The Friday Night Lights Reunion Is Happening—So Who’s Gonna Show Up?
The big question for the biggest thing to happen in Dillon since State.
Fans have been clamoring for the chance to return to Dillon, Texas since the moment that Friday Night Lights ended. Although the show’s conclusion was basically perfect—as was so much else that happened on the show—is was still an apt example of “always leave ’em wanting more.”
And we have gotten more, just not the way we wanted it. There won’t be a movie in which Coach Taylor, Tim Riggins, Vince Howard, Matt Saracen, and the rest catch us up on how they’re living these days—but we did get a brief webseries that looked into how Landry’s band Crucifictorious is doing (touring the venue from NBC’s Parenthood! And with, er, Billy Riggins in tow for some reason). Ultimately, it’s probably for the best that we haven’t peeked in on Dillon to see Tami Taylor frustrated with whatever decision forced her to abandon her opportunities in Pennsylvania to return to Texas; or to see Smash Williams struggle with CTE; or to see Vince Howard get hit with a bunch of racist subtext for dancing after touchdowns and then looking sad at a post-Super Bowl press conference. Whatever happened to the characters ten years after the show premiered, it’s probably better left to our imaginations.
Still, that doesn’t mean we don’t desperately want to revisit the world of Friday Night Lights—and now there’s finally an opportunity to do it. Entertainment Weekly announced last week that the ATX Television Festival will play host to the ten-year Friday Night Lights cast reunion.
The festival, of course, hosts a Friday Night Lights reunion most every year—but those events are more like homecoming, where whatever cast members who happen to be in town stop by for some good times. Louanne Stephens (Grandma Sarecen!) is a regular of the event, as is Katherine Willis (Jason Street’s mom). Previous years have seen most of the principle cast stop by, though never all in the same year. (Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler surprised fans in 2013; Taylor Kitsch showed up the year after.) If the festival is making a big deal of a ten-year reunion this far in advance, one has to assume that it’s not just because Billy Riggins and Becky are gonna be dropping in. (No offense to Derek Phillips or Madison Burge!)
The details of this reunion are scarce so far—there’ll be a pep rally and meetup at the Panther Field set from the show, which will include live music, tailgating, and photo ops, but who you’ll be posing with in those photos is as yet unspecified. Chandler and Britton are musts, if the reunion is to prove worthy of the name—Coach and Tami Taylor were not only the heart of Friday Night Lights, but the only cast members (outside of Aimee Teegarden, who played their daughter, Julie) to appear on every episode of the show.
Chandler and Britton are both plenty busy. Chandler is in the Netflix series Bloodline, and is a sought-after character actor in Oscar-bait pictures (check out his turns in Carol, The Wolf of Wall Street, Zero Dark Thirty, and Argo). Britton, meanwhile, is doing double duty as Rayna James on ABC’s Nashville and as Faye Resnick on American Crime Story.
Beyond the two of them, the highest-soaring cast members from Friday Night Lights are probably Michael B. Jordan—who starred as quarterback Vince Howard in seasons four and five of the show—and Jesse Plemons, who played Landry Clarke throughout its run.
Jordan, of course, was the star of both the critical and commercial success Creed and the underwhelming flop Fantastic Four last year, and he’s currently on his way to becoming one of Hollywood’s more bankable leading men. Plemons, meanwhile, has continued to ascend through supporting and character work—his post-FNL TV career includes memorable roles in Breaking Bad and Fargo, as well as supporting parts in Bridge of Spies, The Master, and Black Mass.
Meanwhile, Taylor Kitsch—long pegged as the breakout star of the show after his turn as Tim Riggins—saw his leading man career struggle after back-to-back flops in John Carter and Battleship; he followed that up with a solid performance in FNL creator Peter Berg’s 2013 Afghanistan war drama Lone Survivor (spoiler: he didn’t play the lone survivor), and as one of the brighter spots in the mostly-unwatchable second season of True Detective. Adrienne Palicki, who played Tyra, is a regular on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and spent time on Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series and the short-lived About A Boy.
The rest of the cast tends to work more sporadically. Even well-loved stars like Zach Gilford (your high school boyfriend Matt Saracen) and Minka Kelley (Lyla Garrity) haven’t led a major studio project in a few years—though Gilford’s poised to star on ABC’s forthcoming The Family, and Kelly’s parts as Jackie Kennedy in Lee Daniels’ The Butler and the female lead in Fox’s short-lived Almost Human suggest that Hollywood isn’t through with her.
There are plenty of Friday Night Lights faces who might make it back for the reunion, in other words, but it’s the busiest ones—Coach and Tami, Riggins, Vince, Landry, Matt Saracen, Tyra, and Lyla—who would make a ten-year-reunion one worth tailgating for. We’ll keep our eyes peeled to see which of them (fingers crossed, all of them) make it to Austin in June.