Talk sports, pop culture and more with SI.com's Jimmy Traina.
11/15/2006 08:38:00 AM
Light It Up
Minka Kelly is just one reason -- a BIG one -- to tune into Friday Night Lights.
Photo by NBC
Are you watching Friday Night Lights? If the answer is no, start now, especially if you have any interest in football. The show was just picked up for a full season, so you don't have to worry about investing your time into a program that will get canceled a few weeks later.
There have been seven episodes so far, and none have disappointed. (The show is not on next week, so you have two weeks to watch all episodes over at NBC.com.) While there are a couple of minor things I can nitpick because TV shows have to take dramatic license (If the actor who plays Voodoo can pass for a high school student, I can pass for a high school student. And the coach constantly listening to his critics on sports talk radio seems like a stretch. Wouldn't he just change the channel?), overall, the show does things right and entertains, mainly because of its impressive cast. Every character brings something to the table -- even minor ones, like Matt Saracin's grandmother -- and the acting is top notch. Kyle Chandler as coach Taylor, deserves major kudos for not taking his character over the top, like most coaches you see in TV or film. In fact, most of the performances on the show are understated and subtle, and that makes Friday Nights Lights all the more enjoyable.
Another reason to tune is smokin' hot Minka Kelly, who plays Lyla Garrity, the cheerleader who was dating the star quarterback but is now sleeping with his best friend after the QB suffers an injury, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down (see, I told you it's a good show).
I spoke to Minka yesterday about the show, her life and many other things. After you read the interview, be sure to let me know what you think of the show.
SI.com: The show was picked up Monday for a full season. Congratulations.
M.K.: Thank you. We're so excited. I believe in the show so much and I've had such a good time and I've learned so much. If it would've ended, I would've been proud of what we did and kept moving. But I'm so glad to be able to keep it going because I think we have so much more to show. You haven't seen nothing yet.
SI.com: Since you went there, let's discuss your character. She started out as the model girlfriend, but then turned into a -- How can I put this? -- slut. What happened?
M.K.: I didn't see it [Lyla sleeping with her boyfriend Jason's best friend, Tim] as a slutty move. I absolutely understood it because Lila was so lost and so alone at the time. I don't think she was able to grasp what was going on. Everything was happening so fast. And the only person who understood her was Tim. Her, Tim and Jason were best friends and no one else understood the pain she was going through or the love that she had for Jason, except for Tim. He had the same love for Jason and they both hid their feelings and their pain from everyone except each other. For some reason, they have an understanding with each other. So to go to each other, there was an unspoken understanding because they were desperate for real feelings that just happen. I think it's normal thing that unfortunately happens for people that age. They don't know what they're doing and they act out in this kind of way. I understood it.
SI.com: Were you nervous that people would turn on your character because of her actions?
M.K.: I was very concerned and worried about being able to make people understand why they did this. It wasn't just a cheap shot or slutty thing. There was so much more meaning behind it. I wanted people to understand why she did it. I was afraid of people not understanding.
SI.com: So now Jason knows something is up. Can you tell us what's going to happen?
M.K.: I can tell you that it's not all gonna happen in one episode. It's going to take a few episodes for Jason to come to terms with what's going on. He doesn't want to believe Lila would cheat with his best friend. They'll be some questions and some denials and some fighting and some crying and some panicking. It'll be a fun thing to watch unfold.
SI.com: I'm nervous that Jason is going to make a miraculous recovery, leading to a "Lila is pregnant. Who is the Daddy" storyline.
M.K.: (Laughs) The thing that's so great about Scott Porter who plays Jason Street is that he's so dedicated and adamant about playing out the character as real as he possibly can. He gets together with other paraplegics and he studies them and talks to them. He tries to play the character as authentic as possible, all the way down to the way his hands move or don't move. So there won't be a miraculous walk out of the wheelchair. That's just unrealistic.
SI.com: Obviously football is a huge part of the show. Are you a big football fan?
M.K.: I'm getting there. I wasn't when I first started doing the show, but now, of course, I'm quite a fan. I watch all the UT games. Out here you can't help but care about it.
SI.com: You shoot the show in Austin, Texas. Are you surprised how big high school football is in that part of the country?
M.K.: I didn't understand how much meant to a town like this until I came to Texas and attended some high school football games. I talked to some of the people in the stands and asked them questions and I felt like they were rehearsing lines from the show. I was surprised to see how dramatic it all really is. I would just randomly ask people "so these games are a big deal out here?" and they'd be like, "OH YES, IT'S A BIG DEAL," and then they'd ask me if I ever heard of that show, Friday Night Lights.
SI.com: They didn't recognize you?
M.K.: Well, this was when the show first started. And I was wearing a hat.
SI.com: How's the night life in Austin?
M.K.: It's great. There's so much going on. There's a huge live music scene. In L.A. everyone is an actor. In Texas, everyone's a musician. Any night of the week, you can find music and it's all so good and soulful. The people are great and so nice. It's been a fun transition from L.A.
SI.com: According to IMBD.com, you are 26 years old. I think that's good because you don't want guys who watch the show fawning over high school girls. But you also run into that Beverly Hills 90210 problem where they had cast members who looked like they were 40 playing high school characters. How is it playing a high school character at your age?
M.K.: If I were to play a high school student at a high school student's age, I think you'd deny the character a lot of turmoil that they go through because at that age you don't admit to many of the emotions you're feeling because you don't fully understand them or you're embarrassed by them. And I think having already been through a lot of those things, I have an understanding of those feelings and emotions a lot more fully and can portray them more honestly.
SI.com: Were you a cheerleader in high school?
M.K.: I wasn't. I was more into softball and kickboxing. I was a tomboy, not a girlie girl.
SI.com: Do you have a boyfriend?
M.K.: I don't.
SI.com: What do you look for in a guy?
M.K.: I think the most attractive thing for me when I meet a guy is confidence and him being comfortable in his own skin. I like someone who doesn't need approval or validation. Just has his own thing going on. I also like someone who is smart. I have to learn things from anyone who I surround myself with.
SI.com: And what do you like to do in your free time?
M.K.: Whenever I have the chance, I go to the lake. I like to go wakeboarding. It's my new favorite sport. It's like skiing but on a snowboard that has little shoes on it. But I stay home a lot. I'm a huge homebody. I've only gone out a handful of times since coming to Austin. When I don't work I go to the movies or I go go-carting.
SI.com: Did you see Borat?
M.K.: I did and I loved it, but it was very sad the way they made our country look. I just think they went into the pits of the pits. Very sad, but very funny.
SI.com: You have a unique name. Any backstory there?
M.K.: My mom just made up. I could make up a cool story for you, but I want to be honest. She just made it up.
SI.com: Well, I appreciate your honesty. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me.
M.K.: Thank you so much. It was fun talking to you.
Great interview, and I love that show, but I think maybe you're wrong on one point. You say "And the coach constantly listening to his critics on sports talk radio seems like a stretch." I don't think that's a stretch, I think the fact that the coach is listening to the critics is the show's way of saying that its the only thing on the talk radio down there. The town doesn't talk about anything else, so it's the only thing on the radio at all. Maybe they'll have him listen to some music sooner or later, but I doubt that there would be anything else talked about on the radio in that town. Its the same thing with the TV on the show, the local news only talks about the team. I think the writers are just trying to show how obsessive the people of the town are.
You hit the nail on the head. It took me a while to warm to it, but the show has become a weekly must see for me now. Even if you are not a huge football fan the story line is still very entertaining. I heard the ratings were a little low, so to hear it has been picked up again for another season is wonderful news! And if Kyle Chandler (aka the guy that exploded on Grey's Anatomy) doesn't get some Emmy consideration, there i something wrong. He is has created a great character in the coach. Oh..and I live in Texas and though high school football is big time, you don't see TV crews covering every inch of a high school football team. But other than that...awesome!
I'm glad this show is getting some more exposure. It's easily the best new show of the season and I hope it sticks around for a while. I'm a huge football fan, but the show is about much more than just football. It definetley has something for everyone. My girlfriend hates watching football with me, but is addicted to this show.
It is a very good show. WE have seen things that most movies won't touch: a paralyzing injury from sports; a black player and his family using the system to try to extort graft, a player who also has zero interest in the team or in school; steroid use, in this case from desperation coming from a ranking service; boosters almost as bad as college boosters; basically decent parents and fans going nutso; a Mexican player with rage issues probably worsened by steroids and/or meth, a player and his family that play the Race Card to try to deflect his guilt. What I fear is that behind the scenes PC freaks will put pressue to make the show fit less with reality and much more with PC sterotypes and impossible fantasies.
Great interview and insight. I love this show it has become an addiction. I love the way it doesn't fall into one category. There are teenagers trying to deal with that, coaches and parents trying to be what they should, and a town obsessed with football and the "glory days". There is a lot to learn in the show about people, and the football is just a great and fun way to get there. Thanks for making sure more people here about this show.
It's a very entertaining show and rates a season pass on my Tivo. However I have been disappointed with the minority characterizations. The two prominent black characters so far (Smash & Voodoo)are stereotypes and negative ones at that. Do you think we could have something different than the cocky or arrogant black kid? And the Latino player is the one that is shown to be a violent sociopath. Think about it, 3 of the 4 most negative characters shown so far have been minorities (with scumbag booster Buddy being the lone white guy). It's a slap in the face for people of color and just shows that T.V. still can't deal fairly with minorities.
I think I'd disagree with you on the racial stereotypes. Initially I saw Smash as a very positive guy -- he was the one saying to Riggins -- one guy shows up drunk, we all show up drunk. I saw Smash as the star who realizes his talent but also graps the team concept. Riggins was the anti-establishment guy who did everything on his own. Now those roles are switched -- Riggins is starting to come clean and now Smash is experimenting with PEDs.
As for Voodoo (is he still around or is he gone?), I see him as a hired gun -- a product of a system where recruiting "doesn't happen." I don't think it matters if he was white or black...it was the personality of "I'm better then ya'll, you need my help, I don't listen to the rules."
Jimmy can you put me in contact with Minka Kelly? Her email address? She is gorgeous and I love the show. Not to mention we have the exact same birthday--June 24th 1980.......its meant to be. Smart, someone comfortable in their own skin....look no more!!
I don't think that you truly grasp the concept of the show. It's about HS football in West Texas. In case you didn't know, West Texas is predominantly white. Therefore, you need to realize that they are being demographically accurate, not racially insensitive.
The same goes with Voodoo. He was a player displaced by Katrina. Over 70% of those displaced were African American.
So, take the show for what it is. A representation of a west Texas football town and a great television show.
Great show. I think the music selection has been top notch with many tracks from Austin natives 'Explosions in the Sky' these guys instrumental music adds an "it" quality to the show. Just like in the movie, the music adds a sombering dark quality to the show as well as room for epic moments. This band's music deserves much credit for scoring the emotional peaks and lows seen on screen for the past 7 weeks. Great band, great exposure and a great show.
Every fan of the show who reads this should make an effort to listen to Explosions in the Sky. Bands like this don't come along often.
good interview..but sorry Minka Kelly's character is a SLUT...and its part of the reason why i stopped watching the show. I think its totally unrealistic that a girl would hook up with a guy just like that...no matter how lost she is feeling.
So your telling me a girl like her wouldnt seek the comfort of friends and family..and would instead go whoring herself out to another guy on the football team?
I agree with all the above comments, but I have to give my two cents. Zach Gilford (Matt Saracin) is probably the best actor on the show, behind Kyle Chandler. The way he is transforming episode to episode because of his situations (Dad in Iraq, grandma getting worse, filling in Street's shoes, his crushon coaches daughter) should be given an award. I find myself rooting for him each week. Love the show, hope it lasts a long time.
The show has grown on me, too. I especially like the new QB Seracin...he's not the stereotypical QB, let alone football player, in that he has "regular" friends and is kind of awkward around the girl that he likes (can't wait to see how that plays out--he's not like other football players, but then again, how will Daddy take to the thought of having his QB take his own daughter into the backseat of his car to blow off some steam, just as he told him to?).
As for how crazy West Texas H.S. football is, my uncle was friends with an U of Iowa DB from western Texas, whose h.s. team won the state championship his senior year (he played QB in h.s.). I met him, and told him I had read Friday Nigh Lights and wanted to know if the book was accurate in its depiction. This player told me two things: 1. His town had 8,000 people in it, but the football stadium held 10,000 and it was sold out every game. 2. His football coach led his team to three or four straight playoff appearances, including a state championship. The year after this guy graduated (one season after winning state), the team did not make the playoffs and they fired the coach.
I've got to agree with C.F. when he says "Zach Gilford (Matt Saracin) is probably the best actor on the show, behind Kyle Chandler." He really brings out the character and makes you think he's actually a young kid struggling with all the pressure that's coming at him from so many different directions. Here's hoping he gets his girl! And Minka is gorgeous.
Jimmy, I think the one thing that is not so good about the show is that it has lost its roots (as did the movie). If you read the book, you realize the author was only using football to identify the socio-economic differences between Permian and Odessa during the years he was in Texas. These socio economic differences were what created rivalries and probably created teams that were better than others. It also explained I believe in part the fanatacism with which the town of Permian rooted for its football team. What was great about the book is that you understood the motivation of the kids based on their socio-economic circumstances. That is why I was disappointed in the movie, which was strictly a football movie with very little texture as to why there were rivalries or why certain teams were better or worse. The TV show has unfortunately gone the way of the movie and is devoid of the contrasting circumstances of the kids from one town to another that would lead you to understand at a deeper level why certain teams are better than others and why certain rivalries have developed.
Thanks for the interview, Jimmy. FNL has become one of my favorite shows. I played football in a small west Texas town growing up, and then played high school ball in Dallas in the 70s. My sons played in the small west Texas town I grew up in. From my experience, I can tell you that FNL is an accurate representation of what high school football is in Texas. Especially in the small towns, a person's entire life is often defined by what they did or did not do related to the football team. In Dallas, starters on the varsity team were treated as dieties. I hope this show continues for several years. New characters can be introduced every year as the current characters "graduate." I also hope they have a season of the Dillon Panthers losing, to show the effects of an 0-10 season on a small town.
Great interview and a great show. I am a 50yr old who still misses playing High School football in Texas. In small schools like the one I played in you represent the entire community and your worth was determined by how good the football team did. I started as a Freshman and our teams finished 4-6, 5-5, and my Junior year back when you had to win your distict to go to the playoffs we went 7-3 and finished second. We had 10 returning starters and what did the school do? Fired every coach for not going to the playoffs.
Well done, huge fan of the show and bigger fan of Minka. She has a bright future ahead of her in hollywood. I grew up in Texas and experienced Texas Football first hand. It is a true representation of the town's core and it is larger than life. I like how they have many characters subplots to give it a personal feel. The football scenes could use some improvement but overall I hope to see this show for another season.
No, my name really is Eric Taylor... and I'm glad that they at least got someone handsome to portray me-ha. I think the show is interesting on many levels. I thought that the writers had written themselves into a corner in the pilot. If the heroes win, it's cheezy, but if they lose the boulder on the coach's shoulders would be far too melodramatic- and that effect would last the whole season. I think maybe it threaded a needle, because the show isn't cheezy, and it's only as melodramatic as football actually is in the South (Southwest and Southeast). This leads me to the clincher. The show is actually pretty tough on football. It shows how some people let it get far too far under their skin to the point where losing a high school football game will get your family harrassed and potentially make you change your address. It shows the potentially high price of participation. You could break your neck. You could die. It shows how the worst comes out in people, like the tendency to try to win at all costs, fair or not. On the other hand, it also shows how the students grow. This includes the "cocky" Smash to which "the armchair quarterback" refers. I think his character development will be far from a "slap in the face" to anyone of any race. Add to this the rather "old fashioned" use of the camera angles(the almost "reporter on the scene" way they portray the argument between the Taylors, and the sunspots when Lyla goes jogging for her rendezvous) and you have at the very least an interesting mix worth watching.
Loved your interview and the show is one of the 4 hours of the week that I HAVE to TIVO. Being the mother of a former high school football player, I see so many of our parents, kids and coaches in this show. Football Fridays were 24 hours of football - starting with Moms' breakfast, pep rally, Moms' lunch then decorating the locker room. Then of course THE GAME and the parents' party afterwards! It was a great time to be a parent and I do miss it! And even better when the kids who were freshmen my son's senior went on and won state last year! And we're still going to all the games. I feel like the Dillon parents were just like our bunch. Honey, it's a Texas thang!!
Great interview and she is quite a piece of ...she's HOT!!! One thing that rubs me the wrong way is the team is called the Dillon Panthers. Then why wouldn't they have the letter "D" on the helmet rather than the letter "P"?
Friday Night Lights is good, but it's one weakness seems to be it's teenagers. They lie like adults do, not like teenagers do. They fight like adults do, not like teenagers. They speak like dumb or self-centered adults.
I watch FNL for the adult characters, but the teenagers seems to be written and acted with little understanding of how teenagers really exist.
Win at any cost, became the stigma attached to the Odessa Permian Panthers of the late 80's and early 90's. I'm amazed how far the legend of that football program has gone over the years. I heard about the Panthers going to High School at that time in South Texas, and even my school tried to emiliate that football program for better and worse. We almost got to state but with ringers, like the Voodoo character. Someone paid to relocate the families with the best players to our school district. Evidently winning the championship washes away your sins. Win at any cost!
FNL is a great show - Matt Saracen and his crush on Julie keep me tuning in every week. I can almost feel his pain everytime he says something stupid to her. Dancing with the Stars is over people - time to watch a really good show (no offense Emmitt).
Some of the game scenes are shot in Pflugerville, Texas, a 'burb on the North side of Austin. The Pflugerville Panthers, actually, making the "P" a natural. btw, the team they played this week was a spitting image of the Leander Lions, another 'burb school here, also on the North side.
Great interview... Great new show, I agree best new show of the season and I am glad that we will see more of it. The actor playing Tim is a Canadian, Go Canada Go! I love watching anything to do with minor sports and enjoyed the movie. Hope we see this show for other another year after this year... FNL!
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