Gaius Charles plays a guy who needs no more introduction on Friday Night Lights than the word "Smash." Sadly, Charles' tailback will walk off the field for the last time on Wednesday's episode of FNL (Oct 22 at 9 pm/ET on DIRECTV 101). TVGuide.com spoke with Charles about what he loved most about playing Smash, his bonds with cast members, and what scene was the most emotional scene for him to film in the final episode.
TVGuide.com: What was challenging about playing Smash?
Charles: When I first got cast I sat down with Peter Berg (the director and executive producer) and said, "What can I do to make this guy good, to make this guy better?" And Pete just said, "We need to keep this guy real." It dawned on me that we never really see African-American families on TV shows and movies, that tend to be more commercial, and we don't get to see their heart as much, or their struggles. We always see the bravado and the façade, but I think the three seasons [on FNL] have allowed us to explore the depth of where Smash is coming from – his family life and why he is who he is, which is amazing to play.
TVGuide.com: Did you ever go to the writers and say, "Can Smash do this, or not do that?"
Charles: I did, and that's something that really doesn't happen very often in TV. It was amazing having Jason Katim's (the executive producer and showrunner) and directors' numbers and really being able to talk about the stories. All the actors had that privilege. They're more than eager to hear from us in that regard. And hearing it from Connie (Britton) and Kyle (Chandler), the vets in this game, that this [kind of input] just doesn’t happen on TV shows.
TVGuide.com: In your last four episodes, you and Coach have a tumultuous relationship, but in the end we can see how much they mean to each other – did you work on building that bond outside shooting, or was your chemistry instant?
Charles: I'll just say this: Kyle is the man! He is the man! I have such respect for Kyle, I think he's an amazing actor and an amazing human being. I really look up to him and respect him as a coach in real life – like a mentor. I've learned so much from him – whether it's watching him light up the screen acting or balancing work and family. I think any love or respect or admiration or coach-player relationship that you see onscreen is definitely grounded in truth off-screen.
TVGuide.com: The end of the show is extremely emotional, but it didn't feel over the top.
Charles: The writing is so meaty and so real. One of the things I'll cherish most about playing Smash – I started out playing this stocky, standard jock football player, and then the story opened up into this amazing, nuanced, complicated, conflicted young man. We saw him in so many scenarios and in stuff that we never really see on television. We saw people talk about steroids, or [me getting in trouble] for defending my sister, or the mental illness thing we tackled with Waverly, who played this amazing bipolar character.
TVGuide.com: What was one of the most thrilling moments for you to play?
Charles: Well, all the drama that Smash is involved in is really wonderful, but one of my favorite moments was when we went to visit a college [and] I get chased out of the campus by a huge nose guard for making out with his girlfriend. One second we're making out and then, flash, the next second I was running down the hallway in my boxers. It was such a nice compliment to get to do something light and funny after so much heavy stuff. The pep rallies too …you can kinda go back in time and relive some high school moments.
TVGuide.com: What was the most emotionally difficult scene for you to film in the last episode?
Charles: The toughest scene was definitely with Kyle at the end, and we shot that scene last. I was sitting in my trailer before we shot it – it was the last one of the night – and it all just kind of hit me. But, it was such …just joy. To be with Kyle and to have him send me off in that last moment was tough, but a great joy.
TVGuide.com: Could Smash possibly drop by later this season?
Charles: Keep watchin', you never know, maybe Smash will have a little cameo coming up!