It wasn’t exactly a reach for Taylor Kitsch to find some fitness for last weekend’s muddy cast reunion with his former Friday Night Lights co-stars. Five years after filming the last episode of that series, and as part of promotion with Marriott Rewards, the ex-Dillon Panthers teamed up to take on an 8.5-mile, 29-obstacle Spartan Race in Richmond, Illinois.
Before his star as an actor rose—during a period in his life when he was occasionally homeless and sleeping in New York City subway cars—Kitsch paid the rent by working as a personal trainer and nutritionist. Since his acting career took flight, he’s gravitated to intensely physical roles, from brooding fullback Tim Riggins in FNL, to the shredded warrior John Carter in Battleship, to the two times he’s portrayed a Navy SEAL (Savages and Lone Survivor). Before he and his fellow Panthers took the start for the Spartan Race, we chatted with Kitsch about his preparation for his latest physical role.
Austin Murphy: Will you and Zach (Gilford) and Minka (Kelly) and Aimee (Teegarden) be working together, or is this more of an every-person-for-themselves kind of thing?
Taylor Kitsch: I can only speak for myself, and tell you that I’ll be pushing them to the ground and hopefully running over them. [He laughs heartily]. No, seriously, we’re running as a group. We’ll definitely help each other out. It’s going to be a blast to hang out, catch up with people and do this challenge together.
AM: Did you train specifically for this event?
TK: I love training on my own, but yeah, for this challenge I did a lot of work just using my own body weight—pull ups, jump squats and that kind of stuff—and some more sport-specific training. Marriott put us in touch with some of the pro [obstacle] racers, to answer questions and just facilitate the whole process.
AM: Was it fun to train for something different? Did it spice things up for you?
TK: I loved it, and it did change things up. It was a nice break from the monotony of the gym, where you get on a stair climber every day, or God forbid, a treadmill. That just couldn’t be more boring for me.
AM: Have you done an obstacle race before?
TK: Not specifically, and I’m really looking forward this one. I know these Spartan events are really well done, and there’s a great energy. I have done SEAL training, and that’s no joke. So obviously that helps with something like [Spartan Race].
AM: Can you share some details about your SEAL training? How did you get ready for Lone Survivor?
TK: I gained a good 25, 30 pounds [to play the late Lt. Michael P. Murphy, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism in Afghanistan.] One day, we would go on six-mile runs in this mountain range with 60-pound backpacks. During that run, we’d stop at times to do pushups and sit-ups. At the end of the run, you drop the pack and do a hundred pull-ups. Then the next day we’d do a seven-mile road run carrying a ten-pound ball. You just carry the ball along with you on the run.
AM: Did you say 100 pull-ups?
TK: Not all at once [laughing]. However it long it takes to do them.
AM: Growing up in British Columbia, did you spend a lot of time outdoors?
TK: I’m your stereotypical Canadian. I had the frozen pond in the backyard, and that’s how I got started with hockey. I was basically raised at the bottom of a mountain range. We’d go up there hiking, playing war games, being outside, using our imagination all day and night. No video games, no iPad babysitter.
AM: You played junior hockey at high level until you injured your knee. How old were you when that happened? What position?
TK: I was 20. Back then I was a forward. When I play now, I usually end up back on defense. I’m 35. I’m an old man.