Kitsch appeal in 'Friday Night Lights'

-- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 2:21 AM ET

Taylor Kitsch is a red-blooded Canadian in a red, white and blue American world.

But as he surveys the landscape, Kitsch does not see differences as much as he sees similarities. And some of those similarities link his personal life to the fictional life of Tim Riggins, the high school football star Kitsch portrays on the award-winning Friday Night Lights (Global/NBC).

"The family stuff I love to play, especially the scenes with my brother -- I love the high stakes," said Kitsch, a 26-year-old native of British Columbia. "And I'm figuring out the parallels I have with this character, reacting in the scenes while I'm doing them.

"I don't mind talking about it, my father is out of my life, more or less (as is the case with the brooding and complex Riggins). So I discover stuff that maybe I wasn't even dealing with as a person.

"It might not be someone's father or mother, but a lot of people have stuff that they choose not to deal with or ignore, and this character personifies that."

High school football generally doesn't mean much to Canadians, unless you happen to be playing it. In the United States, however, high school football is a huge deal.

Isn't it ironic, then, that one of the key components of Friday Night Lights is a Canadian. Irony aside, though, Kitsch sees definite links between the high school football scene south of the border and the junior hockey scene north of the border.

"The biggest parallel I make is to hockey, because I played hockey for 20 years," Kitsch said. "That has shaped a lot of who I am, with the challenges and the fears, because I moved away to play hockey when I was 15.

"While you're living and playing hockey in other towns, you don't get treated quite like Tim Riggins and the Dillon High School Panthers do. But those small Canadian towns, they encompass some of the same qualities. You can draw from that what you will."

Interestingly, Kitsch's original plan in life was to earn a living not in the sweltering heat of Texas, where Friday Night Lights is taped, but on the ice.

"I was convinced I was going to play hockey at an elite level until my mid-30s," Kitsch said. "But my knee got wrecked.

"Then I had an opportunity to go to New York. I've always loved the arts and I just had an opportunity to study acting with this amazing coach. If I do something, it's all or nothing, just like with hockey. So now, with acting, I love it."

Laser-like focus notwithstanding, hockey still allows Kitsch to escape from the stresses of the world.

"I went home to Vancouver (for part of the summer) and I've been going through a lot of personal s--- lately," Kitsch said. "And as intense as it has been as I try to move forward and overcome some stuff, I'll go to the rink and in that two hours I'm on the ice, even if it's shinny, I don't give it one thought.

"As a Canadian it's who you are, it really is."

As for Tim Riggins, Kitsch warns that more heartbreak is on the way in the second season of Friday Night Lights, which premieres Oct. 5.

"I truly feel the character (Riggins) has good intentions, but he's just so jaded by the lack of trust in his life," Kitsch said. "And there's going to be even more stuff that's a huge hit to his psyche and his level of trust with his brother, who is probably one of the only people he can trust right now. Something happens where he can't trust his brother anymore."

One thing Kitsch can trust is that his career is on the rise, even if pursuing that career means he occasionally has to endure some homesickness.

"The people in Austin, Tex., which is where most of my experiences have been with regard to the making of Friday Night Lights, are very genuine, friendly, no facade, very warm -- there are many parallels to Canada," Kitsch said. "Obviously you miss the standard stuff, like family and the real close friends who knew me inside-out before any of this stuff happened. But it's a trusting environment and a safe environment, and that allows you to do the work you want to do."

Of course, it isn't just the people who are warm in Texas ... the temperatures can get pretty hot, too, especially when you're in football gear.

"You can't afford to be hyper," Kitsch said.

Aha! Maybe that's why Riggins is so sullen.


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