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It may seem hard to believe now but when the idea was first floated for a potential Gilmore Girls revival, series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and stars Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel were unsure whether fans would be interested.
“[Amy] kind of talked about a few different ideas and we thought maybe, you know, around the time of the Austin Television Festival reunion, it might be interesting to see if there was any interest out there at that time, just to see if there was an appetite for it,” star Alexis Bledel told reporters earlier this summer.
The answer was a definitive yes.
Fans lined the blocks of downtown Austin for hours in June 2015 to fit into the 1200-seat Paramount Theatre to celebrate the show’s 15th anniversary. “It was really exciting,” Bledel recalled.
Netflix proved to be Gilmore Girls’ saving grace in more ways than one. The streaming giant first began streaming all seven seasons of the series in October 2014, a month before a cast reunion at the ATX Television Festival was officially announced. The easy accessibility to all 153 episodes not only encouraged old fans to revisit Stars Hollow, but also brought a whole new generation of eyeballs to the series.
News of revival talks between Warner Bros., which produced the original series, and Netflix first came to light in October. The series was officially ordered in late January. Unlike the original series, which ran the network standard 22 episodes, the six-hour revival has been split into four 90-minute installments covering the four seasons, beginning with “Winter” and ending with “Fall.”
In addition to allowing viewers to pick up with the residents of Stars Hollow nearly a decade later, the revival offered the show a second chance at a goodbye. During the original series run, Sherman-Palladino and her husband, exec producer, writer and director Dan Palladino, abruptly exited the series as showrunners at the end of season six over a contract dispute with Warner Bros.
After writing or co-writing a large number of the episodes, 87 out of 131, David S. Rosenthal, who had joined the show as a writer/executive producer the previous season, took over as showrunner for season seven. However, the subsequent episodes failed to capture the unique voice and tone of the series and season seven was critically panned. Ratings fell and The CW and the WB pulled the plug after the last episode of the series — what would (temporarily) serve as the series finale — had already been written and filmed.
Because she wasn’t in the room, or anywhere near the building, to help craft the final episode of the original series, Sherman-Palladino was able to save her dream ending — those famed final four words — for the revival. In stark contrast to the original final season, she and her husband got to call all the shots on the Netflix installments. The couple served as the sole writers, directors and executive producers.
“When [Amy] went through all the major points of what she wanted to do — which she said just kind of spilled out of her, and she really felt that [was] a real indication that this was the right time and the right thing and the right way to tell the story — I liked it,” Bledel said. “I just thought it was great and I was excited to get started.”
But first, Bledel wanted to make sure she and Sherman-Palladino were on the same page when it came to Rory specifically. After all, she was just 18 when she signed on for Gilmore Girls, her first major acting role, in 2000. By the time talks for the revival heated up, Bledel was 30 and had diverse credits to her name that included TV (Mad Men) film (Sin City) and theater roles (Love, Loss and What I Wore).
“This is really Amy’s vision so it really had a lot to do with what she wanted for the characters,” the actress recalled. “I wanted to hear it ahead of time before signing on and it was great to get to do that this time around, to be a part of that process and to voice my opinions and hear all her reasons for why she wanted to craft it the way that she did.”
Like her determined and hyper-focused alter-ego, Bledel was mainly concerned with Rory’s professional standing as opposed to her romantic future. “I felt really strongly about making sure that all my character’s hard work somehow had paid off,” Bledel said. “That she had lived a life that was some indication that we got to see where she went from there, what the reward from all that work was.”
Judging from the official trailer for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, the new installments focus heavily on that aspect of Rory’s life as she carves a path for herself far from the comforts of Stars Hollow and those closest to her.
“My character’s been working hard as per usual but she’s on her own so she’s just more focused on what she is trying to accomplish. She started her career in journalism at a time when the industry was changing quite a bit so newspapers were going away and she has kind of been chasing stories and crashing on people’s couches in the process,” Bledel said. “So she’s not really rooted anywhere.”
When the series picks up, Rory “hasn’t been home in a long time” and returns to Stars Hollow seemingly at a crossroads. “It’s really a catalyst for her to experience change,” Bledel said.
That change even extends to her relationship with her mother. “I think anyone who has a bond as close as theirs, a relationship that’s that closely knit together and you do have a lot of time apart, coming back together can put you through…a roller coaster of emotions, some transitions possibly, depending on how long it’s been,” Bledel said. “So in a way it’s a great place to start because there might be things to work through, there might be things to celebrate, we don’t know yet.”
Although Rory’s future may be murky in the new episodes, Bledel says that the opposite was true behind the scenes on the new installments.
“Coming back was an incredible opportunity to approach our work with intention,” Bledel said. “Rather than being sort of reactionary to everything around me, I could just focus on the scenes and what I wanted to do and that was just a great thing to get to do. It’s almost like getting a do over. It doesn’t happen very often.”
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life premieres Friday, Nov. 25, on Netflix.
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