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Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Work: What Happened to Friday Night Lights Cast?

When you think about this season of Breaking Bad, one thought springs to mind that isn’t entirely spoilerish: Who would have thought that Jesse Plemons would have been the one Friday Nights Lights actor to get it right in the show’s aftermath?

Oh, okay; we can probably give a pass to Coach Taylor himself – Kyle Chandler’s turn in Super 8 was pretty great in a 1980s Spielberg movie kind of a way, after all, and other than that, he’s kept a low profile – but Plemons aside, almost every other lead actor from the NBC show has managed to turn what seemed like star potential into what seems like a series of appallingly bad decisions.

Taylor Kitsch is, of course, the poster boy for this trend. After five years as the troubled Tim Riggins – a role he brought a surprising amount of subtlety and sensitivity to – he found himself the unintentional punching bag for Summer 2012 as both John Carter and Battleship bombed in a spectacular fashion, and Savages pretty much sunk without trace. Kitsch, it seems, isn’t the leading man that Hollywood desperately wanted him to be, and it’s a shame; I suspect that the movies failed him as much if not moreso than he failed the movies, and I hope that he’ll find a nice niche somewhere that’s ultimately more kind to him (Really, he needs to come back to television; anyone want to sign him up as the lead for some kind of updated Rockford Files? That’d be great).

Right behind him, though, is Adrianne Palicki, whose big summer 2012 movie didn’t even get released. Sure, GI Joe: Retaliation may end up being a great movie that will make her name in the industry when it eventually gets released next year, but for now, it looks like a second strike after the much-hyped, never-screened David E. Kelley Wonder Woman pilot. Then again, considering Minka Kelly’s unfortunate Charlie’s Angels reboot, perhaps it was a good thing that WW stayed on NBC’s shelf. Minka, you really should’ve stayed with Jason Katims on Parenthood, let’s be honest.

And so it goes: Smash and Street – Gaius Charles and Scott Porter – found themselves relatively safe havens on Necessary Roughness and Hart of Dixie respectively, but they were the lucky ones; lovelorn Julie and Matt (Aimee Teegarden and Zach Gilford) have been suffering through minor roles in movies like In Our Nature or Scream 4, and Connie Britton… Well, American Horror Story was something that none of us are likely to forget anytime soon.

What’s so frustrating about all of this is that Friday Night Lights showed us what these people could do when given good material to work with. All of the actors above did great work on that show, and made us fall in love with their characters – Yes, even Jason Street, as insufferably self-loathing as he could be at times – which just underscores how wasted all of them seem in their current positions. Perhaps the problem was that they believed their own hype and wanted to try and be “stars” – Kitsch and Palicki, in particular, seem to have made choices that took them out of their acting comfort zone and into awkward places in the apparent aim of trying to be more mainstream – but, ultimately, ended up rejected by the mass audiences whose approval they sought. So was it the material? The timing? That we can’t look at them and not see the characters that they used to embody, seemingly effortlessly?

Maybe they’re all just cursed. Friday Night Lights was the kind of show that sticks with you after you’re finished, for the viewer as well as those who made it. Perhaps its good luck and critical success has hexed everyone involved for some time afterwards.

Well, except Jesse Plemons, of course. But we all know that he just kills people to offer them as blood sacrifices to whatever entertainment gods are watching.


  • Spider Jerusalem

    Michael B. Jordan (Vince) had a pretty great role in Chronicle.

  • Jay Faerber

    Let’s not forget that Jesse Plemons was also in Battleship. And Connie Britton is the lead in a new ABC show this fall, Nashville.  And whether you liked American Horror Story or not, it was a pretty high profile gig, and successful enough to earn a second season.

    And if we’re gonna use an FNL alum on a Rockford Files remake, it’s gotta be Kyle Chandler. Rockford’s a smart-mouthed everyman, not a brooding “bad boy.”

  • Iliketacoslateatnight

    This article makes me miss FNL. Now I gotta break out the Blu Ray set.

  • Kdiebold8715

    The movies failed Riggins not the other way around! You watch your words sir!!!!

  • SID 8.0

    Scott Porter would be perfect for Nathaniel Cade in the The President’s Vampire series by Chris Farnsworth.  But that’s just wishful thinking.

  • LeeTurner82

    I want a spin-off that follows the ups and downs of crucifictoriouse

  • Ultra_Brabbnus

    I’m a bit late to the party and am just making my way through S3 of FNL. What a fantastic show!!! 
    I’d think that the movies failed Kitsch, i’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Hasn’t Gaius Charles got a fairly big role on the upcoming season of Greys Anatomy?

  • Lyle

    Every person I talk to talks about what a wonderful movie John Carter was. The problems were in the ad campaign and the budget, not with the story. And, it seems lame to blame one actor for a movie failing.
    Aldis Hodge, who played Ray “Voodoo” Tatum, went on to be in Leverage, which continues to be a successful show.
    I’m not sure if all this proves that Friday Night Lights is cursed, or that acting in Hollywood is tough, and even the most talented people have a difficult time getting good roles.

  • LUkeCage99

    Remember he was Wallace on the Wire. So if anything his streak is legendary LOL

  • Teri

    I think Kitsch would be great on an HBO series.  Maybe some type of wry western.

  • Fireman

    Just one thing to say:  BRING BACK FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS!!!!!!!!

  • 7thangel

    and parenthood

    Jurnee Smollett, who hasn’t stopped working since she was a child, will be in the American Bad Girls remake and will be the lead in The Marriage Counselor film

  • maculae

    Wait what? Kyle Chandler has some pretty big movies coming out. The upcoming Oscar bait movies Zero Dark Thirty – about Osama Bin Laden by Kathryn Bigelow and Argo – about the Iranian hostages by Ben Afflek. On top of that, he’s casted in the Wolf of Wall Street, a Scorsese movie that will inevitably get both Scorsese and DiCaprio more Oscar nominations in 2014. He also filmed a movie with Mark Wahlberg and Russel Crowe called Broken City coming out in 2013.

    Connie Britton got an Emmy nomination for American Horror Story, as odd as that show was. She also has a new series coming out this fall called Nashville.

    I’d say the adults from FNL are doing fine.

  • Americanman1990

    I have a hard time seeing any of them in a commercial for a movie or any other movie or show and not thinking of them as their character on FNL just because of how well they played their characters. The show did such a good job of letting you get to know each individual character and they all played their characters so naturally. Lets be real here, who saw the commercial for John Carter and said look its Tim Riggins?

  • Americanman1990

    just finished the series for the 3rd time.