Friday Night Lights kicks off its fifth and final season tonight on NBC, after finishing its run on Direct TV earlier this year. And even though Matt Lauria is well past his days as high school football player Luke Cafferty (and now starring on Fox’s Chicago Code), the memories have stuck with him. EW caught up with Lauria earlier today while he was (fittingly) hanging out in Texas, where his wife, Michelle Armstrong, is currently working on her album. Cue reflective, thoughtful soundtrack. We’re going on a trip down memory lane. [Note: Article contains only mild teasers about the final season. Lauria didn’t want to ruin it for anyone — including yours truly, a basic cable subscriber who waited patiently for it to come on NBC. How sweet.]
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Retrospectively, what did Friday Night Lights mean to you?
MATT LAURIA: It just has this implicit meaning. It has meaning. For me, it was such an honor to work on. The incredible writing, the shooting schedule, the efficiency with which the unbelievably talented crew made it so singular in tone and style and feel, and the talent of the other actors I worked with.
Did it surprise you how much people rallied around the show – even after all that network drama?
No. That was before my time. And I was late to the dance — I’m a crazy FNL fan as well. My wife and I were crazy fans before I even thought I would be a twinkle in Jason Katims’ eye. Well, I don’t know if I was ever a twinkle in Jason Katims’ eye, but you know, if I were on board while it was airing [at the beginning], I would have rallied around it, too. I think they did something unprecedented, and that sense of meaning is enough to drive people to fight for it.
What are some highlights of the series for you?
I liked seeing Luke trying to bring closure to the Becky situation. You see him working hard for it in the fourth season, you see him working hard for it this season. I loved the surprise and the icing on the cake was that — I don’t know if you’re there yet — I got to do a lot of stuff with Derek Phillips, Billy Riggins. That was stupid fun. He’s really talented and fun to work with. I also liked the scene where we were all drunk and drinking moonshine, telling each other how much we love each other. There was a lot of dude love going on. [Laughs] That was a lot of fun. But the Becky stuff — I knew that was a major priority to Luke.
For those people with more patience who are going to watch it on NBC, what can they expect?
It’s spot-on with the best of the seasons and episodes. I think they can also look forward to is that — across the board I’ve pretty much gotten a consistent response — everyone is pleased with it as a swan song. That’s the cheesiest thing ever to say when you’re talking about a high school football [show], but the way it rounds out — the characters continue to evolve. Jason and the writing staff did an amazing job of bringing more depth to the characters and more depth to the relationships without having to jump shark or go too Hollywood. They also don’t wrap it up in a pretty pink bow. It’s still, characteristically, FNL authentic. It never compromised the honesty that is FNL.
Yeah. Often shows will try to change who they are at the end, “go Hollywood,” as you say — it doesn’t always work.
The funny thing is I was even seduced by my own Hollywood fantasies about it. I had my expectations. I don’t know how far along in the season you are; I don’t want to ruin anything. But, you know, part of me was blindly hoping, “Oh, it will all be everything he hoped and dreamed for.” But that’s such bulls–t. [Laughs] That’s not life — that’s not Friday Night Lights. Ultimately, with my character, there are some very interesting twists and turns. And I love them — some of them completely shocked me. But this is real. This is who this kid is, where he goes, what he does. So I love that. I love [Luke]. His interests were so near and dear to my heart. But things don’t always happen as you plan. That doesn’t give too much away, right?
Perfect. Although, I am going to go home and binge on the DVDs now, even though I’ve been pacing myself.
Make it last! [Laughs]
We’ll try, Matt. We’ll try.
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