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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from all four installments of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.]
For all the talk about the final four words of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, there were some other memorable pieces of dialogue from Netflix’s highly anticipated four-part revival that caught viewers by surprise, namely the word “bullshit” coming out of the mouth of Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop) – more than once.
Emily’s shocking choice of words came in the form of angry rant about an artifice that got her unceremoniously thrown out of her once-beloved Daughters of the American Revolution group. Her ouster was just the beginning of Emily crafting a new life for herself following the death of her husband of 50 years, Richard (the late Edward Herrmann). Emily also put the Hartford house on the market, moved to Nantucket full-time in what was once her and Richard’s vacation rental, and began working as a tour guide at the local whaling museum, where instead of going on rants about “artifice and bullshit,” she put her speech skills to good use, talking to museum-goers about the “buckets of blood” that came from whaling and other such historical facts.
But for everything that changed in Emily’s life, some things remained the same, like when she insisted that Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and new husband Luke (Scott Patterson) come to Nantucket for two weeks every summer and one week at Christmas in exchange for the money Lorelai needed to expand the Dragonfly Inn.
The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Bishop about Emily’s surprising post-Richard revolution, that “crazy” maid twist and the possibility of more episodes.
Had you already seen all four final chapters before they came out?
No, two weeks ago we had that premiere in L.A. and we saw that first episode, which I really enjoyed. I thought it was really good. And then, last night, I’m a techno idiot so I went to Netflix and something happened, I pushed something wrong and it got dimmer and dimmer and dimmer and I’m waiting for my tech guy to come over. We watched it anyway, but it was so dim, it was so hard to see. But he’ll fix that and we’ll probably move onto the next two anyway. … So that’s all I’ve seen is the first two.
So did you already know what the final four words were? I heard they weren’t in the script so what was your reaction?
I finally asked and I wasn’t even sure if I was getting a straight answer. (Laughs.) My reaction was just like “Hmm, now that’s interesting.” I didn’t have any big strong reaction to it.
Looking at the revival, Emily is one of the characters that changes the most simply because of the loss of Richard. What was that like for you to discover this new side of Emily and go through this mourning process with her?
I was delighted with what they wrote, I really was. I just thought it was so interesting. And I liked her seeing her really evolve and grow and try to find herself and all of the different stages of grief between the pain and the loss and the rage and the confusion and trying to find what the next step is for her. It was just wonderful for me because she really goes to some different places. Where had Ed not passed away and therefore the character [not passed away], we probably would have probably been on the same plane that we always were because we were locked into our lives. I sure miss Ed and he would have loved to have done it – it breaks my heart that he’s gone and he couldn’t do it – but it made for a really interesting journey for Emily.
One of the most surprising scenes was Emily’s big “bullshit” rant at the DAR meeting. What do you think sets her off in that moment and makes her OK with leaving behind these things that had been a part of her life for so long?
She actually says it at the end when she’s walking out. She says, “This whole thing died with Richard anyway.” … A lot about Emily is difficult and she’s not the kind of woman whom I would be friends with, but the one thing I will say about her when I try to find the positives about her is that she was very honest. I don’t recall ever doing an episode where she was really lying to anyone or sneaking around. She wasn’t ever doing anything deceptive, she was just straight-on. And she’s telling the truth right there. She just doesn’t see any point in it. Obviously, these women were not her friends, they were her social circle, along with her garden club, apparently, and whatever country clubs they belong to and that sort of thing. But they weren’t friends so she didn’t really have any reason to hang around with them anymore and she was seeing through the whole thing. She had, actually, the whole time. She saw the hypocrisy in their behavior. I don’t know that she disagreed with it back in her other days – that was just the way it is. Now she’s just looking at all of life and calling it out in a way. I love the fact that she got into it.
Especially, Carolyn Hennessy, who played Toni, I loved her. She was so spot-on. Clearly, even as we were doing the scenes, I thought the two of us have been battling back and forth as to who’s running the show. And at this point, Emily says, “I don’t care about this anymore. You want to take over the power? You take it.” That was a really fun scene to shoot.
Emily is a character who rarely talks like that, so what was it like to let loose and speak that way in that big DAR scene?
The fact that she’s suddenly swearing; I said to Amy [Sherman-Pallaidno], “I just love that I say that.” She said, “Well, you know it’s Netflix, it’s not regular television, so you can say anything you want. You have free rein to say things and do things. There can be nude scenes, there can be all sorts of things.” And she said, “We decided that the only person who swears in this is Emily.” I thought, “That’s so Amy. That’s the quirk of Amy.” (Laughs.)
What other scenes were your favorite to shoot and why?
I enjoyed the Marie Kondo scene. I knew it was huge. It was really long and I knew it was going to be complicated to shoot because there were so many people involved. There was so much, in a sense, choreography that went into it. But it also went someplace else. You see the first signs, other than having Berta and her family living there, but you see she’s going in a direction you couldn’t have imagined before. But then toward the end of the scene, we get to a meeting of the minds, and you see the profound sympathy that Lorelai feels for her mother. So it took a nice turn.
That was another big change with Emily. Not only did she hold onto the same maid for all four installments, but she also lets the maid’s whole family move in with her. What causes that change?
That’s crazy. She couldn’t hold a maid from one episode to the next back in the old days. That was sort of a running joke too. Now suddenly this woman who she can’t even understand but who is obviously a very good cook is living there with her whole family. It’s kind of crazy.
What do you think opens her up in that way?
It’s never explained in the script. I don’t know even know how she found her. Where would she find this woman? I have no idea. But she obviously is lost — those little scenes we didn’t ever see during the early part of her grieving. So somehow this woman came into her life and I imagine if I could justify it, trying to think of the way Emily thinks, it was just, “Sure, sure sure. Yeah, let it happen. OK, fine.” Because she doesn’t know what the maid is asking her anyway. Because she wouldn’t have the strength or the focus, I think, to be able to turn around and say, “No, these people can’t live here.” It’s like, “Fine, take care of me. I can’t deal with this.” And then the food’s really good and the husband is an amazing handyman and Berta is so cheerful. It’s like, fine. (Laughs.) Before she was so good at organizing and taking over and running things and now she just doesn’t even know how to do that anymore.
Emily ends up selling the house and moving to Nantucket and working at the whaling museum. Why was that the right decision for her, in your opinion?
Well, she does explain why she just didn’t want to be in the house anymore. She says she felt like it was closing in on her, which just sounds like an anxiety attack to me. (Laughs.) But it’s a big, old, empty house full of memories of a person whom she loves so much. I mean, it’s just empty. She obviously has fond memories of their vacations there in Nantucket and that change, I think she wanted, because she didn’t really have friends. She had the DAR and the garden club and she probably had a reading club and all of that, but those people really weren’t close to her. She was close to Richard and that was just about it. So there was nothing left for her there. Like I said, she had fond memories of being relaxed and comfortable in Nantucket, so that makes sense to me that she would just not want to hold onto that house and go to a place that she had fond memories for. I think the turn at the whaling museum is nuts, it’s kind of wonderful (Laughs.) She’s evolved yet again in that she’s suddenly really empathetic to the animals and the environment. I thought, “Yeah, OK, good. She’s growing.” I liked that part too. I really, really hated the speech with the buckets of blood. (Laughs.) I’m an animal lover so going through all that description — you know how many takes you do of saying it over and over again — it was just so graphic and awful.
What do you think Emily’s stance on relationships is going forward? We see her begin to date Jack Smith (Ray Wise), but that part of her life is largely left unresolved at the end.
I mean, obviously, he had been a really good friend of theirs. She’s lonely. She hadn’t been hugged or kissed for a long time, but obviously that wasn’t the person for her because when he said he had to leave and go back to the city, she was so relieved. (Laughs.) She was so glad to see him go. So that relationship will not continue. But I don’t know. I have no idea, and I don’t think she does. I don’t even know if Amy and Dan do if they were to continue writing this. Because right now, especially with Emily, the door’s wide open. She could be doing all sorts of things. There’s nothing sort of stopping her now. She’s got plenty of money. She has all the freedom in the world. So who knows where she would be off to? Would she travel? Would she take on causes? I mean, who knows. Maybe all of the above.
Would you be open to doing more episodes of Gilmore Girls?
Well, yeah, I have to tell you, I’ll work with Amy anytime she wants to write something for me. I love her work, and Dan [Palladino] too, but Amy’s really my gal. I always jump at the chance to work with her when I can. She’s amazing.
For all of the changes Emily makes, one thing that stays the same is that deal she makes with Lorelai so that Lorelai can pay for the Dragonfly Inn annex. What is her thinking in that moment of making this deal with Lorelai?
Well, that’s just another way of holding onto her because, we realize by the end of the show, they’ve become so much closer than they ever were. And I think its something that they both yearned for. Obviously, with Lorelai being the rebellious young woman she was – that was hugely disappointing and embarrassing, her getting pregnant and not marrying the guy – can you imagine what Emily went through with her social circle? I mean, whoa. But she always wanted to be close. I remember there was a scene in season one where I got her to go to a spa with me. I had done an auction and had two tickets to a spa for a weekender, something like that. So I conned Lorelai into coming with me and then we went to a nightclub and it was that episode and we were sitting, talking to each other. I don’t know how the conversation evolved but, as far as her friendship with Rory and how close they were, Emily sort of says, “I wasn’t raised that way. I wasn’t raised to be friends with my child. I was raised to be a mother to my child.” But it was kind of a yearning to have a close relationship with her daughter, but even that rant she goes on in the first episode of this go-around, about all my friends have children who adore them, who call them every day, who are close. So she’s wanted to be close with Lorelai for a long time and as frustrating as its been for her, Lorelai’s behavior, she also admires it. She’s weirdly proud of her daughter for what she’s accomplished and the life she’s managed to make for herself. So she wants her to be a friend. She’s probably the best friend she has even though they fight all the time. Emily doesn’t have friends. (Laughs.)
Well, hopefully that changes going forward in Nantucket.
That could happen, I’m sure it could. Almost anything could happen now because the door is open and there’s a whole world out there. We’ll just have to see what the reaction is, how Netflix feels about it, how Amy and Dan feel about it — there’s an awful lot of writing there — if they want to move onto other projects or if they want to revisit this. I don’t know. I kind of think they would if they got the right deal and everything could fall into place but it could be that they’re on another project about the time Netflix would say, “OK, let’s do four more,” and then they’re not able to. And then of course you also have to factor in the other actors and their projects and what they’re doing. I’m taking this as finished at this point. But clearly there’s no reason it couldn’t because life does go on and Amy has that wonderful way of taking a reality like the loss of Edward Herrmann, and rather than having him run off with somebody and living overseas, she dealt with the reality of the fact that he’s not there anymore. So she’s quite capable of adapting to all sorts of things.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is available now on Netflix.
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