'Gilmore Girls' Revival: Rory's "Very Forgettable" Boyfriend Paul Speaks

Jack Carpenter defends his (ex) TV girlfriend: "To make any judgment is unfair," he tells THR.
Courtesy of Netflix

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from all four installments of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.]

Jack Carpenter may have been new to the world of Gilmore Girls when he signed on to play Paul in the highly anticipated Netflix revival, but he was no stranger to the work of – and particularly the fast-paced dialogue of – creator Amy Sherman-Palladino. After all, he had worked with her and husband, executive producer Dan Palladino, on their first post-Gilmore Girls series, the 2008 short-lived comedy The Return of Jezebel James.

"I was so surprised that she remembered me after almost 10 years to come back and play a very forgettable character," Carpenter tells The Hollywood Reporter with a laugh.

Although Carpenter joins a very exclusive club of Rory Gilmore boyfriends (see: Dean, Jess and Logan), don't look for #TeamPaul to trend on Twitter anytime soon. It was made clear from the get-go that Rory didn't exactly have strong feelings about her beau of two years. She forgot she invited him over for dinner, she forgot he stayed over and accidentally left him behind at the house, and she nearly left him behind at Luke's Diner.

When asked about their relationship by Lorelai, who also forgot meeting him prior to the dinner, Rory insisted she was going to break things off. However, she then cheated on him with her ex Logan (Matt Czuchry). Finally, Paul pulled the plug on their relationship via text moments before Rory dropped the bombshell that she was pregnant.

Rory's lack of emotional investment in her long-term squeeze and the subsequent lack of guilt she felt for cheating on him was tough to swallow for some longtime fans of the show. (Sherman-Palladino and Palladino addressed some of that Rory criticism here.)

However, to get both sides of the argument, The Hollywood Reporter also spoke with Carpenter via Skype from Australia, where he's currently on vacation, about how he approached Paul, his defense of Rory and the chances of him being the father of her child.

Have you gotten a chance to watch the episodes yet?

I actually left the country the day after Thanksgiving, so I haven’t gotten a chance to see it, I'm so bummed. When I get back in December, though, I'm definitely going to be bingeing over the winter holidays.

How were you approached about the role?

It was all through agents. I didn’t speak to [Amy] until I got to set, but she and Dan were there and it was like no time had passed. I was like, "Thank you so much for this opportunity and for remembering me and having me come aboard," and Amy was so sweet. She said, "Are you kidding? Dan and I wanted to adopt you when we first met you." She was so sweet, and they gave me a big hug.

Did you see any parallels between your Jezebel James character and Paul?

No, it was a very, very different character. The character I played on Jezebel James was like a young indie musician who is kind of leading Lauren Ambrose's character, whereas Paul is just desperately kind of holding onto Rory's coattails.

Obviously, a lot of the plot points and details about the revival were kept under wraps. How much did you tell your friends and family, if anything, about your part?

I couldn’t really tell anyone. I guess it came out that I was playing a character named Paul, but the details of who Paul was were not readily accessible. I told some close friends, but that was about it.

How exactly was the character of Paul described to you initially?

I only saw one scene, which was that initial scene where he shows up to the house, and that was it. I didn't know too many details, but when Amy Sherman-Palladino wants to put you in something, I feel like you should do it. She is so talented and she has this great pace and style to her dialogue, which is sort of this amazing combination of theatrical and realistic. It's so exciting to get to work on her material.

How was it diving into that material and that pace again after all these years, particularly with these core members of the cast like Lauren and Alexis?

I had gotten a little bit of practice when I had worked with her previously, but it was definitely terrifying but exciting. Everyone was so welcoming and kind that it felt very natural, and I think while Paul can keep up with Rory, I think that they don't mesh on a lot of other topics.

Was there ever a point where you got some background from Amy about what does Paul do, where does he live? We don't really learn a lot about him.

Yeah, no, I don't really know much about Paul either. I tried to just create a backstory for myself. He is a bit of device, you know, to further this storyline, but no, I didn’t really know too much about him at all. The way I kind of approached it is Paul is this nice guy who cares about Rory and is perhaps trying to force something that's simply not there. He's going to make someone happy, but it's definitely not going to be Rory.

How familiar were you with the original show when you heard about this part? Had you watched any episodes?

Yeah, I had definitely seen quite a bit of it. It's a fantastic series and I was a fan being there for the revival, which was really cool.

What was it like coming onto the show as one of the new people with this huge cast of actors reuniting for the first in almost a decade?

It was so cool. It was so nice to get to see this family reunion and everybody catching up. It wasn't just cast too, it was crew and everyone sort of just coming together and catching up with old stories. There was one scene that I did that I don't believe made it which was in the living room, and Babette was there and I believe I was fixing some computers and that was a big cast scene. It wasn't necessary, but it was so great to see everybody on set coming together.

You play such an important part because on the original series, viewers became incredibly invested in Rory's various boyfriends over the years. When you read that initial scene and realized you would be playing her boyfriend, what was your reaction? Did you feel any extra pressure?

I personally think what Amy and Dan did was fantastic. It was a complete mislead for the audience. They see Rory with a boyfriend who they didn't want to see her with. It's like, who is this guy? And then, literally, who is this guy? And then there's such a big payoff when you get to see Logan for the first time.

You brought it up earlier, but your character is supposed to be forgettable. What is the secret to making a character memorably forgettable like Paul?

I think that I really just tried to give Paul a big heart. He's a nice guy, he really cares for her, and he just doesn't fit in this world. He doesn't like breakfast and he doesn't drink coffee, and it's not that there's anything wrong with him, it's just not the right fit. That's kind of all I did.

Despite all these differences, they've been dating for nearly two years, so how did these two mismatched people end up staying together for such a long time?

Ultimately, we see so little of Paul that to make any judgment is unfair. We don't really know the inner workings of their relationship or how much time they've actually spent together if she's been on the road a lot, and I don't know if Rory handles the relationship in a great way, but what I gather and from what I've read, she ends up acknowledging toward the end that she might have handled it better.

How much do you know about the reaction to all four episodes, since you've haven’t been able to watch them yet?

Not very much -- a few friends who I've been on the phone with since being out of town have mentioned that some people have thought it was great, some people might not have thought it was as great. I don't know too much about it.

What is your take on Rory in these episodes? How do you defend her?

It's never been a show about perfect people being perfect. I don't think that the audience would want that. I think it’s a show about characters that we have grown attached to and they're changing and growing from these experiences they have, and they make mistakes as human beings often do. I think that she may not have been handling it in the best possible way, but we can't really judge because we don't see enough.

It's been, what? Ten years since Gilmore Girls ended? So we're seeing a new chapter in Rory's life and this is where she's at currently, but that doesn’t define her. She's going to change and grow. I haven’t seen it myself yet, so I can't comment too much on what happens during it.

Did you hear specifically how the show ends?

I heard the last four words, which was exciting and crazy, and amazing, but I don't know the events leading up to it.

How likely is it that Paul is the father, would you say?

I guess I would doubt it, but I have no idea.

All four episodes of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life are available now on Netflix.

comments powered by Disqus