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Posted at 1:49 PM ET, 08/24/2010

Talking with Connie Britton, Emmy nominee for 'Friday Night Lights'

By Jen Chaney

Connie Britton, Emmy nominee. (NBC)

Connie Britton's days as Tami Taylor -- the smart, spirited and perpetually level-headed mother and wife of Coach Eric Taylor on "Friday Night Lights" -- aren't just numbered. They're over.

Last month, Britton and the rest of the "FNL" cast and crew wrapped production on the high school football drama's fifth and final season, to air beginning in October on DirecTV and next year on NBC.

But Britton still has plenty to look forward to, most notably Sunday's Emmy Awards, where she and her television husband, Kyle Chandler, are both nominated (finally) for their performances on the series.

Britton recently telephoned from New York to talk about that nomination, saying goodbye to "Lights" life and her plans to work with Chandler in the future.

Now that you've had a little bit of time for the Emmy nomination to sink in, how are you feeling?

Connie Britton: I'm still feeling just stunned and really honored by it. I still can't quite believe it. And mostly, I'm just so thrilled because it's such an acknowledgment of the show. We've been sort of percolating along, doing this show that we love all these years and have had really nice responses from critics, et cetera. So the fact that now it's been honored in this way is like -- oh, that's so nice.

You guys have been doing great work on "Friday Night Lights" from day one. What was it about this season that made you finally get that recognition?

Honestly, I really can't begin to speculate. Because I don't understand. Anyone who understands how the Emmys work, come explain it to me. (Laughs.)

My sense [from] just being out in the world, I feel like more people have found the show. That doesn't even necessarily mean they've found this season. I feel like people are finding the show on DVD. I talk to people who are getting it on iTunes. So I just think we are, even in our fourth season, slowly but surely accumulating audience. And that's a great testament to the show, honestly. Even after four seasons, people are still jumping on board and saying wow, this is awesome.

It's a shame that so many shows get no chance to prove themselves. But you guys have, especially through the most recent arrangement with DirecTV. It really does take time to build audience. And a lot of shows aren't given the time.

It really does. In the old days of TV, which I can still remember, a show would be given time. "Seinfeld" was given time. They weren't a hit right out of the gate. But that doesn't really happen anymore. So the fact that a show that, by network standards, was being considered not necessarily a hit has been able to survive for five seasons is pretty extraordinary. We have only considered ourselves fortunate about that.

Did you start making Emmy plans as soon as you were nominated? Did you decide what you were going to wear, or what you might say if you have to make an acceptance speech?

CB: Oh yeah. I had no idea -- I'm really new to this whole circus. And it is a little bit of a circus. (Laughs) Immediately after I was nominated, you know, it was, "Okay, we've got to set up hair. We've got to set up make-up." And already it was kind of, "Somebody's on hold." It was kind of craziness right off the bat. And then of course, the dress, the dress. It's all about the dress. I'm working with a stylist that I've worked with before and really like, so that's going to be good. It's always good to work with people that you know and love, especially for something like this that's so new. It's nice to have that sense of calm.

Britton and Kyle Chandler. (AP)

What was different about this compared to other red carpet-type events you've dealt with before?

Just having to arrange everything so immediately. And literally, the day after I was nominated I was talking to my publicists about what time the hair person was going to have to come because, were they going to be doing somebody else that day, and what are the pros and cons of having to share? It was all kind of crazy! I mean, what? Who knew?

And then my stylist calling and saying,"Connie, I've got to talk to you. We've got to get our orders in because Europe closes in August." I'm like, who knew? Europe closes. It's just closed. Buh-bye. That made me laugh so hard because I'm like, "Oh good Lord. We better hurry up because Europe's going to close down."

I guess this is a doubly crazy time because you so recently wrapped production on the show.

Yeah. ... And honestly, I have to say it was so -- first of all, being nominated and being able to go right back to work after being nominated was so wonderful because the whole thing just made me feel even greater gratitude for all the people that I work with. Because, I'm telling you, this show would be nothing without our crew and without every single person involved. So it was really wonderful to go back and work with them and be able to finish off our final season. And also because it was such a melancholy thing to be ending the show, this was a nice way to go out. It really was. It certainly helped my mood, that's for sure.

Were you on the set for the last day or last moment of shooting?

I was. I actually wasn't in the last scene that was being shot but a lot of us went out [to the set]. It was actually really beautiful because the last scene that we shot of the show just happened to be in this big, beautiful open field. And it was sunset. So a lot of the cast, and Peter Berg, who created the show, flew in. And Sarah Aubrey, his partner, and David Nevins from Imagine -- you know, all the people who had been involved from the beginning and writers and editors -- came into town [Austin, Tex., where production was based]. We all got to convene on this beautiful Texas field at sundown and watch the final scene be shot. It was a great moment.

What was the emotional vibe? I'm imagining tears.

It was very bittersweet. I think people were really trying to figure out how to, you know, how to encapsulate what it is to have done this all together for the last five years. Just so much gratitude, and also a lot of sadness knowing that we're all going to miss each other. Every single person on the show knew that this was something special.

Was there an after-party?

Oh, yeah. This is Austin, Texas, of course! We had a big sort of wrap party at this, like, big, gigantic honky-tonk bar, which was kind of crazy. And wrap parties are always rough because, you know, it's never as intimate as you want it to be. You don't quite get to talk to everybody that you want to talk to and you all know that's the end and you're having to say goodbye. So it's sort of this crazy combination of emotions. And all the while it's, "We're at a party and we're supposed to be having a great time." But yeah, we managed to have some good parties there toward the end. I'd say we let the last, probably, two weeks of the show be kind of one big party.

Is there anything you can say about what's ahead in the last season? I read something suggesting there might be some potential tension between Tami and Eric.

I really, of course, don't want to give anything away because people really love to discover it. We got to play some stuff in season five that we had never played before. There were some challenges that came up that we had never had to face before. So that was really ... I hope that stuff is going to play out really well because it was certainly fun for us to play and a great opportunity after the fourth season stress to dig to another level.

How much input do you have into Tami? I'm specifically thinking about the fourth season and the abortion plot line. Are you really going with what's on the page or did you get to say, actually, I think Tami would say this to Becky [the character who gets pregnant]?

Yeah, I did actually. I had really extensive conversations with [executive producer and writer] Jason Katims about it because, you know, that was a very ambitious storyline. It was really important to me that the show play it authentically without commenting on the issue, but just playing the truth of the issue from all sides.

The other thing that was important to me, too, was not to depict Texas as "Everybody's going to run Tami out of town," in this small town in Texas. It would be more complicated than that and it's been important to us all along to never be doing any kind of a commentary on Texas or stereotyping of Texas. And I think we've done that really successfully and I wanted to make sure we didn't enter any of that area in this story.

Of course I would love to have gone -- I wish we could have gone even deeper. That's the hard part about doing a show where it's truly an ensemble show and there's so many stories going on. When you bite off something that's that big of a story and that big an issue, you kind of wish you could dig in there a little bit deeper.

Now that Tami is behind you, do you look back on the character and see her as a good example of a working mom? She obviously has her flaws, she’s really an inspiring character that a lot of women look to and think, she always handle every situation really well.

I do. Listen, I love that character and, you know, I feel like we didn’t even get to half of what the challenges would be to be such a full-time working mom and have an infant baby as well as a husband and an older daughter. I mean, we used to joke going in to work -- we’d start a scene and be like, “Where is Gracie [the Taylors' infant daughter] right now?” And everybody would always be like, “She’s sleeping. She’s ... she's at daycare!” I’m like, “Uh-huh.” You know, so I think that we got a little lucky in terms of really addressing what the strife would be and just the difficulties would be in regards to that. But certainly, I think overall, like, the character and her ideals and the way she lived her life and her commitment to those things, I find to be really inspiring. I loved them, and I loved her.

What are you going to miss about doing the show? I’m sure there’s all kinds of things, but have you had any time to think about that?

Oh, well, there’s so much that I’m going to miss because I’m going to miss every single person that I worked with, probably Kyle Chandler most of all. But truly everyone. As I said, it was such a collaboration and everyone on our crew -- I wish I could, you know, take with me to whatever I do next. And I’m going to miss the process. The process of shooting our show was incredibly unique and so, so creative and it’s just rare to be able to say that for a TV show. You know, the thing that was great about our show was that all these things, for whatever reason, all the pieces somehow aligned and made it this wonderful, wonderful work experience. And to imagine that that’s going to happen again -- you know, it’s hard to think that that could actually happen again. But if it does, I will be the luckiest person in the world.

Do you think that you and Kyle Chandler might work together again?

I hope so. We always talked about it. We'd be in the middle of shooting a scene and we’d be like, “What’s the next TV show we’re going to do?”

You know, we always kind of imagined we’d do a comedy that was very stylized or whatever. And maybe we will. I feel like we’ll each get one other thing under our belts and then we get to go back to each other. Maybe that’s the case.

You anticipate that you’ll stay in touch with each other?

Oh, yeah. Without question.

And obviously you’ll get to celebrate at the Emmys.

Yeah, I mean, that’s gonna be -- at least for us that’s just going to be a great celebration of the show.

Do you know what you’re doing next? Do you have another project lined up?

You know, I don’t. I actually just would love to take a little bit of a breather because, you know, this show and this character went pretty deep so it’d be nice to take a little bit of a breath. And also, I’m sort of enjoying right now that I have all this open space. I’d love to do a little bit of everything. I’d love to do a great movie, I’d love to work in the theater again and then absolutely go back to TV. You know, I think actually at this point I'd like to maybe develop something.

Oh really?

To kind of go at it from a little more of a creative standpoint. I think that would be really fun.

By Jen Chaney  | August 24, 2010; 1:49 PM ET
Categories:  Pop Culture, TV  | Tags:  Emmy Awards, Q&As  
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Comments make my heart sing.

Posted by: biffgrifftheoneandonly | August 24, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Second the motion, biff! BTW, Britton also gave an excellent interview on NPR's "Fresh Air" a few months ago (might be available online, for those who are interested). Among other things, she revealed that the show is shot with three cameras at different angles, instead of the typical one with multiple takes of closeups, in order to capture conversations in one take.

Kyle Chandler isn't exactly half shabby either :-)))))

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | August 24, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

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