‘Fri­day Night Lights’ shin­ing on Mon­topo­lis eatery

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE -

A fun part of watch­ing “Fri­day Night Lights,” my fa­vorite TV show? It’s pick­ing out all the Austin places where film­ing has hap­pened.

When a place called Ray’s Bar-B-Q kept pop­ping up on the screen as an im­por­tant part of the story line, I thought, “I know that joint. I’ve been there.”

And I was right. “Fri­day Night Lights” has done a fair amount of shoot­ing at Ray’s Bar-B-Q, a tiny bar­be­cue joint to­ward the north end of Mon­topo­lis Drive with three red pic­nic ta­bles out­side.

There’s been one draw­back to star­dom. Ray’s had to cut out Soul Food Thurs­days be­cause they were just too busy.

“We had to do a lot of cookin’ on Soul Food Thurs­days,” ex­plained Ster­ling (he goes by one name), Ray’s man­ager. “But we still do Fish Fri­days. Yes­sir, cat­fish and tilapia.”

The scouts who track down lo­ca­tions for “Fri­day Night Lights” cov­ered some ground. You don’t get much far­ther off the caramel latte path than Mon­topo­lis, a tightknit neigh­bor­hood in South­east Austin.

“Fri­day Night Lights” found Ray’s by driv­ing around and look­ing out the win­dow, pro­ducer Nan Bern­stein said.

She said they wanted an au­then­tic bar­be­cue place that would look right in East Dil­lon, the poor part of town de­picted on the show ever since Coach got fired by those rich jerks at the hoity-toity high school. Ray’s fit the bill.

You got your worker in an apron be­hind the counter slic­ing brisket, your flat-screen TV on top of the stand-up soda cooler and a cou­ple of cow­boy hats and a UT li­cense plate hang­ing on the wall.

Ms. Wil­liams (that’s what she wants to go by), the co-owner of Ray’s Bar­be­cue with her dad, Ray, thinks this might be the first TV shoot ever done in Mon­topo­lis.

“The clos­est thing I can re­call was the ‘Texas Chain­saw Mas­sacre (2),’ ” she said. “But that didn’t ac­tu­ally come into the com­mu­nity. It was by the bridge (over the Colorado River at U.S. 183). So for this gen­er­a­tion, this has been pretty ma­jor.”

Ster­ling says the whole thing has been good for the neigh­bors. He says that when the show shut down Mon­santo Drive (Ray’s is at Mon­topo­lis and Mon­santo), some of the neigh­bors got checks. How much? “I’m not sure, but I think it was zero to $100,” he said.

Wil­liams and Ster­ling say Ray’s gets paid by the shoot (they won’t say how much). Ster­ling says “Fri­day Night Lights” used Ray’s about 16 times last year, and Ray’s is ex­pect­ing a crew to come by to­day for more work. And they say that even though they have to close some days be­cause of all the ac­tors run­ning around, it’s been worth it fi­nan­cially.

“You get a lot of cus­tomers who come in for not par­tic­u­larly eat­ing; they just want to see some­thing on ‘Fri­day Night Lights,’ ” Ster­ling said. “No telling what that’s go­ing to mean in the fu­ture.”

Ster­ling says the cast has been re­ally easy to work with, too. “Down-to-earth,” he said. “You don’t seem like you’re deal­ing with the Ewings from ‘Dal­las.’”

Though Ray’s pro­vided the food for a pep rally scene in­volv­ing about 200 folks, Ster­ling says the cast isn’t sup­posed to eat up all the gro­ceries dur­ing shoots. The ribs and potato salad are for props, he said. Yet, “it’s hard to have Texas bar­be­cue in your face and not con­sume some of it,” he added.

Then there are the show busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties. Ms. Wil­liams has been in a cou­ple of scenes, and Ster­ling has landed three small parts, among them a bar­be­cue joint em­ployee on lunch break. (Hey, I could play that.) But, no speak­ing part yet for Ster­ling. “For ac­tu­ally writ­ten lines, I haven’t had any yet,” he said.

Maybe he should just blurt out “How ’bout some yams?” and see who calls from NBC. Hey, it could hap­pen.


John Kelso

Ster­ling, the man­ager at Ray’s Bar-B-Q says more cus­tomers have been show­ing up just to see a res­tau­rant that’s been fea­tured on TV. ‘Fri­day Night Lights’ filmed there about 6 times last year.

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