By Sara Vilkomerson
Updated August 30, 2013 at 05:39 PM EDT
Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
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For the devoted, it’s hard to watch Kyle Chander play anyone but man-among-men Coach Eric Taylor from Friday Night Lights. But in the terrific, bittersweet indie The Spectacular Now—Owen Gleiberman calls it “one of the rare truly soulful and authentic teen movies“— Chandler plays a character who’s practically the anti-coach: a deadbeat, boozy and long-absent father to Miles Teller’s character.

EW: Were you excited to play someone so against the type?

Chandler: No! Because when I first read the script I thought, how in the hell am I supposed to create this guy? It made my stomach hurt. Literally. But that’s why I took the role—it was a really interesting process. And I’m really glad I did it. It was not only a different role, but I got to create a character that I know all the pieces that go together to make him. I really sort of like the guy now, too. When you look onscreen, he’s such an a–hole. Just a complete a–hole! But when you know what I know—the things that make him an a–hole—you just feel sorry for him. He’s not a bad guy. He’s going to go home and weep in his pillow. I’m really glad I did the role. Because that was another thing that bothered me: it’s such a great story and the only thing that could screw it up is if the dad is no good. [Laughs.] I’m glad I pulled that off and not known as the guy who ruined the movie.

How did you prepare to play him?

I did all this crazy stuff that actors do—I created a diet for my guy, I grew my hair out. And I drove from my house in Texas to Georgia listening to Jimmy Buffett. I went to school in Athens—[director] James [Ponsoldt] did too—and I wasn’t raised far from there. Driving through, all my insecurities came back. All the ghosts from when I was a kid climbed in the back of my jeep and drove with me all the way there. That all created an ethereal world. And [my character] is kind of ethereal—he walks through a haze of alcohol, and he has a temper and he’s just a sad lonely character that just can’t see the light. All that stuff sort of came into being. I didn’t know it this till I saw it on screen It was a tremendous experience. I think my acting coach—he’s up in heaven right now —I swear the guy would applaud me. He’d go, ‘Finally, you got it kid. You got it.’ He always taught not how to act, but about what it is that holds you back from acting. So it was just one of the greatest experiences. It’s a great little film.

You play an FBI agent in Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. How was that?

It was amazing. I can’t wait to see it. And Leo DiCaprio? He’s very cool. Here’s an impressive thing about him. It was the first day of shooting and…you know, it’s Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio. And I’m Kyle Chandler! [Laughs.] You think, you don’t need to be nervous. But hell yeah, you’re nervous. But they make you feel very easy. Martin Scorsese couldn’t have made me feel more comfortable from the first handshake. Everyone’s working together. There’s no bull—t. And on the first day, Leo was looking at the monitor and came back and said, ‘I just want to tell you it looks really good.’ He went out of his way to make other actors feel good. And he’s just so good, I just like to watch him. He always does something different. This movie is just going to be outrageously fun to watch.

So what about the possibility of a Friday Night Lights movie?

You know what? That first movie was so good and the TV show ended so perfectly, I don’t know.

I think everyone just misses you guys.

[Laughs] There’s always the DVDs at your local store.

Watch the trailer for The Spectacular Now below!

Friday Night Lights

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