'Friday Night Lights' finale: Matt Lauria says goodbye, and we plan the rest of Luke's life
Matt Lauria joined "Friday Night Lights" in its fourth season as Luke Cafferty, the idealistic Dillon Panthers standout who worked valiantly to stay positive when he was forced to play, instead, for the East Dillon Lions. In Season 5 we watched his football dreams dim as he found himself in the shadow of fellow player Vince ( Michael B. Jordan), while off the field he charmed Becky ( Madison Burge)... and a whole lot of viewers.
Helping him out with his game was Billy Riggins, who taught Luke some important life lessons -- not the least of which was, "Real men don't lift weights. Real men fender-bench."
When we ask Lauria whether he still fender-benches, months after the series' final wrap, he doesn't hesitate. "Without a doubt I do!" he laughs. "C'mon."
Lauria remains one of our favorite people to talk "FNL" with, as he was a fan of the series even before he was considered for a role. "I love how supportive people have been of the show, and how enthusiastic they are about it. I get it," he says. "I was one of them. I am one of them."
In the final moments of the series finale, we learn that despite catching a Hail Mary pass and helping the Lions win the coveted state title, Luke's dreams didn't quite fall into place. The last time we see Luke, he's giving his championship ring to Becky and boarding a bus out of Dillon to begin serving in the army.
Somewhat sheepishly, Lauria admits that his character's fate was hard to swallow when he read the final script for the first time. "I was disappointed at first. I was bummed. I was like 'No, he's got to go to a Division 1 school and become a total rockstar!'" he wails. "But that doesn't happen, you know? I suppose I was still waiting for that very Hollywood ending, where in the eleventh hour some college shows up and Coach goes, 'Luke, they want to see you.'" (For the record, Lauria's impression of Kyle Chandler is eerily accurate.) "And then it didn't happen, and I thought, 'Of course it didn't.' Shame on me for even wanting that Hollywood thing, you know, because that's not 'Friday Night Lights.' That was total B.S."
Waving goodbye to his girl in his army uniform, Luke represented the reality for a lot of American kids who are forced to trade the dream for reality. "It blindsided me at first, but then I thought, yeah, this is true. This is honest," Lauria says. "These are his options, and these are the options that a lot of young men, in more rural areas or inner-city areas, have. I loved it. Not everybody can be Smash Williams, because that wouldn't be interesting, and it wouldn't be realistic. How many kids that you went to school with can you name that are famous or huge athletes?"
He tells us that one of his favorite things about the ending was the open-ended nature of Luke's relationship with Becky, which had been tumultuous but undeniably sweet. "It's a bit of a 'Where is this going?' thing, too. What's she going to do? Is she going to hang out for him? Is she going to move on? That's life."
We told Lauria that in our perfect world, she absolutely did wait for him, as did his BFF Tink ( LaMarcus Tinker) and their shared-custody pig. They had their happily-ever-after once he got home, safe and sound, obviously.
Ever the gentleman, Lauria indulged us without hesitation. "The spin-off is already in order," he jokes. "It involves Luke and Becky on the ranch. They get the pig back, Tinker is now Old MacTinker, E-I-E-I-O, and Luke and Becky are good. She wears a milkmaid outfit and milks the cows. And Tinker wears a cute milkmaid outfit, too. He milks the pigs. I've pitched it to Jason Katims, and he loved it. It's happening."
What will you miss most about "Friday Night Lights"? Weigh in below in our comments section, and catch it in syndication from the very first episode, beginning July 21st on ESPN.