The fourth ATX Television Festival closed things out Saturday night with the annual event’s biggest panel of its fourth season: the Gilmore Girls reunion.
Held at the Paramount Theater in Austin, series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino was joined by series stars Lauren Graham (Lorelai), Alexis Bledel (Rory), Danny Strong (Doyle), Jackson Douglas (Jackson), Jared Padalecki (Dean), John Cabrera (Brian), Keiko Agena (Lane), Kelly Bishop (Emily), Liz Torres (Miss Patty), Liza Weil (Paris), Matt Czuchry (Logan), Milo Ventimiglia (Jess), Scott Patterson (Luke), Todd Lowe (Zack) and Yanic Truesdale (Michel).
Gilmore Girls ran for seven seasons and 153 episodes on The WB/CW — six under Sherman-Palladino’s oversight before she exited the beloved series following a contract dispute with studio Warner Bros. TV — from 2000 to 2007. Die-hard fans braved the Austin heat — it was a humid 90 degrees when the reunion started — for a chance to get into the 1,200-capacity venue. (An ambulance was also on site to treat fans, waiting in line for hours, who suffered from heat exhaustion.)
Below are the highlights from the reunion:
1. Arielle Kebbel (Lindsay) introduced the session and called Gilmore Girls the “most wonderful platform” to learn how to be an actress.
2. Sherman-Palladino said she came up with the idea for Gilmore Girls after deciding “never to work in television again.” It was her husband who told her to write something that she wanted to do. What became Gilmore Girls stemmed from the last pitch she had during a meeting with the then-WB Network. She left the meeting and told her manager she had no idea what the show was after the network bought the story of a mother-daughter dramedy set in a small town. She then went on vacation to figure out what the exact details of the show were. She said it was a trip to Mark Twain‘s house that helped inspire what the show ultimately turned out to be.
3. Graham originally couldn’t come in to test for the pilot — she was on another show at the time — and had a strong reaction after she finally did read the script when she realized she couldn’t stand the idea of anyone else doing the part. She was cast after Bledel, who was modeling to help pay for film school. Her modeling agency sent her on the audition for Gilmore Girls — it was her fifth or sixth audition ever — and she “really didn’t know” what she was doing. “I got the script and … instantly knew who that person was,” she recalled.
4. “I’m the queen of writing uncastable women,” Sherman-Palladino said of the struggle to cast the role before seeing Bledel. “Rory had to be something you’ve never seen before.” The fact that Graham and Bledel looked alike was something she attributed to magic like “pixie dust.” The series creator said she always wanted Edward Herrmann for the part of Richard. “F— you for dying,” she said as what came off as a tender moment before she added how much she missed the late actor. “Usually, studios and networks give you a lot more shit for this; Warner Bros. got it the minute they got the script. I didn’t even develop it there. [Studio president] Peter Roth read the script and understood.”
5. “There were two Canadian Deans,” Sherman-Palladino revealed of the role that eventually went to Padalecki.
6. The first scene Graham and Bledel ever shot was a walk and talk. With newcomer Bledel confessing she was “never on her mark,” Graham recalled helping scoot her over to where she was needed to be during the first week of what would be the pilot presentation. “[That was] part of the ‘Wow, they had instant chemistry,’ ” Graham said, adding you can see her “manhandling” Bledel in early episodes.
7. “Collectively, we’re going to make this happen,” Bishop said of revisiting Gilmore Girls with some sort of follow-up to the beloved series.
8. The scripts were 85 pages — extraordinarily long for a drama. “We used them all; we just sped it up,” Graham said. Sherman-Palladino crafted a 64-page pilot presentation script with a full story to provide the network with a taste of what the show was. It came in 15 minutes short and scenes had to be inserted into the pilot because, as she said, the network “didn’t listen to me!”
9. “I knew from the pilot we had that show. I knew from that dinner table scene that we had the show,” Sherman-Palladino recalled of the moment she knew she was onto something. “The core of it, the interplay … that was the crux of our show.” She said the first season of the show was brutal for Graham and Bledel since they hadn’t built the town or flush out the cast. “It was literally the two of them in every f—ing scene the entire first season,” she said, recalling how both leads looked exhausted and asked her if there was anything she could do to help. The writer vowed to flush out the rest of the town to help.
10. The most quoted line from the series that Graham hears is, “Oy with the poodles already.” Sherman-Palladino spilled that she ultimately decided to make Lorelai take on bit of a Jewish vocabulary.
11. On Herrmann’s loss, Sherman-Palladino said nobody knew he was sick. “Ed was the first one to say he was going to be at this panel,” she recalled. “That’s what’s so f—ed up about it. … He was just a drinking, loving, knew everything in the world; he was our Mr. President.” A clip reel featuring the beloved actor changed the screams in the theater to “awws” as the room’s high energy shifted to a somber tone amid a few laughs at the selected scenes.
12. Following the clip reel, the full stage was revealed to have been decorated with signs from Stars Hollow’s beloved locations as the rest of the cast was introduced (photo above) to a new round of screams. The castmembers filled the stage with Sherman-Palladino, who noted that the empty chair at the end was for Herrmann.
13. “Logan was a dick!” Ventimiglia said to a tremendous fan response when asked who the cast thought was best for Rory. “None of you are good enough for Rory,” Patterson quipped to Ventimiglia, Czuchry and Padalecki.
14. Weil — currently co-starring on How to Get Away With Murder — originally auditioned for the role of Rory. “I went in and read for Rory and … I got a call that, ‘They really liked you but didn’t think you were quite right. But if it goes, maybe they’ll find something else for you,’ ” she recalled. “Now, I think it’s very flattering, and I’m really glad. It was supposed to be three episodes, and it just kept going.” Sherman-Palladino also shared that the role of Jess was created specifically for Ventimiglia, whom she had seen in another pilot that didn’t go. “It’s gotta be a gut thing and see someone and feel you can write for them,” she said. “Matt was the same thing; I knew I wanted a college boyfriend [for Rory]. This had to be the first time that Rory didn’t get the attention of the guy right away.” Added Czuchry: “Kind of a dick!” in a nod to Ventimigia’s comments about Logan.
15. Strong, who co-created Fox hit Empire, joked that “Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) would just mess shit up for everybody” if she wandered into Stars Hollow.
16. The entire cast was asked what they thought their characters would be doing today, and Weil had the best answer of everyone. “I’d like to think Paris and Doyle are still together,” she said, with Strong agreeing that they’d still be married and Doyle would “think everyone he was working for was an idiot.” Padalecki, meanwhile, said he thinks “Dean would have taken over Doose’s Market, and it’d now be called Dean’s Market.”
17. “I love that Danny has become the voice of black America,” Sherman-Palladino quipped of Empire and The Butler‘s Strong.
18. “I always had a feel for where we were going, but shows have a life of their own, and they surprise you. I just let it take me where it was telling me to go. The show told me a lot. I just got to work with a murderer’s row of people,” Sherman-Palladino said after she was asked if she knew at the start of the series where the show was headed.
19. “We weren’t trying to make a statement; we were trying to play who she was,” Sherman-Palladino said of Rory losing her virginity. She joked that the studio and network were both getting to a point where they wanted it to happen. “I wanted it to be Dean, and I wanted them not to be together at the time,” she said, noting that she wanted the character to have that great ideal first boyfriend.
20. As for how Lorelai’s story ended, Graham didn’t hold back. “It didn’t for me end in a great way. We weren’t sure it was the end; we didn’t have Amy. I can’t answer it because it didn’t really end; it didn’t resolve satisfactorily,” Graham said, adding of Luke and Lorelai: “I think they are together — 100 percent.” She later added that she thinks “they probably did” get married.
21. Sherman-Palladino said she has not watched all of season seven and confessed “it was hard for me to not say cut that final time.” She exited the series after the end of season six following a contract negotiation gone bad with producers Warner Bros. Television.
22. As she said during Saturday’s morning coffee session, Sherman-Palladino — who is working on an Amazon pilot and stage musical — declined to reveal the final four words she had in mind for the series finale. “I’m holding on to it still because in my mind it will be on my deathbed, like Rosebud,” she said. Graham added that said she didn’t want to know unless she was the one saying them or she was listening to someone say them on the show the way it was intended. “Otherwise, it would feel sad to know it was something I wasn’t part of,” she said.
23. “I think it’s kinda time, don’t you?” Patterson said of doing a Gilmore Girls movie follow-up, though Sherman-Palladino put the rumors to rest. “I’m sorry, there’s nothing in the works at the moment. But here’s the good thing: Nobody here hates each other; that’s a very important step. It would have to be the right everything — right format, timing, budget — it would have to be honored in a certain way. If it ever came around, I think we would all jump in and do it.” The entire cast nodded in agreement. As for the format, Sherman-Palladino said she didn’t know — “because it’s not real” — but promised that if it did, “we’ll do it correctly.”
What are your favorite Gilmore Girls memories? Sound off in the comments below.