Matt Lauria

On the series finale of Friday Night Lights, East Dillon Panthers running back Luke Cafferty (Matt Lauria) enlisted in the army. A year and a half later, Lauria seems to be picking up where he left off on FNL boss Jason Katims' show Parenthood as a solider returning from two tours in Afghanistan.

"I've been really blessed because the production office helped me get in touch with vets and I also made contact through a few personal relationships, and these guys have been unbelievably generous. Some are veterans and some are still enlisted, but the common thread is that they've all done a tour or two in Afghanistan. So I spent several hours meeting in person or talking on the phone with them," Lauria tells TVGuide.com. "Obviously the big hope is that we can tell this story accurately and really honor their service and the impact it has on them."

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On Tuesday's episode of Parenthood (10/9c on NBC), Lauria's character, Ryan, comes to Berkeley after his tours, but before returning to his home of Wyoming. "He needs a little time to sort out where he's at and ends up taking a little detour to Berkeley and runs into Zeek Braverman," he says.

The two meet when Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) begins volunteering at the local Veterans Affairs facility and Ryan soon finds common ground with the Braverman patriarch. "Zeek has an understanding because he's a Vietnam veteran and he knows the long-term residual obstacles of being a veteran," Lauria says. "Where Zeek is at this point in his life after having kids and grandkids and still sorting through it, I think he can offer some advice. He's seen all the stages that Ryan is going through and can identify with him and help him sort it out."

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Part of that sorting out will also include a meet and greet with the extended Braverman clan — no small feat for such a close-knit group. "He's from a small town and a pretty much impoverished little county in Wyoming and I just think it's a different rhythm of life," he says. "They're all outgoing and welcoming and intimidating."

Behind the scenes, Lauria says it was a much smoother transition into Parenthood when he got the call from Katims to appear on the series. "Jason reached out and said, 'Hey there's this part that is coming up and I know you're busy, but would you be interested?' I was like, 'Oh yeah, Jason, I'll try and squeeze it in,'" Lauria quips. "I said, 'Absolutely.' The truth is I would leap at any opportunity to work with Jason again."

Lauria is just the latest FNL grad to guest-star on Parenthood, following Minka Kelly and Michael B. Jordan, among others. "Someone was saying the shows are kind of distant cousins. Obviously, the writing is of the same unique caliber and the approach and the speed and the style and the tone," Lauria says. "I've just been amazed by how everybody's been so generous and welcoming."

Parenthood airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on NBC.