By international TV law, the first thing that must be covered in an interview with Kyle Chandler is the lingering ghost of Friday Night Lights, the dearly departed high-school football drama, and the long-rumored and hoped-for follow-up film.
As adherents to the televisual legal code, BuzzFeed asked Chandler about said movie adaptation during an interview about his role in the lovely coming-of-age drama The Spectacular Now.
“Friday Night Lights was a great movie, and the TV show. After five shots at it, five seasons, as it went on, it got smaller and smaller and smaller, and it almost got canceled. We were up against American Idol the first year and it got moved,” Chandler said, recapping the long saga of the low-rated but critically-adored show, based on the 2004 film adaptation of H.G. Bissinger’s book of the same name. “[Producers] Jason Katims and Pete Berg and those guys kept it alive, kept the material so fresh, and ended the thing so perfectly. I think that’s a tribute to those guys. I like the ending of the show as much as I like the whole thing in the sense that it was just done so classy, it was just done so well. Hats off to those guys.”
So, was that a way of saying that he’d rather just preserve the show as is, and not revive it in movie form?
“Yep,” Chandler said simply. “That was a great experience, I really loved it. I still keep in touch with the people quite closely.”
It’s hard to blame him; he ended the show on a high note, winning an Emmy for his role as everyone’s favorite tough-but-fair high-school football coach Eric Taylor. Chandler has since moved on from “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” to a successful film career with major roles in two Best Picture-nominated CIA dramas last year, Zero Dark Thirty and the ultimate winner, Argo.
His director on the latter, Ben Affleck, just signed on as Batman in WB’s Man of Steel sequel, and to say there’s been backlash is an understatement. Initially, Chandler did not want to comment on the recent piece of news, but when BuzzFeed suggested that it seemed like a fun casting — and that the internet, as is its wont, may have over-reacted — he chimed in a bit.
“What I hope is that he nails it and I hope he looks at everyone and says, ‘Take that!’” Chandler said.
As for his current project, The Spectacular Now, the actor has a small-but-important part as the mysterious father of lost teen soul Sutter Keely (played by Miles Teller) and he turns out to be quite the disappointment once his son tracks him down.
It’s a complete about-face from the stand-up Coach Taylor and Chandler admits he took the role in part because, upon first reading the script, he had no idea how he could tap into someone who is, as Chandler put it, “that much of a fuck up.”
“You look at the material and say, ‘Wow who the hell is this guy? And if you screw this up, Kyle, you’re going to screw up their movie,’” the actor explained. “I don’t know fathers like this. I have no basis to put on a father that is that delinquent, that much of a fuck up, but what I did get, when I was 14, I lost my father. He passed away. That’s where I sort of delved into, because I knew the kids’ loss because basically, his father was dead to him. That kid was going through his trouble. When I was 14, I went through my trouble. For two-to-three years, it was a wild ride. That, I could relate to.”
Sutter is a heavy drinker for an 18-year-old high-school senior. He’s a good kid with a broken compass, headed for a life adrift after he’s unmoored by graduation. And Chandler knew the character well.
“Just a kid, young with no father, raised by his mom, no guidance and on his own, trying to figure out the rules of everything on his own, making all the mistakes that you make trying to figure it out,” the actor remembered. “I think it’s pretty clear the kid has a good heart; I think when I was a kid, I had a good sense of what I wanted to be, but I didn’t have the knowledge inside of me to know who that was.”
Next, Chandler will star as the progressive Cardinal Thomas Duffy of New York in Showtime’s drama The Vatican — if the Ridley Scott-directed pilot gets picked up, that is. His fingers are crossed since he says the show has a lot of room for intriguing exploration.
“A priest, you’d think there’s only so much you can do, but this isn’t your normal set of people talking about priests,” Chandler explained. “When I started looking into doing research into the Catholic Church and really doing research — meeting priests who had been excommunicated and meeting women priests that had been ordained in the States here — all of a sudden I realized what a story all of this is. I was raised in the Catholic Church until I was 14, but once I started really looking at what’s right in front of you, I think it’s fertile, fertile ground for storytelling.”
That being said, don’t expect a scandal-of-the-week type saga from the show.
“That’s what I was worried about, that it was a ‘Let’s tear down the Catholic Church,’ but it’s not,” Chandler insisted. “It’s smart, it’s intelligent and it’s fun. It’s not what you’d expect. It’s not, ‘Let’s put all the scandals on the table and look at them.’ It goes beyond that.”
The actor expects to learn the fate of The Vatican sometime after Labor Day, but until then, Chandler will be getting his mind off of work with a three-day motorcycle adventure, from Texas to Florida, where he will be spending time on an old friend’s fishing boat. It’s his way of unplugging from the Hollywood grind.
“I’m the guy who goes to the parties and people think because of what I do, [they] think that I know everything,” Chandler said. “I surprise them immensely with my lack of knowledge of anything to do with certainly personal items about people and who they’re married to and all that stuff. It’s just not in my wheelhouse right now, I don’t have enough time to keep up with it.”
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