VF Daily’s Q&A series features interviews with the top talent from television’s best shows. NBC’s Friday Night Lights is a football drama set in a small town in Texas. The season finale airs tonight at nine p.m. E.S.T. The show recently secured a deal with NBC and Direct TV to shoot two more seasons.
Kyle Chandler plays Eric Taylor, the coach of the Dillon Panthers. In a town devoid of male role models, he is the consummate father figure. His heartfelt speeches can squeeze tears from a fullback, or a game-saving performance from a walk-on. Taylor’s marriage to the school principal, played by Connie Britton, is challenging, character-building, and incredibly appealing. It may just be the best on television.
VF Daily: It seems like you were born to play Coach Taylor. Did you know that the role was a good fit from the onset?
Kyle Chandler: To be quite honest, I didn’t think I was right for the part. I had watched Billy Bob [in the film Friday Night Lights] and he did such a good job. I thought, I’m not old enough. Once I accepted the role, things just took off. Ultimately, what made me comfortable was that [the show’s creator] Pete Berg had me meet some coaches. Once I met those coaches, it was painfully obvious that age did not matter. I locked into who I wanted this coach to be, and what I wanted to base the character around. Once that happened, I was set.
What did you learn from the coaches?
I was sitting on a coach’s deck, holding his baby while he was flipping food on the grill. He said, “There’s one thing you need to know to be a great coach: you’ve got to love the kids.” That may sound like a real soft position, but when you love somebody, you also have to be firm and honest. I thought, if I love the kids, I can be a great teacher, I can nurture them, and I can discipline them. It gave me toughness and love at the same time. It gave me a moral compass.
What do you see as Coach Taylor’s flaw?
As a husband, he’s a bit of a nerd. He can take things the wrong way. There’s a scene where he catches his daughter on the couch with the quarterback. He goes ballistic and kicks the kid out. When asked by his wife why he did that, he says, “Because they had a blanket!” The impetus behind him making these mistakes is that when he’s at work, he is in charge, but when he comes home he thinks he’s in charge.
This season, we learned that Coach is a scotch drinker.
I know! What’s that all about? I liked that part. Have you ever noticed how much wine my wife drinks? That’s why we can’t move out of that house of ours.
The Taylors have such a realistic, strong marriage. How did you create that relationship?
Connie and I went early and talked to Pete and the producers about this marriage. We wanted to know whether it was going to be the kind of show where I was going to sleep with a cheerleader and she was going to bed one of the janitors. We asked that we could be secure in the fact that the two characters stay together. With that reassurance, Connie and I decided that the more we argued, the closer we would come together. That bond is never broken. We can go as far as we want with an argument, but we always know we’re coming back together.
The Season Three finale airs tonight. How do you feel about the way it ends?
The end perfectly sets up a whole new slew of characters that could come into the show. The show can re-invent itself. When I read the last episode, I saw a phoenix coming out of the ashes.