For Friday Night Lights star Scott Porter, the phrase “Texas Forever” really holds true. The Nebraska-born and Florida educated actor has gone on to co-star in Hart Of Dixie, Scorpion, and a bunch of video games where he often plays Marvel and DC-verse heroes like Star-Lord and Nightwing. But despite all that, he’ll always be Jason Street first and foremost. And he seems like he’s alright with that. Especially now that he’s going back to Texas and high school football and using his well-honed video game voice acting skills as Colt Cruise, a cocky high-school wide receiver, and the best friend of the main character in Madden‘s first foray into story modes, Longshot.
We spoke to Porter about the depth and skill required to pull off Longshot, that Friday Night Lights legacy, the prospect of ever going back to Dillon, and the one big thing he has on Chris Pratt when it comes to playing Star-Lord.
Full Disclosure: Mario Kart is as deep as I go into the gaming world, but Madden: Longshot sounds pretty revolutionary. When you were shooting this thing, did it feel different, like it might change the Madden series?
A sports game has never really had this deep of a story to it. There are fantastic characters, a setting that kind of felt familiar to me – starts down in Texas with the dream of a kid who’s lost portions of his family throughout his youth, lost a bit of his innocence because of that. He has a best friend, Colt Cruise. It’s a story about brotherhood, about a journey from a small town in Texas to the NFL stage.
Storytelling is going to move this medium forward. It’s not always going to be about graphics. Storytelling is going to have to drive things for video games to compete with films and television. What we’re doing with Madden: Longshot is a step in that direction. A huge step. I’d say a leap. The story we were able to tell, the actors that we were able to get, it’s just going to take people by surprise and really level the playing field in terms of storytelling. You hear this story and you hear that Mahershala Ali is a part of it and he’s got an Oscar and you’re going, “Wait a minute. This has gotta be pretty dang good.”
You’re getting back to your roots with this too. Have you kind of accepted that you’re never going to fully escape Dillon?
Friday Night Lights will always be a huge piece of the fabric of my life. It was the fourth pilot I ever auditioned for during my first pilot season. I cut my teeth on that show. I had mentors in Peter Berg, Connie Britton, and Kyle Chandler; I dare other people to give me a better list of teachers on their time out. If I never escape it, I’m okay with that and for some reason, people like to cast me as the good ol’ southern boy. I like to think maybe that’s what people see in me. I’ve got similarities with these characters: Jason Street and Colt Cruise. Their storylines are different, but at their core, they’ve got the same competitive drive and that desire to support their friends.
We can only hope to live up to the mark that FNL set if people want to compare the two.
Colt Cruise, that’s a pretty slick name to have if you’re going to be a video game character.
Yeah, he actually nicknames himself the “Cruise Missile.” He’s a wide receiver. He’s speedy and when he catches a long bomb, he gets in the opponent’s face and tells them, “You just got blasted by a Cruise Missile.” It’s hilarious. Street never had a slogan like that. That’s where they differ. Street would’ve never given himself a nickname, [Tim] Riggins did that for him. Colt Cruise made sure he gave himself a nickname before anybody else could.
I didn’t realize how many superheroes you’ve played. Marvel should be paying you the big bucks.
No, I love video games and comic books. I’m a real fan. I didn’t just jump on board when it started to become acceptable in pop culture, so the fact that I get to play those characters is a bit of a dream come true. My little two-year-old son hears my voice on a Guardians of the Galaxy commercial now and he lights up. He bought a Star-Lord toy because of me, not because of Chris Pratt. Probably the only person in the world that ever did that.
Take that Chris Pratt.
Yeah, thank you, son. Thank you.
How did your video game voiceover career get started?
It started with me going to E3 as a fan. I stopped by the Activision booth and one of their voice directors was a big fan of Friday Night Lights. I said, “Well, I’m a fan of your games. We should work together.” And they said, “Okay, well we’ve got a game coming out called X-Men: Destiny. Why don’t you put yourself on tape and send it in to us?” I put myself on tape for over 30 different X-Men and Brotherhood of Mutant characters and they came back and offered me one of the three leads. The same thing happened with Telltale; they were doing Walking Dead and I just jumped on and told them I’d love to work with them. They ended up having to recast a role and remembered me and slid into my DMs on Twitter.
It’s all about the hustle.
How difficult is it to do voice work?
In the booth, it’s always tricky. You’re by yourself, there’s no one to bounce ideas off of, but you know, you’ve seen enough action films or read enough comics or played enough as a kid in your backyard to remember what it sounded like when you pretended to get hit. Just do that as an adult in this different voice. It’s just about imagination.
With Longshot, it was full motion capture which was the first time I’d ever done that and it’s a whole different level of difficulty. You’re stuck on a white soundstage like we were for Longshot. It’s me and another actor and we’re put into wet suits with reflective balls on them. We’ve got a bunch of face makeup on; we look like we’re from the rejected version of Cats: The Musical, and they put a camera rig on us and they say, “Okay, you’re sitting in a truck, driving down the road, there’s a beautiful sunset and the rolling hills of Texas and we need you to have a fight.” Your imagination has to kick in, full force, because you’re looking at the other actor and going, “You look ridiculous.”
Since we’re going back to Texas, were you happy with how Friday Night Lights wrapped up Jason Street’s story?
People ask me if I was bummed when Jason left in season three and I always say the same thing, “Not really. Jason won.” Jason won a greater victory than almost anybody else in that town. The hope is to get out and become something in the world, especially for a kid like Jason who loses everything. For him to end up in New York, successful with two children and a wife, that’s life’s biggest victory.
Speaking of New York, be honest, who cried the most filming that goodbye scene between Riggins and Street?
As far as the scene in New York, [Taylor Kitsch] was just a giant baby.
Awesome. Go ahead and throw him under the bus.
[Laughing] No, we both couldn’t look at each other in between takes. We just stopped looking at each other. But at the end, almost everybody came back for the finale and by that time, there were almost no tears. There was a very calm feeling. We knew this end was coming. We did it on our own terms, and there’s something to that. Hart of Dixie was different. I was on Hart of Dixie and our fourth season got cut down to 10 episodes and it felt so sudden. When that ended, there were tears.
So you were prepared emotionally for the end of Friday Night Lights?
Yeah, at that point we were able to be reflective and not be prisoners of the moment. We were able to look back over the whole series and go, “Man, we did something special.”
Because we’re living in the time of reboots and revivals, what do you think about the possibility of a Friday Night Lights revival?
I think there was a prevailing feeling among most of us that the way the series ended was so perfect, we wouldn’t want to f*ck it up. Just plainly, we wouldn’t want to go back and f*ck things up. That being said, Peter Berg very early on instilled in us a key phrase: “Nobody pushes us around.” We’re going to tell the story how we want and we’re going to get it done. With the exception of part of season two, we didn’t have any outside forces come in and say they wanted certain things done on the show and we did a damn good job of not being pushed around. If they wanted to do the series again and the four pillars: Jason Katims, Peter Berg, Connie Britton, and Kyle Chandler got together and figured out a way to do it, I would have the utmost faith that it would work, but I just don’t think you’d see a lot of the original cast.
You’d see Coach and Tami, but I don’t know if FNL is the kind of show that would go to Chicago and catch up with [Matt] Saracen or go to California and catch up with Smash. There’d have to be some very organic way to get everybody back together. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I’m so comfortable with where it ended. I’m not scared to do it all over again, but it’s incredibly difficult to catch lightning in a bottle twice.
Madden 18 featuring Madden: Longshot will be available on August 25.