Based on the 2004 film (which itself was based on H.G. Bissinger's book), NBC's Friday Night Lights (premiering tonight at 8 pm/ET) asks prime-time TV viewers one question: Are you ready for some high-school football? If you're about to quickly respond, "I dont think I am," think again, because this series stands poised to seek out heartstrings you never knew you had and tug away. Reprising her big-screen role as the diligent wife of an under-pressure small-town Texas football coach (Kyle Chandler in the TV version) is Connie Britton, who is ready to give FNL the big "W."
TVGuide.com: I've got to say, this pilot made me sniffly.
Connie Britton: It made a little tear come to your eye, didn't it?
TVGuide.com: But what about you? Even though you're in it and you did the movie, did the actual pilot move you?
Britton: It really did. I was moved by how moving it was. [Laughs] I mean, I'm not a big football fan, and youve got to go a long way to make me really want to watch a football game, but then to see the way it was cut together.... It is so beautifully crafted that we can see the investment of every character there. It puts everything in perspective.
TVGuide.com: Since you admit you're not a football fan, when Tami talks about running "a skinny post" versus "an out and up," do you know what the heck you're talking about?
Britton: No.... [Laughs] In fact, we had to do, like, four takes because I kept saying it wrong.
TVGuide.com: When I first saw this pilot, I had no expectations, as I dont regularly watch football, and I myself dont know "a skinny post" from "an out and up." And then Friday Night Lights up and became one of my favorite new shows.
Britton: That's a big thing there, getting the word out that you dont need to be a guy who loves football in order to appreciate the show. Those guys will love it, yes, but I dont know that thats necessarily who it will appeal to the most. It's about human beings and the way we relate to each other, which is my favorite stuff to explore.
TVGuide.com: What tweaks were made in adapting the film as a series?
Britton: What I love about this, having been fortunate to work on both the film and now the TV show, is this really to me feels like an evolution from the film, in so many ways. One of those ways is that no, [a certain character doesn't get critically injured] in the film, but what happened is while we were shooting the film, [Friday Night Lights writer-director] Pete Berg actually saw a game where [that happened], and that got him really invested and interested in [dramatizing it]. This Texas-football thing, it's no joke. You kind of think it's a game for kids, then you suddenly realize the stakes are a lot higher than you thought they were. You could easily say, "That wouldnt really happen, they're blowing that out of proportion," but no, [we're] not really.
TVGuide.com: Were a lot of the film's characters carried over, such as the hotheaded alcoholic running back?
Britton: Thats the other thing about it being an evolution from the film, because now, doing this, it feels like such a departure. There are so many things that are different about it. The movie was more based on the boys' lives, and the role I was playing was actually written much more extensively than what ended up in the movie. There are some loose similarities to characters in the movie, but having now shot six episodes of the show, these characters are specific to their own world.
TVGuide.com: The casting, across the board, is spot-on. I feel like I'm watching real people, not actors playing stock characters.
Britton: Honestly, this is one of those things where everything aligned. Of course, I have to attribute all of that to Pete Berg, who created this cast, who created this script, which is now [set in the] modern day and in a fictitious town. We shoot with a very specific process that I totally attribute to him.
TVGuide.com: Yeah, the camera movements almost give this a documentary-style feel. I hope they don't lose that if the show gets popular.
Britton: Believe me, all of us feel that way. It's really important to us. This camera crew is extraordinary. One day in between takes, I realized these camera operators are the ones who are telling the story. These guys take these cameras and move all over the place to capture every moment and innuendo. We never have a shot that's a standard close-up. For the actors, we really feel like we're involved in something thats truly unique.
TVGuide.com: Your and Kyle's characters obviously love each other more than anything, but it's just as obviously not going to be an easy road for them, with all the pressure to deliver a "W" every week.
Britton: First of all, I can't believe how lucky I am to be working with Kyle, because he is just amazing, and we have this incredible connection and chemistry. We've worked really hard on establishing exactly what we want this relationship to be, a partnership full of love and respect and understanding, and from there we can go wherever. We'll get mad and yell and scream, but we'll always come back to that foundation.
TVGuide.com: Finishing up here, was your run on 24 last season [as presumed-dead Jack Bauer's Bakersfield honey] everything you hoped it would be? Me, I was hoping for more of you.
Britton: Yeah, it was one of those things where they could have gone either way, and I was a little bummed. I kept saying to them, "Can you at least kill me? If I'm not going to work on the show anymore, I just really want a death." [Laughs] They kept saying, "You're not dead yet, you're not dead yet, we can bring you back at any time," and I'm like, "Yeah, but c'mon. How are you going to really do that?" I was hired only to do six [episodes], and thats what we did, but in the back of my mind I was always like, "Who knows? Maybe theyll go in a different direction." It didnt work out that way, which is always a bummer.
TVGuide.com: Maybe when Jack gets into another bind, he'll seek out safe harbor at Diane's house.
Britton: That show is so fun to do, and the same company, Imagine TV, that does our show does 24, so I'm like, "Maybe we could work the schedule out so that I could go over there and do an episode or two?" [Laughs]
Send your comments on this Q&A to firstname.lastname@example.org.