"Friday Night Lights" is one of the most critically-acclaimed shows on network television. Its second season begins tonight at 9 p.m. on NBC, and co-stars Kyle Chandler, who plays Coach Eric Taylor, and Connie Britton, who plays Tami Taylor, stopped by this morning to talk about the season premiere. WATCH VIDEO
After the segment, they sat down with me to talk about the strength of their on-camera marriage, their off-camera relationship and their favorite characters on the show.
Here's our conversation:
Q: One of the strengths of "Friday Night Lights" that everyone points to is your marriage...critics have called it the most realistic portrayal of marriage on television. So what's your relationship like off camera...and how do you reach the point where you can present this realistic portrait of marriage?
Connie Britton: Be careful.
Kyle Chandler: This is one of the first roles I've had of being married and having children since I've been married and had children. So that's 12 years now. So I have a wealth of information to bring into this as a husband and father. One of my responsibilities I have is telling my wife what to do, so with Connie, I tell her what to do and everything works fine.
CB: Yeah, you can believe that for sure. I, on the other hand, am not married and have never had children. So I'm obviously just an exceptional actress!
KC: That was great! Oh my God!
CB: I think we also got really lucky, because we wanted to play this marriage the same way. We both have the same ideas that we wanted a foundation, a partnership, a trust, and then the sky's the limit from there. We both agreed on that and have been very stalwart about that. And we just end up really having a good time together. So it works out.
Q: What kind of things do you talk about off camera?
CB: You know, he complains about being away from his family. I never complain, I just listen.
KC: Connie almost always has her nose in a book. If not, she's always jogging or going to the gym.
CB: That's right. I don't know. What do we talk about? What did we talk about last night at dinner? We talked about the dead fish in front of us in the sushi restaurant. We have really good life conversations.
KC: We end up laughing a lot.
CB: We do have the same kind of sense of humor, which, by the way, I think is a major, major contributor to our marriage that is good. And honestly, that's what a lot of these critics are responding to. He and I, as people, and also as actors...and it translates into our characters...share a similar sense of humor and a similar value for sense of humor. And I think you gotta have that, for sure.
KC: There are certain similarities that we share. Another one is a certain trust that goes along. Connie and I can push each other in a scene, let each other almost hit the ground but never let the other actor hit the ground. We always feel safe. So within those boundaries, we have a good time acting. It's like boxers go in and they enjoy boxing. When we get into our acting, it seems like there's a conflict that we enjoy playing in just about every scene. But there's a basis, a unity of love and trust in the middle, so it allows us to take it anywhere.
CB: That is really true. That's why we enjoy so much working together as actors. We shoot in a very loose way, there's a lot of creative freedom. And we really feel like we can take a lot of risks and go to whatever limits the team will allow. And feeling safe with the other actor is really gratifying.
Q: There are fans out there who are concerned that the show this season will be something different than it was last season. That in the desire to increase viewership, the network will tinker with the show and make it something it's not. Do you have those concerns?
KC: I had a concern. But then Ben Silverman [chairman of NBC Entertainment] came into the first meeting we had in Los Angeles. He and Katherine Pope [executive VP of NBC Entertainment] both agreed that: 1) NBC was completely behind the show; 2) there was nothing wrong with the show; and 3) there was nothing to change.
Hopefully we can stick with what we have, because I think it's a very successful recipe. I don't think we need to hang any bells or whistles on it. If we can stick with what we did last year and start with a new audience on Fridays at 9 o'clock, then we'll hold that audience. I think we'll be able to build on it.
If it does get tinkered with, if anyone tries to put a shine on it that doesn't belong there, it will be the beginning of the end for this show in the sense that it really does work with what's going on. There's a reason why so many critics like it. There's a reason why people come up to me and say, "I love the show." There's a reason not many people say, "I've seen the show and I really don't care for it."
Q: Do you have a favorite character on the show?
KC: Coach Taylor.
CB: Tami Taylor.
Q: Present company excluded.
KC: As a person, actress and character, I have a special affinity for Matt Saracen's grandmother [played by Louanne Stephens].
CB: I was gonna say the same thing!
KC: Well now you can't.
CB: Well, doggone it! I love her. I also actually love...
KC: Smash's mother [played by Liz Mikel].
CB: Smash's mother! That's what I was going to say. Those are both Texas actresses. By the way, we do hire a lot of especially -- recurring characters and the guest cast -- actors that come from Texas. And we shoot in Texas, and I think that contributes so much to what people love about the show. The authenticity and integrity. And the character. Those actresses are a great example of that, but we really do. We have a million of them. All the actors on the show are great.
KC: Brad Leland's character is great. Buddy Garrity. He has to walk a fine line between absurdity and reality. I think he does that well, and he lets a lot of the characters around him to play really subtle comedy. I think it's very believable and fun to have that as the center of a lot of storylines.