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Old 04-20-2007, 12:29 PM
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A Gilmore Girl Is Back In Town

Substitute the bar for a gazebo, transform the restaurant into a New England hamlet, and maybe even switch out Sam Malone for Luke Danes, and welcome to the Gilmore Girls' fictitious town of Stars Hollow-a modern-day Cheers.

"It's a place where everyone knows your name, and not just a bar ... but a whole town and a whole community," said Gilmore Girls' writer, David Grae.

Since Gilmore Girls' creators and chief writers Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino left the show at the end of last season, many worried that Stars Hollow would lose its distinctive small town charm this year and become just another face in the crowd among a growing number of television dramedies. After wrapping up production on its seventh season last Monday, however, Gilmore Girls-a show about an unconventional mother-daughter relationship between Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel)-is rumored to be returning for a shortened eighth season of 13 episodes.

In a recent interview, show runner David Rosenthal said that the final call will be made by Graham and Bledel. "It's one of the highest rated shows on the CW," said Grae, "so the network and the CW obviously want the show to come back."

Making the switch from the WB to the CW was another significant change to occur during Gilmore Girls' current season, as was Graham's new role as a producer, which she took on in addition to being one of the lead actresses. But for Rosenthal, assembling a writing staff was a chief concern-he ended up with six new writers and two returning writers, including himself.

"When I came in to work, there was always the idea that I would eventually take over the show," said Rosenthal, who began writing for Gilmore Girls at the start of the sixth season. "I worked with Amy and Dan for a year, and then they decided to move on. It was a relatively smooth transition."

"As far as I understand, no writer ... has had any contact at all with Amy and Dan this year," said Grae. "But I don't mean for that to be dramatic. It's not unusual, and it doesn't surprise me."

During the fourth season, Sherman-Palladino and Palladino were successfully able to transition Rory from her posh, private high school, Chilton, to her current school, Yale. But as she is expected to graduate at the end of this season, the new writing staff may have to find a way to shepherd Rory from college to the real world without any guidance from the Palladinos.

In last Tuesday night's episode, the first to air in over a month, Rory decided to turn down a job at a newspaper in Providence in favor of pursuing a fellowship, so, as for now, her plans for the future are still undecided. Both Rosenthal and Grae agree, however, that the show's plots will follow carefully crafted trajectories.

"In a show like this you really have to know where you're going," said Rosenthal. "You start on a macro scale before you get into the micro stuff of each individual episode."

Grae explained that weeks before starting on an outline for the opening scene of the season, the writers work on fleshing out concrete story-lines for the first 13 episodes while having a good idea of what the back nine (14-22) will entail.

"There's always an emotional story for Lorelai and for Rory in every episode," said Grae. "And 19 times out of 20 there is another story-a lot of times it's Luke's story."

In fact, Grae particularly likes the work they did in the season premiere in the scene where Kirk- arguably Stars Hollow's most awkward resident-drives his car through Luke's Diner. While crediting Rosenthal with the idea, Grae said, "It was sort of an interesting way to kick off the new regime of the show-sort of breaking the mold and smashing through Luke's, but also really funny and very much in keeping with the show."

Moments like that one are written in what is aptly dubbed "The Room." The writers meet there to draw inspiration by speaking to one another, and with the help of a white board, they are able to create character arcs and plot developments. Although Rosenthal makes the final call on all aspects of the show, he said that "oftentimes, the person who has the clearest vision and is the most passionate about something wins the day."

For instance, Rosenthal said that Grae was the one who came up with the idea for a gift that Rory's boyfriend gives her: a model rocketship from a famous Twilight Zone episode. "We went a long time throwing back ideas, such as a weird piece of art or a sculpture," said Rosenthal. But Grae's Twilight Zone rocket "was something that could start out seemingly confusing and funny, and then ultimately be this romantic, sweet thing."

Certainly the biggest story line for the writers to tackle this season was Lorelai's volatile love life. Many fans have been waiting seven years for Lorelai and Luke to get together and stay together, so Rosenthal fully anticipated the negative reactions that would result when he decided that Lorelai and Christopher, who is Rory's father, would elope in Paris.

"Happily ever after isn't a show, it's an ending. To do a show every week, you need conflict," said Rosenthal. "Sometimes fans want the romantic couple to be together and be happy all the time, but that doesn't provide the most interesting drama."

"We knew before we got Chris and Lorelai married that they would end up divorced. And by the way," Grae said, "the whole story between Chris and Lorelai, in some ways, was a legacy of Amy's." According to Grae, the last scene that Amy Sherman-Palladino ever wrote was in the final episode of season six, when Luke rejects Lorelai's marriage ultimatum, and Lorelai once again turns to her childhood sweetheart, Christopher, for a little more than just condolence.

"If not for that, maybe we wouldn't have gotten Chris and Lorelai together this year," said Grae. "But that was the situation we were handed, and we were interested in the potential fallout from that moment."

With Chris now out of the picture, though, the end of season seven definitely has the makings of a Lorelai-Luke reunion. And if the show continues for an eighth season, Gilmore Girls fans will get more of what they love: an allusion to Proust's Swan's Way thrown alongside a pop-culture reference to Taylor Hanson, the endearing weekly town meetings contrasted by the often somber Friday night dinners, and even the distinctive sound-track, which has chronicled the life of the mother/daughter duo since episode one.

An official announcement that Gilmore Girls is returning would certainly be cause for fans to celebrate. But in place of the beer bottles at Cheers, fans of Gilmore Girls could raise their coffee mugs in a collective toast to Stars Hollow, It's not the Cheers bar, but everyone probably still knows your name.


A Gilmore Girl Is Back In Town - Arts & Entertainment

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The Most Talkative Furnald Resident Ever



Two days ago, Spectator interviewed Barnard alum Lauren Graham, who stars as Lorelai Gilmore on Gilmore Girls, currently in its seventh season. Over the years, her work on the show has been nominated for a Golden Globe and two SAG Awards. Gilmore Girls centers on a mother and daughter who are incredibly close-in their relationship and their ages-and the quirky New England town in which they live. In her interview with Spectator, Lauren Graham discussed her work on Gilmore Girls and her college experience-her transfer to Barnard, her favorite places on campus, and her favorite classes. From Furnald to Stars Hollow, we'll follow where she leads.


SPECTATOR: Why did you transfer from NYU to Barnard?


LAUREN GRAHAM: I transferred because when I originally applied to colleges, I knew I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to go to a conservatory program, and I felt sure that I wanted to go somewhere where I had to audition and where the focus was really going to be working as an actor. Once I got to NYU-which is where I ended up going-I felt like I was from a pretty academic family, my boyfriend at the time went to Harvard, and I was, like, rolling around on the floor pretending to be a lion.

I just thought that it didn't quite make sense. I felt like I could do that later, and I could do that type of training as an actor later, and actually that I'd made a mistake and what I really wanted was something that was more well-rounded. I wanted to go to Barnard because they had a theater arts major that I thought would incorporate everything I wanted. Ultimately I ended up being an English major. So to me the lesson was: I went to college at 17, and you only know so much about yourself, and I was glad for all the changes I made.


SPEC: Since Lorelai is such a strong woman, how do you think your Barnard education prepared you to play that particular role?


LG: Lorelai as a character is someone who did not go to college, dropped out of high school, and finished all that stuff on her own later. So I'm not sure if there's that kind of parallel. Certainly living in New York, going to Barnard, having the education I had, I felt that I got my training as a person and an actor. I ushered at different theaters. I had some great teachers of all kinds. You learn more as an actor doing something else that isn't directly related to acting ... In fact, I did too much, I was so scattered in terms of all the classes I took. I barely sort of had a major at the end, but I could have had a couple different minors. I just choose classes by professor and by who I thought I could learn from and what I thought sounded interesting, and I'm glad I did that.

SPEC: Did you have a favorite professor?

LG: Oh my God, it's been like a thousand years ... I wonder if she's still there, she's in the Columbia English department. Ann Douglas, she taught a lot of literature of the '20s and '30s.

SPEC: Getting back to the show, you are now a producer for the show as well as playing Lorelai, so how has the creative process changed or expanded for you?

LG: A lot changed this year because the creator of the show wasn't there anymore, so I think we all had to find a new process. There are a lot of different ways to be a producer on a TV show, and they gave me that title to acknowledge that my role in the process had increased slightly. We're now at a point in this show where the actors have been there the longest, and the whole process of how the show happens is of interest to me ... you know, on a larger scale, where's the story going, what's going to happen, and just sort of just being in on that discussion a little earlier.

As an actor, you just get a script, you don't ever know what's going to happen to your character, and by the time the script is written, you're far along, and that's pretty much what's going to happen. I feel like this character is so familiar to me, and I have such affection for the whole of the show that I just wanted to know where I was headed this year. So they were nice to include me in that.

SPEC: So how do you feel about the progression of Lorelai's character, and what prompted you want to take the role in the first place?

LG: Well, back then [before the show] I had done a lot of half-hour shows and pilots ... You know, it's more joke-centric on a half-hour, especially on an audience show, and you're not going to play a character who has all that much depth. It's a different form of entertainment ... I think the only way I think I've ever gotten a job or wanted a job is when I've read something and I just really connect to it. And I really connected to that character. And I thought, "Oh I know how this person sounds." And I think to some degree I was playing the writer-I think the voice of the character really was created by the vision of this woman who created the show [Amy Sherman-Palladino]. And then as I got to know her, I was like, "Oh this is really sort of her." So she could write something, and I just knew how she wanted it to sound. And I just thought, "Oh this is mine"-not in a presumptuous way, but that's how you have to feel in order to get a job. I was actually on another show at the time, and there was this whole conflict over would the one show let me out so I could do the other show.

SPEC: Wait, so what show were you supposed to be in?

LG: At the time I was on a show called M.Y.O.B. produced by Don Roos. We had done 13 episodes, and we weren't sure if it was getting picked up yet. And I've been told since then that some sort of underground deal went on where they were like, we'll let her out of this if you give us ... I don't know, whatever else they were negotiating over. The show wasn't going to continue, so they let me do the other thing.

SPEC: During Rory's first year at Yale she finds her favorite tree. Do you have a favorite place, or building, or theater in New York that you liked to go?

LG: Oh, in New York, or on campus?

SPEC: On campus or New York. Wherever.

LG: Well, I always had affection for the dorm Furnald where I lived senior year because I was in the Metrotones, which-I don't know if they still exist. The women's a cappella group?

SPEC: Yeah, they do. My friend is in it, actually.

LG: Yeah, that was like the most fun I had in school, and still some of my best friends are from that group. The lobby of Furnald-I mean they all lived at Furnald Grocery-and the lobby is where we did a lot of our concerts, and that would be the building on campus that means the most to me, I would say. And then, there's so many places in New York. I mean, I still have a place there downtown ... And I love my building where I live, but I don't want to tell you where it is. (Laughs.) But it's a building.

SPEC: No problem, definitely, I understand. Yeah, I live in Elliott Hall on campus.

LG: Oh, I don't remember Elliott. I lived in John Jay, Furnald, I lived in some transfer dorm when I first was there ... They must have built dorms because when I was a transfer student they had us down at 79th and Amsterdam.

SPEC: Oh really? Wow. Yeah, Elliott is a transfer dorm, right behind Milbank sort of. But we all live in cells-eight-by-nine-feet rooms.

LG: Wow, yeah it makes such a big difference where you live there-and even though I loved my dorm in Furnald and I had a little single, I lived right by the elevator, which meant that all day and night you just hear [she makes a noise like a creaking elevator]. It was like the creakiest room to pick, and I couldn't figure out-because I was late in the lottery-and I couldn't figure out why this great room hadn't been picked, and that's why.

SPEC: So I know we're almost out of time, and I know you've been asked this a million times before, but what's the deal with talk of the eighth season?

LG: [Laughs] I just don't really know how to answer 'cause it's up in the air. I think we would like to come back if we feel like all the elements are in place-and that's not a euphemism for money-I really mean, if we feel like we can do it in a way that makes us happy creatively. You know, it does start to become-these one-hour jobs as an actor-it's a pretty tough schedule, and so you start to weigh quality of life with the incredible blessing of having a steady acting job, and it's surprising that over time it's actually a conflict. So if we can do it in a way that still makes the show really good, and can maybe make it manageable for the actors, then there may be a reason to come back.

So you're nearly done right? You have what, another month or so?

SPEC: Well, next week is the last week of classes.

LG: Oh my God! It'll never be that hard again. I just remember those weeks when you're taking finals and all that stuff, and it's never that hard again, but it's really miserable when you're in it ... I went through college and I looked back, and I thought I don't even remember ... I did too much in a short amount of time. I should have taken an extra semester or a year 'cause it's really a great place. Additional content by Dani Dornfeld



The Most Talkative Furnald Resident Ever - Arts & Entertainment
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