Friday Night Lights is coming back, sort of. It’s not returning as a series reboot with the original cast (even Taylor Kitsch can’t fake being a high schooler in his late 30s). It’s not coming back as a television series or a program that has anything to do with Dillon High School or the town. But there is a Friday Night Lights movie in the works from Universal and Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green, set in a completely new town with a new set of characters who really, really care about Texas high school football. With a new lease on football life totally removed from Dillon, staffers Kate Halliwell and Miles Surrey decided to cast the most integral roles of the new FNL—from the new Coach Taylor to age-defying high school football players. Universal, we’d like a 5 percent commission.
The Coach: Chris Evans
Who better to walk in the khaki-clad shadow of Coach Taylor than the ultimate all-American boy? Chris Evans has expressed a desire to follow up his Marvel days with more serious dramatic roles, and glowering at teens on a Texas football field feels like the obvious transitional step. His current hideous mustache is perfect for the part—add a polo shirt and a clipboard, and we’ve got Coach Taylor 2.0. I imagine him as a jaded Jason Street type, a former QB who thought he’d go pro before blowing out his knee and returning in shame to his former town. An added bonus—Evans is no stranger to extended universes, and going from the MCU to the new FNL extended universe is right in his comfort zone. Hopefully it won’t take 10 years of films for this one to pay off. —Halliwell
Not Your Usual Mrs. Coach: Rihanna
Right off the bat, let’s get something clear—Rihanna’s character is no “Mrs. Coach.” No disrespect to Tami Taylor—perhaps the best wife/mom character in TV history—but Rihanna isn’t breaking into Hollywood to play second fiddle to some angsty football coach. In our adaptation, Rihanna’s character is a former cheer captain who left the small Texas town for success in the music industry. She’s left her Southern roots behind, but when a family member gets sick, she returns to Texas and reunites with Evans’s coach character. They’ll do the classic will-they-won’t-they for a while (Rihanna will refuse to go near him with that atrocious stache) and then he’ll grow the full Infinity War beard over the second half of the film and all will be well. And by “all will be well,” I mean that Rihanna leaves his ass at the end of the movie to go win some more Grammys. —Halliwell
School Superintendent Pressuring the Coach With Budget Cuts: Carrie Coon
Acclaimed thespian Carrie Coon should be in everything because she can make any movie better. What was the historic opening weekend of Avengers: Infinity War if not a legion of fans lining up to hear Coon voice Proxima Midnight? (Right?)
Proxima Midnight was a good start: It would be really fun to see Carrie Coon chew up scenery as a menacing, yet sympathetic villain. As the superintendent of this Texas high school that’s going through severe budget cuts (thanks, Betsy DeVos!), Coon’s character has no choice but to put the squeeze on Coach Stache Evans to get results with his fledgling squad of 20-somethings pretending to be teens.
Anyway, I can’t wait to see Coon pick up the first of many Oscars for this! —Surrey
The Older Ladies Who Are Earnestly but Unhealthily Invested in the Future of a High School Football Team: Margo Martindale and Ann Dowd
Buddy Garrity was the most grating character in Friday Night Lights history, so I have no qualms about replacing him with the best character actresses ever to grace the small screen. Margo Martindale and Ann Dowd have been unfairly confused for each other for years, and the best way to deal with that is to cast them as twin sisters who care way too much about Texas football. They would sit in the bleachers for every game and heckle the coach and players like Statler and Waldorf from Sesame Street, but with more Emmys. Two Buddy Garritys don’t make a right, but two female Buddy Garritys who heckle and objectify Chris Evans on an regular basis absolutely do. —Halliwell
Absurdly Hot Running Back Who Has Family Problems: Dacre Montgomery
This is by far the hardest role to fill: How do you find a running back who can live up to the age-defying brilliance of Tim Riggins? Well, perhaps we need to go [very bad Aussie accent] Down Undah!
Dacre Montgomery—you either know him as “that bully with the wild mullet from Stranger Things” or, “wait, you’re telling that isn’t Zac Efron?” But you know him. And look: The fact he was still frustratingly hot WITH A MULLET in Stranger Things speaks to his enduring attractiveness. But the most fascinating aspect of Montgomery’s FNL character will be the big first-act twist. You know he’s got family problems and he’s trying to deal with things the best he can, but you don’t realize … he’s the son of Coach Evans! However, you should’ve seen it coming all along: It’s all in the stache. —Surrey
Do-Gooder Quarterback: Ross Butler
Ross Butler has recently played a jock in 13 Reasons Why and Riverdale, so he’s an obvious choice to play QB1 in this FNL expanded universe. Butler is a classic FNL type for various reasons, chief among them the ability to play a weirdly muscular high schooler at the ripe old age of 27. After moving from the Disney Channel to his current slate of teen dramas, Butler just needs the right role to break onto the big screen. Perhaps he would have the golden-boy attitude of Jason Street, with the difficult home life of poor lil’ Matt Saracen. And not to hijack this blurb for another role, but let’s get Auli’i Cravalho off of Rise and into this movie as Ross’s sister. Who says no? —Halliwell
Outsider Who Gets Recruited for the Team: Joe Keery
Every FNL-adjacent product needs a Landry: an anti-sports loser who gets recruited for the team and stuns everyone by being not-as-terrible as they thought. (In Jesse Plemons’s case, that surprising efficiency also applies to his post-FNL career!) Joe Keery would be perfect as the school stoner hanging out under the bleachers and making fun of the football bros. Not to play into an overdone cliché, but in the movie, he would be standing outside the field when a stray ball lands at his feet. He casually kicks it back onto the field, and oh shit, he’s the amazing kicker Coach Chris Evans has been looking for! It writes itself, honestly. —Halliwell
The Cheer Captain: Zendaya
What’s this? An age-appropriate casting? Yes, the next stage of Zendaya’s transformation as a versatile actress could—no, should—be as the high school’s cheer captain. We’ve seen her play a lovably caustic teen in Spider-Man: Homecoming and a talented trapeze artist in The Greatest Showman—this role can combine the best of both teen parts with a mix of “I’m Married to Jesus.”
Don’t worry, Zendaya’s Greatest Showman stunt double can also tag along for when the team flips her five times in the air. —Surrey
The Wide Receiver Always Calling for the Ball: Ansel Elgort
I don’t mean to play up a stereotype, but star wide receivers are often prima donnas who always complain about not getting enough looks from their quarterback. And I can’t think of a better actor to embody that attitude than Ansel Elgort, who made Baby in Baby Driver grabbing coffee seem like the most aggravating thing on the planet for everyone else around him.
As an added bonus, they can throw Ansel’s character into a committed relationship in which he sends very thirsty Instagram comments on the reg! —Surrey
The Tough Linebacker With a Heart of Gold: Tristan Wilds
Since we can’t get Michael B. Jordan for any of these roles —he already exists elsewhere in the FNL universe— we have to settle for fan-casting another The Wire alum as a way-too-old high school linebacker. Wilds’s character may have to repeatedly fail algebra eight years in a row, but if that’s what it takes to get him on the team, hide that graphing calculator. Wilds has taken a lot of tough TV parts, from The Wire to Shots Fired, but it’s his role in Adele’s “Hello” music video that shows his knack for capturing the pain of young love. Get this man a shaky handheld closeup and a sepia tone filter, and you’ve got a star on your hands. —Halliwell