When people talk about “Gilmore Girls,” much attention is paid to the BFF mother-daughter relationship between its central characters, Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. But it’s that other mother-daughter relationship that provides some of the best moments in Netflix’s revival of the series.
“Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” further delves into the damaged relationship between Lorelai and her mother, Emily (played by Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop, respectively). The tension between Emily, a wealthy mother of a certain generation and class, and her single-mother daughter was a key component in the original series. And that tension comes to a head in the revival, following the death of family patriarch Richard Gilmore (who was played by the late Edward Herrmann).
(For those who have yet to gobble up the four new installments of the Netflix-rebooted show from wife-and-husband duo Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino,warning, minor spoilers ahead.)
The first episode includes a brutal kitchen showdown between Lorelai and Emily that no la-la-la-la musical interlude can help ease.
“It was such a hard scene because it was painful,” Graham told The Times. “And it was challenging because it meant so much to me and, sometimes when you’re in those kind of scenes, it’s not easy to access. Ed was so important to me. Kelly’s so important to me. The scene is so important. Where we are in that journey of healing sounds macabre in some ways, but I wanted to honor him in some way in the story.”
Added Graham: “Kelly is just such a force. That relationship is very real to me and it’s not my relationship with Kelly. It wasn’t my relationship with my mother. It’s not my relationship with anybody, but it feels as real as if I was in it as a non-actor. And Kelly and I had a more challenging scene toward the end, so I was thinking about where it goes. It was such an emotional experience. There was a lot of healing for Lorelai and Emily.”
Herrmann died in 2014 at age 71 after a battle with brain cancer.
“It was inevitable that it was going to affect what went on,” Graham said. “It was a very real loss to us all and to be back in that house without him just crossed lines creatively and emotionally — never mind that these scenes are beautifully written and the conflict is really high.”
The conflict between Emily and Lorelai also leads to some interesting mother-daughter therapy sessions. “Those were fun because sometimes it’s what’s not said that has the most power,” Graham said. “And for a show where there is nonstop talking, it was a nice change that Amy and Dan weren’t afraid for there to be some silence and let there be a different pace.”
As for the larger-than-life painting of Richard that Emily has commissioned for her home, Graham said it provided for an emotional sense of comfort.
“I was like paralyzed for a minute the first time we walked on that set,” Graham recalled. “It was hard to look at that portrait because it’s so big and it was a bit eerie.
“But Kelly actually sat us down and she spoke to him,” Graham continued, while fighting back tears. “She said, ‘We know you’re here Ed. Send us a signal.’ The whole thing was full of that. Like full of that. I stopped after awhile, it was so emotional that I was like, ‘Guys, guys, we’ve just got to order lunch or something.’”