Kyle's Career Filmstrip: TV Series and Movies

Nov 19, 2015

Kyle Chandler Thought Coach Taylor's Perfection Was a "Pain in the Ass"

Friday Night Lights' resident good guy explores a murky morality clause in Todd Haynes' Oscar contender, 'Carol.'

​Kyle Chandler is drinking a beer. An Amstel Light, to be exact. "It's eleven o'clock where I come from," he says in that gloriously sap-like drawl. "So I'm beating them." Them, of course, is the good folks of Dripping Springs, Texas, where the family man lives with his wife, their two teenage daughters, and a handful of dogs on a 33-acre ranch. But, for today, the 50-year-old career actor best known for his portrayal of unflappable football coach Eric Taylor on five seasons of the Emmy-winning Friday Night Lights, ​is dutifully stumping for his latest project, the Oscar-courting Cate Blanchett-Rooney Mara love story, ​Carol​.

The premise of ​Carol​ may sound tawdry—​in 1950s New York City, an older, married woman named Carol (Blanchett) seduces a twentysomething shopkeep, Therese (Mara)—but ​audiences looking for bodice-ripping fare may be disappointed. Because, at its heart, Carol is a love story, perhaps just not the kind we're used to seeing. And stuck between its two female leads is Harge Aird (Kyle Chandler), an of-his-era businessman struggling to keep his family intact. And though some may be tempted to dislike Aird—​one Facebook commenter, after seeing the picture below, wrote, "I hate him already"—​Chandler makes a compelling case for the guy who ultimately draws a wedge between Carol and Therese. "He went about it in certain ways—​the time period allowed him to do things that were a little different I suppose than he might do now​," Chandler says, his charcoal-and-blue eyes glinting. "The one thing that saved me, that usually saves me in roles, is truth. The truth, I think, is that he had a heart. He had love, and he wanted to protect it​." And then: ​"He's willing to accept certain things to keep his wife, to keep his child, and to keep his idea of the American Dream."​

Though much has been written about this groundedness—​the way Chandler's on-screen presence commands both respect and rapture—​less has been written about the actor's playful side. Several times throughout our 15-minute interview, which really isn't much time at all, he insists that Hollywood has no idea how funny he really is. "That's another thing you should write," he says. "I am hilarious." And little things, like the fact that he's drinking a lukewarm beer at 11:30 A.M. CT, wearing a neon friendship bracelet, and taking jabs at his character's unusual name—​"When I got the script, originally I had like seven different pronunciations," he says with a laugh—​suggest that, even when losing his cool as rankled John Rayburn on Netflix's Bloodline, Chandler is working hard to remain steadfastly composed. 

"That's another thing you should write," he says. "I am hilarious."
The coolheadedness we've all grown to expect from him might actually be a subconscious decision, after all. ​"Maybe growing up without a father"—​Chandler's beloved "pop" died of a heart attack when his youngest son was just 14—​"taught me how to be a father more so than I ever would have imagined," he says. "I do know that, on Friday Night Lights​ , I knew what the kids needed, because I didn't have it when I was a kid. So that could be very true that Coach Taylor was able to give people what they needed, whether they knew it or not, because I knew."

And despite what ​Bloodline​ cocreator Daniel Zelman once called his lead actor's "sense of certainty," the real Kyle Chandler—​goofy, casual, and a bit puckish—​is a little tired of playing such hedged-in characters. When I mention Coach Taylor's sometimes irksome perfection on ​Friday Night Lights​, Chandler perks up. "He was pretty perfect," he says, "and that was a pain in the ass. ... Coach Taylor didn't have a deviant dark side that we were ever going to see. You're not going to see him out at the bars pinching a girl's ass or something. That's a whole other show." One we'd like to watch, no doubt.

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