Aimee Teegarden couldn’t be sure what the future would bring after NBC chose not to renew “Friday Night Lights,” the acclaimed but perennially ratings-starved series about the high-school football culture in small-town Dillon, Texas.
Yet after five seasons of steady (but never entirely secure) work playing the teenage daughter of Dillon’s tough-minded coach, she was ready to try something new.
The immediate returns have been promising.
Making good on her desire to play against type, Teegarden, 21, scored a major role in Wes Craven’s “Scream 4,” being hunted by a masked serial killer, and this Friday she’s back in high school for Disney’s “Prom,” as a party-planning senior eager to make her last dance a memorable one.
Did she panic when “Lights” ended? “You never have a real job as an actor,” says the Downey native. “As soon as one job ends, you’re looking for the next one. You’re unemployed, looking for interviews every day, and the insecurity is constant. But doing a TV show, the work is there. And I was very lucky, because the ‘Prom’ offer came toward the end of ‘Friday Night Lights.’
“It was a nice way to rebound, like you would in a relationship. Because when the show ends, you’re not just saying goodbye to the show and the character, but to the cast and crew, who after five years are like family. Being able to step off the set and do ‘Prom’ eased the transition.”
Lately that has meant flying from city to city, facing repeated interrogations about her past, present and future. Recently, she and Thomas McDonell, her brooding love interest in “Prom,” greeted fans at Macy’s in Union Square to promote The Princess Project, the Bay Area’s chapter of a national dress-drive network.
“Every city we’ve visited has an organization that accepts gently used prom dresses to pass out to girls with lower-income backgrounds so they can attend the homecoming dance or some other formal occasion,” says Teegarden, who recognizes the significance of prom as a coming-of-age ritual but says she was too distracted by her acting duties to devote much time to planning her own big night.
“Around 80 percent of these dresses are going to girls whose families make less than $15,000 a year. So it’s a great cause, making their dreams come true, and a great way to meet fans, even if the girls are just there shrieking — ‘Oh, Thomas, you’re so hot!’ He denies it, but it happens in every city.”
IF YOU GO
Starring Aimee Teegarden, Thomas McDonell, Yin Chang, De’Vaughn Nixon, Danielle Campbell
Written by Katie Wech
Directed by Joe Nussbaum
Running time 1 hour 44 minutes
The Princess Project: The charitable organization provides free prom dresses to high school girls who cannot otherwise afford them. The 2011 season recently concluded. For details, visit www.princessproject.org.
Discarded to Divine: Unique fashions created from discarded clothing go on sale to benefit the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s services. This year’s event begins at 6 p.m. Thursday at St. Mary’s Cathedral, 1111 Gough St., S.F. For details, call (415) 977-1270 or visit www.discardedtodivine.org.