Amy Sherman-Palladino prepared for Saturday night’s big Gilmore Girls reunion panel with an intimate and often humorous coffee session at the ATX Television Festival in Austin with a look back at secrets of the beloved show.
The panel, held in a 75-person ballroom Saturday morning, was standing-room only — with a line of diehard fans that had to be cut off more than two hours before the intimate gathering began.
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Gilmore Girls, starring Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, ran for seven seasons on The WB/CW. The dramedy revolved around a single mother and her daughter and their unique friendship, with the show seeing resurgence of late — thanks to Netflix — where it has been reaching a new fan base. Sherman-Palladino credited the humor of the series for its longevity. “If you put the humor into it, which is how everybody goes through life because otherwise we’d be f— the bats, we’d be jumping off that bridge — I think that humor is what keeps it energetic and hopeful,” she said, referencing Austin’s famed bat bridge. “That’s how we get through life.”
“You expect to be fired before it gets on the air. Gilmore Girls was different for The WB at the time, it wasn’t really in their wheelhouse,” she recalled of the early days at The WB, calling the young network in a “renegade mood” when the show launched — until it was scheduled opposite Friends and Survivor. “Nobody expected us to get watched or viewed. Then they moved us and put on this little show called American Idol. Then you think we’re not going to make it — and then we went off the air and you expect to meet at the actors’ homes and play bingo. Then DVDs and Netflix kept it going. I didn’t even know it was going on Netflix!”
Gilmore Girls ran on the then-WB Network for seven seasons — six under Sherman-Palladino’s oversight before she exited the beloved series following a contract dispute with studio Warner Bros. TV. Sherman-Palladino, who politely and humorously refused to reveal the final four words she had in mind for the series finale, was candid about the origins of the beloved series. Sherman-Palladino also revealed she’s currently writing a pilot for Amazon and is working on a musical.
“I kinda want to do a show about a mother and daughter — and they’re friends,” she joked of the early pitch for Gilmore Girls, describing the creation of its central town Stars Hollows “candy colored.” “You want that feeling of warmth. If I had to pick the perfect place for me to live, that’s where it would be.”
Sherman-Palladino praised the network for allowing her the creative freedom to create the show — and characters with talent she wanted — with little to no notes and pushback.
“It started with the necessity of not being in Toronto,” she said of creating the town on the WB lot in Burbank. “Today, you don’t sell Gilmore Girls; nobody buys it, it wouldn’t happen. The WB was at a point then when they were feeling rock ‘n’ roll and were anti-network … they were feeling like ‘We want original voices.’ They had Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Dawson’s Creek (from Kevin Williamson) — they were looking for that. It was a time when a network was not looking for a cohesive brand; their brand was about the individual voices of the show. We were lucky because we were there at the time and they kind of just left us alone — which also never happens anymore. We ran wild like crazy meth kids around the WB lot.”
The casting process, she said, was very different at the time of Gilmore Girls’ launch in 2000. “Back then you could say, ‘hey, there’s this kid named Milo [Ventimiglia, who played Jess] and he’s adorable. I don’t know what the part is on the show but we should sign him before anyone else does,” she said, singling out Liza Weil (Paris) and Sean Gunn as well.ER — which also filmed on the same lot — would wash away all the town’s fake snow in the morning. “We got no help from [George] Clooney!”
Looking back on not being able to do the final season, Sherman-Palladino has come to terms with her sad and early exit from Gilmore Girls. “The last season was the last season, shit happens. We left it in the hands of our writers. It wasn’t like they got Saddam Hussein to come in,” she said of entrusting the end of the beloved series to her family of writers. “It’s always a bummer when you don’t get to end it. I had hoped maybe that there would have been a call, ‘Hey, it’s the last episode, do you want to come back? And there wasn’t. But that’s OK, that’s not the way it works in Hollywood, where there’s rules. I’m incredibly amazed at what we got to do. The legacy is there, clearly, and I’m still on speaking terms with the entire cast. When does that happen? It was this wonderful, golden period. Organically, things happened the way they were going to happen.”
The always animated Sherman-Palladino also looked at the lack of unique roles for women and how broadcast networks are finally starting to appeal to more quadrants with the recent diversity push. She singled out fighting to give the part of Sookie St. James to then-newcomer Melissa McCarthy, who would eventually win over executives and play the role for all seven seasons.
“To get Melissa, I had to fight,” she said, singling out The Killing (and The Catch star) Mireille Enos as an example. “She had a different energy and the part was written for a woman, there was no body type. I need someone funny who can really act. It was a tricky sell and it took a while … everybody came around; it took a few shows. She is different and different is sometimes not the easiest thing to embrace. But that’s true of life. If we want people to embrace more Melissa McCarthys and complicated parts … we have to keep writing the parts, fighting the fights and be willing to be fired and say to Mr. Person With Money, ‘You’re wrong.’ Anything worth doing is a fight. If you don’t have to fight for it, it’s not worth doing.”
The Gilmore Girls reunion is slated for Saturday night at ATX.
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