Surprising Facts from Behind the Scenes of Gilmore Girls
As one of the most prominent flagships of The WB network — the channel that eventually became The CW — Amy Sherman-Palladino's seminal hour-long dramedy Gilmore Girls has managed to remain an important part of the world of cult television. Starring Lauren Graham as the inimitable Lorelai and Alexis Bledel as her quirky daughter, Rory, the show provided a heartwarming look at life in the small New England town of Stars Hollow.
Fans ate up every minute of it, and they still stream the series in large numbers today. Think you’re a superfan who already knows everything about the popular show? Take a look at these behind the scenes surprises to see if you’re right!
Rory's Cola Coffee
One of the most integral parts of the relationship between Lorelai and Rory Gilmore is their shared love of coffee. Most days, the two take a trip down to Luke's Diner — owned by Lorelai's on-again, off-again love interest Luke Danes — for the best cup of coffee in their small town.
Interestingly, Alexis Bledel (Rory) actually hates coffee. To make it seem like Rory was really drinking coffee, the crew filled up her coffee mug with Coca-Cola instead. (For the record, Lauren Graham loved her coffee.)
Lane Kim's Strange Age
It's not uncommon for a show about high schoolers to feature actors who are already out of high school. The same is true for college-aged characters. It's a standard practice in Hollywood, with almost every movie or show being guilty of casting at least one actor who is a bit older than the character they're playing.
However, Gilmore Girls has one of the most surprising age gaps ever. Lane Kim, Rory's best friend, is supposed to be around 15 when the show begins. In reality, the actress — Keiko Agena — was actually 26 years old.
Luke's Longer Contract
Another common Hollywood practice is completely overhauling character dynamics and relationships as the show tries to find its footing. First seasons are where continuity errors and inconsistencies are most likely to happen. It’s the time when characters are figuring themselves out as the writers iron out the kinks and sometimes change course entirely.
For this reason, Luke Danes, one of the most important Gilmore Girls characters, ended up going from a one-off appearance in the pilot to a permanent spot in the cast. It's hard to imagine the show without Luke, and it seems the writers felt the same when they witnessed his chemistry with Lorelai.
A Very Different Rory Gilmore
The relationship between Rory's rival — a mean private school girl named Paris Geller — and the titular Gilmore girl is one of the most compelling in the show's history. The two go from being foes to friends to foes and back again, always evolving as they grow up side-by-side.
While the two seem set in their unique chemistry, Liza Weil — the actress behind Paris — actually auditioned for the part of Rory before ever considering the role of Paris. For fans of the show, it seems nearly impossible to imagine this reversal.
Rory's Behind-the-Scenes Romance
As is common when actors spend many years in each other's company shooting a long-running television show, actors sometimes end up developing relationships similar to the ones they're playing on TV. This is true of Lauren and Alexis, but it's also true of a certain couple, as well.
For many seasons, Rory grapples with her feelings for Milo Ventimiglia's bad boy character, Jess. In real life, the two had a near-identical relationship to their characters. They dated for nearly three and a half years.
Shooting television can sometimes be as expensive — maybe more — as a movie shoot. From the greater number of hours to the typically larger cast and crew, a 22-episode season of a TV show can cost the studio as many millions as the latest theater blockbuster. Luckily, they can sometimes cut corners to reduce expenses.
For ABC Family (now Freeform), it made sense to reuse some Gilmore Girls relics while shooting their show Pretty Little Liars. The most notable instance of this came in the form of PLL's exteriors. They are almost exactly the same as Stars Hollow.
Alexis Bledel's Blended Family
Occasionally, throughout Gilmore Girls' run, Rory is seen speaking Spanish in various academic environments. This is chalked up to just being one the many facets of her very intelligent personality, but the reality is a lot simpler than that.
Instead of studying up on Spanish to pull off these small moments, Alexis Bledel actually knew how to speak fluent Spanish. She is of Hispanic descent and grew up in a Spanish-speaking home. In truth, English is actually her second language. She had to learn English at a young age instead of learning Spanish like Rory Gilmore.
Milo Ventimiglia's Contract Variations
Like his uncle, diner owner Luke Danes, Milo Ventimiglia's character, Jess, was only supposed to appear on Gilmore Girls for a few episodes before departing from Stars Hollow for good. Fortunately for him, his chemistry with Alexis Bledel and the rest of the cast scored him a permanent gig.
After seeing how well he did with the material he was given, the producers of the show offered the actor a whopping six-season contract to remain on the show for the long haul. However, the young actor requested to only commit to two seasons.
The Best Excuse Is Often the Truth
Because shooting a television show can be incredibly time consuming, actors with other prior commitments have a tough choice to make — split their time between various projects or miss out on one in exchange for the other.
For Adam Wylie and his character Brad, the latter seemed to be the best option. The actor went off to star in Into the Woods on Broadway and missed appearing in many episodes as a result. When he returned, his character claimed he was away doing exactly what Wylie had done. It was a funny moment that rang true.
Dirty Dancing's Direct Connection
A signature characteristic of Gilmore Girls and showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino was an almost incessant referencing of classic Hollywood films and stars. Rory and Lorelai are portrayed as huge movie lovers, constantly quoting films and referencing pop culture whenever they can.
While the two often reference Dirty Dancing, many viewers probably just brush this off as Gilmores being Gilmores. However, each callout to Dirty Dancing is, in fact, a direct reference to Kelly Bishop, the actress behind wealthy Gilmore grandmother Emily, and her starring role in the classic ‘80’s staple.
A Charitable Connection
More often than not, when one character gives their phone number to another, viewers hear the numbers "555" and immediately know the phone number isn’t real. It's sort of an unspoken understanding — phone numbers in movies and TV don’t really belong to anyone.
That's why when Luke leaves Lorelai his number in season five, it's surprising to hear that his number actually sounds like a real phone number. That's because it is! Scott Patterson is related to Johns Hopkins’ Children's and Maternal Hospital director George Dover, and the number is for donations.
For many movies and television shows, especially ones starring comedians and actors who are familiar with comedy, improvisation can be a key part of the creative process on set. If a line doesn't work out loud, then the actors are often encouraged to make something up on the spot to replace the lines.
However, because of the fast-paced and tightly-structured nature of a Gilmore Girls script, the cast was forbidden from ad-libbing their own lines during the shoots. Amy Sherman-Palladino's dialogue is known for being quick, so no improv was necessary.
Kirk's Exhaustive Resume
Any long-running television show has its share of running gags and in-jokes that permeate throughout the show's episodes and seasons. From Seinfeld's "Newman..." to The Office's "That's what she said," the trend is a popular one, so it's not shocking that Gilmore Girls also managed to have a few of their own.
Kirk, played by director James Gunn's brother, Sean, is almost always portrayed as having a different job. From season one to the show's finale, it has been estimated that Kirk had a total of 62 distinct jobs. Can you imagine going to that many interviews?
A Fictional Town's Real Inspiration
Stars Hollow, Connecticut, is one of the most idyllic, warm towns ever portrayed on TV. Unfortunately for fans of the show, it's not actually a real place. Like Parks and Recreation's Pawnee, Indiana, Stars Hollow is fictional but inspired by a real town that viewers simply don’t know about.
According to Amy Sherman-Palladino, the inspiration came from Washington Depot, Connecticut. It's a town that she and her husband, Dan — a fellow writer and producer — apparently visited at one time while on a road trip. Apparently, it made a lasting impression!
An Uncommon Script Length
Most hour-long dramas, despite their presumed runtime of 60 minutes, actually have a script length of about 45 to 50 pages — equal to about the same number of minutes — because of commercial breaks. Amy Sherman-Palladino doesn't work that way, though. Gilmore Girls still had commercials, of course, which meant that her much longer scripts needed to be read a whole lot faster.
Typically coming in at around 75 to 80 pages, scripts for Gilmore Girls required actors to practice delivering their lines incredibly quickly. At one point, Lorelai even makes a metacomment about this when watching an old Hollywood film with Lorelai.
The Cast Acting as Crew
When an actor spends a lot of time on set, it's not uncommon for them to start to get a creative desire to work behind the camera as well as in front of it. While it's harder for an actor to break into the filmmaking scene, it's actually not too hard for them to get the chance to try their hand at directing television — not when it’s their own show, anyway.
Because there are so many episodes in a season, some actors are given the chance to do some directing. On Gilmore Girls, Jackson Douglas — who played Jackson Belleville — directed three different episodes.
Shortcuts on Set
When a television show's crew assembles a particular show's set, it's not strange to see them cut a corner here and there. After all, as long as the illusion works, the audience will be none the wiser. Gilmore Girls happened to have quite a few on-set shortcuts.
The most notable of these set secrets has to be the connection between Sookie's house and Lorelai's house. On screen, the two seem close enough to be a few doors down from each other. In reality, they are even closer than you think — they're two sides of the same building!
An Ill-Timed Spinoff
Due to the fan-favorite status of Milo Ventimiglia's character, Jess, throughout his time on Gilmore Girls, it's not a huge shock to learn that The CW hoped to develop a spinoff about his character to hopefully keep the Gilmore Girls magic alive a little longer.
The show would have involved Jess moving to California with his dad and his stepmom and had a working title of Windward Circle. Unfortunately, due to the high cost of shooting on location in Venice, California, the network simply couldn't take a chance on the show's success versus the price tag.
Differences Between Pilot and Premiere
A show's pilot doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to be good enough to portray the program's main ideas and general feel, so the network can determine if it wants to pick the show up for a full-season order.
In the case of Gilmore Girls, there were quite a few moments in the pilot that weren't exactly perfect and had to be tweaked in time for the show's real debut. Originally, Sookie was played by Family Guy's Alex Borstein, and Luke was actually a woman. Obviously, these things were changed — thank goodness! — before airing.
Sherilyn Fenn's Surefire Casting
When Amy Sherman-Palladino was developing the show in the late ‘90s, she had her sights set on a very different actress to play Lorelai: Twin Peaks alum Sherilyn Fenn. When the show finally went into development a couple of years later, the actress was unavailable, and the part was recast.
Palladino didn't give up hope on Fenn, though. Eventually, the time came for Jess' stepmom to be cast. Amy went straight to Sherilyn, and the two leapt at the opportunity to finally work together like they had planned to do almost a decade prior.
Reusing B-Roll Footage
Like the various sets that Gilmore Girls and Pretty Little Liars share, it's not a surprise to see certain B-roll footage get reused from show to show. B-roll scenes are key to establishing different locations and scenes in television and film, and it's footage that can often be purchased, much like stock photos.
For this reason, many different shows use Gilmore Girls' B-roll, even though the show never used any of the sets on the Warner Brothers lot. Shots of Stars Hollow are in Witches of East End, The Carrie Diaries and Hart of Dixie.
Guardians of the Gilmore Girls
It's nice to see actors from a favorite TV show appearing in a different project. It provides a nice glimpse at what the actors are up to today. That's why it's so fun to see two Gilmore Girls alums in Marvel's hit comic book film Guardians of the Galaxy.
Rich boy Logan's dad, Mitchum, is played by Gregg Henry. The actor is in Guardians as Peter Quill's grandpa. Kirk actor Sean Gunn is actually related to Guardians of the Galaxy writer-director James Gunn, and he does motion-capture for Rocket Raccoon.
One of the most confusing things a TV show can do is say farewell to a key character off screen. It's not always their fault, of course. When an actor decides not to return in between seasons, there's nothing the writers can do but try and write a story that makes sense.
This happened twice on Gilmore Girls, both with boys in the lives of the titular girls. Lane's boyfriend Dave left after season one, supposedly because he moved to California. Rory's classmate Tristan left for military school. Both departures happened off screen.
Making Room for Sookie
When an actor goes through a major life change off camera, showrunners have one of two choices: either write the change into the show or try to work around that change and hide it through clever camera tricks. When Melissa McCarthy became pregnant around the time of season seven's shoot, the crew chose the former.
That means that Sookie's pregnancy was a direct result of actor Melissa McCarthy's real-life pregnancy. It's unclear if the character would have been pregnant without McCarthy's actual pregnancy, but it was definitely a welcome addition.
The Gilmore Girls Revival
For the longest time, fans were very unhappy with the way Gilmore Girls came to an abrupt and unceremonious end. Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband, Dan, were fired between seasons six and seven, and the writers they brought on to replace them were widely considered to be much less gifted at Gilmore Girls lore than the original writers.
In the years after the show's end, fans demanded more from the Palladinos. Eventually, Netflix worked out a deal with them to bring the show back for four 90-minute follow-up specials.
Funny How Time Flies
Gilmore Girls’ return was one of the most hyped revivals of the 2010s. Arriving in November of 2016, A Year in the Life takes place during each of the four seasons of a given year in Stars Hollow. Most of the original show’s cast returned, but the most surprising fact had to do with everyone’s age.
As it turned out, Rory Gilmore was the exact same age that Lorelai was when Gilmore Girls began. While this wasn’t intentional, it was a little coincidence that made the show feel even more clever.
Surprising for some of the biggest Gilmore Girls’ fans is the fact that Lane and her mother are not the only two members of the Kim household. There is actually a Mr. Kim. He is only discussed a couple of times on the show, so it’s understandable if viewers missed this while watching.
A Year in the Life was the first time that viewers saw Mr. Kim. He appeared in Spring, acting as if he had always been on the show. It’s a fun little joke that only the most dedicated viewers will fully appreciate.
Parenthood Reunions Are Abundant
Fans of Lauren Graham know that the Gilmore Girls alum didn’t have to wait long before scoring her next starring role on a television show. NBC’s long-running family drama Parenthood, loosely based on the 1980’s Steve Martin film of the same name, starred Lauren Graham as a very different kind of mom.
When A Year in the Life came on, lovers of both Gilmore Girls and Parenthood were happy to see a whole slew of cameos from fellow Parenthood stars, including Mae Whitman, Kelly Wolf, Jason Ritter and Peter Krause.
Gilmore Girls Nostalgia
Gilmore Girls was always a very nostalgic show. Amy Sherman-Palladino clearly loves old Hollywood and 20th century relics, and she made sure to include these things in the bones of Gilmore Girls. For this reason, it’s strange to see the show demonstrating a meta nostalgia for itself.
A Year in the Life features all sorts of callbacks to the original show’s run. If the show ever returns again, fans made it clear they would prefer episodes closer in feel to the original run rather than the revival’s love for its own history.
Sticking the Landing
Because Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband never got to end Gilmore Girls the way they wanted after being fired before the final season began, fans were excited to see the way the two would wrap up the revival without having to worry about studio interference. Before A Year in the Life even debuted, talk of the final scene set the internet ablaze.
How would it all end? The buildup was filled with anticipation, but when viewers finally reached that point, they accused the Palladinos of bungling the finale. Regardless, Amy had envisioned it that way from the very beginning. Be careful what you wish for, fans.