Friday Night Light's Connie Britton talks about the best marriage on TV.
If you've avoided Friday Night Lights because you're not a football fan and think there's too much pigskin on TV as it is, you're missing out on one of the best relationship dramas TV has to offer. Set in a Texas town that literally revolves around its high school football team, the two-year-old drama—which returns to NBC in January—is about more than the game. Loaded with compelling characters and complex emotional relationships, FNL has at its center the marriage of Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his school guidance counselor wife Tami (Connie Britton), arguably the most realistic portrayal of a married couple on the small screen today.
They've had their share of crises at work at home, some involving their rebellious teenage daughter Julie (Aimee Teegarden). And they've been tested by long-distance separation and the appearance of her old flame, but adversity seems to make them stronger. "We have a solid foundation but we rock it, constantly. And I'm sure it will be rocked this season," says Britton. Sure enough, a workplace development will provide one complication: Tami will be promoted to principal at the high school, making her Eric's boss.
"You can imagine what that will do," she hints, remembering a situation in her own life. "I don't like to talk about personal stuff too much," says the single actress, 41, "but I've definitely had relationships where I've had a job and who I'm with is trying hard to find something. It's tough," she acknowledges. "A woman maybe having a more powerful role than her husband really plays on a man's sense of himself in our culture. So it will be really fun to play that."
Flaws and foibles will always crop up, Britton says. From the get-go, "We wanted to find the reality and the complexities. We did not want everybody to be perfect, or imperfect. We wanted to have all those nuances. That was a commitment that was made from the beginning."
Rest assured, however, that marital conflict will only go so far. "We're going to be solid. That was one thing we all agreed on right from the beginning. No one is going to be talking about having an affair or wanting a divorce. We share the same values and a similar sense of humor," she continues, underlining the importance of the latter. "Playing this relationship reminds me of what you need, and a lot of what you need is a really great shared sense of humor, but also a shared vision and an ability to really trust each other and know that when things get rocky and unhappy I can count on that person no matter what."
Britton credits her trusting relationship with co-star Chandler in being able to portray the above so well on screen. "We both know that we can rely on each other. We can go into a scene and take the risk to fall flat on our faces. I know that he's going to be there if I fall and he knows I'm going to be there if he falls. That's what you want—that's an ideal in an acting relationship and in a married relationship."
Playing mom to a toddler and a teenager presents a whole different set of dramas to explore. "I heard something about a possible tattoo situation," she says, referring to teenage Julie. "That's what's so exciting about this character—it's just endless. These characters are so real and so vibrant and multi-faceted that the sky's the limit. There are so many places we can go."
Britton didn't always find that the case in her previous television experience, which is considerable. Her resume includes numerous guest appearances a regular role on Sin City, and arcs on The West Wing and season five of 24. Her film credits include The Brothers McMullen, No Looking Back, and the movie version of Friday Night Lights, also as the coach's wife. She'll next appear in Women in Trouble, a comedy following the day in the life of ten disparate females, also starring FNL co-star Adrianne Palicki.
Britton shot that independent movie over the summer, when she also made a return trip to Africa. An avid world traveler, she spent a summer in Beijing while majoring in Asian studies at Dartmouth. Born in Boston with a fraternal twin sister, she grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia and now lives in L.A. and Austin, Texas, where Friday Night Lights is shot.
"Being down there has made me realize why Texans are so rabid about being Texans," she observes. Spending time in "Bush Country" has also given the Barack Obama supporter "an appreciation for lots of points of view"—which extends to sports as well as politics. "I'm still not a huge football fan. I'm still not going to sit down on a Sunday and go crazy," she stresses. "But I have an appreciation for the level of competition and the fair play and all of it."
Fitness-minded herself, Britton swims, hikes and watches her diet (though she doesn't fight an addiction to chocolate). So it's not surprising that she admires something else about athletes. "Who doesn't?!" she responds enthusiastically when asked if she likes the jock type. But it there's one special athlete in her life, she's not telling!