Read my recap of the Bunheads and Hannibal panels here.
Enormous thanks to my partner in crime Mandy Jeronimus for providing the video and working the red carpet!
All photos by Waytao Shing, Jack Plunkett and Mandy Jeronimus.
Amy Sherman-Palladino's Gilmore Girls went off the air eight years ago, unexpectedly and with little fanfare from The CW. Since then it's only grown in popularity, with impassioned fans discussing it endlessly online (I did a rewatch of the entire series for Forever Young Adult here). Last year, all seven seasons were finally released on Netflix Instant for the first time, and Gilmore Girls' audience grew exponentially. This year, ATX Television Festival gathered together Sherman-Palladino, her husband and co-producer Daniel Palladino, and fifteen of its most beloved castmembers for a reunion of this show that has been so incredibly important to so many people.
But first: the festival surprised fans at its annual Friday Night Lights tailgate and outdoor screening at San Jose Hotel with a reunion of Hep Alien, Stars Hollow's best band. Sebastian Bach (Gil) is on tour, so the real Dave Rygalski stood in for him! (Newbies: Dave Rygalski's a cherished character played by Adam Brody, a Season 3 love interest for Keiko Agena's Lane. He's named after the husband of producer and Sherman-Palladino bestie Helen Pai, whose name is an anagram for Hep Alien). Also in attendance: Agena, Todd Lowe (Zack) and John Cabrera (Brian). They played their set in character, and it was legitimately one of the most charming, adorable things I've ever seen. They closed with a cover of Gilmore Girls' theme song, "If You Lead" by Carole King, and most of the audience was moved to tears. It was a really special experience, one that will probably never be re-created. You can watch the entire gig here.
And then, the following evening, we were treated to the series reunion, held in a packed Paramount theatre, with a line around several blocks. You can watch almost the entire panel here, or keep reading for my recap and a few choice clips.
In attendance: Amy Sherman-Palladino, Daniel Palladino, Lauren Graham (Lorelai), Alexis Bledel (Rory), Kelly Bishop (Emily), Scott Patterson (Luke), Keiko Agena (Lane), Liza Weil (Paris), Milo Ventimiglia (Jess), Danny Strong (Doyle), Jared Padalecki (Dean), Matt Czuchry (Logan), Jackson Douglas (Jackson), Todd Lowe (Zack), Liz Torres (Miss Patty), Yanic Truesdale (Michel) and John Cabrera (Brian). Presumably Melissa McCarthy (Sookie) was busy with Spy duties; Sean Gunn (Kirk) was filming a movie.
They kicked it off with a very warm red carpet.
The panel began with just Amy, Lauren, Alexis and Kelly - as it should be. They started by speaking about the casting of the core three Gilmore gals. The most striking part of this conversation is how much Lauren and Alexis feel like Lorelai and Rory, and how much they clearly all truly love one another.
Other key tidbits from this portion of the panel:
Amy: "I had just decided I was never going to work in television again, and my husband said, 'just write something.'" They took a vacation to Connecticut and stayed in a lovely inn, and she wrote the kitchen scene of the pilot on the inn's stationary - and also decided the main character, later named Lorelai, would run a Connecticut inn. Of writing the inn, "I should find it, and see if it brings me joy."
Kelly, on her casting: "I don't like to audition. I don't think I audition very well." Amy: "You're wrong." Kelly, shrugging, "Maybe I'm wrong."
Alexis admitted that she didn't really understand blocking for the first season of Gilmore Girls, since it was her first real acting job, and Lauren had to move her around in relation to the camera. Lauren: "You can watch me do a lot of manhandling of Alexis in early scenes. I think that's a lot of what they were seeing when everyone was like, 'Oh, they have instant chemistry.' A lot of that is just me, like, mauling Alexis."
Amy: "I knew from the pilot that we had the show. I knew from the dinner table scene."
Before opening the panel up to the rest of the cast, Amy Sherman-Palladino gave a touching goodbye to Gilmore patriarch Ed Herrmann (Richard), who passed away on December 31st. "He was the first one to say he'd be at this panel...I'm so lucky I got to hear him say my words." Everyone onstage teared up; everyone in the audience teared up. She put together a wonderful collection of Richard clips culminating with a montage set to "Marry Me, Bill," a song important to any Gilmore Girls fan. When they pulled up the screen to reveal the stage, it was adorned with signs from Stars Hollow, like Luke's and Miss Patty's Dance Studio. After everyone sat down, there was one seat left on the end. Amy: "And a seat for Ed."
So Jared Padalecki is Team Jess. Milo Ventimiglia is Team Dean. Alexis Bledel abstained from the question. Apparently no one (except me) is Team Logan, because even Matt Czruchy agreed with Ventimiglia that "Logan's kind of a dick." But Scott Patterson had the best, and most perfectly Luke, answer: "I think I have the final word on this. None of them were good enough for Rory."
Here's a roundup of where all the actors said their characters would end up. Liza Weil and Keiko Agena had the best answers. Liza: "I like to think Paris and Doyle are still together. They're just well matched. I hope that they're supporting each other and just taking over the fucking world, man." Danny Strong concurred. Keiko: "I think Lane's figuring out what kind of mom she wants to be. I think she wants to be Lorelai, but in her heart, she's really Mrs. Kim."
On the same day he auditioned for Luke on Gilmore Girls, Scott Patterson auditioned for a Carmen Elektra fembot movie. Amy: "I would watch that every day."
They talked about how long they waited to write Rory's virginity loss into the show, with The WB apparently pressuring them to hurry it along. "What is she, a nun?" Daniel Palladino was clearly uncomfortable with the talk, and Amy chimed in, "We still tell Dan Rory hasn't had sex yet."
Of not knowing where the show would take her, Amy: "I don't let a lot of people tell me what to do, but the show did." Of the four final words Amy wrote for the series that we've never gotten to hear, and which have turned into something of a mystery box for Gilmore fans: "On my death bed, it'll be like Rosebud." She admits she's just being a jerk keeping them to herself now. On whether there will ever be a reunion movie or series, Amy was pretty doubtful, but did say, "Here's the thing, no one here hates each other. And that's what's important...If it ever happens, I promise we'll do it right."
On whether she has any regrets of any stories she told on Gilmore Girls, as the audience was clearly all thinking (and some were saying) "April," Amy replied firmly, "NONE." On the best kind of storytelling, a lesson she learned on the "incredible training ground" as a writer on Roseanne, "Make the small big and the big small."
Amy Sherman-Palladino (who does most of the talking in all of her panels - those Gilmore girls come by it honestly) wrapped it up by saying, "You get one. At least I got this. There's no way I'll top this."
No one will. Thanks for Gilmore Girls, Amy, and thanks for this reunion, ATX. We're incredibly lucky to have both.