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‘Lights’ actor pulling for his character

– Taylor Kitsch, who plays a small-town football hero on “Friday Night Lights,” is going big time.

He’s already completed a role as superhero mutant Gambit in the big-budget “X-Men” spinoff movie “Wolverine: Origins,” starring Hugh Jackman and set to open in May. But before that film launches, Kitsch, a native Canadian, is reprising the role of wayward Tim Riggins on the third season of the little-seen but critically praised “Lights.”

(The third season has already aired on DirecTV and now airs at 9 p.m. Fridays on NBC.)

Riggins is a bad boy who, as he nears high-school graduation, is at a crossroads. He has the football skills to go way beyond his hometown. However, he doesn’t have the drive or maybe the commitment to do it.

“I’m hoping Tim will step up and be a leader. He has that in him,” he says. “I am excited over the opportunities of that. I am excited over what the future can hold.”

Riggins is one of those small-town guys with potential who can either make the grade or ruin his future at this point in his life.

Kitsch even sounds a bit like Riggins when he sits for an interview. Told he looks slightly different in person than he did a year before, he questions the comment.

“You mean in a good way or a bad way?” he asks. Then, before an answer can be given, he interrupts, as if he doesn’t want to know the answer.

“No, that’s just an insecure actor talking,” he says with a small laugh.

Working on “Wolverine” was daunting – a $200 million film with huge expectations and special effects. Kitsch isn’t used to that.

“Lights” has been done on a short-string budget and with little expectations except to keep drawing its minimal audience.

“Everything is on such a different level,” he says. “When you do a movie like ‘Wolverine,’ you’re dealing with the best of the best. I’m growing.

“The last year was a good one for me, but I still have a lot to learn. It can be exciting and scary at the same time.”

“Lights” was Kitsch’s first major gig. Before that, he was a struggling actor in New York City, sometimes going homeless and sleeping in subways when money was particularly tight.

After he got “Lights,” Kitsch moved to Texas, where the show was shot. The series has never been a huge audience hit, but NBC and faithful fans have kept it on the air.