While Friday Night Lights was not Taylor Kitsch’s first big job, it’s safe to say it was his breakout role, and to this day it’s one of the projects he’s best known for. Back in 2006, he was cast as Tim Riggins in Peter Berg’s show based on the film of the same name, and now the two creatives have reunited, 17 years later for Netflix’s Painkiller. While discussing this new drama, Berg opened up about seeing Kitsch grow as an actor over the course of nearly two decades, and he explained to CinemaBlend why he’s loved seeing him “shed the Tim Riggins legacy.”
Both Friday Night Lights and Kitsch’s performance as Tim were critically acclaimed and wildly popular. The tortured football player was a constant among the Dillon Panthers. While he wasn’t a regular during the show’s final season, Tim Riggins still played an important part in the story, and to this day the actor behind him is known for the role. However, Berg noted that after the NBC drama came to an end, The Terminal List star was determined to not play a version of Tim Riggins over and over again. During the Painkiller junket, the director spoke to me about his relationship with the actor, and how he’s loved seeing him grow up and past the Dillon Panthers running back. He said:
It's a pleasure to watch Taylor Kitsch grow up. He easily after Friday Night Lights, could have had a career that was sort of like Tim Riggins version two, version three, version four. And to his credit, he was very determined to shed the Tim Riggins legacy... I'm very impressed with that, you know, he's done it over and over again, in the roles that he chooses. And in a way he truly immerses himself in these characters.
After Friday Night Lights, Kitsch starred in John Carter and Battleship in 2012. Since then, he collaborated with Berg again on the 2013 film Lone Survivor, starred in a season of True Detective and worked alongside Chris Pratt in The Terminal List, plus he has his own show on the way that is within the Terminal List world. His most recent project on the 2023 TV schedule though is Painkiller – a drama about the rise and consequences of OxyContin – which allowed Berg to collaborate with him again.
The creator of the NBC football drama explained that he was excited to work with Kitsch on the Netflix drama. Speaking candidly, Peter Berg noted that the actor, like the families in the disclaimers of Painkiller, has had family members who struggled with OxyContin addiction. When it came to the Friday Night Lights star’s performance in the Netflix drama as Glen, a man who is prescribed and becomes addicted to Oxy, the director explained that his personal connection and skill as an actor really made for an “outstanding” performance.
He's an actor, a real actor. And I knew, and Taylor is open with this, he has a very close family connection to addiction and family members who have struggled with OxyContin. So I knew as soon as this story started to come into focus that he would be very down with playing this character. He would find a personal connection, a strong connection, and he would really deliver and he did find a connection, and I think his performance is outstanding.
Taylor Kitsch does give a moving and heart-wrenching performance in Painkiller as a man who is struggling with addiction to this drug. He plays one part in the greater story about those who have been impacted by OxyContin addiction and the fight to bring down Purdue Pharma and those selling the drug. While both Friday Night Lights and Painkiller are dramas, this Netflix series shows just how much Kitsch has grown since his breakout role as Tim Riggins.
To throw it back, and see where Berg and Kitsch’s partnership started, you can stream Friday Night Lights with a Hulu subscription. If you are looking to see their latest collaboration, you can watch Painkiller with a Netflix subscription.