For those who didn’t catch the last season of Friday Night Lights when it aired several months ago on DirecTV, tomorrow night brings the series finale. Although we’ve already seen it, we may just DVR it and let the tears flow all over again, because we’re still in mourning for one of our favorite shows of all time. Everyone who feels the same way about FNL as we do will be interested in Robert Mays’s fascinating and thorough oral history at Grantland. It seems like Mays spoke to everyone who was involved with the show, from most of the cast members to the writers to the suits at NBC. Read ten surprising tidbits we learned from the piece after the jump and then click over to Grantland to devour every detail of the FNL story.
1. The current series isn’t TV’s first Friday Night Lights-inspired show. Former NBC president Kevin Reilly tried to buy the television rights to the book after it came out, but it had already been optioned for a movie, so he made his own version. Against the Grain, starring Ben Affleck, didn’t even make it a full season.
2. Kyle Chandler (Eric Taylor) won his role by showing up hungover after a night of booze and poker. “You look like a Texas high school football coach!” said series creator Peter Berg.
3. Connie Britton (Tami Taylor) originally wanted nothing to do with the show. The coach’s wife in the FNL movie was a one-dimensional supportive spouse. Berg recalls that she responded to his offer with: “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.” Britton only signed on after she was promised a more complex role.
4. Before she was cast on FNL, Minka Kelly (Lyla Garrity) was a nurse at a plastic surgery clinic. Zach Gilford, meanwhile, was working at a sporting goods store.
5. Taylor Kitsch earned the part of Tim Riggins by chugging two tall boys in his audition video.
6. Gaius Charles, who played star running back Smash Williams, is a terrible football player. “We told Gaius, ‘Just stick to acting,’” said Aaron Spivey (Coach Spivey). “He’s a hell of an actor, but he’s not a football player. At all.”
7. Kitsch, who grew up playing hockey in Canada, was the show’s best real-life athlete.
8. Everyone seems to agree: the Season 2 premiere, in which Landry murders Tyra’s stalker, was a mistake. “We were coming to the end of Season 1, and the show was critically well-received, but the numbers. … So we thought, let’s do something big, something shocking and titillating and provocative,” said producer and writer David Hudgins.
9. When Coach moved from the Panthers to the Lions, everyone was nervous that the red uniforms would be the series’s kiss of death. “But Kyle, God love him, just took that red hat and made it his own,” said Berg.
10. The show’s wrap party ended with a late-night game of touch football on the field where FNL was filmed.