Close Encounters of the Celebrity Kind...
Todd Graff Is Happy On the Field and Beyond
Expanded Edition of 8-21-09 Chicago Tribune Interview
by Richard Knight, Jr.
Gilford with Post Grad cast mates
“Friday Night Lights” actor Zach Gilford is graduating – to movies via a role as a patient, supportive good guy (sound familiar?) to
Alexis Bledel in Post Grad, a teen comedy opening this Friday which also stars Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch and Carol Burnett. But
don't worry, the Evanston native still has another year to go on the critically acclaimed TV series before leaving the folks of Dillon,
Texas and the Panthers behind – and there are at least two more teen movies in the 27 year-old Gilford’s future.
ZACH GILFORD (ZG): The Tribune’s sport section is my home page on my computer.
Q: Well that leads right to my most important question: Cubs or White Sox?
ZG: I knew you were going to ask that! (laughs) White Sox, man. For generations my family has been a White Sox family. I got
to throw out the pitch at a game back in May which is like the highlight of my life. When I was there we were playing the Pirates and
I got to meet Zach Duke, the Pirates pitcher and we’ve kept in touch and he emailed me, “I’m going to be pitching against the Cubs
this weekend” and I happened to be home so I went and my dad, my grandfather, my sister – everyone in my family left me all
these hate voice mails like, “Why are you at a Cubs game?!” “What are you doing?!” “Now that you’re in Hollywood you’re a Cubs
fan?!” They were okay when I said, “No, no, no, my friend is pitching against the Cubs.”
Q: You can run but you can’t hide (laughs). Post Grad hangs on the premise that the lead characters have their futures completely
mapped out after college. Did you have yours mapped out when you left Northwestern? Was it your plan to get on a hit TV show, do
movies, get into a blockbuster franchise next, marry a starlet…
ZG: I wish. That does sound great but it sounds like Ryan Reynolds’ life though. No, acting was just one of those things. I was
going to Northwestern and I was like, “I don’t know I’ll try it” (laughs) and I’ve been extremely lucky that I’ve been able to work
enough and this movie was great. I got to work with amazing people and it was a very funny script.
Q: Talk about heavy weight talents – Michael Keaton, Carol Burnett, Jane Lynch – was the set just one laugh after another?
ZG: It was pretty cool. There was one day that we were shooting a scene with everyone in the family around a table and I looked
around and even the little brother Bobby Coleman is this amazing kid actor – and I thought, “I can’t believe that I’m working with
these people.” I was excited every day.
Q: Did you write the song you perform in the film?
ZG: I did not but I did sing it which was kinda of nerve wracking for me. Not really my thing.
Q: So no rock band in your future – unless it’s of the Guitar Hero variety?
ZG: Exactly. But it was fun though it was way scarier than acting.
Q: So all these teenager roles – what are the good things about playing a teen when you’re 27 in real life?
ZG: It’s a point in people’s lives when they’re going through big changes and everyone feels that it’s life or death – everything is
magnified. They’re usually cool characters that you get to play. Usually, you’re surrounded by people your own age so it feels like
you went back to high school and it doesn’t feel that weird. When I was in college I actually did a student film that shot in the high
school I went to. It was the weirdest thing going to my high school and doing scenes with all these kids in the hall and in the
lunchroom but none of them were the people I went to high school with. It was a surreal experience.
Q: It sounds surreal. So, when you’re approached by fans – do some of them think you’re a teenager?
ZG: Some people do think I’m a teenager and a lot of the time they’re surprised to find out how old I actually am which is good. I
look young. I get that from my mother.
Q: You spend your free time leading backpacking, ice climbing and diving expeditions in Alaska, New Zealand and Australia – what
no bungee jumping off Niagara Falls?
ZG: I’ve never bungee jumped. I have sky dived which was super fun. All that backpacking stuff is because I went to summer
camp and did a bunch of trips and had a great time.
Q: Ice climbing in Alaska is a little different from summer camp, you thrill seeker! (laughs).
ZG: It’s kind of funny because I used to be afraid of roller coasters. It’s just one of those things – once you open the door and you
experience a little bit of it you think, “I want to do the next thing and the next thing.” You just get more and more comfortable.
Q: Tell me about Dare in which you again play a teenager but a really dark one.
ZG: It was super fun and cool to do. It’s coming out in November and was at Sundance. It couldn’t have been a bigger contrast,
not only to my show and this movie and the character but it was also the way we filmed it. It was super, super low budget and
everyone was there because we were all excited about the script and wanted to make a good movie.
Q: I understand that it’s a jock with a very dark side who gets sexually involved in a triangle with Emmy Rossum and a guy played
by Ashley Springer. That’s going to be an eye opener for your “Friday Night Lights” fans.
ZG: It will be a little different from what most people are used to seeing me do.
Q: Any hesitation about doing that kind of role?
ZG: No. I loved the script and the director made a short that the movie is based on and it’s really good and Emmy Rossum was
already involved. It added up to being a good thing. I mean, yeah, I’m not gay and there’s some stuff that I wouldn’t say was
difficult but out of my normal things that I do but I thought it was justified to tell the story and it was an interesting story that should
be told. So I just went with it.
Q: So, as you start to kind of expand your range a little bit, do you have some acting mentors that you look up to?
ZG: There’s a few people in different respects. I love Edward Norton. I think he’s amazing and so many of the parts that he’s done
have been so different. He excels at every one. I also love Brad Pitt.
Q: Any hints about what’s up with your character as you begin shooting the new season?
ZG: I wish I knew. They haven’t really told me anything. I’m as much in the dark as you are.
Q: When “Friday Night Lights” is over are you ever going to play football again?
ZG: I love football! That’s one of my favorite sports so I would jump at that chance. That was one of the hardest things to adjust
to when I did “Post Grad” because I came right from working on the show. During down time I was like, “What do you mean, there’s
no football here? What am I supposed to do while we’re waiting?”