Which actress stole Connie Britton's role of a lifetime?

Feb 17, 2013 at 8:14 p.m. ET

The 45-year-old actress has hit her stride, but it appears she could have been an A-list actress back in 1995. So which actress landed the role that would have put her there?

Connie Britton Connie Britton made her way into many of America's hearts, and living rooms, when she landed the role of wife of a high school football coach on Friday Night Lights. But the actress felt she was poised for greatness much earlier than that.

In 1995, she got a script from Edward Burns, whom she had worked with on The Brothers McMullen.

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"So I took it home and I read it," Britton told the New York Times. "I was blown away. I loved the script, the role — I was like, 'Oh, my gosh, this is incredible.' And I walked into my brand-new agent's office the next day, and I put the script down on his desk, and I was like, 'I have two words for you: Jerry Maguire.'"

Britton says she ended up nailing the audition and flew to New York a few months later to read opposite Tom Cruise.

She read with the rest of the cast and felt she had the role, but she was then told, "They just want to screen-test one other actress."

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That other actress was of course Renee Zellweger, who ended up landing the role.

"It was heartbreak," Britton said.

Over the next 10 years, the actress ended up playing small roles on TV shows like Spin City, The West Wing and 24 before landing the role on Friday Night Lights.

"Britton thought the part, a football coach's wife, was most likely a nondescript role that would take her nowhere," said the New York Times. "She had played the same small role in the film of the same name. But her mother had just died, and she opted to skip the grueling auditions of pilot season to work with producers she knew and liked. She signed on."

The rest, as they say, is history. After Friday Night Lights, Britton signed on for the ABC drama Nashville, playing a 40-something country singer.

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“Britton, now 45, seemed to have emerged in her prime, redefining, in the process, what an actress’s prime exactly is,” said the New York Times. Jerry Maguire may have been the best thing that never happened to her.”

Photo courtesy Adriana M. Barraza/WENN.com