Kelly Bishop Confirms That Returning to Gilmore Girls Was Pure "Heaven"
When Netflix announced that it was dusting off Gilmore Girls for a four-part reboot, the show's devoted fans just about lost their damn minds. The internet was almost instantly abuzz with heady theories regarding Rory's (Alexis Bledel) love life, what creator Amy Sherman-Palladino's infamous last four words for the series will be, and deep analyses of the recently released trailers. Despite viewers practically champing at the bit at this point to see the Gilmore girls make their triumphant return on Friday, they still don't hold a candle to Kelly Bishop. "It's heaven to be back," she said of returning to the show, looking just as polished and elegant as Emily Gilmore ever has while sitting in a hotel room overlooking Central Park. "It was like going home."
That sentiment seems to resonate with a lot of devoted fans, who view Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life as less an exercise in nostalgia and more a chance for closure for the beloved characters they were forced to say goodbye to nine years ago. They're happy to go home to Stars Hollow, even if it's for the last time. Surprising as it may be, Bishop revealed that not everyone was as on board with continuing the Gilmores' story, at least at first. "I had actually been pressuring Amy Sherman-Palladino for years to see if we could do a movie of it, all the way back to maybe the second year we were off the air," Bishop said. "I think that Warner Brothers was a little loath to do it. I don't think they quite understood what they had. I think they thought it was another teenage show, like all the other teenage shows. But it started to develop a following."
Sitting across from Bishop, clad in a silky black, bedazzled blouse (the most tasteful bedazzling you could possibly imagine, I should add) and with the subtle curls her character is known for, she looks just like Emily, only slightly softer. The voice is the same, the razor-sharp look in her eye is the same, but the near-giggle she lets out while recalling a federal judge who used to demand his employees not bother him while he watched Gilmore Girls each week is a reminder that the two couldn't be more different. "Emily is just so unpleasant. Sassy is a nicer way to put it," she said. "She's so outspoken and so snobbish. To me, she has so many things wrong with her, things that I don't like in women. When I get a character like that, I like to really work it and make her as thoroughly unpleasant as possible, because I want to play them as awful as they can be. Somehow I've managed — and I didn't do this on purpose — to make her sympathetic. People don't hate me as much as I thought they would."
If fans felt for Emily before, as she nitpicked her rocky relationship with daughter Lorelai and spoke in constant snark, the new episodes certainly seem to hint that we'll see a more vulnerable side to the character. Each episode is designated a different season, and we'll pick up with Emily in Winter, six months after Richard (actor Edward Herrmann, who passed away in 2014) has died. All of the Gilmore girls grapple with the fallout of his death (Bishop calls Herrmann's absence from the show "a real emptiness"), but Emily is obviously hit the hardest. "Emily is just groping around trying to find her way with dignity, with complete confusion," she said. "She's not acting confused, but she is confused. She doesn't know where to go or what to do. As she says in one scene, 'We were married for 50 years, half of me is gone.' We watch her find her way, whatever her way is. It might not be somebody else's way, and some of it's a little weird, but of course it is. It's Amy Sherman-Palladino!"
The most recently released trailer hints at a whole new Emily, showing her getting rid of all of her belongings à la Marie Kondo and dressed in, wait for it, jeans. The character's edge isn't all gone, though. Bishop notes that when we first see Emily, her connection with Lorelai is as strained as ever, which will be explained in a flashback to Richard's funeral. Their relationship has "taken on a more mature dysfunction" rather than mellowing over the years, but what else could we expect from the Gilmores? Their Stars Hollow alter egos notwithstanding, Bishop lights up while talking about her onscreen daughter. "Just the thought of getting back together and working with Lauren, I'm really crazy about Lauren," she said. "We really love each other, both as actors and as people. That is a joy."
When you think about it, "joy" is probably the best word to sum up Gilmore Girls, isn't it? Pure, caffeinated, pop-culture-saturated joy.