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What The Cast Of NBC's Friday Night Lights Looks Like Today

It's been years since NBC's high school sports drama Friday Night Lights aired its final episode, but the series still holds a special place in fans' hearts. The show, which premiered in 2006, was a picturesque depiction of small town America, set in the fictional city of Dillon, Texas. At the heart of the town was Dillon High School, and more specifically, its football team, a ragtag assortment of different personalities glued together under the guidance of the eternally paternal Coach Eric Taylor.

Although it never quite managed to garner the kind of ratings it should've, FNL had an undeniably loyal fan base. When NBC tried to cancel the series after its second season, fans petitioned and fought to save the show by mailing light bulbs and mini footballs to the network, ultimately resulting in three more seasons. 

Perhaps a big reason why the show resonated so well with its audience was the extraordinarily talented cast. For some actors, FNL served as a springboard for future successes; for others, this was their career's highlighting role. Here is what the cast of FNL has been up to since their time walking the halls of Dillon High.

Coach Taylor stayed true to his Texas roots

Although playing Jeff Metcalf on ABC's sitcom Homefront lit the flame of Kyle Chandler's acting career, it was the role of Eric Taylor, head coach of the Dillon Panthers football team on Friday Night Lights, that truly poured gasoline on it. As Taylor, Chandler gave an incredibly believable, grounded performance that perfectly captured a teacher and family man. The role even earned him a well-deserved Emmy win for Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 2011.

After officially hanging up his whistle in 2011, the Buffalonian actor became a hot name in Hollywood. Chandler has appeared in a slew of well-received movies, including The Wolf of Wall StreetFirst Man, and Manchester by the Sea. In 2015, he dipped back into TV, starring in Netflix's Golden Globe-nominated series Bloodline.

While the respected actor has enjoyed a wildly successful decade, it appears as though the Godzilla: King of the Monsters star hasn't let fame change his priorities. In a recent interview with Men's Journal, Chandler discussed the life-changing decision to leave Los Angeles and move his family to a small town outside of Austin, Texas, where he still lives with his wife and two daughters. In the words of Tim Riggins, "Texas forever."

Tami Taylor is more than a coach's wife

Apparently, Connie Britton was destined to play a football coach's wife. The Spin City veteran not only played Sharon Gaines, the wife of Billy Bob Thornton's Coach Gaines in 2004's Friday Night Lights movie, but also Tami Taylor, the high school guidance counselor married to Coach Eric Taylor in NBC's Friday Night Lights television series. As Tami, Britton shone as a strong-willed mother and devoted wife, nabbing a pair of Emmy nominations in 2010 and 2011.

After FNL, Britton took on the role of Vivien Harmon on the first season of Ryan Murphy's wild horror series American Horror Story. Although the Ivy League graduate was excited to play a different type of part, she was a little nervous about some of the show's risque scenes. "I needed to shake things up, but also worried, 'My God, what are people going to think when they see Tami Taylor having sex with a man in a rubber suit?'"

Fortunately, Britton's time on AHS did nothing but boost her notoriety, and she soon found herself starring in a plethora of both films and television series alike. She is perhaps most recognized as Rayna Jaymes from CMT's megahit Nashville, but Britton has also played notable parts in shows like 9-1-1Dirty John, and SMILF, as well as movies like American Ultra and Bombshell.

Tim Riggins still lives in Texas

After stealing America's heart playing troubled teen with a heart of gold Tim Riggins on Friday Night Lights, Taylor Kitsch seemed destined for the big time. While splitting time walking the halls of Dillon High, Kitsch appeared in small roles in a couple of blockbuster action movies, including Snakes on a Plane and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but audiences were excited to see what he could do as a leading man.

Unfortunately, things didn't quite pan out as expected in that regard. After FNL wrapped, Kitsch landed two leading parts: one as the titular character in Disney's ambitious sci-fi blockbuster John Carter, which completely bombed in the box office, reportedly losing $200 million, and the other as Lieutenant Alex Hopper in Battleship, which also ended up being a massive flop. While the actor bounced back with smaller roles in successful projects like Lone Survivor and HBO's True Detective, Hollywood still seems hesitant to cast him as a lead again.

The Savages star still gets work, most recently in the Chadwick Boseman-led 21 Bridges, but, much like fellow FNL alum Kyle Chandler, he actually lives in Austin, Texas, where he spends his time playing guitar and doing photography. Although he may not have left Texas, don't expect Tim Riggins to show up in an FNL reboot anytime soon. "There's no way," he vowed in 2019. "If you want to give me $25 million I'll do it, but that's my price." 

Lyla Garrity gained superpowers

It's hard to reminisce on episodes of Friday Night Lights without Minka Kelly's Lyla Garrity coming to mind. The Panthers cheerleader had a real girl-next-door vibe about her, and although her dating exploits often muddied her reputation, she was a staple to the series' success. The show catapulted Kelly into the limelight, and she was even crowned Esquire's Sexiest Woman Alive in 2010.

Fresh off her FNL fame, Kelly starred in the 2011 horror film The Roommate, which attempted to capitalize on the fact that she and Gossip Girl's Leighton Meester look uncannily similar. She also had roles on network TV shows like NBC's Parenthood and ABC's ill-fated Charlie's Angels reboot, but she really didn't have another noteworthy gig until she played Dove on DC's Titans in 2018.

While Kelly has managed to fly below the radar in terms of filmography, she has stayed in the tabloids for other reasons — namely, her love life. Much like Lyla Garrity, Kelly's dating life has been a bit of a roller coaster over the past decade. She's been linked to an abundance of celebrities, ranging from Chris Evans to Derek Jeter. Sounds like Lyla doesn't just have eyes for football players after all.

Tyra Collette joined S.H.I.E.L.D.

Although it's been several years since her last time playing Tyra Collette, Adrianne Palicki still has her own thoughts on where Dillon's resident "bad girl" would be today. "Riggins is still in Dillon, Texas, and married to Tyra," she imagined in 2019. "They're a messed-up version of Coach and Tammy, 'cause he's still Riggs. But he's coaching, and she's now the counselor... It's the next evolution."

While it may have been tough to say farewell to the angsty Texas teen, Palicki has achieved a respectable career since her time on Friday Night Lights, especially in the butt-kicking genre. She starred in 2012's poorly reviewed remake of Red Dawn before appearing in major action blockbusters G.I. Joe: Retaliation and John Wick. She also gained notoriety by playing fan favorite super-heroine Mockingbird on ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Most recently, the Legion vet has been showcasing her comedic prowess alongside Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane on Fox's Star Trek spoof The Orville. As Commander Kelly Grayson, Palicki plays the first officer (and ex-wife) of MacFarlane's Captain Ed Mercer, and although the show takes place in outer space, certain aspects of it feel similar to the Dillon High alum. "I can compare this to Friday Night Lights in a sense," she argued. "The reason it's so grounded is because it's grounded in reality. You could be taking us off the spaceship and have the exact same situations happen." From rural Texas to outer space, there's apparently no telling how high Tyra Collette will fly.

Matthew Saracen starred in a Taylor Swift video

In the first episode of Friday Night Lights, Matthew Saracen, a shy, awkward nobody, gets a chance to shine as the Dillon Panthers' quarterback. Much like his character, it was also Zach Gilford's first opportunity to show what he could do. As Saracen, Gilford captured the essence of a high-school average Joe, and really became one of the more relatable characters on the show.

Perhaps it was this natural underdog quality that helped him land roles in various projects after FNL wrapped, works that include horror flicks The Purge: Anarchy and Devil's Due. While film roles are all well and good, you have to imagine that one of Gilford's most unique credits was playing the boyfriend in Taylor Swift's music video for her song "Ours," an experience that he isn't soon to forget. "She got in touch with my people and asked me to do it. And if Taylor Swift asks you to be in her video, you're like, 'Yeah, of course!'"

Most recently, you can see Gilford on NBC's Good Girls, where he plays Mae Whitman's ex-husband Gregg. It's good to see that Matthew Saracen returned to his home network.

Landry Clarke got engaged to a star

Dallas-born actor Jesse Plemons may have been an unknown when he first played lovable loser turned high school jock Landry Clarke in Friday Night Lights, but that isn't the case anymore. The Emmy-nominated star has been all over the map since 2011, with a wide-ranging acting resume. Aside from Landry, he is perhaps most recognized as the sadistic Todd, Jesse Pinkman's captor and torturer in the wildly popular Breaking Bad, but he has also played prominent roles on the big screen, starring in movies like Black MassBridge of Spies, and Game Night.

Plemons was also one of the lead characters on the second season of FX's anthology series Fargo. While playing Ed Blumquist brought his career success in many facets, including his first Emmy nomination, it also greatly enhanced his personal life by introducing him to his co-star and future fiancée, Spider-Man star Kirsten Dunst. The two were engaged in January of 2017, and although they haven't officially tied the knot yet, they welcomed their first son, Ennis, in mid-2018. While Plemons stays busy in Hollywood, most recently appearing in Netflix's Oscar-nominated gangster movie The Irishman, he's loving fatherhood. "It's the best, man. It's so hard to put into words. All the cliches are true, what every parent tells you." Coach Taylor would be proud.

Julie Taylor is unrecognizable

Aimee Teegarden was only 16 when she was cast as Julie Taylor, the strong-willed daughter of Coach Eric and Tammy Taylor in Friday Night Lights. Although it was her first pilot, she had enough advice from some of her more experienced costars to know that the show was a rare opportunity. "Kyle Chandler, I remember, he used to say to us, 'You kids, you have no idea how good you have it. You have no idea.' So I think, at the time, we all kind of just really tried to enjoy it as much as possible, and it was just such a special show and it was an amazing time in my life."

Since FNL ended, Teegarden has kept one foot in network television, first starring as Emery Whitehill on the CW's romantic sci-fi series Star-Crossed and then as Ella Benjamin on ABC's Notorious. Although her film career never really caught fire, she has popped up in the occasional horror movie, including 2011's Scream 4 and 2017's Rings. Most recently, she starred in the 2019 Hallmark movie A New Year's Resolution.

Out of all the FNL stars, Teegarden arguably looks the most different today. In fact, most people apparently don't recognize her if they see her about. "It's funny. It takes people a hot second [to recognize me], because when I was in Friday Night Lights I had super blonde hair and bangs, and I was 16 when I started that show."

Jason Street raises awareness about Huntington's Disease

Poor Jason Street. The one-time QB had such a promising future ahead of him prior to his devastating injury in Friday Night Lights' pilot, placing him in a wheelchair for the remainder of the show. Fortunately for Scott Porter, the actor playing him, FNL was just the beginning of a highly successful acting career.

Porter actually officially hung up his cleats after the series' third season, but he did come back to make an appearance in the season four finale. After that, he went on to play investigator Blake Calamar on CBS' The Good Wife, and then George Tucker in Hart of Dixie. He has also appeared in a plethora of movies throughout the years, including Prom Night, Speed Racer, and Dear John.

While the Nebraskan actor has shared onscreen steamy scenes with Minka Kelly and Rachel Bilson, when the cameras go off, he is a devoted, happily married husband and father. His wife, Kelsey Mayfield Porter, was diagnosed with Huntington's Disease, a serious neurological condition that affects brain cells, in 2013. In response, the couple has been working to raise awareness, and, more importantly, how to end the disease. "I want them to know that you don't have to pass the gene down. We did something called PGD IVF," Porter revealed. "It's genetic testing for embryos, and you can make sure that you don't pass it down any longer. McCoy, my son, is clean... that Huntington's gene will end with my wife."

Smash Williams became a doctor at Seattle Grace Hospital

As Brian "Smash" Williams, Gaius Charles got to channel his inner Boobie Miles to portray a talented yet egotistical athlete. However, the actor in real life is apparently very different from his onscreen counterpart. "When we all first got cast, we all went out to lunch with [executive producer] Peter Berg," Charles recalled. "We're talking and talking... After a while, I keep talking, and he's just staring at me... He goes, 'You're really different from your character. I mean, really different.' And I'm like, 'Okay, so should I get my burger to go? Am I fired?'"

Fortunately for Charles, he got to stick around for Friday Night Lights' first three seasons, playing "The Smash" for the last time 2008. Since then, the NYC-bred actor has held minor roles in several movies and television shows. He appeared in 2010's Salt alongside Angelina Jolie, and more recently in NBC's spinoff/prequel of Liam Neeson's Taken. Aside from Smash, Gaius is perhaps best known for playing Dr. Shane Ross in the later seasons of ABC's Grey's Anatomy

Buddy Garrity returned to the football field

It wouldn't be Texas High School football without an overwhelming booster involved. For Friday Night Lights, that role fell on the shoulders of Brad Leland, whose wealthy car salesman Buddy Garrity was the very personification of Dillon Panthers football. While Buddy made a slew of poor decisions throughout the series, such as cheating on his wife with Tyra Collette's mother, he at times showed a vulnerability that made him easier to empathize with.

Leland was one of the few FNL regulars who was already a relatively established name prior to being cast on the show, with his first credited role dating back to 1985. Still, playing Buddy did nothing but boost his stardom, and since the show wrapped in 2011, work has been pretty abundant for the Texas-bred actor. He played Bill O'Brien in HBO's award-winning political satire Veep and starred alongside Mark Wahlberg in Deepwater Horizon.

Most recently, Leland took another football-themed role as Coach Victor Trenton in The Last Whistle, a film that addresses the dangers of cardiac arrest, a topic Leland is very passionate about. "People don't realize that every week, a young person, boy or girl, dies in high school sports in the US," Leland pointed out. "It's very common and it's not always a heart condition, but more often than not, it is. It's a matter of them not having a physical that's complete enough to tell them they shouldn't play because it's too hard on your heart."