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Over the weekend, Black Panther had the fifth-largest opening weekend of all time. The Marvel film features an stellar cast—Oscar talent like Chadwick Boseman, Angela Bassett, Forrest Whittaker, Daniel Kaluuya, and Lupita N’yongo are all on the bill—but the film’s scenes are stolen by Michael B. Jordan as Eric Killmonger, who quickly establishes himself as one of the most compelling villains we’ve seen in a superhero movie.
Jordan, of course, wasn’t introduced to Texans as Killmonger, or even as the title character in 2015’s Creed. We met him as Vince Howard, the East Dillon quarterback who helps Coach Eric Taylor find redemption after being unceremoniously dumped at the end of Friday Night Lights‘ third season. As Vince, Jordan first began to explore the wounded masculinity that has become his defining attribute as an actor—nobody with arms that big cries on the inside better than Michael B. Jordan.
When it comes to his fellow Dillon, Texas, alums and their post-FNL careers, Jordan is currently setting the bar. He’s not the only one who’s doing well, though. Although there’ve been some talented actors who appear to have peaked in Dillon (we’re here for a Zach Gilford or Minka Kelly revival, though), the star power that emerged from Friday Night Lights is impressive. Let’s take a look at the folks who stalked the halls and football fields of Dillon and see what they’re doing in 2018.
Michael B. Jordan
In just a weekend, Jordan’s turn as Killmonger has already been seen by more people than ever watched Dr. Strange, The Fate of the Furious, or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in a movie theater. But also, it’s only February, and the dude is busy. Up next this year, he’s starring as hero Guy Montag in HBO’s adaptation of Fahrenheit 451, and preparing to enter production on a new slate of features (as well as Raising Dion, a Netflix sci-fi series for which he is the star and an executive producer). None of those projects are going to have the same profile as Black Panther, but his arrow is pointing all the way up for the next couple years, at least.
Coach Taylor’s post-Friday Night Lights career has been generally impressive: he brought his authoritative-but-loving parental persona to J.J. Abrams’s Super 8 in 2011, did supporting turns in Oscar films like Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, The Wolf of Wall Street, Carol, and Manchester by the Sea, and broke out of his typical casting in three seasons of Netflix’s Bloodline. Later this month, he once more plays against type in the hard-R comedy Game Night, and he’ll once more find himself in an Oscar-bait film later in the year by playing Mercury 7 astronaut Deke Slayton in First Man, Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic (which also reunites the director with his La La Land star Ryan Gosling).
Plemons, who played Landry on the first four seasons of Friday Night Lights, was an unlikely choice for the series’s breakout star (we’ll get to the presumed darling later). Early on, though, Plemons found himself one of the most in-demand Dillon alums—he took prestige roles in films like The Master, played supporting roles palling around with Rihanna in Battleship, and found himself in Stephen Spielberg’s world, with turns in both Bridge of Spies and The Post. (There was also his terrifying guest-starring role on Breaking Bad, of course.) He was an Emmy nominee for his role on Fargo‘s second season, and closed out 2017 with a strong appearance on Black Mirror. In 2018, meanwhile, he’s re-teaming with Kyle Chandler in Game Night, and working with Martin Scorsese on the legendary filmmaker’s The Irishman (which may not see release until 2019). Also, he and his wife, Kirsten Dunst, are having a baby, so 2018’s looking pretty good.
The woman who epitomized sassy good nature as Tami Taylor went for a reprise as Rayna James on the long-running Nashville after leaving Friday Night Lights. She had a solid 2017, as well, with interesting turns in the indies Beatriz at Dinner and Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, and putting a very strong spin on her persona in Showtime’s Golden Globe-nominated SMILF. Those are all moonlighting gigs for Britton, though, as the best TV actor of her generation also helps anchor the Ryan Murphy 9-1-1 as a series regular. She’ll also star in filmmaker Nicole Holofcenter’s The Land of Steady Habits later this year, where we are sure she’ll be great, because Tami Taylor Connie Britton is great in everything.
Kitsch was supposed to be the most bankable of the young folks from Dillon, but it didn’t work out that way at first for the smoldering heartthrob Tim Riggins. In 2012, he starred in the blockbusters John Carter and Battleship, both of which tanked—and both of which were built around him as Hollywood’s rising-est young star. (Plemons, as a mere supporting character in Battleship, emerged unscathed.) FNL creator Peter Berg cast him in a supporting role in Lone Survivor, but after that he was relegated mostly to indies, the worst season of True Detective, and B-movies like last year’s American Assassin. This year, though, has provided a welcome resurgence, with Kitsch delivering that can’t-take-your-eyes-off-him intensity as David Koresh in the miniseries Waco. There’s no word on what the rest of his 2018 looks like, but he seems to be on a upward trajectory for the first time in more than half a decade.
Dillon was a big fictional town, of course, so there are other cast members who are keeping busy: Adrienne Palicki, who played Tyra, enjoys a series regular spot on Fox’s The Orville, while Grey Damon, who joined Friday Night Lights for its fifth and final season as speedy receiver Hastings Ruckle (who didn’t really get a lot to do on the show) will be in the main cast of Shonda Rhimes’s forthcoming Station 19. That may put either of them in the running for “best 2019.”