Emmys 2011: Why Kyle Chandler Embraces His Underdog Status (Q&A)

8:27 PM PST 08/17/2011 by Stacey Wilson
Bill Records/NBC

The actor is nominated as outstanding lead actor in a drama series for the final season of "Friday Night Lights."

The ever-modest star of the departed DirecTV/NBC drama Friday Night Lights would never say it out loud. But to earn a first Emmy as a long shot for the final season of playing Coach Eric Taylor would be, for Kyle Chandler, the perfect FNL finale. In a chat with THR, the actor reflects on his big summer, lessons he learned filming FNL in Texas and how not being too famous suits him fine.

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The Hollywood Reporter: You're coming off a huge summer with the Friday Night Lights finale, your role in Super 8 and now an Emmy nomination. You also seem incredibly humble. Are you able to bask in the limelight, even a little?

Kyle Chandler: (Laughs.) Well, I'm not sad about it. Super 8 was fantastic, it was great working with all those people. It was a very comfortable set and a very creative experience. I mean, come on, it was Steven Spielberg.

THR: You wrapped FNL in early 2010, so you've had more than a year to process the series coming to an end. How difficult was it to film the finale?

Chandler: It was bittersweet, obviously. Saying goodbye to the characters was like saying goodbye to good friends. I think it's similar to this: My brother works in psychology, with patients with split personalities, and what he tries to do is integrate those personalities so they slowly disappear. It felt like that with the final episode: We finally integrated to the point where the characters were gone, and now we're starting over and waiting for the next job. I liked Coach Taylor a lot -- I think he's a really cool guy. But he was just a little too Goody Two-shoes for me.

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THR: What did you most take away from the show, in terms of its impact on your craft?

Chandler: That's very hard to answer. The most important part for me was being part of a group of people who all shared equally in the creative process. It was a complete, total learning experience that has totally changed what I strive to find in other projects. Luckily enough on Super 8, I ended up working with people who were very similar. I've been pretty damn fortunate the past few years, to say the least.

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THR: How meaningful was it for FNL to have filmed in Austin, thousands of miles from the grind of Hollywood?

Chandler: I'll just say it's not always a negative thing to not have agents and publicists coming to the set every day. Not that that's a bad thing, but in a sense that kept us all feeling more like a real family.

THR: Is there a particular moment from filming the series that most sticks with you?

Chandler: Actually, one of the most exciting moments came in the very, very beginning, when we started the series after the pilot. [Producer] Pete Berg and all the actors were in a room together, and he laid out the rules on how we were going to be working. It was quite obvious that it was going to be something different from anything else I'd been involved with before.

THR: What were the rules?

Chandler: "Challenge the writing, challenge the producers, challenge the directors. Directors, challenge the actors, challenge the producers, challenge the writers. Writers, challenge the producers," etc. Everyone was given the order to challenge in an intelligent and collaborative way that really fired up people's imaginations. Pete was fantastic at turning us, for lack of a better term, into a team. No one was ever told "what to do" on the set; we were only told to do what we do best.

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THR: Does it bother you that the show's consistently low ratings will forever be part of its legacy?

Chandler: Well, we all knew we were part of something special, so whenever people talked about the ratings, I'll tell you, I didn't give a damn about any of that. Of course, I just wanted the show to keep going. Selfishly, I've never had more fun working in my life, and I've never learned more. My job now is to take the lessons that I learned and share them with people in the next projects that I take on.

THR: It's almost as if you all graduated from Friday Night Lights Acting Academy.

Chandler: (Laughs.) Exactly. And it didn't hurt people, as you can see. Everyone from the cast is out there doing something really cool now -- Aimee Teegarden, Taylor Kitsch, Michael B. Jordan, Connie Britton and, of course, [showrunner] Jason Katims still has Parenthood. It's pretty awesome.

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THR: Are you recognized in public more frequently these days?

Chandler: A little bit more, yeah, and people say things to me on the street more often. But I've been on the other side of that, too. You can pretend, "Oh, it's too difficult; oh, it's too much." But then it starts ending, and you have to bring up, "Oh, you know, I did that movie a couple years ago." It's a double-edged sword. That said, I can see where a high level of fame would easily be pain and anguish for people trying to raise a family. But I'm just not at that point. I'm not that famous, so there's a natural balance.                   

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