The Verge: Scott Porter


Though his character on Friday Night Lights made it out of high school a while back, Scott Porter's still got a little ways to go. In a few weeks, he'll be seen as a complicated underclassman opposite Vanessa Hudgens and Aly Michalka in Bandslam, but next year, he'll play closer to his age as Channing Tatum's foil in Lasse Hallström's romantic drama Dear John. On the verge of a milestone birthday, I spoke to the up-and-coming actor about age, Austin, and auditioning against his old castmates.

Happy upcoming 30th birthday! Are you excited for it?

I dunno. I've been playing under my age for the last five years, so I don't feel like I'm thirty. But I don't think thirty is the death knell it used to be.

Death knell as a person or as an actor?

Kind of both, but it's different now: Back when it was sort of the death knell, you got married in your early twenties and got settled into a 9-to-5 by the time you were thirty. As a male actor, though, it's a little weird -- there's this no man's land, this age where you're just a little too old for stuff and just a little too young for stuff, and I'm kind of seeing it now. People look at me and say, "Well, you don't have a wife and kids, so I might not believe it on the screen...but you're not quite high school." There's a very small percentage of movies that get made that focus on people in their mid-twenties, and that's what I look like right now.

Still, it's not entirely terrible to have that range. Like, I would never dream of wishing a happy 30th birthday to an actress. She'd probably freak out!

Yeah, I think it's unfortunately a bit unfair. But I will say, whatever science has created lately, we keep ourselves looking young and we take care of ourselves a lot better now. I know plenty of actresses in their early thirties who look amazing, although there's that old saying: Ladies get older, men get more distinguished. But I'll take turning thirty with a smile on my face.

What age do you play in Bandslam?

18. [Laughs]

Scott! Don't you feel guilty that you're about to turn thirty and you're stealing parts from teenagers?

I was like the old man on the set, which is a little weird! I was playing a nineteen or twenty-year-old by that time on Friday Night Lights, and I got the offer for Bandslam, and I said, "No, you know what? We're gonna pass." I just didn't want to play the jerky high school kid. Then Todd Graff, the director, did some great fleshing out of the characters, and it felt like real life. No kid is the bad kid, and each kid has his goal, and some kids step on other kids to get there. So when he came back with it and [the character] was less of a douchebag, he just became more of an interesting character. Also, Jason Robert Brown wrote the songs, and I was a big fan of his from the theater world, so I said, "You know what? When else am I gonna get to learn how to play the guitar and sing Jason Robert Brown songs? If you guys think I can play the age, I'm in." But that's the last high school movie I will even look at.

You're also in this film with a lot of actors who've been acting since they were kids. How are your approaches different?

You know, I discovered acting really late. I was a professional beatboxer until I was about twenty-five, and I got on Friday Night Lights when I was twenty-six. I was doing an off-Broadway show, and the second pilot I booked was Friday Night Lights. I've never taken an acting class, and it works for me, but the way we tape Friday Night Lights doesn't really stand up anywhere else. We don't have any rehearsals or blocking or marks -- it's all off the page and ad-libbed. So Bandslam was a new experience for me, too.

I remember when Friday Night Lights came out, Kyle Chandler actually said he worried about the younger actors on the show because it afforded you a certain freedom you wouldn't get on other jobs. And then you made Speed Racer with the Wachowskis, and they're notorious for how specific they are.

It was really hard to adjust to the Wachowskis and their directing style, actually. Kyle Chandler had sat down with us at the end of the [FNL] pilot, and him and Peter Berg both said, "You guys are spoiled, and you guys are lucky. You'll always want it to be like this again -- to be this free and be off the page -- and it's not a slam to anyone else who makes movies, but you won't be this free again." The Wachowski brothers are so in their head that everything you do has to fit into their overall vision of how they're putting together the movie. Luckily, Todd Graff on Bandslam was right in the middle. He would take you and sit you down and rehearse you, but he let us play.

Your film The Good Guy premiered at Tribeca recently, where you were acting opposite Alexis Bledel -- who's also in Post-Grad opposite Zach Gilford. She's really working her way through the Friday Night Lights cast, isn't she?

They shot Post-Grad first, and I actually lost Post-Grad to Zach. I went in and I really wanted it -- I mean, it's a great film and a great cast, and I was all jealous. It's funny how things work out: You think that in LA and Hollywood, there's thousands of actors wanting the same thing, but it's so funny when it boils down to the fishbowl that you're in and who you go up against. I never thought I'd be going up for the same roles as Zach or prepping for the same thing Taylor [Kitsch] is, but that's the way it works.

What was it like to work with Lasse Halström on Dear John?

On set the first day, I threw a couple of curveballs out there, which I like to do just to see how the director reacts. So Lasse walked up to me and was like, "Options. I like options. Give me twenty options." [Laughs] And one of my good, good friends from high school wrote the script, so he was just sitting there in video village going, "Great, there goes Porter rewriting me."

Do you keep up with Friday Night Lights, even though your storyline has ended?

I do. It's the type of the show that even if I wasn't on it, I'd be a nutjob fan over. I watch a lot of TV, and I'd like to think what I watch is good TV. Battlestar Galactica, Friday Night Lights...I love Deadwood, I love The Wire, Dexter. I'm also a sci-fi comic-y guy, so shows like Heroes and Lost, I know a lot of people have walked away from them, but they're still on my DVR.

You're still living in Austin, where you shot Friday Night Lights, right?

Yeah, I think Taylor, Jesse [Plemons] and I are the last holdovers. Now, Taylor and Jesse are going to be on the show next year, so it's easier for them to explain why they're still gonna be in Austin. [Laughs] I just say, "I love that city."

Does it make it hard for you when you go out on auditions?

My business manager is like, "Scott, we've got to do something about these airline miles," but my girlfriend and I live in Austin and all my friends are there. I like it that when I get done with a project, I can go somewhere that's not LA and not dive right back into that machine. I don't just want to be another cog in the gears of Hollywood. ♦