Zach Gilford Talks ‘Bittersweet’ ‘Friday Night Lights’ Finale

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It (finally) gets Best Drama nomination!
For Friday Night Lights fans, the show’s season finale on July 15 will be both a gift and a curse: It brings a heartwarming and likely tear-jerking close to one of the best written and acted shows on network television in recent years (which explains why it just got an Emmy nomination for Best Drama Series), but it also means that it’s the end of said show. Celebuzz got a chance to chat with Zach Gilford, who played the conflicted and lovable Matt Saracen — providing some of the most gripping moments throughout the series — to reflect a bit on the show’s demise, what it means to him, and how he’ll get all up in your grill if you get too close to Aimee Teegarden.

As the show comes to an end — what kind of feelings do you have? Nostalgia? Happiness-sadness combo?

It was a bummer. It was bittersweet, but I got to phase out. My last season I did half the season, then kind of came back at the end of it, and now I’m back a little bit this season. I was kind of getting my fix and slowly phasing myself out. It was always fun to go back but by the time it was really over it was like Oh well, it was definitely a good detox the way I got to go about it.

While filming or afterwards, was there a specific moment where it all sunk in?

The biggest moment when that happened was at the end of season three. Taylor [Kitsch] and I actually both talked about this. One of the last scenes we filmed was at Memorial Stadium in Ausitn and we finished the game and had taken our uniform off for the last time. We knew we were both coming back last year, but we knew we were never going to be in a Panthers uniform again. That was our last game, which was kind of crazy and weird.

You mentioned Taylor. Who’s your best friend that you’ll take away from the cast?

There’s a lot. One of our AD’s I became super close with — I went to his wedding. Jesse Plemons and I became really, really tight. Me and Scott [Porter] and Taylor still talk. We always catch up. Minka [Kelly] is still a good friend of mine. We all care about each other and keep in touch. If I read that someone got something, I give them a call or they’ll randomly reach out and say congrats.

We definitely all got along and we all care about each other. We spent 4-5 years together working on something we were all real proud of and enjoyed doing, and we’ll all be in touch for a long time.

The diehard fans will be happy to hear that you and Jesse — err, Matt and Landry — are great friends in real life given how close you were on the show.

I love that guy. I just hope we can do something together again, even if it’s where we just write something.

Kyle Chandler plays a pretty big mentor to everyone on the show. What’s the one thing you learned from him — professionally, personally … anything.

There’s a lot. One of our first episodes, he said “Enjoy this — you’re never going to have another job like this.” I was like “What are you talking about? Everything is going to be like this.” And, surely enough, Kyle was right.

He’s just a really cool guy. I always respected the balance he found between work and life and family. He just had a really good balance where he seemed to keep things into perspective and took everything on the chin. None of us stressed out about numbers or if we were coming back or not. Just be happy about making something you’re proud of. 

I have to ask: There’s a pretty big age difference between you and Aimee Teegarden, your girlfriend on the show. Were things ever awkward? Did you have to have talks wtih her parents or anything about the kissing scenes?

The only awkwardness was the first time we had to kiss, but by that point it was 9 episodes in. We talked about it — like “this is going to be weird, huh?” It was really cool and comfortable. It was so cool to see her grow up — we kind of all got to see her become a woman. I’m really proud of who she’s grown into.

So off-screen, you’re more of a big brother. Were you a line of defense if guys came up to her?

Absolutely. Any time we’d be somewhere and be out, I wouldn’t let anyone go near her. Boys aren’t allowed near you. She understood but I don’t think she loved it.

So, what’s next? Movies? TV? Do you have a preference on the medium?

It’s totally project-based. TV’s hard because something can look really good or bad on paper, and turn into something great or awful — not get on the air, or be on the air for 10 years. The last show I went to work on seemed like a cool idea and concept, but people didn’t turn it on and it didn’t quite become what it could have been. You make those risks and what happens happens.

Watch the final episode of Friday Night Lights on NBC at 8pm on July 15, and if you haven’t seen it, trust us: Get the DVDs. You won’t be let down.