For nearly a decade, Gilmore Girls fans doubted they would ever see the Stars Hollow crew again after the show ended in 2007. But for Lauren Graham, she had a feeling she’d be getting coffee again as Lorelai at Luke’s Diner at some point.
“It felt so unfinished, and people would ask about it all the time,” said Graham. “For a long time, the conversation was purely ‘Can we do this as a feature film?’ I always felt it was underestimated. Amy [Sherman-Palladino] tried to make it as a feature film, and the response was basically it’s too small of an audience. It wasn’t seen as a potential success in the way of Sex and the City which had a broader audience was their feeling, so it just kind of languished for a long time.”
Then, Netflix streaming was born.
“We didn’t have that in our lifetime. The idea that it didn’t have to be on the network it was originally on, that it could be something else, you could not have foreseen any of that, but it was always in the back of my mind that I hoped we could finish it for the fans, but for us, too.”
Graham described the return to Stars Hollow through Netflix’s Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life as very emotional, and while she’s had wonderful jobs and played great characters, Lorelai Gilmore was one she looked back on with a special appreciation. “It was my favorite part I ever played. That is a character that hits a lot of things I really love, and it’s both comedic and dramatic. As time passed, I looked back on it even more fondly.”
After 10 years away from Lorelai, Graham described the Netflix revival in terms of feeling like going back to college. “It was a new job, but very familiar. Every day was like a reunion party, so there was none of the unknown of what it was going to be like. We were back on some of our same stages. It really was an opportunity to be aware of what a big deal it was to get to do it and have gratitude for that opportunity.”
Getting back into the swing of the fast-paced dialogue was a bit of a challenge at first, both mentally and physically. Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino put their actors through a workout when it comes to their scripts. Most TV scripts involve whole scenes that are 1 to 2 pages. Gilmore Girls scenes can go anywhere from 7 to 10.
“The difficulty is that you have to be prepared. You cannot learn those lines on the day [of], sitting in the hair chair. I have a very good memory and learning lines is not usually a big thing for me, but this takes a different level of preparation technically speaking. Even getting to the ends of those sentences, you have to take big deep breaths.”
However, the hard work is worth it for the story the Palladinos put forth in the revival series.
“Like any good writing, it’s actually really joyful. As an actor, I’ve developed a really bad habit of rewriting in my head to what I wish it were, feeling like the music of the language is off in places. I just never feel that way with Amy and Dan’s writing. It sparks my imagination and gets me to thinking about the scene and how we’ll play it and what it’s about, but I never want to change anything. It feels more like a play. You would no more consider changing something in a play than you would here.”
Strangely enough, Lorelai’s most emotional moment in the entire Netflix series involves no dialogue at all. During Stars Hollow: The Musical when she’s spurred by the song “Unbreakable,” she makes a bold decision: to pursue Cheryl Strayed’s Wild journey (book or movie?) and hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
“That song is genuinely moving. And she sees in this person, a loneliness, a vulnerability, and I think the song is about that being a fact of life, that it’s human to realize you’re not unbreakable and you’re not an island. In that moment, the real actor-y way to think about it is that she knows she has some growing up to do. She realizes she’s kept herself isolated in some way and hasn’t really given over to this person in her life, and so she’s going on a soul-searching mission and that connection to that song is what sends her forward.”
After the episodes dropped in November 2016, everybody seemed to be talking about the surprising moment at the end of the series when Rory reveals to her mother that she’s pregnant. Yet, truly the biggest turning point is the musical moment, which highlights much more than the quirks of the small Connecticut town.
“It is such a pivotal moment in the show. There are a couple of big scenes in the four episodes, but that one is a very important one. I don’t say anything, but what the whole story hinges on is that decision and that journey. Amy kept asking me before we started if I’d read the book or had seen the movie. She wouldn’t explain it to me. And I’d say yes, yes—I’ve done both. To me, it’s a perfect Gilmore Girls opportunity in the way that Emily (Kelly Bishop) embraces the life-changing magic of tidying up [based on the book]. It takes something that’s culturally in the zeitgeist and makes it personal to these characters. It’s about women trying to find themselves. It’s about somebody trying to recover from a loss. It probably sparked [Amy] as comedic, the rivalry between the book versus the movie people, and the other piece of originality is that she didn’t need to go on the journey after all.”
Post-CW Gilmore Girls, Graham went on her own new journey, including roles on Broadway, as Sarah Braverman on NBC’s Parenthood, and even as an author. In 2013, she released her first fiction book titled Someday, Someday, Maybe. Yes, Graham is actually kind of a Rory.
“I would say my interest in acting actually started with reading. I was very Rory that way. I was an only child, and books meant everything to me. It was just a way of going to all of these different worlds, and it was the number one hobby of mine. To me, the fun of being a writer is that I get to play all of the characters.”
Getting to play all the characters is a privilege the Palladinos enjoyed with the Netflix revival of the show, bringing Lorelai back to life through their writing and Graham’s layered performance.
“In so many ways, the show is an intellectual fairytale. It’s a very witty and original. It’s light and fluffy with a huge amount of depth, and that combination has kept the show alive.”
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life currently streams on Netflix.