Gaius Charles is in an unfamiliar position—benchwarmer. Better known as Brian “Smash” Williams, the charismatic running back on Friday Night Lights, Charles is anxious to hear if his critically acclaimed show will finish out its second season and come back for a third. In the meantime, he’s back in his native New York to perform in an Off Broadway show, Lower Ninth, set on a New Orleans rooftop during Hurricane Katrina. He spoke with Emma Rosenblum, who made no attempt whatsoever to strive for journalistic objectivity.
Hello? Smash! I love you. For real. Thanks, thanks. What’s going on? Well, first, tell me a bit about this new play you’re in. Sure, it’s by this great writer, Beau Willimon, and is basically a three-person cast: myself, James McDaniel from NYPD Blue, and Gbenga Akkinagbe from The Wire. It’s the story of an estranged father and son who have to reconcile in the aftermath of Katrina. I play the son. But the play’s not going to interfere with the filming of Friday Night Lights, right? I don’t know, really. The good news is that the strike is panning out. The higher-ups have to decide what they’re going to do with the show—are they going to bring it back? And if they are going to bring it back, when will that be? Oh, no! It might not come back at all? Yeah, I’m not sure. After all the decisions are made, I’ll just get a phone call that says, “Show up in Austin.” This has been a big season for Smash. You lost your scholarship! When you cried in the locker room about it, I started crying, too. Everyone’s been saying that! There has been lots of sad news this season for Smash, but you never know what’s going to happen in the next couple of episodes … If there are more episodes. And we can’t figure out if your new girlfriend is evil or what. I know, everybody wants [ex-girlfriend] the Wave back. What happened to her? I don’t know, she just kind of faded out. But I’ve been launching a secret campaign to get Aasha Davis back on the show, because I love her, and all that crazy drama she brought was great. What’s the cast’s vibe down in Austin? Do you guys hang out? Every once in a while, you know, we’ll go to a game or the guys will play pickup football. Are you actually good at football? I’m all right. It’s funny because when we first got down there, it was like, “Yeah, you know, I don’t need any help, I can do this,” and everyone ran the tackles and drills and I got some war wounds. After a while, I was more like, “Actually, I’m just going to chill out for the rest of the day, thanks.” So if the show does stay on, what happens next year, when you graduate? I don’t know, I gotta go have a powwow with the writers. The college years! Right, a spinoff; Saturday Night Lights, you know?