Spending 'Friday Night' With Connie Britton The star of Friday Night Lights discusses her role playing Coach Taylor's wife on the NBC drama, which wraps up its five-season run Friday on NBC.
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Spending 'Friday Night' With Connie Britton

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Spending 'Friday Night' With Connie Britton

Spending 'Friday Night' With Connie Britton

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(Soundbite of music)


Our next guest is Connie Britton who plays Tami Taylor, the wife of Kyle Chandler's Coach Eric Taylor on NBC's "Friday Night Lights." To me, their relationship and their strong, funny, tender, realistic marriage is the heart and soul of their show.

I spoke to Connie Britton last year.

Many people watching the show have admired the marriage between your characters, or maybe even aspired to the marriage. How do you see that marriage? And what do you hope to convey about it?

Ms. CONNIE BRITTON (Actress): Well, you know, it's been an exploration for both of us. And I've certainly learned a lot from Kyle because he has been married for a long time and I think he brought a lot of that to this, to this relationship. We really agreed about the values of the marriage and of what we were trying to create. You know, we both agreed we did not want this to be a marriage where we were going to be ultimately addressing, you know, infidelity or whatever. We just we really wanted to deal with the authenticity of what it is to try to make a marriage work and the drama of two people really trying to be in a relationship with each other that is, you know, nourishing and supportive is pretty great drama.

BIANCULLI: And it's not only husband/wife, but it's parents and daughter. So far, this next scene is I think my favorite scene from the entire show.

Ms. BRITTON: Oh, thank you.

BIANCULLI: And it's after, I don't know where you rank it, but it's after your character sees your daughter's boyfriend, Matt Saracen, buying condoms.

Ms. BRITTON: Mm-hmm.

BIANCULLI: And you pull you daughter aside to talk to her about it. And we have - this is you in the scene along with Aimee Teegarden, who plays Julie. Here we go.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Friday Night Lights")

Ms. BRITTON: (as Tami Taylor) Are you and Matt Saracen having sex?

Ms. AIMEE TEEGARDEN (Actor): (as Julie Taylor) No. We're thinking about it.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. BRITTON: (as Tami Taylor) You're thinking about it? Are you thinking about pregnancy? Are you thinking about sexually transmitted diseases?

Ms. TEEGARDEN: (as Julie Taylor) Well, I mean obviously, that's why he's buying condoms.

Ms. BRITTON: (as Tami Taylor) Oh, I see. So you're just buying condoms and then when you buy condoms that just makes you ready to make love to somebody -anybody.

Ms. TEEGARDEN: (as Julie Taylor) Making love...

Ms. BRITTON: (as Tami Taylor) Don't do that. Don't you smirk at me right now. I am very upset. You are not allowed to have sex. You're 15 years old.

Ms. TEEGARDEN: (as Julie Taylor) I just - I don't see what the big deal is. It's just one body part going...

Ms. BRITTON: (as Tami Taylor) No its not. No its not. It's not just one body part going into another body part. And the fact that you think that it's just one body part going into another body part makes me real clear on the fact that you really are not ready for this. And I need you to be able to hear that. I need you to be able to hear me say that to you.

Ms. TEEGARDEN: (as Julie Taylor) I'm listening to you.

Ms. BRITTON: (as Tami Taylor) Let me tell you what the big deal is. Let me tell you what can happen. What can happen is that you can be hurt. And you can be degraded. And you can become hard. And you can become cynical. And I dont want that to happen to you. This is something that's special. It's something that's meant for people who are in love.

Ms. TEEGARDEN: (as Julie Taylor) Okay. I understand.

Ms. BRITTON: (as Tami Taylor) Then you can wait. I want you to be able to talk to me about it.

Ms. TEEGARDEN: (as Julie Taylor) Okay. I mean we're talking, right?

BIANCULLI: That is such a wonderful scene.

Ms. BRITTON: Mm, thank you.

BIANCULLI: The intensity and the honesty of it. How do you get there? As an actress, what can you tell me about filming that scene?

Ms. BRITTON: Well, you know, this would be a good time to talk about just the general process of our show because we shoot with three cameras going all the time.


Ms. BRITTON: Which is very unusual. Most film and television shoots with one camera. And so you keep shooting a scene over and over again. We shoot with three cameras, so they're always getting different - they're always getting different angles so there a lot - and we never know where the cameras are. We don't rehearse. They don't tell us where to stand, which is what you call having marks. We don't have marks. So there's a real freedom in it. And it's interesting, when you just played that, I heard a - one of my favorite in lines in that scene is the line where I say, you're not old enough to have - you're not allowed to have sex.


(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BRITTON: You know, as if a mother is allowed to tell - can forbid her daughter from having sex, you know. And in the script, that line was in the script and I remember it was written a little differently in the script, and it was written almost in a not in a joking way, but almost to, you know, have Tami look like she's kind of pulling her hair out. Like, you're not allowed to have sex. You know what I mean?


Ms. BRITTON: But because of the way we shoot and then we had this great director, Allison Liddi-Brown was shooting that episode, and I think she had told Julie, Aimee Teegarden, who plays Julie to laugh at me or something, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BRITTON: And that really got my goat, you know. So suddenly it went in this whole different direction and because we had the freedom to do that, we weren't being concerned about where the camera was, where the lights were, where our marks were supposed to be, when we were supposed to say what at, you know, if there was going to be a camera on us or not, which is a lot of the time what you end up being concerned about when you're shooting TV.

BIANCULLI: We've played a scene with you with your family. I'd like to play one more scene. You know, your character began as a guidance counselor and then became principal of Dillon School and got into a lot of hot water there. And so this is a scene where when you are the school principal of Dillon, you're pushing through the transfer of a star football player to a smaller rival school where your husband now coaches. And one of the Dillon Panther Boosters has threatened action if Tami goes through with it. So you bust in on the next meeting of the Booster Association and confront him, knowing full well that everyone else who's also a Booster is eavesdropping with great interest. So here we go.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Friday Night Lights")

Mr. D.W. MOFFETT (Actor): (as Joe McCoy) And then, Buddy, are we looking to talk to that...

Ms. BRITTON: (as Tami Taylor) Sorry. I hate to interrupt. How are you? Good to see you, Sam. Don't mean to interrupt. Could I just have a quick word with you, Joe? Go, talk amongst yourselves.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BRITTON: (as Tami Taylor) I just want to make sure that we didn't have any misunderstanding, the other day when we had that conversation in the school parking lot. You know, with the gold card and all that stuff.

Mr. MOFFETT: (as Joe McCoy) Mm-hmm.

Ms. BRITTON: (as Tami Taylor) And I just want to make sure I was clear that my decision has been made and is made and that Luke Cafferty is going to East Dillon High.

Mr. MOFFETT: (as Joe McCoy) Are you clear about what I told you?

Ms. BRITTON: (as Tami Taylor) Oh yeah. I think I heard you. You mean about doing an investigation and retroactively taking away a Panther top state title? That's the thing youre talking about? Because I just want to actually make sure that you also check with all these gentlemen here about that. Because as you said, you know, that's going to mean rings being taken away and things like that. And I confess that they're a lot of rings in this group, you know, family and whatnot. So, you know, you do what you have to do. I know you're going to do what you have to do but I just want to make sure I have been very clear with you where I stand on it. And so, I'll let ya'll get back to it, thank you so much. Thank you so much. Ya'll enjoy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BIANCULLI: The Booster clip, you know, illustrates such a forceful, charming Southern woman where you go in, seemingly unarmed, but you're the equal of not only anyone in there, but everyone in there.

Ms. BRITTON: Mm-hmm.

BIANCULLI: And you know, where does that come from, or how much fun is that to play?

Ms. BRITTON: So much fun. And all I know is I know that quality so well that I'm sure I probably have a little bit of it myself. They were tough broads. My mother would march herself up to our school and have it out if she thought we weren't getting, you know, if she thought they were screwing up in something that we were, you know, some class or something.


Ms. BRITTON: She was like a mother bear. And a lot, you know, these were not women who were just going sit back and say, yes sir, no sir. You know, they, but they were sweet because they knew that that's what they had to do to get their point across in that sort of environment. It's a real interesting thing that happens, I think, to - in just speaking really generally, to women who are in an environment that is considered to be kind of conventional, and that is that they find ways, real subtle ways and personality ways, to break out of that or to empower themselves in the face of that. You know, I think that was a lot of it too.

BIANCULLI: Is it too Freudian to ask if you got influenced or inspired by your own mother?

Ms. BRITTON: I was, for sure. Yeah. And actually, strangely, my mother actually was from Connecticut. But we lived a good part of - I mean most of my life in Virginia. And she lived the last part of her - the last half of her life, she passed away actually a couple years ago...

BIANCULLI: I'm sorry.

Ms. BRITTON: ...in Virginia. And so - and she really took it on, you know? But she really adapted to the southern world. And so I felt that she, there were a lot there are a lot of things that I take from her in the character as well. Yeah. And actually, you know what? The truth - timing-wise, she passed away right before we started shooting "Friday Night Lights," so I, you know, I've never really thought of this, actually, until you just asked the question. But I realized being home during that period specifically and seeing the casseroles and the brownies and the cookies that ended up on the front porch daily, and the organization of the neighbors and the people at how they were going to come together for the family.

And so I actually think that that - that experience, in particular, in a more fresh way, and being able to be around all those women and then all my high school friends who, of course, all came back and gather around me, I think really contributed to the character.

BIANCULLI: It actually makes, you know, Tami sort of in one small respect a way of keeping your mom alive if you started the series right after that.

Ms. BRITTON: Uh-huh. Yeah. Yeah.

BIANCULLI: So have you ever gotten coached on your accent or corrected for your accent, or how does that work behind the scene? How did you nail that?

Ms. BRITTON: I have not been coached. You know, I think I'm lucky because I think I have a pretty good ear. And again, being in Austin helps so much. There was one time that I had to say the word pecan. And everybody - and see these are my coaches, everybody in the crew. They were like, I said it wrong. And by the way, I can't tell you if its pecan, pecan or pecan.


Ms. BRITTON: Which I still right at this moment can't tell you, because I kept doing it wrong. And first they laughed at me and then they said - they kept correcting me over and over again. And I think we may have gotten one take where I actually said it properly in the correct Texas way. But that was tricky.

BIANCULLI: You couldn't just change it to a different kind of pie?

Ms. BRITTON: Oh gosh, that would've been real smart, wouldn't it have been? Yeah, I know.

BIANCULLI: Well, it depends. I don't know how much they're spending, but you know, four or five takes in...

Ms. BRITTON: I really...

BIANCULLI: ...it could've been a pumpkin pie.

Ms. BRITTON: No. In fact, you're right though. Now that you say that, we had pecan pie. That's what we had, and that's all that we had - you know, if we could've made it, you know, lemon meringue, it would've made things a lot simpler.

BIANCULLI: But I guess if it was the only thing on set.


BIANCULLI: That's it.

Ms. BRITTON: Exactly.

BIANCULLI: Best of luck with whatever is next. And thank you so much for some really great years of television. So Connie Britton, thank you so much for being on FRESH AIR.

Ms. BRITTON: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

BIANCULLI: Connie Britton, co-star of NBC's "Friday Night Lights," in a conversation from 2010.

The NBC show presents its final episode tonight. And Connie Britton, co-star Kyle Chandler, and the series itself were all just nominated for Emmy Awards.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Friday Night Lights")

Mr. KYLE CHANDLER (Actor): (as Eric Taylor) So let's hear it one more time together. Clear eyes. Full hearts.

FOOTBALL PLAYERS: We can't lose.

Mr. CHANDLER: (as Eric Taylor) Let's go.

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

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