Few television shows hold a special place in fans’ hearts the way Friday Nights Lights did. It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since the critically acclaimed drama series last aired, and the ATX Festival based in Austin, Texas will be celebrating the show with fans next weekend. On Friday, June 10 fans will come together along with the show’s cast and crew on a Texas football field for a reunion that will feature a pep rally, live music and tailgating activities. This reunion will feature the largest amount of cast members yet at the festival including Adrianne Palicki, Derek Phillips, Stacey Oristano, Louanne Stephens, Matt Lauria, Scott Porter, executive producer/writer Jason Katims, who are all sure to be joined by some surprise guests.
Another cast member joining in the fun at the ATX Festival will be actor Brad Leland who played fan favorite football booster Buddy Garrity during FNL’s five year run. He recently told The TV Junkies that the show was “a dream come true for all of us,” and that the show’s fan base has only continued to grow since going off the air. “All the sudden these giant new fans are appearing out of nowhere. They are appearing out of Netflix,” he joked about the show’s availability on the streaming service. Since FNL Leland went on to star on shows such as The Leftovers and Justified as well as his current gig on Veep and a supporting role in the upcoming feature film Deepwater Horizon starring Mark Wahlberg, John Malkovich and Kurt Russell.
Leland recently talked with The TV Junkies about his endearing character and why fans enjoyed Buddy so much, as well as previewing what fans can expect from the reunion at ATX. As for the show’s lasting appeal, well Leland explained that by saying “it holds onto you and you care about those people. We still care about those characters today.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.
The TV Junkies: You had been in the Friday Night Lights movie, but how much did you know about the role of Buddy Garrity when you joined the TV series? How many episodes were you originally signed on for?
Brad Leland: They never really gave us much. They didn’t intend for Buddy to be a regular. I think Jesse Plemons [Landry] and I just lucked into that whole thing. They just told us we’d be in the first season and then each year it changed. They would tell me I had things happening that year but would just give me a little bit of information. They really tried to keep it as a surprise and it helps the actors sometimes to have that.
I just knew Buddy because to tell you the truth I think they got the name from a real guy in Odessa, TX where the movie took place. I met this guy during the movie and he was that consummate, had lived there forever booster. His name was Buddy and I really think that they took that character from that real guy because he was so much like Buddy and a very enthusiastic, hard core fan.
TTVJ: You grew up in Texas so did you know any “Buddys” growing up?
BL: No, not really because our town was different. There were certainly “Buddys” running around in the state of Texas, but I am from a program where the coach was so well respected and the team had won state championships. I moved to Plano as a new kid and they already had a great tradition of football. The coach had been there awhile and so respected that the dads did not mess with him. There were no Buddy Garritys running around telling him anything.
TTVJ: Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) is known for being a great father, but in many ways, Buddy was the most realistic father on the show. Do you agree with that?
BL: Well I certainly believe that Buddy was real and everything is not always peaches and cream. People learn the hard way sometimes and Buddy was one of those guys that had to learn the hard way. I was laughing in the beginning because they gave me such a nice young wife that looked 40 years younger than me, but then when she went away I couldn’t believe it. I begged them for years for a new girlfriend or new wife but they told me Buddy was still paying the price. [laughs]
TTVJ: If the show would’ve continued longer what would you have liked to see happen to Buddy?
BL: Well number one, please let him have a woman. [laughs] Let him have a new girlfriend or wife. I would’ve loved to continue on with the relationship with Buddy Jr. (Jeff Rosick), who we always call Bud Lite, and we became good friends on that show. It’s interesting because I’m old enough to be his dad but we still hang out and do things together. So continue that and let that grow. As far as I’m concerned the show could’ve lasted another five seasons.
TTVJ: Are you still close or keep in touch with any of your FNL co-stars? Is there anyone you’re really excited to be reunited with at ATX?
BL: I still see Kyle. We became really good friends. I understand this reunion is going to be the largest group we’ve had so far. I’m looking forward to seeing Jesse Plemons because he and I have kept in touch. We’ll probably have more cast members this year than have ever committed.
TTVJ: Lately you’ve been starring on Veep, another show with a pretty fantastic ensemble. What has that experience been like playing Senator O’Brien?
BL: The invisible president. That’s what I call him. [laughs] It’s been fun because I started the first year, came in and had fun, but they keep bringing me back and I get to do all this cool stuff. It’s such great writing too. Every line is so jam-packed and hysterical. I also get a kick out of the cast. They give O’Brien a hard time. [laughs]
TTVJ: Can you preview anything about what’s coming up on Veep?
BL: I really can’t say what happens but I can say that it’s not anything that anyone has guessed. I’ve seen a lot of guesses and a lot of predictions on how this is going to work out and who becomes President and why. They are all saying there’s no way O’Brien becomes President, but that’s also like saying there’s no way Trump becomes President which is clearly a possibility. I think many people will be very surprised and it’s something I never expected. You never know what they will do!
Were you a big Friday Night Lights fan? Are you looking forward to the reunion? Sound off in the comments below!
The Friday Night Lights reunion tailgate will take place at the ATX Festival in Austin, TX on Friday, June 10.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.