Most recently seen as the troubled, manipulative ex-con father of the star quarterback (Michael B. Jordan) in the football drama Friday Night Lights, Cress Williams returns to TV in a lighter role as former NFL star Lavon Hayes in the CW series Hart of Dixie. The show centers on Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson), a New York City doctor who moves to a small southern town when she inherits half a medical practice. Hayes befriends the newcomer and gives her a place to live on the grounds of his mansion.
“I loved Friday Night Lights immensely but I tend to like going to the opposite of what I just worked on. I think the only thing they have in common is that there’s football in their lives and they’re both Southern men. Beyond that they’re very different,” Williams compares, noting that there’s more to Hayes than first meets the eye. “He has a dark past, I don’t know if it’s exactly a criminal past, but in the NFL he lived the high life, had a wild past life, and I think that’s why he decided to come back home. And I love the fact that he has a real positive outlook on life.” He’s also carrying on a secret love affair, revealed in the first episode.
Despite its Southern setting, Hart of Dixie shoots in Los Angeles, which means a short 15-minute commute for Williams. “I have a little daughter and it’s the kind of show where she can come to the set,” he says. Born in Germany while his father was stationed in the army, Williams, whose credits include Living Single, ER and Prison Break, grew up in L.A. but has family in Chicago and Mississippi. “There are aspects of small town life that I really like — the routine nature of it, the idea of people knowing you and your likes and dislikes. But the other part of me likes a bit more speed than you’d get,” he explains.
New York City would be the right speed, especially if it involved a play. “I hope to do that one day,” he says, naming that to his to-do list along with developing his own projects. “I’m writing something for TV with some friends of mine. And I heard about this miniseries about the first African-American fighter pilot, hopefully happening soon,” he notes. “I wouldn’t be playing that role but the script really intrigues me.”
Hart of Dixie premieres September 26 on the CW.
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