The other day I got to speak with Stacey Oristano who plays Mindy Collette on Friday Night Lights. It was great fun talking to her. She's very energetic and either just very happy with her lot in life or the best actress ever. Not a bad spot for an actress to wind up in either way.
My interview skills are rusty, but thanks to the great questions some of you armed me with (thank you!) and a very engaged Stacey, that didn't matter much. There are some spoilers, and unfortunately no amount of binging over the weekend was going to catch me up to season three, so even Stacey having a big role in season three was a bit of a spoiler for me.
The questions are in italics and Stacey's answers are in bold type. Some additional thoughts from me are at the end.
Question: What do you hear about renewal prospects for fourth season of Friday Night Lights?
Stacey: There's always constant rumor and buzz, but other than knowing they have definitely not yet decided to cancel the show yet, we don't really know anything.
Question: Fans obsess over ratings and stuff like the DirecTV deal trying to gauge renewal prospects. Do you or the cast and crew focus on this?
Stacey: I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't really focus on that stuff at all. (that stung a little bit!)
Question: If there's a fourth season, will you be a part of it?
Stacey: I'm honestly not sure. My approach is I'm happy for the work and at the end of each season I just assume it's over and get on with my life. If the show winds up being picked up and I'm included, it's like I got a pleasant surprise!
A page out of the Bill Gorman book, and a good one at that. He doesn't believe in worrying about anything that isn't within his control and we both sometimes wonder why fans don't take the exactly the same approach when it comes to watching the shows.
Question: What was it like to have a big story arc in season three after more of a background role the first two seasons.
Stacey: The first season I was only in like one episode, but over time they seemed to like the character and what I was doing and it kept getting bigger. Season three was like a big whirlwind and I never really had a chance to consider it. It was great!
Question: What were your first thoughts when heard about the writer's plans for Mindy?
Stacey: At the end of last season we were at a cast party and one of the producers and I were joking around about what if we brought Mindy and Billy together... We started talking about how ridiculous that would be. But then they did it! Adrianne would call me up playing around and hum The Wedding March. I was completely surprised but I couldn't have been happier. Derek [Phillips, who plays Billy Riggins] and I were friends before joining the show and it's so fun to get to work with him.
Question: One of our readers said he's read some criticism that some people in Texas hate FNL and think it presents a stereotypical view of small town Texans. Is that a fair criticism?
Stacey: I've really never heard anything like that. To the contrary I hear the opposite, about how true-to-life it is. I'm a Texas girl and I understand how important high school football is, but I'm from Dallas. I've heard from many people from much smaller towns than that who think it's a very realistic portrayal. I think it's a testament to Peter Berg and how closely he was keeping things in tune with what really happens.
Question: There has been some criticism about the Collette family being too unrealistic, that these women couldn't possibly be making the crazy choices they are making. Do you ever feel like you're playing a caricature or do the characters seem believable given the atmosphere they have grown up in.
Stacey: Dana [Wheeler-Nicholson] who plays my mom on the show and I have had a couple of talks about the roles we play. Our characters are to support the Tyra [Andrianne Palicki ] character. We're examples of exactly what Tyra doesn't want to become and it works. I don't think we're crossing any lines into being caricatures.
Question: Who do you most look up to on the cast?
Stacey: Kyle Chandler [Eric Taylor] and Connie Britton [Tami Taylor]. It's a pleasure to get to watch them work, the work they do together is beautiful and amazing. I think they're fantastic.
Question: Who are the best improvisational actors in the cast?
Stacey: Some of us like to push the envelope, Jessie Plemons [Landry Clarke] and I try to amp it up and Taylor Kitsch [Tim Riggins] is a hot mess of ridiculousness - and I mean that in the best possible way - he's absurdly funny.
Question: What's your favorite episode of FNL and why?
Stacey: In the fourth episode of season three ("Hello Goodbye") there is a scene near the end where Smash goes to tell Coach that he got into A&M and is leaving. And Coach says, "Got your playbook? Remember what I told you about those dorm rooms...[...], You better not be skipping any classes and you better keep your grades up...". It was so good, I just got chills.
Question: So you're a big fan of the show?
I'm a HUGE fan! I love those boys! I loved the Smash!
(Smash is a fun character, and given some of the similarities, Stacey's response to the next question might not surprise you)
Question: As a huge Dallas Cowboys fan were you happy to hear T.O. (Terrell Owens) was released by the Cowboys?
Stacey: NO! I love T.O. I think it's going to be a major loss for the Cowboys. From what I hear it seems like I might be the only Cowboys fan who feels that way, but that's how I feel. I'll miss him and I think the Cowboys will, too.
Question: In watching Friday Night Lights a real camaraderie is tangible among the actors. You all seem like real family and friends. Is that "family" vibe coming through off the set.
Stacey: Definitely. We are so close as a cast. You hear horror stories about some casts, but we don't have any of that. There really is so much trust and love that it comes off-screen, too. We do hang out with each other, off-set too. [the show is filmed in Austin, Texas and the major cast spent around 5 months there shooting season 3]
Question: What do you enjoy most about working in Austin? What are your favorite things to do in the city?
Stacey: My favorite thing about Austin is just the town itself. That town is so funky and cool and there's always stuff to do. That place is amazing!
I was a little heartbroken to learn Stacey doesn't follow the ratings much. But c'mon, who doesn't want Hollywood starlets reading their blog? I'm not surprised at all though, and I did like her very rational approach of taking each season as it comes and enjoying it while it lasts. If you choose acting is a career that seems like the best philosophy to have.
When I put on the fortune teller turban I suspect that Stacey really is going about things as if it was her last season on the show because she thinks it is! I felt that way before I even spoke with her. I think that she's going about it that way regardless of whether FNL is picked up. Stacey didn't spoil the ending of season three for me, but said it wasn't left in a way where it would be hard to bring her back.
Stacey recently moved to LA -- her first time there after growing up in Texas and spending most of the rest of her time in New York -- and that's a great place for actors who are looking for work to be. It could be that I am just trying to rationalize her not caring about the ratings by thinking "Hey, I can't fault someone for trying to get a job instead of hanging out on our web site!" But whether Friday Night Lights comes back and whether Stacey comes back with it, we wish her luck with whatever comes next for her.