Commentary

'Lights' shine on Porter

'Lights' shine on Porter

Updated: August 14, 2009, 12:29 PM ET
By Julie Turner | ESPNRISE.com

After three seasons playing Jason Street on "Friday Night Lights," Scott Porter heads back to high school in the movie "Bandslam." Music isn't new to the actor, whose father was a drummer and his mother a singer. He says music is in his veins.

[+] EnlargeScott Porter
Evan Agostini/Getty ImagesScott Porter says Ben Roethlisberger once told him that a group of about 16 Steelers players get together each week to watch "Friday Night Lights."

Football is also in his veins. Porter played wide receiver at Lake Howell High School (Winter Park, Fla.) with future NFL players Kawika Mitchell, Trevor Pryce and Tam Hopkins. ESPNRISE.com talks with Porter about his high school football days and his TV football days, and we uncover his true talent -- beatboxing.

ESPNRISE.com: What were you like in high school?

Scott Porter: Everyone knew me, but I wasn't popular. It was a weird dynamic just because I was in chorus and I would go to All-State competitions with the chorus, and I was on the football team and was a starter on the varsity level for three years. But I was also one of the three guys that headed up the comic book committee in our high school, so it was really weird. I was very geeky and chorus-y and a jock. And so I knew everybody.

RISE: What was it like being an athlete and also being in the choir and into comic books?

Porter: I had moved from Nebraska down to Florida kind of in the middle of middle school, and a lot of the guys that were going to be playing at the high school level were all in Pee Wee already and a lot them were bullies. ... My freshman year of high school wasn't pretty. I got pushed around a lot and got into my fair share of fights that I didn't start. But once we started playing football, and once these guys started to kind of respect me on the field as a teammate, it was weird, they became these protectors for me. I wasn't the biggest guy, you know. But nobody messed with me after that.

RISE: When did you know you wanted to be an actor?

Porter: I never knew that I wanted to be an actor. Coming out of high school I had an a cappella group. And we won "Star Search" coming out of high school pretty young, and we were touring nationally going to colleges. We opened up for *NSYNC on their first national tour, and we tasted some success young. And I was a beatboxer. That was my part in the group. I was a professional beatboxer for seven years.

I went to New York and ended up in an off-Broadway musical called "Altar Boyz" that won some awards, and that was my first acting experience. And my first pilot season, where you go out and audition for TV shows, I booked "Friday Night Lights," and once I read that script I think I knew I wanted to be an actor because it was an amazing script and an amazing story and I think it kind of just sparked it for me.

RISE: What was it like filming the football scenes on "Friday Night Lights?"

Porter: You get suited up, you go out, you learn the plays, you run the play all the way up to the hit, and that's it. Contractually they won't let me get tackled, which we all hated. We all hated not being able to take a lick. It was kind like being back on a team. You go out there in the Texas heat and you have to film a game every two episodes.

But unlike a football game that takes 60 minutes to happen, you're shooting for 12 hours to make sure all of the plays and all of the angles of the plays -- and you have to run at full speed -- to make it look real. I think we did a really good job of having pretty realistic-looking football. I know the play selection is a little off sometimes, but the look of it and the speed of it is pretty great.

RISE: Would you have made the Dillon Panthers football team?

Porter: Yeah, I would have made the team. That sounded cocky. No, I ran a 4.5 40 and I had good hands. I was about 5-foot-10, 5-11. But if you watch "Friday Night Lights," the running backs catch all the passes; they have no wide receivers. So I clearly would have made the team. They need a wide receiver on that show.

RISE: Will we see any of your beatboxing skills in your new movie?

Porter: No, unfortunately. I've tried to beatbox in everything that I've done and I have yet to be successful getting it into a project. I was beatboxing at a pep rally on "Friday Night Lights" and the director came screaming out of the off-set video village where directors like to sit and watch the scenes. He comes screaming out, and I was just keeping the crowd warm. "Jason Street does not beatbox." And he ripped the microphone out of my hands.

RISE: What is the best perk of being an actor?

Porter: I went to the NBA All-Star Game last year, went to the Super Bowl a couple of years ago. I was in the 20th row in the end zone when Plaxico Burress caught the game-winning touchdown against the Patriots. And I'm a Broncos fan and I still didn't care. I was like, "This is amazing. I'm at the Super Bowl."

I walked into the ESPY after-party two years ago and I saw Peyton Manning, and I walked up to him and said, "Congratulations Mr. Manning on your first Super Bowl. I was rooting for you guys." And he turned around to me, looked at me and said, "Congratulations to you."

I said, "Excuse me?" And he goes, "Season 2. I heard you guys got picked up. Can't wait. It's the only show that me and my wife watch together on TV."

I've met a lot of my heroes and it's all because of "Friday Night Lights" that I've been so lucky.

Julie Turner is an editor for ESPNRISE.com