Scott Porter made an indelible impression as Friday Night Lights’ paralyzed star quarterback Jason Street. The show took us through his journey of self-discovery and forever altered television’s portrayal of people who use wheelchairs. Jason was still a jock, throwing himself into quad rugby. He was still a heartthrob, fathering a child with a cute waitress.
But the show that’s known for its realism is writing him off now that he’s graduated from high school. The multi-talented Porter discussed saying goodbye to one of the most compelling shows on television, his unusual former career, whether he’ll use his lightning speed as The Flash, and, most importantly, whether there’s a chance the low-rated critical darling will make it to season four. (It’s not likely.)
How do you feel about “graduating” from Friday Night Lights?
It’s bittersweet. It was my first television role. It was the second pilot I auditioned for in my first pilot season ever. I had such a passion for it. To be on it with such a great character, with such great writers, was like catching lightning in a bottle. I’m not sure that I’m going to be a part of something that special again. That being said, the sweet part is everything it’s done for me. I now have the ability to go out and play other roles. I think we did all we could with Jason. I’m excited to take on new challenges. Friday Night Lights positioned me in a great place to be able to do that.
How did playing Jason Street change you as both an actor and a person?
I was inspired by the role. I was inspired by the people that I worked with: my technical advisors, everyone on the quad rugby team. They were so ferociously passionate about life. They live life with reckless abandon. Everything that they get into they go one hundred percent. There’s no half-assing it with them. I said a line in the show that about Herc, but I was really speaking about everyone that I’d met and worked with. They don’t just strive to become who they were before the injury. They strive to become better. That’s what I took from it. Every day you should strive to be a better person instead of just becoming complacent.
As far as being an actor, the show has spoiled me. We shoot with no rehearsals and no marks and three handheld cameras. The actors have such freedom. All the movies I’ve done since starting the show are very by the book. We have rehearsal and marks. You make sure you stick to the script. On the show we get to improv and really create. It changed me for the better because I was a part of the creative process.
What was your favorite scene ever on the show?
The one that stands head and shoulders above the rest is Street, Smash, Riggins and Saracen on the football field. It was episode 19. Street has his first coaching moment. They’re all sitting there talking about their problems. It was great to have the four guys in the same scene for the first time since the pilot. It was when Riggins and Street became friends again after everything they’d been through. It really put Jason on the proper path. It ended up the next morning with Saracen and Smash passed out on the field and Riggins and Street look at each other and say, “Texas forever.”
*Spoiler Alert* FNL is known for its gritty realism. Do you feel that Jason’s happy exit story was realistic and true to the show?
What I think is great about Jason’s storyline, and realistic, is that he won. He didn’t win in the sense of a game but he won in the sense that he got out of Dillon. Nobody thought he would. He has this triumph where against all odds he wins. He gets out of Devil Town. He’s going to be an amazing father. He’s going to be a hard worker. He’s going to have a great life and a great career doing something that he loves. I’ve seen stranger things happen in this business. I played football for the University of Central Florida. I was a wide receiver. I was in a band that traveled the world and opened for some pretty big acts. Then I got into TV and movies. I have no problem with the way he was written off. I was really happy with it.
You were in a band? Not many people know about your music career.
I was a professional beatboxer for six years with a group called 4:2 Five and later Mosaic. We opened for ‘N Sync. Then I was in the musical Altar Boyz.
Everyone who watches FNL knows it’s one of the best shows on network television. Why do you think it has struggled so much in the ratings?
There’s so many things you could say. You could blame it on marketing. You could blame it on timeslot or any number of excuses. I think at the end of the day we made it how we wanted to make it. You wish that it could be received as well. But the critical praise that we’ve had has been astounding. Everybody who watches the show absolutely loves it. I’ve never met anybody who said, “I watched an episode but it just wasn’t my thing.” There’s nothing we can do about the ratings. Nothing we can control about it. I don’t know the real reason. It’s slightly disappointing because I would love the show to go on forever. But we fought for our life every year. I think we’re leaving a legacy that far outweighs ratings. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Your answer had an air of finality about it. Has NBC officially decreed there won’t be a fourth season?
If I were a betting man, I’d say that Friday Night Lights is done. But NBC keeps on saying we’re still going to be around. It depends if we get another suitor or if DirecTV is really passionate enough about the show to bring it back. I know that I’m done. I know that Gaius Charles is done. I’m pretty sure that if the show does come back for a fourth season you’ll see a couple other kids move on. If they get a chance to do it I’m sure it will be brilliant. The twist at the end of the third season is brilliant, but I can see it also being a finale.
FNL has become an issue in the Austin mayoral race. Apparently the city hasn’t paid NBC the money it promised them as an incentive for shooting in Texas. What’s going on?
What I love about it is that someone who is now running for mayor is using our TV show as a platform to get herself elected. I don’t get into the budgetary stuff because as an actor if you’re worried about that then you’re not going to do what you’re supposed to do. I think it’s hilarious that we’ve made enough of an impact in Austin for it to be a platform. The one thing I will say is that Texas lost out on a lot of projects to Louisiana and New Mexico. It’s because Texas has this pride. They’re the only state that can leave the union and become their own republic. They have all these things written into their political structure. They just refuse to give the incentives that other places will. For them to not pay us the money that they owe us after we’ve brought in millions of dollars worth of revenue and jobs to Austin is a bit ridiculous.
There are a lot of rumors that you’re going to star in the movie version of The Flash. Are they true?
I want to play the Flash so bad. I tested for the role when there was a different director attached and I lost out to Adam Brody. But I got a positive response and a meeting for the Geen Lantern. The Flash is my favorite DC character. Please write that I’d be great in the role.
You’re guest voicing on an upcoming episode of Robot Chicken. Who do you play?
Speed Racer, Giant Man in the Iron Man spoof and the editor of Teen Vogue in a bit about The Hills.
Do you have a pilot lined up for next season?
I tested for a couple shows. There are a surprising amount of really good pilots that break the mode. Being a sci fi geek, there are some high concept shows that really impress me.
Are you sick of fans like me telling you “Clear eyes, strong hearts can’t lose”?
I get that a lot. It’s a great line. But what people say the most is, “You’re taller in person.”