleck. It lasted less than one season.
Scenes were filmed without rehearsals.
If you watch “FNL,” you’ll notice that every scene feels very natural. There’s a reason for that: actors and directors were given a ton of freedom to change their lines, alter scenes, and improvise their movements.
Co-executive producer Jeffrey Reiner told The Chicago Tribune once that there are no rehearsals or marks, and minimal lighting.
You can sense that in the documentary-style way of filming. Director of photography David Boyd added, “It’s all centered around the performance. All this is totally designed from the very beginning to get the best possible, most real performance out of an actor.”
Michael B. Jordan did his own stunts as a football player.
Some of the actors on the show played football players but weren’t athletes in real life. Jordan, who played Vince Howard, grew up as an athlete and did his own stunts in the show.
As an athlete himself, he never got the chance to play in a big arena, and he told The Hollywood Reporter that playing Vince made up for that.
Jordan said, “The feeling that I had commanding those guys on the offence and being the quarterback and shooting everything myself and how everyone responded to me … to be Vince in that moment was something that I’ll never forget.”
Chandler said he showed up hungover to his first meeting with the show’s creator.
When Chandler first met with the show creator, Peter Berg, about the part of Coach Taylor, he told The Hollywood Reporter that he was “extremely hungover.”
He said, “I had smoked, like 20 cigars – it was either my birthday or someone else’s birthday, but it was a big bash – and I hadn’t shaved or probably showered in a few days. So I show up on my motorcycle, probably late, and I just remember him looking at me and going: ‘That. That’s exactly what I f—ing want right there, just do that.'”
Taylor Kitsch actually came up with Jason Street’s nickname, “Six.”
In the show, Tim Riggins regularly called Street “Six.” That was never supposed to happen.
Porter told Entertainment Weekly, “Street’s nickname ‘Six’ wasn’t on the page. That was Kitsch. When he walked into the hospital room in season one and finally comes to see me for the first time? Instead of saying what was on the page he said ‘Six’ and it stuck.”
Zach Gilford said he couldn’t stop laughing in every take with Jesse Plemons.
Gilford, who played Matt Saracen, said in one cast interview that his face had to be almost entirely cut out of all the scenes he had with Plemons, who played Landry Clarke.
The reason? He said Plemons was so funny he couldn’t stop laughing in each take.
Chandler didn’t want to be involved in sex scenes.
Although Coach Taylor and Tami were clearly very in love, Chandler wasn’t a big fan of the lovey-dovey scenes.
In one interview, Britton said Chandler would get very embarrassed whenever they had to kiss. She said season two was supposed to open with a Tami and Coach sex scene, but Chandler felt so uncomfortable about filming it that the producers said they couldn’t use the footage and cut it.
After that, no sex scenes were filmed.
Almost every scene was shot in a real location.
Although “FNL” was not actually shot in Dillon, Texas (which is a real town), every scene was shot in a real place rather than a set.
Scenes were shot in houses, businesses, and stores around Austin. The school scenes were shot at a high school in Austin as well.
You can also visit some places seen in the show, like the Alamo Freeze, Riggins Rigs, and the Landing Strip, though they all have different names in real life.
Mindy’s pregnancy was inspired by Chandler, who experienced something similar.
When Mindy got pregnant, she had a breakdown in the garage to Billy. Stacey Oristano, the actress who plays Mindy, told BuzzFeed that it was written by Chandler based on his own similar interaction with his wife.
Adrianne Palicki, who played Tyra, added “He’s sensitive in real life. Weird, I know.”
Chandler said his favourite scene is one featuring Matt and Julie.
At an ATX panel, Chandler said that his favourite scene in the entire show was when he kicked Matt Saracen out of the house after finding him sharing a blanket with his daughter Julie, played by Aimee Teegarden.
After he kicked Matt out, Tami said, “You’re an idiot.” Chandler said, “This was improv, and it was perfect.”
Some of the football game footage was real.
There is a lot of football footage in “FNL,” and some of it is actually real. Many of the scenes were filmed on the Pflugerville High School football field.
According to The Houston Press, the show used the Pflugerville uniforms, including the cheerleader uniforms. They also taped Pflugerville’s games, “splicing in the real footage with shots of the actors doing choreographed plays.”
The Riggins house really was apparently really gross in real life.
In the show, the house the Riggins brothers share is pretty gross. As it turns out, it was that way in real life too.
In one interview with Grantland, Kitsch described it, saying, “It reeked. There was mould. The pool was filled with sludge. One of us got sick and we had a doctor come to set. He was like, ‘You guys shouldn’t be shooting in this house.'”
Adrianne Palicki, who played Tyra Colette, added, “I would walk out of that place with bites after sitting on the couch.”
During the Riggins and Street goodbye scene, both actors cried the whole time.
It took Kitsch and Porter more than 25 minutes to shoot the end of their goodbye scene in New York because they were both crying the entire time.
During one interview, Porter said they were “bawling,” adding, “Taylor, I couldn’t believe it, was just like, ‘I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, hold on…’ And then it got me going.”
Many said they regret filming the scene from season two where Landry murders Tyra’s attacker.
In its early seasons, “FNL” wasn’t getting great ratings. The numbers were low, and the producers and writers said they “felt some pressure from the network” to make them higher.
Executive producer and writer David Hudgins told Grantland, “So we thought, let’s do something big, something shocking and titillating and provocative.” Another writer added that they felt pressure from the network.
Berg regrets the scene, calling it a “disaster.” Co-executive producer and writer John Zinman said, “In retrospect, I think we would all say, ‘That was a bad call.'”
After the wrap party, the entire cast and crew played touch football.
For the wrap party when the series ended, everyone went to a “honky-tonk” place in Austin called Midnight Rodeo.
They played a touch football game with cast and crew at two in the morning, wearing some of the old uniforms.
Plemons told Grantland, “It was perfect. You didn’t think about it at the time, but it was just so perfect.”
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