Connie Britton’s new show is a ‘Friday Night Lights’ reunion

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Connie Britton’s new series “ Dear Edward ” gave her the opportunity to revisit a past project that she holds dear, “Friday Night Lights.”

Developed and executive produced by Jason Katims, the series “Friday Night Lights” was ratings-challenged but also had a passionate fan base among critics and viewers. Britton played Tami Taylor, a high school guidance counselor in a small Texas town who is married to the school’s football coach (Kyle Chandler.) She is often a surrogate mother to the students and grounds her husband when the pressure to succeed is especially high. The show also put its cast — including Britton, Chandler, Jesse Plemons and Taylor Kitsch — on a different career trajectory.

″‘Friday Night Lights’ set the bar for me in a lot of ways around what I want, what I want creatively and how I want to work and people that I want to work with,” shared Britton in a recent Zoom interview.

“Dear Edward” which streams Feb. 3 on Apple TV+ reunites her with Katims, who admits he had been waiting since “Friday Night Lights” aired its series finale in 2011 to find another project with Britton.

“When you work with an actor like Connie, you want to work with her again, like it’s always in the back of your mind. But I felt like I waited until I had a role that was the right role. I wanted to bring her a role that really had a chance of her wanting to do (it),” he said.

That role in “Dear Edward” is of Dee Dee, a wealthy Manhattan socialite who is living the good life until her husband dies in a plane crash.

Britton admits to prepare for the role she watched episodes of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” where some of the cast seems to enjoy flaunting their material possessions.

“Dee Dee just made me laugh,” said Britton. “She made me smile all the time so I really, really had so much fun playing her… It was like the gorgeous clothes and the jewels and the things, it’s fun to be able to do that stuff. And then equally as an actor, (it’s) fun to have all that stuff taken away.”

The reunion between Britton and Katims lived up to the anticipation, says the actor, and there were also crew members present who she worked with on “Friday Night Lights.”

“Jason’s set was everything I remembered, everything I imagined it might be. Straight from the top down… We had directors come in who were from ‘Friday Night Lights.’ We had crew members. It was just like old home week, and it was really fun… I’m getting to the point in my life now, in my career, where I want to work with people that I love.”

“Dear Edward” also follows the titular character, Edward, a 12-year-old boy (played by Colin O’Brien) who is the only survivor of a plane crash and goes to live with his aunt and uncle after his parents and brother are killed. Viewers see Edward adjust to this catastrophic loss and experience magical thinking, where he pretends to himself that his older brother also survived the crash.

“When Edward loses his family, he kind of has a looming presence over him,” said O’Brien. “He has to learn to cope with that and to trust others around him, to help him move on from that and to help him kind of redefine himself.”

The story is based on a novel of the same name by Ann Napolitano. For his adaptation, Katims chose to add more characters to the story (including Dee Dee) and have them interact during grief counseling.

“I really wanted to look at the present-tense story of what would happen after this tragic accident occurred, and I needed to see people mesh with each other, which was where the idea of the grief group came from,” said Katims.

Another character added to the story is Adriana Washington, played by Anna Uzele. Washington’s grandmother, a longtime congresswoman from New York, also was killed in the crash. She’s inherited her grandmother’s desire to serve but also finds politics frustrating and must reconcile the two.

Uzele says filming the grief session scenes was a way for the actors to think about their own personal losses. Director Allison Liddi-Brown told them she had created a space where they could bring their collective experiences of what it’s like to both grieve and to continue to honor those who have died.

“I lost my grandmother several years ago and that grief had healed in many ways, but it was lovely to get to think of her and to have memories of her pop up the entire time while shooting.”

Britton hopes “Dear Edward” will remind people there are different ways to mourn, and that people are stronger than they sometimes realize.

“I’m hoping that the show is going to give people language for grief and make that a relatable idea. And the idea that we have strength in the face of adversity,” she says.

“We’ve been through so much as a culture globally with the pandemic,” she adds. “Through every character, even a character like Dee Dee, we can recognize ourselves and see the strength that we have.”