Handsome, affable, and intense, Kyle Chandler has earned critical and popular acclaim thanks to his role as pressure-cooked Coach Taylor on TV's "Friday Night Lights." With the release of "Super 8," we suspect Chandler -- who co-stars in the film as deputy sheriff Jackson Lamb -- will be hailed as an "overnight sensation" by critics and audiences. If only they knew how long he's been up-and-coming!
Major stardom may have eluded him, but the Buffalo, NY native has been working steadily for nearly 20 years, landing meaty roles in blockbusters like "King Kong," "The Kingdom" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still." But before he dodged apes, angry football fans and Keanu Reeves, he was making moves on George Strait's tour bus in 1992's "Pure Country."
"Pure Country" has probably been forgotten by all but the most fervent Strait fans. That's as it should be. Unlike Chandler, Strait wasn't really meant for the big screen; his acting range barely extended to playing a similar-but-different country music superstar named Dusty Chandler. (No relation to our Kyle.) Dusty is burned out by "the smoke and the lights" of his concerts, so he runs away to reconnect with his homespun roots and to work as a ranch hand. That's fine, but what about the fans?
Enter the villain of the piece: Buddy Jackson (Chandler). Buddy longs to be a country superstar, so he offers to be a lip-synching Dusty double for a concert or two. Dusty's desperate manager Lula (Lesley Ann Warren) agrees to the ploy, hoping to buy time and locate the erstwhile singer. But trading in his broom-guitar for a real one makes Buddy too big for his britches. He tries his hand at blackmail and winds up with nothing but a ten-gallon hat to call his own. Watch the entire dramatic arc of his character below:
Despite all of his gum-chewing and scowling, Chandler's acting chops shine through. It's not easy to menace a leading man like Strait, who seems to have only two emotions: flat and flatter.
Chandler bounced back from his inauspicious debut and found success on the small screen in popular series such as "Homefront" and "Early Edition." A guest spot on "Grey's Anatomy" (as Dylan the bomb guy) landed him an Emmy nomination... and the lead in "Friday Night Lights."
With every role, Chandler has proved he can give a memorable performance when he's got good material. As with many debuts, "Pure Country" just wasn't it. But we do like the way he can play a broom.