Actress Lauren Graham spoke about her career and first novel, "Someday, Someday, Maybe"
On working with Melissa McCarthy on "Gilmore Girls": "She was fearless"
Graham plays single mom Sarah Braverman on NBC's "Parenthood"
Lauren Graham’s favorite “Gilmore Girls” scenes to shoot were the show’s famed Friday night dinners.
The actress was participating in a Q&A session to promote her debut novel, “Someday, Someday, Maybe” (Ballantine Books). But all anybody really wanted to talk was “Gilmore.”
“You’re all just here for the book, right?” joked Graham.
Have your dinner choices ever varied between burgers and chili cheese fries at Luke’s or takeout Kung Pao chicken (or, rather, the entire Chinese chicken column) from Al’s Pancake World? Have you ever bought meowing oven mitts at Le Chat Club? Is there a shop(pe) in your town devoted solely to twinkle lights? Ever accidentally shop(pe) lift a box of corn starch?
Scratching your head right about now? Then you’ve never lived in Stars Hollow, Connecticut.
That’s right, a show that’s been off the air for nearly as long as it was on (it ran from 2000-2007) remains nestled in the hearts of fans to this day.
Although she was eager to talk about her book, Graham graciously satisfied the audience’s “Gilmore” cravings, not unlike Lorelai’s coffee addiction. Please, Lauren, please, please, please? We need our Gilmore. In a vat. Or we stop doing the standing and the walking and the words putting into sentence doing.
Graham recalled that her favorite scenes were the infamous obligation dinners at the Gilmore house (but deep down you just knew the Gilmore girls wanted to be there), particularly the ones in which Lorelai’s mother, Emily (played by Kelly Bishop) was angry with her. Graham did recall that those scenes were particularly grueling to shoot because they had to be reshot at multiple camera angles.
“And the food was always terrible,” she recalled. (Apparently, Liliana kept putting walnuts in the salad. Or Consuela put sugar on the grapefruit.)
Graham is also, like many “Gilmore” fans, partial to the Chilton years.
“I loved those earlier years,” she gushed, “the first couple years!”
Graham admitted that in the early days of filming “Gilmore,” she was too happy to have been hired for a gig to realize that Stars Hollow was something special.
“I was too new to be savvy enough to understand the impact something might have,” she recalled. “At that point, I was still so excited to be up for something. I had done some series that had come and gone, I had done a couple of movies; but I wasn’t where I wanted to be.”
Graham, 46, said that when she read the script for the “Gilmore Girls” pilot, she was reminded of a James Lipton “Actor’s Studio” interview with Christopher Reeve, in which the actor stated: “I know the part is right for me when I can’t stand the thought of somebody else doing it.”
Graham further reflected on getting the part of Lorelai Gilmore.
“This is such a strange career where on the one hand you’re terribly, terribly nervous and you don’t feel worthy,” she said, “and on the other hand you have to believe that this job is yours and no one else’s, or why would anyone else give it to you?
“It’s this very high/low self-esteem, and I did have a very strong connection to it, and I did feel that I knew how it could sound. I knew what the intention was of that character. I’ve been right and I’ve been wrong about things like that, but I definitely had a confidence in terms of what I wanted to do with it.”
Graham talked about how she was so new to the business at the time that when she went to The WB network (which has since merged with UPN to become The CW) upfront, she was devastated to learn that “Gilmore Girls” had the 8 p.m. Thursday time slot.
“I was like: Wait! Opposite ‘Friends’?”
And she was convinced they’d be canceled. Turns out, it was a blessing in disguise.
“It was because we were in that insane time slot that they let it just be, you know, and that’s as much a part of its success as anything. They didn’t expect us to do anything because it was an impossible night.”
When Graham joined “Gilmore,” Alexis Bledel had already been cast as her daughter, Rory Gilmore.
“We never met until we started filming,” Graham said. “She was brand new – had never filmed anything.”
Graham said that critics and audiences alike were onto something in the early “Gilmore” days when they noted the two actresses had amazing chemistry.
“There’s a thing, especially on that show, where the camera moves,” explained Graham, “it’s very complicated, you have to be talking; everything has to be exactly right. Then you have to land at a certain mark. She’d never hit a mark before. And so I would put my arm around her and often be arm-in-arm with her.”
If early Rory and Lorelai seemed particularly clingy, it was more because of Bledel’s then-lack of experience.
“So we’re hanging onto each other. I’m literally pulling her to and fro. But she learned very quickly and is obviously a natural, so it’s just one of those things that happened to work.”
Melissa McCarthy (Sookie St. James, Lorelai’s BFF) was a dear friend of Graham’s throughout “Gilmore’s” duration and remains so. Graham said that she and McCarthy often talked about how much fun it would be to perform on “Saturday Night Live.”
“We would do the show, and then I would go see her in ‘The Groundlings’,” Graham said. “And now you see it; and it’s so gratifying because the two didn’t even make sense – that this was the same person who is a perfectly wonderful actor, but in terms of what that part was going to use, you were going to see these characters that she created. She was fearless. Fearless! And now, for everyone to see, it’s so exciting. That doesn’t always happen.”
Is Graham a fast talker like Lorelai?
“To some degree, but I would say by the end of that show… everyone talked that way. So I don’t think I talk quite like that, or that articulately, but I have a pretty snappy energy, I guess.”
Graham stays close to the “Gilmore” cast and crew.
“We are all still connected in one way or another for the most part. You can watch the wonderful Kelly Bishop (Emily Gilmore) on ‘Bunheads,’ which I think – in the best possible way – is kind of a similar show.”
The fate of “Bunheads” is still unknown, but it can count Graham among its devoted fan base.
“I can watch ‘Bunheads’ in a way that I can’t watch ‘Gilmore Girls’ because I’m not in it,” she said, “and I’m like, ‘This is really entertaining.’”
Graham explained that for a movie or a reunion to happen, going the Kickstarter route would also require collaboration with “Gilmore Girls” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino (who also created “Bunheads.”)
“The difference with the ‘Veronica Mars’ movie is you had the star and the creator of the show come together and that’s what it needs. So, we need the creator to want to do it.”
Please, Amy. Please, please please?
In a 2006 interview with Michael Ausiello, Sherman-Palladino explained that she had come up with a seven-year plan for the show that included the series’ final four words of dialogue.
Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel Palladino – an executive producer and writer on “Gilmore” (fans with keen eyes may recall he played a troubadour in the season six finale, singing “A Beaver Ate My Thumb”) – left the series at the end of season six after a contract dispute with the studio.
Oh, that we could learn what those last four words would have been.
Does Graham have an all-time favorite “Gilmore” scene?
“What’s so tragic is that I can’t even remember. It was a lot of lines, and I don’t remember so much of it but, like, if you said it to me, I could probably then recite the entire scene top to bottom.”
As for life post-Lorelai, Graham’s current series, “Parenthood” has been picked up for a fifth season. Graham and actor Peter Krause play brother and sister Adam and Sarah Braverman on the show, but in real life, the couple fell in love on set.
Graham and Krause have been together for four years, but they first met in 1995 when they each had guest roles on the sitcom “Caroline in the City.”
“It only took 15 years,” joked Graham.
Graham talked about how the family dynamic on the set of “Parenthood” allows the cast to improvise quite a bit.
“In those big family scenes it would almost be impossible to script,” she said, “and the way we shoot is almost theater proscenium style so that we can make it feel real because that is such a big part of the texture of making a family sound like a family.”
And Graham knows something about capturing voices, as evidenced in her first novel.
An early success, “Someday, Someday, Maybe” landed a spot on the New York Times Best Seller list last week. The story of Franny Banks, an aspiring actress pounding the pavement in New York City in the 1990s, is semi-autobiographical.
Graham would love to see it turned into a television series.
“To me this is a series,” she said, “because the nature of this life is very episodic, and it’s up and down and there is a goal that you’d like to have at the end that could take three or five or seven years.”
She said that even though Franny has Broadway dreams, her story is more “My So-Called Life” than “Smash.”
“It’s not big moments, it’s small. It’s coming of age, it’s struggling. It’s a happy, less naked ‘Girls,’ you know?”
There’s even talk of a second novel, and Graham owes it all to Diane Keaton.
“We were doing this movie (2007’s ‘Because I Said So’) and apropos of nothing she just looked at me and said ‘You should write a book.’ She wasn’t necessarily talking about a memoir… and she just kind of lifted me up for whatever reason, and it just stuck with me. I just thought, ‘Diane Keaton said I should write a book. Who else am I waiting for to tell me!?’ And it was just so powerful. Who knows why she said it or what she meant, but I did it.”