Visiting Friday Night Lights

For all the stories that involve standing outside in a blizzard or driving all night in an ice storm, both of which I've done in the past month, every once in a while there's something that's purely fun and doesn't involve temperatures below freezing. In other words, payback. For me, it came a few weeks ago when the Today Show asked whether I'd like to hang out with the cast of the NBC drama Friday Night Lights for a day. Not only am I a fan of the show, but I love football and live in Texas where the high school version is often considered the state's religion.

The job of a network correspondent is a window on the world, yet I'd never been to a television or movie set until this visit. No flight to Hollywood, Friday Night Lights is filmed in Austin, Texas -- one of my favorite cities. The production uses a local church as a staging area for everything from styling the actors' hair to cooking the crew's lunch. Vans shuttle everyone to a nearby neighborhood where the production has rented several homes and films the show while regular folks next door go about their business and where the mailman's daily delivery can bring a temporary halt to everything due to engine noise from his truck.

The show isn't blocked or rehearsed in advance of the cameras rolling. That creates some takes you won't see in the final Wednesday night version. During my day on the set, actor Taylor Kitsch -- who plays fullback Tim Riggins -- climbs out of a window after a night with a neighbor. He was supposed to land in the bushes, and he did... with an unscripted cut in his arm and a face full of scratches that tested the abilities of the show's makeup artist! A great sport, Kitsch was quickly back at it for another take on the tumble.

 

A highlight of the day was time I spent with Kyle Chandler (Coach Taylor) and Connie Britton (Tami Taylor). While they're only married on the show, they share a quirky sense of humor and an ability to tease each other in a polite way that makes for a good real-life marriage and an even better interview.

Catching passes from "quarterback" Zach Gilford (Matt Saracen) and sharing girl talk with the coach's daughter Aimee Teegarden (Julie Taylor), I was ready to join the cast. Alas, there was no offer from the show... only one from my boss -- telling me to pack my bags. There was more weather on the way!

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