Fans of the critically-acclaimed drama Friday Night Lights remember Russell DeGrazier as the excitable Stan Traub, a passionate member of the East Dillon coaching staff in seasons four and five.
DeGrazier attended and received a master’s degree in film from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema and Television and is a member of the Writers Guild of America. He has numerous writing credits to his name, including 1997’s critically-acclaimed short MAD Boy, I’ll Blow Your Blues Away. Be Mine, 2000’s Attraction — which he also directed — and Sunset Strip, starring Jared Leto, Simon Baker and Nick Stahl. He has also written for HBO and Fox Searchlight.
What made you decide to become an actor, and how did you get your start?
I’m really not an actor. I’m a writer. I acted as a teenager and in college, but as I started to work professionally during the summers, I quickly realized it wasn’t the life for me. When I started acting in my teenage years, it was an escape hatch for me.
How did you end up getting cast on Friday Night Lights? Had you seen the show previously and, if so, what were your thoughts?
During the WGA strike several years ago, I was at a local theater show in Dallas and commented to a buddy that I used to act. He told me I had time on my hands so why not? I auditioned and fortunately got some good parts in a handful of shows. Someone in the cast recommended me to an agent and FNL was one of my early auditions. I don’t go on many auditions. I’d never been on TV or in film. It’s funny, I had not seen the show. It just wasn’t on my radar at the time.
What did you enjoy most about being on the set of Friday Night Lights?
Kyle Chandler. He’s a good man. Meet him if you can. Spending that much time around Kyle made me a better man. Also, they let me ad lib a lot of my stuff on the show. The writer in me loved that!
During one season four episode of Friday Night Lights, your character is spotted in a gay bar by another character. But this is never addressed in future episodes. Did you think or hope that this aspect of your character would ever be explored further?
I think anybody who has such an interesting avenue open up wants to travel down it. But the show was already packed with characters by the time I arrived. I was later told they hadn’t actually planned for my character to stick around as long as he did. And from a completely different perspective, isn’t it great that the topic was ultimately made such a non-issue by leaving it alone?
Despite critical acclaim, Friday Night Lights struggled in the ratings and often seemed to be on the verge of cancellation. During filming, was that subject ever discussed amongst the cast, or do you and the other actors simply play your roles and hope for the best?
By season 4, NBC and DirecTV had signed a deal for seasons 4 and 5. The end date was already definitive by the time East Dillon arrived.
Where did Coach Traub end up? Did he join the coaching staff of the superteam after the series finale? If that was never officially addressed, where do you think he is now?
Coach Taylor believed he’d gotten Stan ready to go out on his own. That was important to him. So Stan’s probably working to take a 1A Texas high school team to the state championship. He and coach talk all the time.
Do you worry that your career will be defined by your role on Friday Night Lights? In other words, in spite of your other projects, do you fear that people will always ask you stuff like, “Where did Coach Traub end up?”
Since I’m not primarily an actor, no. When diehards of FNL approach me, it is always an honor. It really is. To have been a part of a show that people cared about that much. With my writing career, it very rarely comes up in conversation.
Between Jason Street, Matt Saracen and Vince Howard, which quarterback do you think is most beloved in Dillon these days?
Who can I say but Vince Howard? I’m a loyal guy.
In terms of your writing career, how did you get your start? Was there one particular movie or show that inspired you to pursue screenwriting as a career?
It was a staggered process. In high school I received a lot of support from English teachers and one, Sue Passmore, even went so far as to say I would be a writer whether I knew it then or not. Entering film school after spending a lot of time as an actor or director in theater, I was intimidated to be creating without someone else’s blueprint. But I came to enjoy the challenge, even on really bad days. Once I could commit to just “see what’s there” it became a lot easier.
There’s a range of stuff that inspired and still continues to inspire me. Early on, any of Tarantino’s stuff, same with Almodovar, Shampoo, Nashville, Secrets and Lies, Deliverance, The Philadelphia Story.
How have you evolved as a writer over the years?
Well, I think I’m only starting to hit my stride now, to be honest. I’ve been fortunate to have hit the mark several isolated times in my career, a few times when the script made it to the very last stage of getting the greenlight at studios before falling apart, which is always a disappointment. I’m very late to the game in this but I’m finally willing to see myself more completely in shades of grey, and how effective a writer can you be if that’s not so?
What current television show is, in your opinion, the most well-written?
You know, I haven’t watched much television lately. I’ve been reading more. I do know there’s a lot of fantastic stuff in series now.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished a screenplay, LOCUST ROAD. It’s a small town violent thriller that has to do with close friendships and family. Also, a stage musical I was brought on to write the book for is heading into workshop in the fall. That’s called DEBUTANTE WARRIORS. And I’ve started a new screenplay, a sort of horror film concerning misplaced fear.