Friday Night Lights’ Zach Gilford: Julie Was a ‘Crappy’ Girlfriend to Matt!

Zach Gilford Aimee Teegarden
Zach Gilford and Aimee Teegarden attend Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Writers Peer Group Celebrates the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards in North Hollywood, California on September 15, 2011.  Tony DiMaio/

Tim Riggins may have protected Julie Taylor during a tornado, but Matt Saracen always had her heart — even though she broke it a few times.

“I would joke during the show how I don’t know why he likes her. She treats him like crap,” Zach Gilford, 35, exclusively tells Us Weekly. “I didn’t hate her. I just was like, ‘Hey, you’re a crappy girlfriend.’”

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Gilford and Aimee Teegarden played Matt and Julie on the beloved drama, which ran for five seasons from 2006 to 2011. It was bad enough that Julie was his football coach’s daughter, but even Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) rooted for Matt when she took interest with “The Swede” — a fellow lifeguard she met one summer.

Zach Gilford Aimee Teegarden Friday Night Lights
Zach Gilford as Matt Saracen and Aimee Teegarden as Julie Taylor on ‘Friday Night Lights.’ Van Redin/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

The high school students would breakup, but eventually rekindled their romance and got engaged in the final season.

“I guess he got married to Julie. They’d still be married. He’s pretty loyal,” Gilford tells Us of where they would be today. “The bond between them was there. They’re two people in this small town who thought bigger than it. And not wanted out but knew there was another world and had their eyes forward. And in those situations that can be a really strong bond and it can last a lifetime. It makes you feel more emotionally connected to someone. So I think they’d definitely still be together.”

Friday Night Lights (Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!) also starred Connie Britton, Taylor Kitsch, Jesse Plemons, Minka Kelly, Scott Porter and Adrianne Palicki. Most of the cast has shot down reunion rumors over the years, but Gilford would be down for getting the team back together.

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“If it was all the people involved I would totally do a revival — why not?” he says. “I love all those people, I love the show. As long as it’s not a reunion like, ‘It’s Christmas! We’re all in town!’ If there’s something actually good in it that would be cool.”

Friday Nights Lights
Zach Gilford as Matt Saracen, Minka Kelly as Lyla Garrity, Gaius Charles as Brian “Smash” Williams, Taylor Kitsch as Tim Riggins, Adrianne Palicki as Tyra Collette and Scott Porter as Jason Street as the cast of ‘Friday Night Lights.’ Virginia Sherwood/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

For more, read the rest of his Q&A in our Now and Then series:

US: Can you believe the show aired 10 years ago?

ZG: My life is so drastically different. Now I’m a married man and own a house. Where as before I’m this single guy on a TV show. When I look at it that way I’m like, ‘Wow, that was a long time ago that I was that person.’ I actually just had lunch with Jeffrey Reiner who was our director-producer on Friday Night Lights and we were just genuinely talking like, “I can’t believe that was 10 years ago.”

US: One of your most dramatic scenes was when Coach Taylor throws Matt in a cold shower and you ask, “What is wrong with me? Why does everybody leave me?” What was it like to film that and working with Kyle?

ZG: It’s weird. When you’re on a show for several seasons or even your first season by the end of it you’ve been working together as these characters for so long that it’s really easy to — even though in real life I know Kyle and I’ve had beers with him — when you’re on set in that moment you need to just see that person as coach and react to him and feel the emotions that you think that person would feel. That whole episode with losing my father — I was terrified. I read the script and was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m not a good enough actor for this. I don’t know what I’m going to do.’ And on set on the days that it needed to happen [it did]. I had never had to cry in something before. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it and it just happened.

I’m lucky. But I’ve had days in other parts where it’s like, ‘Man, I can tell I’m just faking it through this.’ But because after all those years with those characters it was really easy to just be there and feel that heartbreak. Kyle — I definitely look up to him as an actor — where as Matt looked up to him as coach. Kyle was definitely a role model to me as a person. He’s an incredible man and incredible father. So just having that presence there in that scene, to be vulnerable around him, was kind of easy.

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US: What was one of your favorite scenes with Jesse?

ZG: Any scene we had together was just so much fun. Honestly, if you watch the show with scenes between him and I you’ll notice that it’s usually not on me because I couldn’t keep a straight face and they had to cut around me. The scene where we are in his garage and I’m talking about proposing to Julie he’s doing something with Christmas decorations. It was just so funny. There was another scene where I knocked on his window in the middle of the night to get his keys. We got to kind of improv a lot on that show. I’m knocking on his window to get his keys to drive. I don’t even know where and he keeps asking me, ‘Hey, is Tyra with you? Is Tyra there?’ I’m like, ‘What? Why would she be here?’ I don’t even know what ended up in the final cut. But he’s just so funny.

US: What memorabilia do you have from set?

ZG: The one piece of memorabilia that I have is actually a gift. One of our camera operators — she, I guess when the show was cancelled, she lived in Austin so she went into the field house, the locker room and all of our lockers were still there with the tape that said our names on them. She took them down and had those parts cut out in a rectangle and framed it and sent it to us. It randomly came in the mail a couple of years later and it was pretty special, pretty cool.

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