Entertainment

Connie Britton's Southern Upbringing Influenced Her Iconic TV Performances

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Connie Britton is one of the most seasoned TV stars of her generation. She's starred on nearly every major network including FOX, ABC, and NBC. She's received Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominations, known for playing some seriously iconic female powerhouse characters. While fans now associate Britton with two of her most popular series set in the South -- Friday Night Lights and Nashville, the Southern lifestyle has always been part of the actress...it was how she was raised. Despite attending Dartmouth College in Boston, Massachusetts, and living all over the country, it is something she never forgot even as her career was booming in Hollywood. 

"My dad's family was from Tennessee," Britton explained to Garden and Gun.

"I grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia, where we lived at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. As a kid I was totally into Southern rock. Lynyrd Skynyrd. ZZ Top. It was so part of who I was."

Despite spending time in New York and California, it was that Southern mentality that served the actress when she was cast as Tami Taylor in Friday Night Lights

"The South was influential in my life. It helped form who I am. I went to New York out of drama school and I lived in California. But when the character of Tami Taylor in Friday Night Lights came along, it jogged something in me, like, I know this woman. It clicked. She felt very familiar."

"Growing up in the South, there is that character of Southern women that I find to be so specific and unique," Britton continued. 

"Going north for college, it was such a remarkable difference. In many ways, the South can be very traditional and confining. And what is interesting to me is how women find their way around it. Those obstacles create an amazing sense of humor, of fun, and, ultimately, of integrity. The fiercest and savviest women I have ever known are the women I grew up with. I love that and have carried those lessons throughout my life."

It was actually an interesting rise to the top for Britton. She didn't immediately move to New York City and have casting directors putting her on TV. She was actually working as an aerobics teacher, trying to make ends meet while pursuing her dream. But her entire life would change after she came across an ad in Backstage magazine to audition for a little indie film called The Brothers McMullen for aspiring actor/director Ed Burns. 

"I remember I walked to the audition from Penn Station with my little suitcase after visiting my sister in D.C. When I was done, they chased me out the door and cast me on the spot. I was like, 'This movie must really be a piece of garbage'" Britton explained to Vulture

"And I'll never forget when Eddie told me he'd given the rough cut to Robert Redford. I was horrified that Robert Redford was going see me. Eddie was still a PA on Entertainment Tonight at the time, and he and Robert were in an elevator together. He handed him the tape. "Mr. Redford, I'm an independent filmmaker. Would you please take a look at my movie?" And that's how we got into Sundance."

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After that, Britton had agents knocking down her door and she officially launched her acting career in Los Angeles. She appeared on numerous TV shows including Ellen, the Michael J. Fox sitcom Spin City, The Fugitive, The West Wing, and 24, before she finally landed FNL opposite Kyle Chandler. She even came close to playing opposite Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire but was obviously beat out by Renée Zellweger. After playing Tami for five seasons, Britton was worried that she would shock her fans playing Vivien Harmon in the first season of Ryan Murphy's show American Horror Story. Apparently, it was Murphy himself who put Britton at ease she explained to Vulture

"Look, this is an opportunity to do the exact opposite of what you've been doing for five years" [Murphy explained to her]. I needed to shake things up, but also worried, My God, what are people going to think when they see Tami Taylor having sex with a man in a rubber suit?"

But the fans rallied behind Britton not only in AHS but also when she took on playing a country music star, Rayna Jaymes, in Nashville. The actress relocated to Tennessee for the show and even performed her own music. Luckily, as Britton explained to Garden and Gun, she actually is a big fan of country music in real life.

"The authenticity is something I really relate to. I find when country music is done well, it tells the story better than anything else. One amazing thing being in Nashville is the abundance of songwriters. We have had the rare opportunity to see the actual writers singing their songs, before they are snapped up by the big stars and turned into hits. They'll tell me where the song came from. And it is like, 'Whoa, man, that is so honest.'"

Britton has continued playing notable characters on TV. She portrayed Faye Resnick on the TV adaptation The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story as well as Debra Newell on the Bravo series Dirty John, based on the popular podcast opposite Eric Bana. She has also appeared in numerous films over the years like This Is Where I Leave You, Professor Marston and The Wonder Women, Bombshell, and Promising Young Woman. 

Outside of her professional life, Britton is incredibly close to her family. She has a twin sister but was incredibly distraught after the loss of her parents. She decided she would stop waiting for the right relationship and went through a 3-year process of adopting a child from Ethiopia. She has now had her son Eyob (nicknamed Yoby) since 2011 and seems happier than ever. Fun fact, her old college roommate, senator Kirsten Gillibrand, actually helped Britton in her lengthy adoption process. That's what best friends are for!

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Connie Britton's Southern Upbringing Influenced Her Iconic TV Performances