What Happened To The Actor Who Played Tim Riggins On Friday Night Lights?

The following article includes mention of addiction.

It often seems we become attached to actors or characters through their roles in our favorite television series, only to have them seemingly disappear from the spotlight. Some actors simply prefer a life far away from the hustle and bustle of the A-lister lifestyle. This seems to be the case for "Friday Night Lights" star Taylor Kitsch, who stole many hearts while playing the gorgeous but troubled football hunk Tim Riggins on the NBC show from 2006 to 2011.

Riggins was one of the show's main characters and easily a fan favorite, with his difficult upbringing but incredible talent on the football field captivating viewers. The fictional high school running back was easy on the eyes as well — and often found himself entangled in romantic and social situations that steered him down questionable paths. Everyone loves an underdog, however, and his full-circle journey on the show was part of the reason the show lasted a successful five seasons.

While the fictional team's motto, "Clear Eyes. Full Heart. Can't Lose," still lives in many fans' hearts over a decade after the show ended, Kitsch seems to have left his days of fictional football playing behind. He has distanced himself from his days playing Riggins, and while the series catapulted him into stardom, he's not exactly eager for a "FNL" reunion — thus begging the question, what happened to Kitsch's life post "Friday Night Lights?"

Taylor Kitsch dated his on-screen love interest in real life

Taylor Kitsch found his on and off-screen love in Minka Kelly, who played his on-again-off-again love interest, Lyla Garrity, in "Friday Night Lights." The two characters were an ill-fated match, with Garrity first dating Tim Riggin's best friend only to later engage in a salacious affair with Riggins. 

While we won't spoil the details about how the pair ends up on the show, their real-life relationship wasn't exactly written in the stars either. While Kitsch hasn't spoken about his romance with Kelly publicly, the latter wrote about her relationship with Kitsch in her 2023 memoir, "Tell Me Everything." In the chapter titled, "Friday Night Lights" (via Today) Kelly wrote that she and the Canadian actor immediately hit it off after they started filming together in 2006, and despite warnings from the show's executive producers, they continued to see each other when the cameras stopped rolling.

"The chemistry between us was intense," Kelly recalled of their meeting. However, the spark ultimately became unhealthy. "All the good feelings that had been present at the outset began to deteriorate," she said, adding, "I loved being with him. It's just that the good only lasted so long before our incompatibility reared its ugly head." After investing so much time into Kitsch, Kelly ultimately felt isolated from her other cast members. After plenty of break-ups and make-ups during their time filming the show, the two eventually went their separate ways around 2008, after which she started dating Derek Jeter.

Kitsch starred in several films after Friday Night Lights

After leaving his character, Tim Riggins, behind in 2011, Taylor Kitsch began to take on bigger roles. The actor went on to star in the 2012 film, "John Carter," playing a war veteran who wakes up on an undiscovered planet and must fight for his life against its towering inhabitants. He also starred in "Battleship" that same year, playing the role of Lieutenant Alex Hopper in the board game-inspired film involving a battle against alien invaders. The starkly different direction didn't exactly pan out well for Kitsch, however, as both movies garnered lackluster reviews.

The former "Friday Night Lights" actor had better luck playing a Navy Seal in the 2013 film, "Lone Survivor," and a firefighter in the 2017 movie "Only the Brave," both of which fared better at the box office. Kitsch later took on more complex roles, such as when he starred as the Branch Davidians cult head, David Koresh, in the 2018 Netflix series, "Waco." The series re-told the true events that took place during the 51-day standoff between federal agents and the religious group in Waco, Texas that ended in a giant siege.

In another shift in subject matter, for the 2023 series, "Painkiller," Kitsch played Glen Kryger, a man struggling with an opioid addiction amid the spread of the U.S. opioid crisis. Since leaving Riggins behind, Kitsch has gone on to tackle many different kinds of acting roles. "To be 36 and to have played such a crazy range, I'm very proud," he noted to Variety.

He built a house in Texas

The series finale of "Friday Night Lights" proved to be a mirror for Taylor Kitsch, who decided to keep his homestead in the same state in which he spent years filming. "Texas Forever," he told GQ in 2012, recalling Tim Riggins's famous line from the show. "It looks like it's going to be that way, too," he added. Kitsch relocated to Austin in 2012, buying acres of bare land to build his dream home.

"I think I chose to build in Austin because, in Austin, I can come and escape and be myself," he explained to the publication. Kitsch is more reserved in his celebrity, and certainly not one pining for red carpet events and press tours. "Whatever it is that motivates other people — fame, money, celebrity, more followers, I don't [expletive] know — it was never like that," Kitsch admitted in his interview with The New York Times. Instead, the actor simply wants a place to call his own and lay his roots, while still returning to the industry to take on roles that intrigue himself and others. "I just wanted to be a character actor that buzzed into certain things and, hopefully, made you evoke something," he shared.

Kitsch eventually made his dreams a reality, building himself an Austin mansion on a lake, with a gorgeous pool to take in the sweeping water views. Texas wasn't exactly forever, however, as he ultimately sold the property in 2021.

Kitsch has never been married, but has had romances

It's no surprise that Taylor Kitsch has had quite a dating history, after all, his character Tim Riggins broke many hearts during his time on "Friday Night Lights." That pattern seemed to continue off-screen as well, as the actor has been known to have more than a few ex-girlfriends in his off-screen life. 

Kitsch maintains a low profile and keeps his personal life private, and there's no word on whether he hopes to one day tie the knot with a lucky leading lady. After his romance with Minka Kelly, the "Savages" actor went on to date a mystery woman from Corpus Christi while he was living in Texas. "I was with her for years," he told Interview Magazine in 2014. "Just a super-sporty Southern belle, you know?" Kitsch was rumored to have dated Rachel McAdams shortly after from 2015 to 2016 after the pair starred on "True Detective" together, but he denied it flat out. "There is nothing to set straight, she's an amazing actress and a great gal," he responded to ET when asked about the rumors in 2015.

Internet sleuths have claimed that Kitsch got back together with his mystery Texan woman following his chat with Interview Magazine in 2014. The "Painkiller" star rarely gives insight into his love life and maintains a low profile, so there's no telling what the future holds for a future Mrs. Kitsch.

There's no hope for Kitsch returning for a FNL reunion

For fans who have held out hope that Taylor Kitsch might rock a  football uniform again and make audiences swoon all over again — think again. The "Terminal List" star has no plans to revive his role as Tim Riggins, though he's thankful for how his character's story played out on screen. "I'm done. I'm good. I want to keep growing as an actor. Going back to Rigs — let him live in everyone else's memories," Kitsch imparted to Variety, much to the disappointment of his adoring fans. "Whatever that is, whatever he means to them, let him lay there."

But that doesn't mean he doesn't reunite with his former castmates in real life, however. In 2016, Kitsch got together with his former love interest, Minka Kelly, Aimee Teegarden (who played Julie Taylor), and Zach Gilford (who played Matt Saracen) in Chicago to participate in a Spartan race to celebrate the 10 years since the show's premiere. Kitsch has also kept in touch with "Friday Night Lights" star and fellow Texas resident Kyle Chandler, and the pair have been seen out and about together since the show ended over a decade ago.

With Riggins laid safely to rest on our streaming services, Kitsch looks back on his character with pride. "It was such a huge springboard for me, but I'm such a different actor now," he told Variety. "It allowed me to explore the process, be f***ing green and embrace it."

Kitsch cared for his sister while she dealt with addiction

While in his 30s, Taylor Kitsch found himself further away from potential roles while dealing with some issues close to home. The "Battleship" actor spent some time taking care of his younger sister, Shelby Kitsch-Best, who had been dealing with a substance abuse problem at the time. "He literally put his life on hold to help me," Kitsch-Best said in an interview, recounted by her brother's profile in The New York Times.

The experience proved to be a helpful one for Kitsch, as he later took on the 2023 series, "Painkiller," playing the role of Glen, who becomes addicted to opioids after an accident leaves him injured. The actor found himself relying more and more on his sister, who helped him get into character and even made a cameo as a nurse in the series. "She'd be like, 'Go bigger, you'd be sweating more,'" Kitsch shared. "Bringing her was incredibly cathartic and obviously full circle. I was the emotional mess, and she was just killing it."

The role also reunited Kitsch with his long-time collaborator, Peter Berg, who was the mastermind behind "Friday Night Lights." Berg knew Kitsch would be perfect for the role, just like when he cast him as Tim Riggins. "I knew he wasn't going to walk away or break down," Berg told the publication. "It wasn't going to beat him. He would take that emotion and funnel it into Glen. It was a really a beautiful thing to bear witness to."

He attempted to exit his contract for Waco

Taylor Kitsch's role in the 2018 series, "Waco," took a serious toll on him, one that required time to recuperate after diving into his character. The six-episode series told the story of Branch Davidian leader David Koresh, who ran a religious cult in Waco, Texas, taking on over a dozen wives at a time and isolating his members away from the world on a giant compound. Ultimately, the compound came under siege by federal agents in 1993, resulting in a massive fire that killed around 80 people, including Koresh who died from a gunshot wound to the head.

"I always want to do something different," Kitsch told Variety about taking on the character. But transforming into Koresh meant hours of research to understand the complexities of a man who managed to control the lives of his Branch Davidian members. Kitsch intended to humanize Koresh, but the work almost overcame him.

"I almost pulled out a month and a half [before the filming began]," he revealed to Rolling Stone. "I think I was in too deep. You spend eight hours a day in this 1,000-square-foot apartment in Austin playing guitar and reading about this tragedy every single day. It just started to really weigh on me. I had no outlet. And I was probably just scared s***less and panicked." After transforming into Koresh, Kitsch took a much-needed break. "Dave was a bunch of therapy and then motorcycle rides ... You just slowly integrate back into reality," he explained to Variety.

Kitsch is working to open a sober retreat in Montana

Taylor Kitsch is setting his sights on Montana, where he bought over 20 acres of land to transform into his latest project. The "American Assassin" actor made his way out west in 2021, after selling his lake house in Austin. Kitsch drove 20 hours in a van to Bozeman, Montana after falling in love with the sweeping views of nature and the peace offered in the area. But the actor isn't planning on just living there, he hopes to transform his estate into a healing project for veterans and recovering addicts. 

The actor has slowly built the retreat up, with a house as a central meeting area, cabins, and possible ice baths and sweat lodges for future guests. "I'm just really excited about this, about it being a base camp for people to empower themselves," he gushed to The Hollywood Reporter. Kitsch's idea came to fruition after developing a close friendship with retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who he worked closely with on the 2013 film, "Lone Survivor."

"Being in L.A. was never a great thing for me, and I love being out here — there's just so much peace to grasp," he told the publication. "That's what this place represents to me: It's not going to solve every problem, but hopefully it will help at least one person work toward what they need."

He plans to direct his own movie

Fans may see more of Taylor Kitsch in the future, but this time he'll be in the director's chair. The "Friday Night Lights" star has been dabbling in directing projects after starring in plenty of television series and movies throughout his career. Kitsch directed the 2014 short, "The Pieces," which tells the story of a man struggling to pay off a giant debt he incurred through gambling, putting his and his friend's lives in danger.

By 2018, the actor had written a feature-length version of "The Pieces," which Kitsch told Variety had the financing to move forward with production. "I think creative control is big. And this story just won't leave my brain, to be honest with you," he explained at the time. "I spent a while writing it, and I'm really proud of it, and I sent it out and had amazing actors attached so hopefully they still want to hang out."

Kitsch was able to get his long-time collaborator Peter Berg to produce the film, as well as seeking out the assistance of Taylor Sheridan, who co-created the hit series "Yellowstone." Those plans may be on hold, however, possibly due to the COVID-19 Hollywood slow-down and the writer's strike that has delayed several projects in the film industry.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).