July 14, 2011 Jill

Grantland has a fantastic oral history of Friday Night Lights by Robert Mays — a piece written entirely in quotes from Jason Katims, Peter Berg, Brian Grazer, actors, executives and other key players in the project. Besides being just an awesome structure for a blog post, there’s lots of insight into the series:

Sarah Aubrey: I think Pete was concerned that Kyle was too pretty. But a couple weeks later, Pete met him for lunch.

Peter Berg: He rode up on a motorcycle. He’d been drinking for two days with his buddies. He had a beard and bags under his eyes. He was clearly hung-over as shit. I was really surprised, because I remembered him as this fresh-faced, boyish, charming young man. And here he was looking like one of the Baldwin brothers after a hard weekend.

Kyle Chandler: He said, “Whatever you did last night, I want you to do that every night. I want you to look exactly the same you do right now when you do the show.” A big Cheshire Cat grin came across my face, because I envisioned telling my wife that that was part of the job.

Berg: [In the original Friday Night Lights movie], Connie Britton’s role was sort of Pretty Wife Clapping in the Stands, which is about the shittiest job an actress can have. At least Talia Shire got to own a pet store and go ice-skating with Rocky.

Connie Britton (Tami Taylor): When Pete got in touch with me and said, “We’re going to make a Friday Night Lights TV show. Why don’t you come play that part?” I was like, “No way!” The only thing worse than playing a nothing part in a movie is [playing it] for years and years on TV.

Berg: She said, “Are you fucking kidding me? You think I’m going to spend 10 years sitting on a hard-wood bleacher getting splinters in my ass and cheering on Kyle Chandler? You’re out of your mind.” I said, “I promise. We’ll create a character. We’ll give you a job. We’ll give you dimension. We’ll give you a real voice.”

Chandler: It was the best pilot I’ve ever seen for a TV show. Arguably, it may be one of the best pilots ever.

Patrick Massett (co-executive producer, writer): The cut from the field to the sawing of the helmet to Minka Kelly crying.

John Zinman (co-executive producer, writer): The voiceover ”

Massett: “We will all be tested.”

David Nevins: It was gorgeous. Beautiful filmmaking.

Angela Bromstad (former President of Primetime Entertainment, NBC): At screenings for pilots, you have a pretty eclectic group of people — high-level executives and development people, research, scheduling, and publicity people — all of them very tense. At the end of the Friday Night Lights pilot you had people cheering and clapping. But the minute the lights came up, our head of marketing, John Miller, walked up and said, “This is a great pilot, but I really don’t know how we’re going to sell this.”

Nevins: I knew what I was in for the first time I saw the pilot — this was never going to be easy.

Bridget Carpenter: It wasn’t upbeat. Not everybody was likeable.

Reiner: The first scene we did was in a church, and I said, “Let me meet the pastor.” We met the pastor, and he was great. So I said, “OK, you’re going to be in the show.”

Liz Mikel (Corrina Williams): He got up and said a prayer. It was an actual prayer; it wasn’t anything scripted.

Jeffrey Reiner: [Showrunner] Jason Katims was there, and he didn’t even know we were filming. We were these two Jews from New York so immersed in this Baptist service that we were just glowing. We shot 25 minutes for 45 seconds of footage, but what we were doing is creating an environment that would inform the next five years.

Tons more interesting reading to found in the actual post. Check it out.