Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose, y'all. It's been ten years since Friday Night Lights premiered and five years since it left the air, but people still can't get enough of Riggins's bad-boy charm, Tami's infinite wisdom (and incredible hair), and the Taylors' #relationshipgoals.
This weekend saw the reunion of the cast of the beloved high-school football drama at the ATX Television Festival in Austin. Connie Britton (Tami), Jesse Plemons (Landry), Gaius Charles (Smash), Scott Porter (Street), Adrianne Palicki (Tyra), Matt Lauria (Luke), Dora Madison (Becky), Derek Phillips (Billy), and Brad Leland (Buddy) all came to celebrate, among others.
The reunion was held (where else?) on Dillion Panther field itself, and was appropriately accompanied by a pep rally and tailgate. There was food, a screening of an episode chosen by fans and a tour of the locker room, which still features Jason's famous autograph and "P" sticker. Fans were also treated to live music courtesy of Landry's Christian speed metal band.
Meanwhile, two of the show's core couples were also reuniting up in Chicago to run the Spartan Race.
So, what has everyone been up to in the five years since Friday Night Lights's last touchdown, and what was it that made these characters so special in the first place?
Kyle Chandler (Coach Taylor)
Kyle Chandler was absent from the weekend's festivities, but there's no Friday Night Lights without Coach Eric Taylor, and he wasn't far from everyone's thoughts. "He's Dreamy McDreamerson. He's just that guy," Adrianne Palicki (Tyra Collette) told People Magazine at ATX, confirming our suspicions.
Coach Taylor left a legacy as one of television's most admirable leading men. He was a stoic but supportive coach who challenged and guided his players, a devoted father, an incredible husband and a man of integrity. He wasn’t perfect, but that’s what made him so perfect. He did the right thing when it was hard. He stuck things out when they were messy. He invested in kids that were difficult. And we loved him for it.
Kyle Chandler has gone on to appear in several high-profile Oscar films like The Wolf of Wall Street, Zero Dark Thirty, and Argo. He's currently starring in the Netflix series Bloodline, in a dysfunctional family that is a far cry from the Taylors.
Connie Britton (Tami Taylor)
Tami Taylor, played to perfection by Connie Britton with her iconic hair and glasses of wine, was delightfully charming, powerful, moving, wise and wonderful. Throughout the show, Tami navigated parenting a teenager, discovering her career and pursuing it passionately, mentoring students with no-nonsense love, and supporting her husband. Coach and Tami’s relationship remains one of the most profound and realistic depictions of a healthy marriage on TV, always staying solid despite the challenges thrown their way.
Britton has gone on to appear in several films, such as American Ultra and This is Where I Leave You, but has mostly stuck with television. She starred in the first season of American Horror Story, and has since led the country music drama Nashville, which was recently resurrected by CMT.
According to EW, Britton revealed to the crowd that she still has the reserved parking sign for Tami Taylor in her driveway.
Aimee Teegarden (Julie Taylor)
Eric and Tami's daughter, Julie, wasn’t always super popular with fans. But there can be no denying that she was a real and dynamic teenager — she had convictions and dreams, but didn’t know quite what they were yet. She loved her parents, but acted out against them. She quietly and sweetly fell in and out of love with Matt. The audience truly felt Julie grow over the course of the show, perhaps especially because Aimee was one of the few cast members who was actually a teenager at the time of filming.
Teegarden starred in Disney’s Prom, as well as the short-lived CW teen romance Star-Crossed. She also appeared in Scream 4 and Love and Honor, alongside Liam Hemsworth.
Taylor Kitsch (Tim Riggins)
Tim Riggins was rebellious, lackadaisical, and always in trouble, but Taylor Kitsch made him lovable and charming enough to become a total Texas heartthrob. Though Riggins often made questionable decisions, he was relentlessly loyal to the people in his life and started to quietly put others before himself.
Taylor Kitsch starred in Disney’s 2012 big-budget adventure John Carter, but it famously bombed at the box office. He also starred in Savages, Battleship, and Lone Survivor, before booking critically-acclaimed HBO projects The Normal Heart and True Detective.
As to where Kitsch sees Riggins now? Maybe with Tyra. He told Vanity Fair this weekend:
“Obviously, [Riggins would] have an ice-cold beer in his hand. I see him still in that property, you know? He’d probably have a little family going. He’s a simple [guy]. I think he’d have, hopefully, a simple life. It’d be hilarious to have little Riggins-and-Tyra kids. God, they would be great.”
Adrianne Palicki (Tyra Collette)
Tyra was introduced as the flirty (some might say trashy), rough-around-the-edges bad girl, but as the seasons unfolded, Tyra was revealed to be one of the most complex characters. She acted carelessly and recklessly out of bitterness towards being trapped in a dark home life and a small town. When she realized that she actually had the potential to make something of herself, she started channeling her energy into forging a promising future instead of self-destructing. Her journey to getting into college — particularly her essay — is one of the highlights of the series.
It took Palicki some time to find the right thing after Friday Night Lights, starring famously in the Wonder Woman pilot that was not picked up by the CW. After reuniting with FNL producer Jason Katims for the cancelled comedy About a Boy, she found more success with Marvel, appearing as a series regular on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., before leaving to pursue the spin-off, Marvel's Most Wanted.
Zach Gilford (Matt Saracen)
Sweet, awkward, and unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight of high-pressure Texas football, Matt Saracen won our hearts from the get-go. The episode screened at the festival, "The Son," is a series stand-out, due to Gilford's heartbreaking and conflicted performance. There’s a lot to love about Matt — his humble determination to do right by his team, his bond with Coach Taylor in the absence of his own father, his tentative pursuit of Julie — but nothing can match his relationship with his grandmother. Any scene between the two of them reliably ends with the viewer in tears.
Gilford has landed plenty of roles since hanging up the #7 jersey, but hasn’t managed to find a show with as much staying power as Friday Night Lights. He was a series regular on Off the Map, The Mob Doctor, and, most recently, The Family, all of which were cancelled before they could make it to a second season.
On his reunion with Minka Kelly, Taylor Kitsch, and on-screen love Aimee Teegarden, for the Spartan Race, Gilford told For the Win:
Minka Kelly (Lyla Garrity)
Lyla Garrity was an interesting bundle of contradictions. She was driven and purposeful but often drifted off in wayward directions and was prone to impulsive recklessness. She was intensely loyal, but found herself in a love triangle that began with betrayal. She had high expectations for herself and the people around her, yet was always drawn to the ones that let her down. From the start, it was clear that Lyla was so much more than the typical TV cheerleader.
Minka starred as a creeped-on coed in The Roommate and Jackie O in Lee Daniel's The Butler. She returned to TV in the reboot of Charlie’s Angels and Almost Human, both short-lived, and currently stars on The Path on Hulu. She was one of many Friday Night Lights alums to appear on Jason Katim's other heartwarming drama, Parenthood.
As to where her character ended up, Kelly said Lyla probably would have stayed in Nashville after graduating from Vanderbilt. She agreed with Kitsch that Riggins may have ended up with Tyra, but acknowledges that Riggins was "probably the love of her life. I don’t know, maybe they do end up back together."
Scott Porter (Jason Street)
Jason Street will always be Dillion’s golden boy, even though his reign as star quarterback came to an end in the very first episode. Despite his paralysis, the challenges it posed and the identity crisis it caused, Jason fought for his life and, in the end he triumphs, ending up with more than he thought could be possible.
Scott Porter has been active since leaving Street behind, in movies like The To-Do List and 10 Years, and on TV, with a recurring role on The Good Wife, a starring turn in Hart of Dixie, and a cameo in Parenthood that reduced any FNL fans to instant tears. He also has an extensive voice-over career, voicing primarily superheroes, such as Dick Grayson, Bucky Barnes, Cyclops, and Scarlet Spider.
Porter confessed at the festival that he took the state championship ring from the set.
Jesse Plemons (Landry Clarke)
At the start of Friday Night Lights, it seems as if Landry is simply Matt’s goofy, comic-relief sidekick. However, the show uncovered a gem in Landry Clarke, especially when opposite the acrimonious Tyra, an extremely unexpected pairing. The two discovered an unlikely kinship and romance, but it was done in an incredibly real and grounded way. It was either his relationship with Tyra or his Christian metal band, Crucifictorious, that taught us to love Landry the way he deserved.
Jesse Plemons had an equally impressive rise to prominence as Landry did. Along with a crucial, dark role on Breaking Bad, he’s also appeared in The Master, Black Mass, Bridge of Spies and currently is on Fargo.
Plemons revealed at the panel that he once tore his ACL in an off-screen game and playing real football was subsequently banned on set.
Gaius Charles (Smash Williams)
Smash started as a proud, egotistical running back who let his ambition get the best of him. Through trusting in and relying on his family and his coach, he was able to rebuild and achieve his long sought-after goals, a well-earned payoff.
Since leaving FNL, Gaius Charles has popped up in Grey’s Anatomy, Necessary Roughness, Aquarius, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (sadly, he doesn't share any screen-time with Adrianne Palicki, as Smash had a one-time fling with Tyra).
Michael B. Jordan (Vince Howard)
Michael B. Jordan’s Vince, introduced in the show’s fourth season, had the challenge of capturing our hearts as much of the primary cast was phasing out. Thanks to Jordan’s ability to almost instantly create an empathetic link with the audience, we were on Vince’s team from the start. Coach convinces him to play for the team and his successes in football help him to cope with his troubled family life.
Jordan has found immense success following Friday Night Lights, managing both box office success and critical acclaim. After the obligatory stop-by on Parenthood, Jordan moved to film. From indie critical darling Fruitvale Station, to crossover hit Creed, to superhero blockbuster Fantastic Four, to buddy comedy That Awkward Moment, and now, highly-anticipated Black Panther, Jordan’s proven there’s nothing he can’t do.
Matt Lauria (Luke Cafferty)
Alongside Vince, Luke Cafferty was part of the second generation of students that joined the show. Matt Lauria played Luke as a sincere, simple, gentlemanly guy trying to find his place in the world.
Lauria has had several television roles since, most prominently as war vet Ryan romancing Amber on Parenthood, and boxer Ryan on Kingdom.
Dora Madison (Becky Sproles)
Becky was introduced in the latter half of the series as a lonely girl looking for affirmation. She ends up bringing out the paternal side of Riggins, who looks out for her where her parents don't. She also has a complicated courtship with Luke and develops a touching bond with Mindy and Billy.
Madison joined Teagarden on Star-Crossed, appeared on Dexter, and went on to recur as a paramedic on Chicago Fire.
Jurnee Smollett (Jess Merriweather)
Jess is a refreshing departure from the other female characters on the show, who mostly either avoid football or cheer from the sidelines. Jess distinguishes herself as an avid football fan with ambitions in coaching and becomes Eric's mentee.
Smollett, whose brother stars on Empire, appeared on, you guessed it, Parenthood before booking a starring role on Underground.
I think it's time for a re-watch.