From Early Edition to The Midnight Sky, Kyle Chandler looks back on his biggest roles
He's the guy you call if you need a bomb defused, want to win a state championship, need to know what the future holds, or yes, if you want to have a good laugh. Over his 32-year career, the utterly compelling Kyle Chandler has earned Emmy and SAG awards for his work on the big and small screens. Here, the 55-year-old actor looks back on some of his most notable roles.
For 42 episodes, Chandler played Jeff Metcalf, a young baseball player, on the acclaimed ABC drama series. "That was huge, getting that role," he recalls. "The most difficult thing about that whole show was that I was young and stupid and that it had to be word-perfect." But what Chandler remembers most is working with the likes of John Slattery (Mad Men) and that one time he got his whole family involved. "My mother, grandmother, and sister were in a scene with me," he says.
Early Edition (1996-2000)
"What a break that was for me," Chandler says of his time on Early Edition, in which his character, Gary, received tomorrow’s newspaper and therefore knew the future. "My daughter had just been born, we had just bought a house, and I got this show," he recalls. "The first thing I did was add up [my salary] for the season. I was like, 'Wahoo! We’re not going to starve.'" The role took Chandler back to Chicago, where he grew up: "There's a big film community in Chicago, and the crew all knew each other so well. A lot of them were brothers, cousins, uncles. And in Chicago, someone says something wrong to you, you start pounding on each other, so there would be fights. But they were all related, so it was great. They'd come back inside with their arms around each other."
Grey's Anatomy (2006-2007)
The medical drama was in its second season when Chandler landed the role of Dylan, a.k.a. the dreamy bomb-squad guy in the two-part episode that featured live ammuni-tion inside a patient. "I had taken ankle wraps and put them on really tight underneath my boots so I’d feel grounded, because I’m the bomb guy," he says. And despite the fact that his character was blown up — "When they exploded the detonating cord for a practice run in the parking lot, I swear you could hear car alarms going off for 30 miles" — Chandler was asked back for a dream sequence of sorts in season 3. But that’s not all Grey’s creator Shonda Rhimes did for Chandler’s career. "She’s the one who suggested I go over and talk to [creator Peter Berg] about Friday Night Lights. I said, 'I'm not old enough to play Coach.' And of course you know how that turned out."
Friday Night Lights (2006-2011)
From Dylan the bomb-squad guy to Dillon, Texas. Chandler was made for the role of Eric Taylor: supportive husband, loving father, and tough-but-fair high school football coach. With that Emmy-winning role, Chandler found himself far from the days of Homefront's exacting scripts. "It was so creative," he says of the set. "We had a great writing team, but they would give us leeway to work." Chandler even recalls one scene where his character was supposed to forgive troubled Santiago (Benny Ciaramello) for lying to him, but in the moment Chandler couldn't do it — changing the scene entirely. "That was what was so interesting about that show, is that we knew those characters so well and we could stick by them," he says.
"What I remember more than anything is the haircut," Chandler says. He played Hamilton Jordan, the questionably coiffed chief of staff to President Jimmy Carter, in the Oscar-winning Ben Affleck film, based on the true story of a mission to rescue six U.S. embassy workers from Tehran, Iran, under the guise that they were a filmmaking crew. "When I did the research on Hamilton Jordan, what I remember is what a wonderful person he was," Chandler says. "He did a lot of work for children's cancer."
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
The day Chandler was supposed to meet director Martin Scorsese at a hotel, the fire alarm went off. A former volunteer fireman, Chandler felt his instinct kick in. "[Scorsese] opens the door to his room. I'm starstruck, and I just say loudly, 'I'm here to save you, sir,'" Chandler remembers of meeting the filmmaker. When Scorsese didn't in fact need saving, they chatted and Chandler landed the part. But when it came time to shoot the movie, nerves once again got to him. "I wasn't doing a good job," he says. "What I was doing was being too respectful because I've got one of the greatest actors, Leonardo DiCaprio, sitting there. I was being too nice to him out of respect for him as an actor. That’s when I started making fun of him and going after him, and once we finished that take, he looked at me and said, 'That was good.' He was very kind, very professional."
Set in the 1950s, Carol is about a forbidden love affair between Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) and Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara). Chandler played Harge, Carol's increasingly desperate husband. "I had to figure out how to play him without being an arse, but at the same time, without him being a sap," Chandler says. But the biggest challenge? "His name was Harge, so you're already behind the eight ball before the thing starts," he says with a laugh.
Game Night (2018)
"I'd been wanting to do comedy for so long," Chandler says. "When I got [Game Night] I was like, 'Yes!' Then I was scared to death. I had to call [Friday Night Lights costar] Connie Britton and ask, 'How do you be funny?'" By the end of the film, about a game night gone terribly wrong, Chandler got his answer from watching his costar Jason Bateman. As Chandler puts it, "During one of the first scenes I was doing, he was up at bat. He would do a scene, stop, and you could hear the calculating going on in his head. And he'd do it again, and the next one was just that little bit different, but it meant everything in the world to what he was doing. I got paid for acting class that day." Now he'd like another comedy, please. "I am funny," Chandler says. "Please print that at the end of this."
The Midnight Sky (Dec. 23)
Chandler once again joins George Clooney, with whom he worked on Catch-22 and Argo; this time, he's playing an astronaut on a years-long mission to discover a new planet. "I came up with the idea that the air is getting thinner. I tried to give myself a sense of claustrophobia. He's a seasoned astronaut, but it's getting to him," he says of his character, Tom Mitchell. That sense of urgency increases as the film progresses, though there are moments of levity, including a singalong that Chandler's character doesn't quite partake in. "You probably haven't seen me sing, dance, or play basketball much on film," Chandler says. "There’s a reason for that."