Connie Britton had done this “Friday Night Lights” thing before. There was this movie, see, and she loved doing it, and she loved how Peter Berg directed it.
“But, you know,” she recalls, “when I sat in the premiere of the movie, I turned to my friend who was sitting there next to me and said, ‘I think they made my character mute.’ ”
So much of Britton’s performance had been left on the cutting-room floor that when Berg came to ask her to be in his television adaptation of “Lights,” she balked.
“My expectations were low,” Britton says. “I was really, really hesitant — in fact, I said, ‘No. I love you and adore you, but I don’t want to.’ ”
Berg assured her that despite what happened in the film, which was more specifically linked to Buzz Bissinger’s source material, the television show’s Tami Taylor would be a multidimensional character. But Britton still felt uneasy, telling Berg: “You’re not the one with the six-year contract.” And she remained that way even after she took the leap.
“Honestly, it took awhile,” she says. “I said to Pete Berg (regarding the complexity of the character), ‘It’s not in the pilot, right?’ I said that to him a number of times: ‘I hear what you’re saying, but just so we’re clear, it’s not in the pilot.’ ”
The breakthrough came when executive producer Jason Katims and the writing staff — over Berg’s initial objections, Britton likes to tease — decided to make Tami a high school counselor at the school where her husband Eric coached.
“Not only did it allow me to be involved in all the kids’ characters’ lives, but it gave me the aspect of a woman who was very much there for her man but also sticking to finding her own purpose,” she says.
And from that point on, the role Britton almost turned down became a role to cherish. She has been given some of the show’s juiciest moments, which embody much of the cultural nuance that “Lights” has become celebrated for, and has become indispensable.
“I did not know where if anywhere it was going to go,” Britton says, “so what I set out to do, even in the pilot, even with so few scenes, (was to tell myself) I know how powerful this character can be. I know how powerful these women can be in the world. No matter how much or how little they write for me, in every moment and in every scene, I’m going to find as much as I can contribute to this woman’s character as possible.”
Favorite scene: “With Kyle (Chandler) in the ‘Mud Bowl’ episode, when Kyle’s character takes me out into the field to ask me if I think it would be a good idea to play a football game out in this field. To me this scene encapsulated so many of the elements of the show that I loved. First of all, we were in this field out in the middle of nowhere in Texas … soil under our feet, and the sun is setting and the Texas sky is just enormous. … In the first take of the scene, we’re kind of standing in front of the cows, and this one cow starts coming at me and I started running away cracking up — and they ended up using that take in the show.”
Where you’d like to see your character go next season: “The cool thing is (the writers) left things wide open. First of all, (Tami) is pregnant, for God’s sake. … We may be moving; we may not be moving. I think the sky’s the limit.”
TV guilty pleasure: ” ‘Entourage,’ because, I mean, obviously. No explanation needed.”