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Scott Porter Is the King of Comfort TV

Photo-Illustration: Caroline Brehman/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

If you’re a fan of Scott Porter, you know he’s played a lot of nice guys. There was the affable former quarterback Jason Street on Friday Night Lights, the sweet Detective Carol Corbett on Lucifer, and the dreamy lawyer George Tucker on Hart of Dixie. Of course, there have been some exceptions — like that time he had a bit part as Hugh Grant’s band member turned nemesis in Music and Lyrics — but currently, Porter is back to his nice-guy roots as the charming mayor Paul Randolph in Ginny & Georgia, Netflix’s dramedy about a mother-daughter duo trying to escape their dark pasts and make a life for themselves in a small New England town. But is Paul really just another nice guy, or is there something more sinister to the man engaged to Georgia Miller?

The short answer, according to Porter, is yes. “I don’t know that there’s a dark side to Paul, and I don’t know that I want to see it,” he says. Paul isn’t devious; he’s smart and ambitious, and if his murderous fiancée is willing to break the law to help him out, he’s not going to object, as long as he doesn’t know the specifics. “He understands that she will color outside the lines when he can’t,” he explains. “I think there’s an unspoken agreement where he’s saying, ‘Look, you might get a little dirty, and I will protect you.’”

It’s not surprising that Porter wants Paul to be a nice guy. As anyone listening to his FNL rewatch podcast, “It’s Not Only Football” — which is part episode deep dive, part Porter wrangling his co-hosts, Zach Gilford and Mae Whitman — can tell you, he does genuinely seem like a nice guy himself. In fact, the first thing he does when signing onto our video interview, after making a self-deprecating joke about his very tall hair, is ask about my holiday. (It was very relaxing, thanks for asking.) His time off has been spent in full dad mode — Porter and his wife, Kelsey Mayfield Porter, have two children, McCoy, 7, and Clover Ash, 5. “I’m building Legos or we’re playing air hockey,” he tells the Cut. “That’s the fun stuff.” But now, the self-described “big kid” is taking time out of his holiday break to chat with the Cut about the second season of Ginny & Georgia, Friday Night Lights nostalgia, his sneakerhead roots, and what it’s like being the king of comfort television.

You’re known for your work on Friday Night Lights, Hart of Dixie, and Ginny & Georgia. What’s it like being the king of comfort television?

You know, comfort television comes in all forms for many different people. For some it’s genre television; for some it’s the spookiest, scariest, most horror of shows. But for a lot of people, I think what comfort television boils down to is community. And I’ve been very lucky to be a part of three shows that have a very strong sense of community.

Friday Night Lights is high drama, and the romantic comedy aspect of Dixie is a complete 180 from that. Ginny & Georgia has so many characters doing so many questionable things that you would think it may turn people off from it, but you start rooting for these characters. The other thing that makes Ginny & Georgia a comfort show is how many people are represented through the characters on the show. And in the midst of the pandemic, when people were just looking for someone like them, or someone that they felt in step with on television, you could come to Ginny & Georgia and find any number of those people.

What’s your comfort show?

My ultimate comfort show is Survivor.

Do you think you could survive?

When I was doing the CBS show Scorpion, I was picked by CBS to go down and do a crossover between their scripted and reality television. And I went to Fiji and interviewed all of the contestants on the Game Changers season of Survivor. I got to sleep on a Survivor beach, run a number of immunity challenges, and go to the first tribal council. I really got to pick Jeff Probst’s brain, and he and I both agree I would not make it through a game vote-wise.

Outside of that, anything in the Marvel Universe is a comfort thing for me. And Abbott Elementary.

Friday Night Lights’s “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose” mantra has become part of culture outside of the show. What does the phrase mean to you?

That phrase is a reminder of being incredibly lucky to start in this business on a show like Friday Night Lights. I think of creator Peter Berg telling us behind the scenes that nobody pushes us around, and really telling us when you’re fighting to make a show, there’s gonna be a lot of people who wanna put their opinions into the mix. And you have to be fully invested, and it has to be a collaboration.

So when I think about “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose,” I think, Nobody pushes us around. Every day I go to work, I feel fortunate because I understand how hard it is to make something special, and I carry that with me. For everybody else out there, it’s a rallying cry, but for me, it’s a reminder that you can do really special stuff in this industry, but you have to put your full heart into it.

You’re a known sneakerhead. What’s your favorite pair of shoes and why?

My favorite pair of all time are the Gym Red Jordan 12s. When I was 16 years old at my first job, I worked at Publix in Florida, and those are the first Jordans I could buy. I’m from Nebraska originally and I was living in Florida at the time, and when these shoes came out, they were red and white, and I bought ’em for myself, and it just reminded me a little bit of home because I had the Nebraska colors on my feet. It also showed me if I worked, I could afford the things I wanted. It was the first luxury thing I bought myself.

A lot of people ask me why I wear sneakers or why I’m a sneakerhead, and I didn’t buy shoes for quite a long time after high school, but now, as an actor, people tell me what my hair can look like. People tell me if I can shave or not shave, people tell me what to wear every day. When I go to work, I’m playing other characters, and my ability to express myself is limited in a number of ways. When you’re an actor, so much of your life is controlled by other people. So, I’m a big fan of sneakers and a big fan of graphic T-shirts because it’s a way I can show the things that I love and my style without having to alter my appearance too much.

Scott Porter Is the King of Comfort TV