After five critically-acclaimed, ratings-challenged seasons, the series finale of Friday Night Lights airs tonight. In honor of the affecting, artful show focusing on high school football in a small Texas town, sports website Grantland has compiled an "oral history" of the series, based on in-depth conversations with the cast and crew. This "fascinating" article offers up a number of interesting, behind-the-scenes revelations. Our favorite six:
1. Kyle Chandler (Coach Taylor) got cast because he was really hungover
Peter Berg, the show's creator and executive producer, says he had trouble finding the right actor to play Coach Taylor. Berg originally wanted a character actor like Billy Bob Thorton, who'd handled the role in the movie version, and thought Kyle Chandler was too pretty. Then Chandler showed up at an audition on a motorcycle, looking beat-up after a two-day drinking binge. "He was clearly hungover as shit," Berg recalls. "I just said, 'You look like a Texas high school football coach.'" Chandler got the part.
2. The Taylors had almost too much chemistry off-screen
Chandler and Connie Britton, the actors who play the dynamic couple at the show's center, get along so well, it was rumored they were having an affair. "I was really worried. Connie and Kyle developed a very flirtatious, precocious relationship right off the bat," says Berg. "And Kyle, of course, is married." Producer/director Jeffrey Reiner recalls, "the first time I met them, they were so comfortable with each other, I was even kind of like, 'God, are these two sleeping with each other?'"
3. The Riggins house was gross in real life, too
On the show, brothers Tim and Billy Riggins swill beer in a messy dude-shelter, sans parents. The Austin, Texas, house used for that location is authentically gross. "The Riggin house was a shithole," says Reiner. "It reeked. There was mold. The pool was filled with sludge," says Taylor Kitsch, who plays Tim Riggins. "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.'"
4. Taylor Kitsch is the most athletic cast member
The towering Kitsch, a self-described "physical cat," grew up playing hockey in Canada. Michael B. Jordan, who plays troubled quarterback Vince Howard, is also a "great athlete," as is Scott Porter, who plays paralyzed star Jason Street. On the other hand, Gaius Charles, who played the lightning fast, superstar running back in the early seasons, isn't a natural athlete. "We told Gaius, 'Just stick to acting,'" says Aaron Spivey, who plays Coach Spivey.
5. The football got boring
"People weren't reacting to the football," says Berg. It was the most expensive part of the show to shoot, and "probably the least interesting." Ultimately, he says, "the show will be remembered more as one about a marriage than one about football." It also got to be a challenge, and a cliche, to make every football scene dramatic. Co-executive producer and writer David Hudgins says, "My own kids would say, 'Another one?! God, they always win on the last play of the game!'"
6. And about that Season 2 murder plot...
Everyone agrees that having the high schooler Landry accidentally murder local vixen Tyra's attacker in Season 2, and then cover it up, was a big plot mistake. "We were coming to the end of Season 1, and the show was critically well-received, but the [ratings were weak]," says Hudgins. "So we thought, let's do something big, something shocking and titillating and provocative." Yeah, "it was a disaster," Berg concedes.