Matt Lauria had been wanting to be on “Friday Night Lights” for a while when he got the call that he was cast in the show. He joined the show’s fourth season, and he couldn’t have been happier.
“I watched the first episode of the show ... and I was like, ‘I should have been in this show. I can't believe I wasn't in this show.’ I just felt like it was my mission in life to be on this show,” he said.
Lauria played Luke Cafferty, a football player who had a fake home address so he could play on the Dillon Panthers at West Dillon High. He remembers a callback with show creator Peter Berg where Berg instilled in him how to say that home address.
“(Berg) just kept throwing what I was supposed to do with this one line. And I'm breaking down in tears and snot all over the place and then get really mad and yell in his face.”
At his final audition round, he recalls being unable to “mask his enthusiasm” when he saw Taylor Kitsch, who played Tim Riggins, for the first time. He felt incredibly aware of being a part of a cast where his co-stars (Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton) were giving legendary performances.
“When you arrive in Austin, Texas, when you meet them for the first time at the cast dinner, when you get to when you have the privilege of doing scenes with them, you know it's something truly special.”
He remembers Chandler giving a speech that his character Coach Taylor might have given when he first arrived on set.
“Kyle gave this very coach-esque speech that was very generous and very welcoming. And at the same time, in effect, was saying, ‘You'll never have an opportunity like this ever again. Don't take it for granted. We did something special here. You're gonna love this. But don't blow it.’ But, in a nice way. And I felt the burden of responsibility. You know, the minute I got the job, I started going, ‘OK.’ I just started praying and going, ‘What can I bring?’”
Lauria has heard from fans that Britton and Chandler’s depiction of marriage has helped them in their own relationships.
“The way that they communicate seems very aspirational to a lot of people,” he said.
Luke’s relationship with Becky, played by Dora Madison Burge, was the most fulfilling storyline to work on for Lauria.
“She was so easy to just collaborate with. We just developed this beautiful connection on screen,” he said.
Becky ends up getting an abortion after having sex with Luke. Lauria found it particularly meaningful to be able to portray this plot in an authentic way.
“I just thought of what a special moment it was to present … regardless of how people feel about what Becky should have done or shouldn't have done, you're presenting a truthful glimpse at a 16-year-old who's in this very tough situation. And hopefully, this depiction on ‘Friday Night Lights’ gave people empathy to go, ‘What if it was me? What if it was my kid? I don't know?’” Lauria said.
He says he has a hunch for why “Friday Night Lights” is so beloved.
“The ingredients that ‘Friday Night Lights’ is made of are the things that matter most. It's heart and determination and identity and love and disappointment and community. It's timeless themes that will never not resonate. Hopefully,” he said, with a laugh.
These days, Lauria stars in “Tell Me a Story” on CW, which is now in its second season.
“Getting a chance to work on ‘Tell Me a Story’ in Nashville and all of the ingredients that went therein made it the perfect job because I was working with an extraordinary group of human beings who are all roughly about my age, most of them. And it wasn't our first rodeo. And we all just along famously. And then on top of that, you're in this extraordinary city in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. And we got to go through the summer and into the fall and, sort of, the beginning of winter and catch three gorgeous seasons in Nashville,” he said.
He particularly enjoyed delving into his character, Jackson Pruitt.
“It was a character that really jumped off the page for me. I got to live in a little, dingy airstream and, kind of, live out that bachelor dream or nightmare. But it was really fun.”
"Tell Me a Story" airs on Tuesdays on the CW.