‘Tis the season for all the seasons: Gilmore Girls returns with four 90-minute episodes on Netflix on Nov. 25, with each installment spanning a season: winter, spring, summer, and fall. Among those on the welcome-back list is Jess Mariano — the bad boy with a good brain and Rory’s off-and-on-and-off-and-on-and-off love interest played by This Is Us star Milo Ventimiglia. What drama and possibility might accompany Jess, who was a regular presence in seasons 2 and 3, and a guest thereafter? How does Ventimiglia feel about the Team Jess/Team Dean/Team Logan fan factions? How did he think Jess should dress? Here, the actor drops a few thoughts and hints to EW about his return to Stars Hollow.
On the large number of pro-Jess fans who want to see him end up with Rory (Alexis Bledel):
“I was flattered but when I respond in kind to anything — let’s say this job or that job — I try to speak a little bit for the character. I was at Comic-Con, and somebody said, ‘I’m Team Jess,’ and I said, ‘Did you ever think that maybe Jess isn’t Team Rory?’ And then I might have stopped myself, and I’m like, ‘Holy s—, I just came out with that. Maybe that’s actually kind of accurate!’… I kind of f— with people and say I’m Team Dean or Team Logan. Jared Padalecki is an incredible man. Matty Czuchry is an incredible man. They’re such great guys that I’m fans of theirs, so I’m going to pick them. I’d be a bit of an asshole if I’d picked myself.
“I think it’s amazing [that the fans] are excited, but the second the show ended — and they didn’t get that satisfaction of, let’s say an Amy Sherman-Palladino ending, because there were different producers in the seventh season — everybody’s imagination went wild. What would have happened if it was Jess? What would have happened if it was Logan? And then people started speaking up and picking sides and taking teams. And it’s very cool that fans have created these wants and desires, but every time someone says, ‘Hey, I’m Team Jess,’ or ‘I’m Team Dean,’ I say, ‘You know what? Just park all that. Don’t think about it. Just watch with no expectations, no wants, no desires. Just watch. And appreciate that you’re getting four more — 10 years later.’ That’s the thing that’s kind of bananas to me. The show ended nine years ago, and audiences are getting more. I think people just need to sit and wait and see what happens.”
On whether he has thought about what happened to Jess over the years:
“I didn’t. The second I stepped off the show, Jess got on a bus and he left for California. Before I went back to work, I watched the last two episodes that he was in, just to check in with him and see where he was and who he’d grown up to be. And I thought he was exactly where he was supposed to be. And I think had Rory gone with him, the trajectory would have been different. Everything happened the way it was supposed to happen with Jess. I never dreamed up a different scenario or wondered what was going to happen, or even thought about what his book was about. The second I got the call and knew they were back, it was, “Right. Where is he? What is he up to? What is he doing? How would you like me?”
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On how easy it was for him to get back into character:
“I had to shave because it was right after the pilot for This Is Us. So I shaved and I got a phone call from wardrobe and they were like, ‘What do you want to wear?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know, I kind of feel like Jess is maybe a version of me. He’s a t-shirt kind of guy.’ They went, ‘Okay. Bring some stuff.’ So I literally brought my own clothes. (Laughs) I just showed up and I’m like, ‘I think this is Jess.’ And they’re like, ‘Great, cool, go for it. Here’s your lines. Here’s your scene.'”
On his reaction to being asked to participate in the new season:
“Amy and Dan as well as Warner Bros. were smart enough to go and attach everyone before it got out that they were doing this. [They] said, ‘Hey, we’re doing this, we’d love to have you. Do you want to be a part of it?”‘ And I think everyone answered yes. Everyone. And they got everyone. I stayed close with Dan and Amy for years, and to me, I was like, ‘Yeah, of course I’ll be there. Absolutely. I don’t care if I’m doing a movie in Tunisia, if I’m filming Star Wars wherever, I will show up for this, because I care about it.'”
On what he thought about the four seasons approach to the new installment:
“Taking a year in the life of these ladies and this town, I thought it was a really smart angle into a world that everyone already knew, and a way to reinvest in these characters… Amy and Dan, they have a way of writing this world that is unlike anyone or anything else. It is magic what they do. I know it wouldn’t have happened without them but also I couldn’t imagine it being anyone else. Ever.”
On what Sherman-Palladino pitched him about the new season — and where we will find Jess in the new episodes:
“For any of Jess’s shenanigans, he did have a very, very good heart. He wasn’t without sympathy, he wasn’t without kindness. He had all of that inside. He was just, you know, a little wounded when he was a kid and he had to grow out of it. I think he was always a guy that instigated or elicited a response — when he was younger, it was at the expense of someone else for his own entertainment, and as he got older, it was kind of speaking the truth. And that’s pretty much what Amy said to me that Jess was going to be doing this time around. He is there to spark some change in a few characters that maybe had fallen a little static.”
On the one cryptic tease he can offer:
“It’s never over.”