- Scott Porter reflected on disability representation in Friday Night Lights for Insiders.
- Encouraged by the advances in Hollywood, he has “zero regrets” about playing Jason Street.
- He also spoke about comfort shows and why he feels “safe” playing Pokémon GO with the family.
Friday Night Lights star Scott Porter recently told Insider he has “no regrets” playing wheelchair user Jason Street in the football drama, despite not being physically fit.
“My character is a very unique character and the fact that you had to see him both healthy and recovering from injury had to have a healthy actor to play the role,” he explained of Jason, a starting quarterback for the Dillon Panthers.
In the pilot of the critically acclaimed NBC series, which ran from 2006-2011, Jason sustains a spinal injury on a routine tackle, paralyzing him from the waist down and ending his promising future career in the NFL.
Jason’s arc throughout the series focuses on him learning to live with his new physical abilities and contemplating new goals and dreams.
Porter pointed out that the “Friday Night Lights” production team took important steps to ensure Jason’s journey is portrayed authentically, stating that “everything we’ve done has been done meticulously” to honor and telling the truth about what living with a spinal cord injury might mean.
“I have no regrets because we had people with us every step of the way, like Coach James Gumbert, who was my technical advisor, was my guru on everything to make sure this character stayed true to life after his injury,” Porter said. Gumbert is a Paralympian from Austin, Texas, where “Friday Night Lights” was filmed, played and coaches wheelchair rugby, a sport Jason eventually learned.
The Lucifer actor interviewed Gumbert for the Friday Night Lights rewatch podcast, which he co-hosts with his former co-star Zach Gilford and the drama’s most famous superfan, Parenthood star Mae Whitman.
In It’s Not Only Football: Friday Night Lights and Beyond, Gumbert Porter and Kevin Rankin, who played Herc, Jason’s rehab roommate, said he gave them advice on how to play their sport and hold a cup when you have one certain spine has umbilical cord injury was a “badge of honor”.
“You wanted to live the role,” he said. “The thing I’m most proud of, what we’ve achieved, is that people really believed that you guys were sitting in chairs.”
Porter acknowledged that given the advances in authentically portraying disabilities, the show could have made some different choices today.
“In this day and age, fortunately, if you had a role like Herc, who’s already quadriplegic, you’d probably find an actor who actually has that disability and they could portray that,” he said. “And you see that actors from all walks of life are now actually able to play those roles.”
Porter finds comfort and connection in Pokémon GO
After starring in Friday Night Lights, Porter joined the cast of another iconic feel-good series, Hart Of Dixie. He’s currently playing Mayor Paul Randolph in another hours-to-hour escape series, Ginny & Georgia on Netflix.
“Comfort television is different for everyone. Some people like to see their life, or something that reflects their life on TV, as a sense of comfort. Some people like to watch a show that they can solace themselves in,” he said, pondering the meaning of the term “convenience TV.”
He noted that even action and thriller shows can provide a sense of comfort as long as the show is “community-centric.”
Though he brings comfort to fans through his acting, Porter finds that sense of community for himself through an unusual medium — playing Pokémon GO with family, friends, and even strangers. Pokemon Go is the mobile interactive version of the original Pokemon game released in the late 90’s. Released in 2016, the game encourages people to get out into the world and hunt down the creatures that randomly appear in their neighborhood.
As a teenager, he played the original Pokémon while his little sister watched and cheered him on.
“My sister now lives in Virginia, my father lives in Florida and I live in California and we still play together. There are remote rate passes and ways to play together even though you’re in different parts of the country or in different parts of the world,” he said, reflecting on what the game means to him. “On Pokemon Go it’s about community and getting out and exploring the world and there’s nothing like doing it with people you know and love.”
He and his father recently attended a Pokémon GO live event in Las Vegas together. Porter compared the bonding experience to “hearing the first notes” of one’s favorite song at a concert.
“You feel safe there,” he says.