Stacey Oristano as Mindy Collette, Derek Phillips as Billy Riggins, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson as Angela Collette — NBC Photo: Bill Records
I tend to think of Friday Night Lights as the little show that could – when everyone thinks that this amazing show won’t survive, it keeps rolling along. After a brilliant first season where few people watched, it miraculously got a second season. After a second season that fewer people watched, NBC and DirecTV worked together to provide us with a third season. And this third season, currently re-airing on NBC Fridays, is shaping up to be the best one yet. I recently had the chance to chat with Stacey Oristano, who might be better known to you folks as Mindy Collette, our favorite dancer at The Landing Strip in fictional Dillon, TX. It turns out that it’s not just the viewers that are blown away by this show – she loves it, too! Read on to find out what’s coming up, why you should be watching, and why Taylor Kitsch is more than just a “pretty boy.”
TakeFiveGal : I love that they’re bringing in Mindy so much more this year. I love that dynamic.
Stacey Oristano : There has been some fun stuff with characters, where that shouldn’t make sense, but it ends up being kind of funny.
The whole scene, now that she’s engaged to Billy, and she kind of has to hang with Lyla. I think that one of the funniest moments, talking about the wedding vows, and the interaction with Minka [Kelly, Lyla Garrity] in that scene was brilliant and I love that.
There’s some more coming with me and Minka. It’s good stuff.
What’s coming up for the rest of the season, now that we’re 5 episodes in on NBC?
There’s some good stuff coming up. As far as Mindy’s concerned, of course, it’s the trials and tribulations of planning a wedding, and [SPOILER ALERT] breaking up and getting back together. And bonding with people she probably, you wouldn’t expect her to bond with. Besides that, there’s great storylines with Zach Gilford, who plays Matt Saracen, and meeting his mom, and how that relationship is going to mature and grow. And watching Tim Riggins try to figure out, and Tyra, what they want to do with their futures. It’s just a really good season.
What I always say about the show is that it makes me laugh and it makes me cry in every episode, and I think that’s a really good sign of something that’s kind of amazing.
I know these people so well, but even, I think it was the 4th episode, the one where Smash leaves to go to college. I was sitting here with Adrianne Palicki, who plays my sister, and we watched it again. We watched it on DirecTV and then we watched it last Friday, and we were there when it was shot, too, and still we’re crying our eyes out. If we can be affected that way, that’s gotta mean something.
I think it’s important, too, that characters like Mindy, who is a stripper, could totally be a one note character, but the writers and the actors playing the roles flesh it out so much that it’s one of the best things on TV.
I love it so much. I was really worried at the beginning when I was told about the character; I didn’t want it to be a one note stereotypical hardcore Texas stripper girl. I think what the writers, and the rest of the cast, and what we’ve done, these are real people in the way that they interact. It’s just true to life, which is what makes it so good.
Shooting on this show is different from other shows, from what I hear. Are you spoiled because of it going forward?
I’m scared actually for the next time I go to shoot a film or a TV show and I have to worry about hitting a mark and continuity and not being able to improvise off the lines. It’s going to be so much more structured that I think it’s going to be a bit hard at first. I have gotten used to the freedom that we have in our shooting style so it’s going to definitely be different.
You said that you watched this episode with Adrianne. Are you close off screen?
She’s my soul mate. She’s my best friend in the entire world.
Did you know each other before the show?
We just started working on the show, and like the first episode I shot, it was like, we’re going to have a sister’s dinner, and we had this 5 hour long dinner and we found we have all these things in common, like we have the same birthday, and all the people that we knew, and the things that we’ve been through. Now we’re sort of stuck with each other forever!
I’ve heard that it’s one of the tightest knit casts on TV. It comes across on screen. I don’t think that characters this real can be portrayed if you don’t get along behind the scenes!
Sometimes it almost gets us in trouble. You know how you hear stories about other sets where other people are fighting and it gets into the news. It just doesn’t happen on our show. We get along so well that most of the time, we just end up making each other crack up when we’re trying to do the work. When we’re done with the shoot for the day, we still all hang out, and go out at night, and we do things together all the time. It really is like a family. It’s a little sick, actually. [laughs]
Were you a football-town girl growing up?
I am! I am from a different part of Texas which is called Arlington, right out of Dallas. Friday nights, the big thing to do was football. I completely understand the importance of it, being from a Texas town. It is a really big deal.
It was like that up here in PA, too. We had our team go to states one year, so I can completely understand it, too! I love that the show isn’t just about the football, it shows how the football affects the town. Like that Jumbotron – I can totally understand it!
There were a lot of people who responded to that. And even they’re like, NO they totally need the Jumbotron, they don’t need books. I think everyone understands it.
What are some of your favorite things that you’ve gotten to play as Mindy?
She’s so different from me, so it’s really fun to go into that different mentality because she’s kind of a badass. To get to be that cutting and that dry, she’s a bit harder than I am. I think there’s something kind of freeing about that aspect of it.
What would you say to people who haven’t watched yet, why is now a good time to get into the show?
Wow, I think that Season 3 is a great time to get into the show because we really went back to the beginning, season 1, where it’s about this town, and these families, and these people. They’re complex and beautiful, it can be sweet, it can be sad. It’s just real. I think if you want to see some of the best acting on TV, and I’m not being biased because I’m a part of it, but if you want to see some of the best acting, tune into Friday Night Lights. The people on that show never, ever cease to amaze me.
Watching it, I feel the same way. I read somewhere that Taylor [Kitsch, Tim Riggins], for example, was just hired to be like, the “pretty boy” and he completely blew everybody away because he’s amazing. Everybody on the cast, they have something that blows you away.
I think with Season 3, the stuff that he’s doing, he’s so good at this simple sincerity. Everything he does is so honest, and it’s touching. And of course, he’s still the “pretty boy” too, but he’s so sincere, it’s just heartbreaking.
What else is coming up for you besides FNL?
I have been working nonstop since like last July, so I’m taking a bit of a break right now. I live in NY, but I’m in LA for a while, doing a bunch of press tuff, and testing the waters right now. I don’t know what’s coming up for me. It’s exciting and it’s totally scary at the same time.
Has there been any word on the Season 4 yet?
We have some talk. I think all it is, is talk. We have people from DirecTV say that they want to keep it up. Of course, I don’t know what would happen because so many people are graduating this year, because we have so many seniors. If we have a season 4, it will be totally interesting to see what the writers do.
If anyone can do it, it’s your writers!
Yeah, they’ll find something good for Season 4; it’s not going to be a problem [laughs].
I read that you got into acting because your dad was a stage actor.
Yeah I used to be backstage with my dad, and I sort of knew from the time I was about 5 or 6 that it’s what I wanted to do. It all seemed so magical. The kinship that the cast get together, I just wanted to be a part of that.
Who are some of your favorite actors or actresses?
It’s the same as everybody but I think there’s a reason for it. Absolutely Kate Winslet and Cate Blanchett. I love Mary Louise Parker. Gary Oldman, Edward Norton, Denzel. Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Everybody who’s making it big right now.
What is some of the stuff you watch on TV when you get downtime?
Lately, I’ve had a lot of downtime. I think I’m a bit addicted to it. I can never, ever miss The Office or Flight of the Conchords. I’ll watch anything on Showtime or HBO. Dexter, Weeds. House is also one of my absolute favorite shows of all time. I just love TV. I miss The West Wing so much I can’t even stand it.
When I see reruns of that show, I’m glad my TiVo remembered to capture it.
And I’ll watch it five times over again!
I’m going to sound like a sap, and like I’m sucking up to, but that’s the affect FNL has on us. My sister and I will watch the same episode like 5 times.
Oh I love that!
She’s one of those cases, where I said, Mary, as soon as you watch the pilot, you’re going to be hooked, because it’s just a show she never watched. And as soon as she watched, she’s like jonesing for the show and talks about it all the time. It’s a show that people love when they watch, or haven’t found it. I’ve never heard someone say that they don’t like the show.
Yeah, that’s the thing! I haven’t had someone say, “Yeah I tried it but I wasn’t that into it.” It’s either, “oh my god, I can’t wait,” or “Yeah, I haven’t gotten a chance to see it yet.” Hopefully, with season 3, if you have a Friday night free, just give it a shot!