Zach Gilford on Off the Map, Mourning Friday Night Lights and Fishing with Tom Brokaw
This spring, Friday Night Lights star Zach Gilford attempts to leave behind his beloved character Matt Saracen -- the shy former quarterback of the Dillon Panthers -- for an outdoorsy doctor on Shonda Rhimes' latest ABC medical drama, Off the Map. Will the Northwestern grad be able to endear himself to an entirely new audience and adjust to life away from the bubble that he grew comfortable on during the last five seasons on FNL?
Gilford will not know for a few months but in the meantime, he phoned Movieline to discuss this transitional phase of his career, his aversion to cowboy boots and the outdoor sport that even his girlfriend is willing to try.
Hey Zach. Congratulations on the new show Off the Map. It must be an exciting time for the cast.
Thanks! It is exciting just to have a show on TV. I know my parents and grandparents are super excited.
Did you get to watch the premiere with them?
My parents are in Chicago. My grandparents are in Florida and I'm back and forth between California and Hawaii. So I didn't get to watch it with them. Actually I haven't even watched the premiere myself.
I'm sure your family had wonderful things to say about the new show but did they have any criticism as well?
[Laughs] No. They're my grandparents and parents! They thought it was the greatest thing they had ever seen.
Some parents can be very forthcoming with criticism and advice.
It's actually funny you say that. I did a lawyer pilot awhile ago and my dad, who is an attorney, got super stoked about it. He thought he'd get to coach me through the whole thing. He came to set one day and just looked at me and said, "What are you wearing? Are you kidding me? If you're a first year lawyer, you would not have a suit that nice." Of course, they had me in like a Gucci suit because on TV, everyone has to look super nice. That really made him mad because it was so unrealistic. He kept complaining, "I've been a lawyer for 30 years and I don't even have a suit that nice!"
That's cute. You need to buy your dad a Gucci suit now.
I know. One day.
Well do you look outside of your family for feedback on Off the Map? Have you been reading the reviews and message boards?
Not really. I think I learned early on with Friday Night Lights -- which critics loved but was always on the bubble -- not to stress about it because it would make me crazy. Those things are out of my control. I try to just stress about coming to work each day and doing my best there. And with reviews, even if you read ten nice things about yourself and then come across one article saying that you suck, it feels horrible! You start obsessing, "Why doesn't that person like me?" It can ruin your day.
Do you remember reading one particularly bad review that turned you off?
No, I don't have any distinct memories but it's like in high school when you hear people talking sh*t about you. "That guy in the school play, Zach Gilford -- I don't like that guy. He's a jerk!" I'll just obsess over why these people think I'm a jerk.
It does hurt! I'd rather that the critics just call me and tell me what to work on rather than talk sh*t. I was actually on the phone with another journalist the other day and I just flat-out asked, "Do you have any constructive criticism? Is there anything you think I should be working on because I will work on it. I promise."
So you're basically trouble-shooting your own performance with journalists.
I saw that you guest-starred on Grey's Anatomy a few seasons ago. Did you or Shonda Rhimes know at that point that you two wanted to work together again in the future?
I mean, I knew that I would have loved to work with her again but at that point, I was on Friday Night Lights still and wasn't sure what was going to happen or if I was going to be leaving the show. I had been watching Grey's Anatomy for years, and had been a fan of the show, so it was just exciting to go over there and be a part of it. And then when this show came around, and I knew that Shonda was involved with it, I was excited to work with her again on a project that not only seemed like it could be a success but one that was going to be a quality product.
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