Friday Night Lights' Kyle Chandler Talks Goodbyes and Next Season's Game Plan
*The end of our Q&A contains plot information from the finale!
All good things must come to an end — that is, until next season. Friday Night Lights' third-season finale aired Friday, and dealt a shocking blow to Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler). The twist came after an already emotionally-packed 13 episodes that included Coach dealing with a new baby, seeing his wife become principal of the school, finding out his older daughter was sleeping with her boyfriend and facing the combative, over-involved parent, Joe McCoy.
TVGuide.com sat down with Chandler to talk about his alter ego's journey on and off the field this past season, saying goodbye to some amazing characters (and actors) and what could be in store for Coach in Season 4.
TVGuide.com: Let's go back to early in the season. Can you talk about how emotional it was for you to say goodbye to Smash and Jason the characters, and to Gaius Charles and Scott Porter the actors?
Kyle Chandler: I've never been asked that question before, but basically, there's four characters I had to say goodbye to: Scott and Gaius the people — that bordered on saying goodbye to friends — you just don't know when you'll hook up again. That was really difficult because the show itself... we were kind of like a band of brothers. We've just survived so much ... we just all thought we were a part of something that wasn't just already special, but we were a family that had survived the tough times. And then saying goodbye to the characters — in no way am I a father figure to these guys in real life, but as a coach I was. And as a coach it was like saying goodbye to your son. Gaius, with his character overcoming so much to achieve what I knew he could achieve — there's that pride. And then of course the same thing with Scott Porter, but on a different level. It was such a tragic situation, and yet he was strong enough to overcome it, basically on his own. It was an awful lot of fun to play because it had all the drama to it from real life and our little pretend world.
TVGuide.com: How difficult was it for Coach Taylor to take the first-string quarterback from Matt and give it to J.D.?
Chandler: It was difficult on the emotional side; it was not difficult on the reason side. It was obvious that skill [level] — plus the pressure Coach was getting — made that decision a little easier. It was a fun situation to play as well. I just love the coach character; I prefer to play characters where outside forces are punching them around. You've got all these obstacles you're trying to figure out and overcome. And in this situation, Coach has got the Boosters, and J.D.'s father coming around who has a new quarterback trainer for J.D. This father's got the money, the influence, he takes over the Boosters, he's got Buddy Garrity's ear... so that on top of [J.D.] having a tremendous amount of skill and the entire town of Dillon knowing it as well, it was something that had to be done.
TVGuide.com: It was probably much harder for Coach Taylor as a father to walk in on his daughter, Julie, in bed with Matt, right? Did you have a chat with Aimee Teegarden (Julie) about how you two should play that scene?
Chandler: That was interesting. No, we didn't talk about it beforehand. Originally, the script had Coach seeing them together, and what have you. I went to the set pleading, "Don't let us see Coach inside the house. Leave it to the imagination of everybody."
TVGuide.com: That was a brilliant choice, because the scene felt much more visceral by just hearing Julie's scream as Coach walks in the house.
Chandler: That's the way I felt when I got to set and I just jumped out and said, "Listen, please!" And they were like, "That's a fine idea but we already thought about it, so don't worry about it." [Laughs] I love that scene, and no, we didn't talk about it; and it's the perfect scene to not talk about. [After walking in on them], I made the walk to the car, and then got in the car, I couldn't look her in the eye. That wasn't even a choice; that was just me and the character... . I loved that the doors were locked and she couldn't get in, and then I had to unlock the door to let her in! So, we copied that in each take because I loved that. It's one of those perfect scenes.
TVGuide.com: Let's talk about this season's villain, Joe McCoy (D.W. Moffett). As unlikable as Buddy (Brad Leland) can be as a booster sometimes, we do feel sympathy for him and like him at times. But there's really nothing sympathetic about Joe McCoy. Were you ever frustrated that, as Coach, you didn't get to punch him out?
Chandler: No, I like when Coach is limited by what he can do. It's just another great obstacle for him. Actually, Brad and I play golf and we created characters that go way back and created scenarios about family life that gave us a certain connection. So out of creating these things, there's a special bond between [Buddy and Coach] that was settled, where we owe each other in life. He didn't want to be a character that's hated, so he went the path that he plays so well — the sympathetic jerk, if you will... . Now with Joe, he's a businessman and knows what he wants. He's far more militaristic than Buddy. The first scene I ever did with D.W. was when he came to me with an offer of scotch and cigars, and at the same time speaking to me about how he'd like to see his son get in some practice time. I went to the director and said, "This guy creeps me out!" His character spooked me in real life, and Coach was humored by him, but threatened.
TVGuide.com: Now that the finale has aired, we know Coach Taylor has lost his job to Wade and is moving over to coach East Dillon High. What can you tell us about next how next season will unfold, and who will be back?
Chandler: I don't know much, but not only did Coach get fired and he's moving to East Dillon, he has nothing left. [The Boosters changed all the district borders], so Buddy's really screwed himself too, because obviously Buddy's going to go with Coach. So not only are we at this dilapidated school with a pile of dirt for a football field, we have no players! I'm hoping what happens is that it's going to be the poor part of town and... get those stories going. We're going to be like a phoenix. We're starting again from the ashes. We've basically got a few seasons to play with [after a two-season renewal] and I think that out of 26 episodes, with that scenario set up, it's going to be really great. We're going to have the opportunity to be a bit more gritty and a sense of really following the troubles of these kids. We'll also have the opportunity to watch the kids grow again into these young men. Who knows what will happen in the last episode of the last season, but if they were able to win, I think that'd be great. It's a whole new show, in my opinion.
TVGuide.com: Will we get to see East Dillon play the Dillon Panthers, or is it impossible since they're in the same district?
Chandler: I don't know how they're going to do that, but it's great storytelling, so maybe they'll bend the rules of reality. But then again, the town is split up now. The town's got two teams and people are gonna be split up about it. There's going to be all sorts of stuff going on there that I can't even imagine. It's going to be fun; I'm really looking forward to it, and I know the writers are too.
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