Sometimes the way the TV biz works leaves me scratching my head, going, “Huh?” Other times, I get it… it’s fate. This is definitely one of those. Because although ABC passed on Lauren Graham’s comedy pilot, she’s still returning to the tube this season, on NBC’s buzzy Parenthood series. And here, in her first interview since agreeing to step in for Maura Tierney as single mom Sarah, the Gilmore Girls gabber explains why she decided to join the all-star ensemble, why her new character is nothing like Lorelai, and what her new gig means for that much-discussed-by-me Gilmore movie.
Why did you decide to take the part?
LAUREN GRAHAM: It’s the best thing I’ve read. It’s was really that simple.
Any trepidation about signing another long-term TV commitment?
GRAHAM: Yeah. I’ve been out of that work for, I guess it’s been two-and-half years now. I did a Broadway show, I did three movies… I [enjoyed] working freelance like that. So, strangely, as much as I’ve been looking for a series almost since I ended that last one, it was almost like, “But wait… ” I’ve enjoyed [the variety] of projects I’ve done. That’s hard to think about giving up.
Why join an ensemble instead of continuing to pursue your own vehicle?
GRAHAM: Well, it’s just so good. As I said to [executive producer] Jason Katims, I’m used to seeing my character on every single page [of the script]. But my favorite dramas were ensembles like The West Wing and Studio 60… This was put in front of me and I responded instinctually. It was just something I really wanted to do.
Sarah shares some things in common with Lorelai.
GRAHAM: She’s a woman. She probably wears jeans. [Laughs]. She’s a single mom, yes, but I don’t think the tone of the show is the same. The sound of Gilmore Girls, that voice, is so unique to Amy [Sherman-Palladino]. This show has its own voice. It’s a grown-up show, too. It doesn’t have some of the more whimsical elements of [Gilmore Girls]. It’s more realistic.
You’ll probably have fewer lines of dialogue to memorize, too.
GRAHAM: [Laughs] Jason’s language is very elegant and economical — and that’s not to put [Gilmore Girls] down. Nothing will ever be like that. The thing that was most important to me is to have a writer who I feel can really write something that I’m dying to do, ’cause that’s what I had last time. And this is how that felt to me. So whether or not it seems like the logical next step, I just really responded to the material and that’s where I had good luck last time. [When I considered doing Gilmore], people were like, “Oh, it’s the WB” and “Oh, you’re playing a mom.” I’ve had good luck just following my instincts.
Will anything change about the character now that you’re playing her?
GRAHAM: I’m getting together to talk with Jason this weekend. That’s one of the key things [I liked] about this job was he was like, “I really want to hear what you want [this role] to be.” We’re still kind of working that out a little bit. What I said to him is I’m interested in the flawed part of her. For seven years I played someone who people come up and say, “I wish my mom was just like Lorelai.” That’s not this character. She’s not perfect. She’s funny and smart and she’s doing a pretty good job, but she’s struggling, and that’s what I’m drawn to. In my experience, it’s the less noble parts of someone that are the most interesting, especially over a long story.
Now for the big question: Does this mean you won’t have time to shoot the Gilmore Girls movie?
GRAHAM: [Laughs] Mike, [the movie’s] in the can. It’s coming soon to a theater near you.