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It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that Amy Sherman-Palladino talks like a Gilmore girl.
Her words run a mile a minute. She’s effortlessly witty. And when asked to dig deep into her emotions, her knee-jerk reaction is to, instead, crack a joke. Such as when this reporter asks about her and husband Dan Palladino’s sudden exit from Gilmore Girls in 2006 after they failed to come to terms with Warner Bros., the studio that produced the series, over a new contract.
“Well, when we left, by the way, it wasn’t that difficult. Our contract was up. So apparently they take your parking pass back,” Sherman-Palladino replies matter-of-factly.
The stoic Emily Gilmore (portrayed by Kelly Bishop) would be proud. However, it’s hard to buy Sherman-Palladino’s rapid-fire response hook, line and sinker. After writing for other shows like Roseanne and Veronica’s Closet, Gilmore Girls was just her second series to get a green light. (The first, a half-hour called Love and Marriage, was pulled after only two episodes.) Despite its tough time slot, debuting on The WB in 2000 against Survivor and Friends, the series soon won over a small but fiercely loyal fan base and got the husband-and-wife team noticed in Hollywood.
Because of the show’s unique tone, Sherman-Palladino and her husband carried the bulk of the writing, penning 87 out of 131 episodes between them for the six first seasons, in addition to frequently taking turns in the director’s chair and performing many of the other duties that fall under the showrunner umbrella.
The couple’s imprint loomed large over the series, and so did their absence. Season seven, the first without them onboard, was met with criticism, and ratings dropped. The series was subsequently canceled by The CW in May 2007 after the last episode had already been filmed.
Nine years later, the husband-and-wife team get a second shot at a final farewell with Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Once again doing things on their own terms — and outside of the box — the revival is not a new season of episodes or a two-hour movie, but a limited series made up of four 90-minute installments. Sherman-Palladino and Palladino serve as the sole writers, directors and executive producers over all four chapters, which span the four seasons of “Winter,” “Spring,” “Summer” and “Fall.”
Although it’s been nearly a decade since viewers paid a visit to Stars Hollow, the Gilmore Girls revival comes just as the show is arguably hitting its peak popularity. In addition to living on in repeats on Freeform and Up — the latter is about to kick off a seven-day, 153-episode marathon timed precisely for the revival — the original series has drawn a whole new generation of viewers since all seven seasons began streaming on Netflix in October 2014. A cast reunion at the 2015 ATX Television Festival further stoked the flames, and revival talks began months later.
It seems to safe to assume that the Palladinos have since reclaimed their parking pass on the Warner Bros. lot.
Ahead of the revival’s Nov. 25 premiere, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with the couple in July about why now was the right time to bring the show back, how the late actor Ed Herrmann played an instrumental role in the revival and whether this is really the end.
Given how you both left the show, how was it emotionally to come back and write for these characters again?
Amy Sherman-Palladino: It was amazing because we came back at the right time under the right circumstances. We went to [Warner Bros. Television president] Peter Roth first and … Peter and I are going to take our act on the road together because he’s just a real fan of the show.
Dan Palladino: [Warner Bros.] was very emotionally attached to the show at the time and when we came back and said, ‘What if we did this format in this way? And figured out how to get all the actors back?’ Which was a whole other deal. (Laughs.) But they were behind this more than we could have hoped. They went to all the pitches with us because we pitched it in several different places. … So it’s been great this one wouldn’t have happened except for some streaming services. It went to Netflix. They were our choice, but we pitched it to other places and everyone right now is just more open to doing things a little differently.
We didn’t want to do a two-hour movie. It’s not enough with all the yapping that these people do. We didn’t want to do a series. We didn’t want to be on commercial television. So we found this in-between. This was the perfect creative way to present where [the characters] are now, year-in-the-life type thing. It just was perfect for us. It was perfect for the actors and it just was something that we did not ever anticipate. And when people talk about, ‘Are there going to be more?’ — in this world, you can’t say no to anything. We wouldn’t say no to anything.
Sherman-Palladino: I would say no to being in the Trump administration. That would be a pretty hard and fast no.
Palladino: If they gave me Secretary of State, I would do it.
Sherman-Palladino: No, you would not. I would not allow you to do it.
Why do you think now is the right time?
Sherman-Palladino: It was the right time because, first of all, enough time has passed in the lives of the characters that it’s an interesting time to go back. I don’t think it would have been interesting any earlier. I think you needed a good chunk of time passage to really get good, meaty stories out of where they are and what their dilemmas are. No. 2 is, when we were all together in Austin [at the Gilmore Girls‘ ATX Festival reunion panel] for that TV craziness, there was just a feeling. The thing about anything, movies, TV shows, theater — you cannot ever really put your finger on why something works. You can say, ‘That’s a great script,’ ‘That’s a great actor,’ ‘That’s a great director,’ ‘Oh my God, the [director of photography] is fabulous,’ but it’s magic, it’s alchemy, it’s the stars aligning. There was something about us being together at that time under the same roof — it was the moment.
I can’t explain it in any other way, except that was the moment to act and that’s when we went to Warner Bros., we went to Netflix, and said, ‘What do ya think, kids?’ And we really pushed to make it happen quickly, which is not often the way these things get done because there’s a lot of dealmaking that has nothing to do with us going on, but we just felt like the actors were at the right place in their lives. Parenthood had just ended. It wasn’t like we were getting Lauren [Graham] out of a series to do it. Alexis [Bledel] wasn’t in Mozambique doing a movie or whatever it was. Scott Patterson wasn’t taking his band on the road. It felt like, ‘Hmm, it’s the right time.’ Ed Herrmann’s passing was very fresh in our minds and we were all pretty crushed by it and it felt like a way to honor him and what he meant to us. So there was something about everything aligning that you get a feeling. I think Dan and I looked at each other and were like, ‘If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen now.’ It won’t happen a year from now.
How much had you thought about where the characters would be now before Hermann passed away? Was there anything you would have liked to have done that had to change because he was no longer there?
Sherman-Palladino: We hadn’t thought about it. … There was no Netflix for years and years and years. Without a Netflix, it wouldn’t have happened. And Netflix had not to just be Netflix like we’ve got office space, they had to be Netflix. (Laughs.) They have office space … and the world. So it was the right time, it was the right place, there was the right outlet to do something different and yet, with our characters.
How was the writing process? Did you both generally agree about the direction for the characters?
Palladino: It went quickly because we really just thought organically: Where are these characters? Where can they be to give us just the right amount of conflict? We weren’t trying to come up with any twists or anything. It was really like, where are they now? What are they going through? Certainly, the death of Richard Gilmore [Hermann] hovers over all four chapters and it affects all their stories in different ways.
Sherman-Palladino: We did go into it, also, with the purpose of, we want it to be for the fans, so there were certain things we had to honor for the fans. If we’re going to go into this, there are certain journeys that the fans need to go on. But we really wanted this to also be something that if you hadn’t seen Gilmore Girls and you sat down to watch it, you were still going to be drawn in by the characters, what they’re going through, the universal themes of where is my life, fork-in-the-road, three generations of women who lost the patriarch and what does that do to them? Examining where they are in their lives and what road they want to take forward. [Those] universal themes could have been pitched as a movie anywhere. So we wanted to apply that to our world. And I think because of that, it actually went pretty fast.
You have a large ensemble of characters coming back and, like you said, there are certain things you wanted to do to honor the show. How concerned were you about fitting all the people and the things you wanted to do into those four parts?
Sherman-Palladino: We weren’t, because we weren’t bringing people back because of the fans. We were bringing people back because there was a reason to bring them back. And some things we didn’t get to do, because as much as we wanted to do them, because it would be fun for us — we could bring Wayne Wilcox back as Marty, who we loved — there was no role for that character in what we were doing. We didn’t want this to be the pageant of the masters where somebody sort of walks up and it’s, like, here’s this person. We wanted everybody to serve a story purpose in this.
What was it like reuniting with the actors and getting to film some of these storylines after so long?
Sherman-Palladino: Frankly, Lauren and I were having various nervous breakdowns … some for absolutely no reason whatsoever except … it was a very emotional thing to be able to work together again. It meant something, and I think you appreciate things. It is that thing where you didn’t have time to appreciate it the first time and we got to appreciate it this time. We got to, Lauren and I got to go out and have drinks, we got to hang, we got to gossip, we got to talk, we got to online shop together, there was no time for us to have any of those moments when the whirlwind of the series was happening.
That’s very soul-satisfying, because not only did we get to do the work, and wonderful work, but I got to be close with somebody that I always should have been close to and never really had the chance. We were always friends and friendly, but I think we got to be people that I will be talking with and will be important to me for the rest of my life if we never work together again. And I hope we work together again.
Speaking of that, when you were writing the revival, did it feel like this was the end? Or could there be more?
Sherman-Palladino: This sounds a little disingenuous at this point because people are so focused on: Is it the end? Is it not the end? We really had a very specific journey in our minds and we fulfilled the journey. So to us, this is the piece that we wanted to do. And the whole thought about, ‘Is there more? Is there more?! Is there more?!!’ -— this has to go out into the universe now. We’ve got to put this to bed. I can’t look at this show anymore.
Palladino: We want you guys to see it.
Sherman-Palladino: I cannot wait for that. I really can’t. I’m so excited for this to exist. It doesn’t exist yet. It’s not real yet because it’s only in our little pocket. We’re just very proud of the work these actors have done.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is set to premiere Friday, Nov. 25, on Netflix.
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