For five seasons, Kyle Chandler played football coach and faithful husband and father Eric Taylor on the acclaimed Texas-set TV series Friday Night Lights. He was the very definition of the “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” good guy.
These days, though, he’s playing more troubled characters, like the damaged detective John Rayburn in the well-regarded Netflix series Bloodline and emotionally distant and controlling husband Harge Aird opposite Cate Blanchett in Carol, opening Christmas Day in North Texas.
But Chandler, 50, says he doesn’t really think about shattering his wholesome image when considering a part.
“It’s the material,” he says by phone from his home in Austin. “If something came along with another coach, that was a different take [from Friday Night Lights], I’d do it. I certainly don’t want to play the same thing all the time.
“When things come along and they’re good, you go with them.”
For Carol, a love story between two women in 1950s New York City, it was an opportunity too good to dismiss.
Based on the novel The Price of Salt, by Fort Worth-born mystery writer Patricia Highsmith (best known for The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train), Carol stars Blanchett and Rooney Mara and is directed by Todd Haynes.
Haynes is known for the films Velvet Goldmine, starring Christian Bale, Ewan McGregor and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Far From Heaven, with Dennis Quaid and Julianne Moore.
Carol is up for five Golden Globes, including best picture drama and best actress nods for Blanchett and Mara. Carol is tipped to be one of the major contenders at the Oscars as well.
“I wasn’t familiar with Patricia Highsmith,” says Chandler, “[but] basically, when I got the information about who was involved — writer, director, actor — you say ‘OK’ and ‘thank you.’ ”
He says working with Blanchett was enlightening.
“She’s one of those great actresses who reveals so much by doing so little because she’s so invested in what she’s doing,” he says. “You can’t go wrong with that.”
Back to TV
With the role in Carol, as well as parts in The Wolf of Wall Street, Zero Dark Thirty, The Spectacular Now, Argo and Super 8, Chandler has been focusing on the big screen. So it was a bit of a surprise to some observers that he could be lured back to a series like Bloodline.
“I don’t have a plan per se,” he explains. “It’s the material and the opportunity. Meeting [creators Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler and Daniel Zelman] and knowing how they did Damages with Glenn Close [helped convince me]. … They are great people to work with.”
He may not have a plan, but he is aiming to do a comedy at some point. He has provided voices for animation (Robot Chicken, American Dad) but has not done a lot of live-action comedy.
He concedes that producers see him as a serious guy.
“I’d like to do some comedy because I’m funny,” he says. “I’ve got an intense, innate sense of comedy.”
Bloodline may be shot in the picturesque Florida Keys, but Chandler’s heart remains in Texas. Born in Buffalo, N.Y., but spending much of his life in Illinois, Georgia and California, he moved to the Austin area around eight years ago while filming Friday Night Lights.
“I love the state of Texas,” he says. “I moved around a lot when I was a kid. I think I can’t honestly say that I lived in a place that was home.
“But with my place in Texas, it’s hard to pry me out of here because this is my home.”