High-school football, the state of Texas and actress Adrianne Palicki seem made for each other, especially during this new fall season.
On Tuesday, Sept. 7, ABC Family starts running Palicki’s most recent series, the small-town Texas high-school football drama “Friday Night Lights,” from the beginning.
The critically acclaimed but ratings-challenged show about dedicated Dillon High School Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his team, the Panthers (and later, the East Dillon Lions), premiered on NBC in 2006 but teetered on the edge of cancellation from its earliest days.
Things looked particularly dire at the end of season three, until a Hail-Mary deal split production costs between NBC and satellite-TV provider DirecTV, ensuring the show’s survival for at least two more seasons.
DirecTV’s 101 Network aired season four last fall and will air season five starting on Oct. 27. NBC aired season four earlier this year, ending on Aug. 6, but has yet to announce a premiere date for season five, which finished production last month in Austin, Texas.
Palicki finds herself in the enviable position of possibly being
on two current series at the same time, provided her new FOX drama “Lone Star,”
filming in Dallas, Texas, and premiering Monday, Sept. 20, sticks
around long enough to overlap with her appearance in the last two
episodes of what looks to be the final season of “Friday Night Lights.”
“You know what,” says Palicki, “Texas loves me, or I love Texas, whichever way you want to put it. I love shooting in different locations, and I love getting out of L.A.”
On “Friday Night Lights,” Palicki plays Tyra Collette, a Dillon High wild child who turned her life around and wound up going to college. The last two episodes of season five find her back in her hometown.
Speaking the day before heading to Austin to film the episodes, Palicki explains, “It’s Christmas, ultimately, so it’s a visit. But I get to be there when we really end the show with everybody, which is really therapeutic in a way. Then I get to go start a new life three hours away, with a new TV family.
“I think we’re going to wrap at the Collette house, which I’m really excited about. It’s going to be very emotional. A lot of people are already feeling it — me and Kyle. There’s going to be a party of course, and everybody’s going to be there.”
Asked if Tyra has changed, Palicki says, “No, she’s still Tyra, but I think that she’s more grown-up. She’s still got her cowboy boots and her jeans, but she’s not so shiny and colorful, if you will. The wardrobe is the main thing that has changed.
“She’s always been this ray of light and honesty. She’s always been aware of what’s going on. The way that she says it, though, is just very direct. She still has that.”
In “Lone Star,” Palicki plays Cat Thatcher, a Houston socialite who’s unaware that her handsome husband, Bob (James Wolk), is actually a con man with another life and another love in another Texas town.
Regarding her two Lone Star State characters, Palicki says, “I’m lucky I keep playing these very strong female characters. Their strength comes from different places, obviously, but both of them are very strong, smart individuals — one just happened to be raised in a much more conducive environment.
“They’re both very worldly, and they see things that maybe other people don’t see or try to pretend they don’t see.”
Palicki also stars in the new version of the cult favorite “Red Dawn,” in which a high-school football team, the Wolverines, fights to save Spokane, Wash., from foreign invaders.
Although the film’s release has been delayed to an as-yet-unspecified date, Palicki says, “It’s going to be a big movie. People are going to gravitate toward it, because it’s a cult classic.”
Interestingly enough, one of Cat Thatcher’s nephews in “Lone Star” plays high-school football, so Palicki can’t seem to escape the sport, big screen or small.
“Thankfully,” she says, “I love football. I seem to be surrounded by that always.”
Palicki grew up in Toledo, Ohio, where her beloved father’s favorite team was the Detroit Lions, and now it’s hers as well.
“Don’t laugh,” she says. “You’re laughing at heart. It’s OK.”
Reminded that, in seasons four and five, the East Dillon Lions are part of “Friday Night Lights,” Palicki says, “Exactly, and by the way, speaking of the Dillon Panthers, I went to Whitmer High School, and they were the Whitmer Panthers, with the exact same purple.
“The first time I went to the football game for shooting, I was sitting there, like, ‘Oh, my God, this is so weird.’ It was unbelievable. I felt like I was right back there.”
Palicki also doesn’t mind wrapping her hands around a pigskin once in a while.
“I love touch football,” she says. “That’s the sport I’m best at. Linebacker’s really good for me. I loved the episode in which we did have the Powder Puff game on ‘Friday Night Lights,’ and I got to be linebacker.
“I like to tackle people.”
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Photo: NBC, FOX