“For the longest time, I couldn’t read ‘Fall,’ which is our last episode,” the actress told a small group of reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour in late July. “I was like, ‘This is psychotic. I have to read where this ends up.’ But I think I was both worried it wouldn’t be satisfying and also kind of just wanted to save it. Eventually I read it, and it was very satisfying.”
Graham might be forgiven for feeling a little anxious about ending the series again. For seven years she played cool young mom Lorelai Gilmore on the original “Gilmore Girls,” but the circumstances of the show’s conclusion were less than ideal. When “Gilmore” moved from The WB to the newly created CW network after Season 6, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband/executive producer Dan Palladino left the series.
“The seventh season Amy and Dan weren’t there. They had gone in a contract dispute,” Graham said. “We had writers who knew the show, but it didn’t feel the same. We’d been doing it a long time back in those days of film. You could film 16, 17, 18, 20 hours, and we regularly did, so there was a kind of, ‘Can we keep doing this without our leaders?’ Then the network was changing hands … it was just this funny time and then — boom! It was over. So we filmed the last episode, but didn’t know it was the end and then heard it was over later. And so there was no closure to it, no party, no goodbye exactly. So it always felt like the musicians stopped playing in mid-piece.”
Graham wasn’t the only one upset at the show’s demise. Sherman-Palladino always had a specific ending in mind for her series that she never had a chance to realize. After an insanely popular reunion panel for the show at the ATX Television Festival, momentum grew for a revival – giving her a chance to make good on those plans.
Sherman-Palladino is more than just the creator of the series; she is its soul. It’s her frenetic energy, pop culture-fevered brain and penchant for comedic hyperbole that gives Lorelai Gilmore her signature voice. Sherman-Palladino (and her signature quirky hats) might even be considered the hidden mayor of Stars Hollow. Seeing and hearing Graham in person can offer an eerily similar experience (sans hats). The two women — and their one fictional character — have a singular bond.
“I think that writing for Lorelai Gilmore has always been really, really special,” said Dan Palladino. “No surprise, they are kind of doppelgangers. Lauren brings a lot of that energy, so Lauren and Amy are very, very similar. Amy and Lorelai are very, very similar, too. That character is sort of a great cypher for a lot of what Amy is and has been from the very beginning.”
Sherman-Palladino added, “I’ll rise from the grave to write Lauren Graham anything she wants.”
That sense of appreciation and harmony is mutual. “[The dialogue is] my favorite thing to do. It’s my favorite part of this show,” said Graham. “I was actually kind of craving this structured, slightly more theatrical, elevated [speech]. It brought me back to the first time I read this part and fell in love with it. It just feels like such a perfect fit. I just couldn’t believe I got to do it again. So none of that was challenging. It was just fun.”
Before returning to Stars Hollow, Graham starred as part of the Braverman clan on NBC’s “Parenthood” for six seasons. “‘Parenthood’ was so different,” she said. “The language was much looser; they didn’t mind if we improvised. It was so emotional. I never really tapped into any of that, so I feel like all that I brought here.”
Nearly 10 years has passed in the “Gilmore Girls” world, and that meant having to bid adieu to actor Edward Herrmann, who died in 2014. In the revival, we learn that Lorelai’s father Richard Gilmore (Herrmann) died a few months prior to the events in the first episode.
“One of the aspects of this show that felt the same but different is in the wake of losing Ed, which was, and still is, a great loss for us personally,” said Graham. “It was also part of our story that we were telling, which was the journey of how everyone is recovering. And that gave the show a depth and a sort of emotional complexity that, again, just felt to me like here’s the show grown up even more. I mention that because it plays into all the choices the characters are making and what they’re dealing with in a new way. Through dealing with that, [Lorelai] makes some decisions.”
Beyond the bittersweet emotions that came with Herrmann’s absence, Graham also felt an overwhelming pressure to embody Lorelai Gilmore correctly.
Sherman-Palladino recalled: “It was funny because Lauren at one point came up to me and said, ‘I’m not drinking enough coffee. I should have a coffee cup in my hand the whole time.’ Literally, in every scene I hear Lauren going, ‘I need coffee. I need coffee. I need coffee.'”
Graham even heard specific expectations from her boyfriend’s work colleagues, who are diehard “Gilmore Girls” fans.
“They were like, ‘She better say, “I smell snow.”’ I was like, ‘Oh god.’ Because not only of the specificity, but the anger behind it: ‘If you let us down…’ I don’t know it as well as some of those people. Of course we’re going to drop the ball somewhere. Another one was like, ‘You wear a lot of DVF wrap dresses, right?’ I was like, ‘I think so?’ So yes, incredible amounts of pressure, but in a good way.”
All four episodes of “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” will be available on Friday, Nov. 25 on Netflix.