'Friday Night Lights'' Anti-Cheerleader: Adrianne Palicki

Playing Tyra Collette, a tough teen from the wrong side of the tracks on NBC’s Friday Night Lights, is liberating for actress Adrianne Palicki. “Tyra is so opposite of me,” she says. “She’s just so honest – brutally honest.” Besides getting to channel her inner bad girl, the Toledo, Ohio, native is loving life in Austin, Texas, where the show films. PEOPLE recently caught up with Palicki, 23, about her favorite Austin haunt and why she’s grateful not to play a cheerleader.

Is it fun to tap into another sort of mentality when you play someone like Tyra?
Absolutely. You start to realize she has had to fight all her life, you’re going to find out that she doesn’t have a father, and she has just been put in these awful situations and that is why she is so tough-skinned. She’s not a cheerleader, she’s not very good at school, so she just wants to ride somebody’s coattails out of the town.

Are you relieved that unlike some of your castmates you don’t have to wear the cheerleading uniform all the time?
A little bit! (Laughs) Especially when it gets down to about 30 degrees outside, I am really excited I don’t have to be jumping around in a little skirt!

Did you go to a sports-obsessed high school?
Yes. In fact, it was really interesting because the first time we stepped out onto the field when we were shooting the pilot, and I saw the uniforms of the Dillon Panthers, it made me laugh because (my high-school team) was the Whitmer Panthers of Toledo, Ohio. And it was the exact same uniform, the exact same cheerleader outfits, the exact same colors and it was like literally being at my high school game. It was crazy!

You shoot in Austin, which subs for Dillon in the show. Do you have Austin haunts now?
Oh yeah, I love Austin. We are in the most laid-back, artistic, liberal and musically inclined town. There’s always stuff to do, there is live music in every bar – it’s so much fun. (Costar) Connie Britton and I go to this place called the South Congress Café almost every day.

Does traveling away from Hollywood or shooting in Austin affect your dating life?
Yeah, it does but I am at the time of my life where this is what’s important. It has gotten in the way in the past, shooting in Miami for a while and then moving to Vancouver, but you know, it’s kind of the sacrifice you make in the beginning. Right now it’s important I make those choices.

So, does the cast ever play a game of flag football?

No, they are kind of against that! They don’t really want me to get hurt, which I have a tendency to do. But we play volleyball as a group on Sundays once in a while. It’s great because it’s fun to get together, be a little competitive and have a couple beers!

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