When working on the forthcoming Gilmore Girls revival, Lauren Graham had a serious case of nerves. And no, it wasn’t from drinking too much coffee, keeping in character with her caffeine-addicted alter ego Lorelai Gilmore — in fact, it was the exact opposite.
“I got to work one day and I was like, ‘Am I drinking enough coffee?’ ” the actress recalled to reporters earlier this year. There was “incredible amounts of pressure. (Pause.) In a good way.”
The beloved drama’s die-hard fan base will soon be able to weigh in on just how Graham & Co. did. Netflix will release all four 90-minute installments of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on Nov. 25, more than nine years after the original series went off the air and 11 months after the long-rumored project officially got the green light.
Although revivals for beloved TV franchises like The X-Files and Full House have become a popular trend in recent years, there was extra incentive for all involved to resurrect Gilmore Girls from the TV grave.
The original series, centered on the extremely tight (and sometimes bizarre) bond between a young mother and her only daughter, premiered on The WB in 2000. It soon amassed a cult following thanks to its rapid-fire dialogue, pitch-perfect pop culture references and intriguing romances (Jess vs. Logan, Luke or Christopher?). However, series creator and showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband, executive producer Dan Palladino, abruptly departed the show at the end of season six. Under new leadership, season seven struggled creatively and viewership subsequently dipped.
“The whole thing was odd,” said Graham, who was a producer on the final season. “It just didn’t feel the same.”
Gilmore Girls was canceled in May 2007, after the season — now series — finale had already been shot. “So there was no closure to it, no party, no goodbye exactly, and so it always sort of felt like the musician stopped playing in mid-piece,” she continued. “It wasn’t quite like saying goodbye and then saying hello again. It was like we never really said goodbye.”
The series lived on in repeats on ABC Family (now Freeform), but it was Gilmore Girls‘ debut on Netflix in October 2014 that drew a whole new wave of viewers to the series. The renewed interest came as reunion projects for series like Sex and the City and Arrested Development had become more common.
“The conversation started immediately, really,” Graham said. “We kept getting asked, kept getting asked and, I don’t know, this just felt like the right way to do it. So I think both timing, the time that had passed and creatively, it felt like, kind of, it couldn’t have ended up better. I’d rather have done this than a feature film. We got to cover more ground.”
One big topic the revival will address is the absence of Richard Gilmore. Edward Herrmann, who had portrayed the family patriarch, died of brain cancer in December 2014, and the revival will subsequently show all three Gilmore women dealing with Richard’s passing. “The show itself just feels a little more grown-up and with the loss of Ed, it had to be a little more emotional because we’re all dealing with that,” Graham said.
Graham felt aptly prepared to dive into deeper territory on Gilmore Girls after spending the previous six seasons starring on another family drama, the Jason Katims tearjerker Parenthood, which wrapped a year before Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life went into production.
“Parenthood was so different. The language was much looser, they didn’t mind if we improvised, it was so emotional,” she said. “I had never really tapped into any of that, so I feel like all that, I brought here.”
Offscreen, Graham’s life has also changed in the years since she left Stars Hollow. For one, she wrote her first book, 2013’s Someday, Someday, Maybe, and is about to release her second, a memoir, Nov. 29. “Time is a real big teacher,” Graham said. “But the fact that I was in a more stable place in my life, just relationship-wise. Back in Gilmore Girls, I was buying my first house….”
That maturity is something that will be reflected onscreen, particularly now that the youngest Gilmore, Rory, is in her early 30s versus her early 20s.
“I think, appropriately, they’re doing their own thing a little bit more so when they come together, its still super gratifying,” Graham said. “They aren’t maybe quite as attached because they don’t need to be. I’m interested in her life but I maybe take a little bit more of a step back and yeah, I think we have slightly more separate journeys because she’s older and doesn’t need me in the same way. It would be creepy if she did. (Laughs.)”
Because of the renewed interest in the show in recent years thanks to both the series accessibility on Netflix and the show’s 2015 reunion at the ATX Television Festival, Graham said the Gilmore Girls team felt more pressure working on the new episodes.
“I went home one day and my boyfriend’s an actor [Peter Krause] on another show [The Catch]. Some people he works with were super fans. They were like, ‘She better say I smell snow!’ I was like, ‘Oh God,’ because not only just the specificity but the anger behind it, like if you let us down,” Graham said with a laugh.
But for everything that’s changed, Graham insists much will remain the same when viewers return to Stars Hollow.
“It was like doing that same show but almost as if we’d been doing it every day for 10 years and then you pick us up here,” Graham said. “How it might have changed and also, then just the perspective of, ‘Thank you. Wow, we’re doing something you already, some of you, are excited about.’ You never do that in TV.”
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life premieres Nov. 25 on Netflix.