"What am I supposed to do?" asked Gilford as he smiled nervously during the obligatory celebrity shot.
The Evanston native, who was sitting in the front row of the Bulls game for the first time, eventually went with the thumbs up. It wasn't the coolest gesture, but then again, Gilford wasn't going for the "hip celebrity" vibe that night.
He was giddy about the floor seats (he took more than 30 pictures at the game), got excited when the Bulls' John Salmons waved back to him and wore a shiny red Bulls jacket that looked as if it came from a"Saturday Night Live" Superfans skit.
Gilford is in his fourth and final season of playing Matt Saracen on "Friday Night Lights," NBC's critically acclaimed high school football drama. His character has graduated from Dillon High School and will be written out of the show. For "Matt," as one fan accidentally called him at halftime, it's an opportunity to move on and show he can play someone other than the nice guy.
"I love the part I play on the show. It's a cool character. But it's fun to play different roles," said the 27-year-old actor. "Me and the people I work with have been making an effort to get parts that don't fall into that (nice guy) role.
"Casting directors will call my agent and say, 'We love Zach, but he's not this part. He's the nice guy.' It's like, 'No, he's the nice guy on "Friday Night Lights." That doesn't mean he can't play something else.'"
Fans who think Gilford is just like the shy, mumbling grandma's boy he plays on TV are in for a surprise. The Northwestern alum is more of a guy's guy, which means anyone that hangs out with him can expect high-fives, playful trash talking and maybe a punch or three to the shoulder. He even tried stirring things up Saturday with Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown. When Brown told a referee "You can't be this unfair," during the fourth quarter, Gilford, who was sitting less than 5 feet away, yelled, "You're doing a good job 52" in reference to the official's uniform number.
"It's a good representation of high school," said Gilford, who was passed over for the role of Tucker Max in the film "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell." "It's kind of about how everyone gets placed in a box in high school. These three characters decide to step out of the box. You realize there's more to them."
Although he's had a hard time landing this sort of role, Gilford isn't bitter toward the TV show that gave him his big break.
"If getting pigeonholed is what I get for being on 'Friday Night Lights,' I don't care. It's been awesome," Gilford said. "Look where we're sitting."