Gilmore Girl Power, 05.01.02 ...
Let's face it: We all wish we were best friends with our moms the way Rory is with Lorelai. But what's the real story behind TV's coolest mother-daughter combo? Seventeen spent a day on the Gilmore Girls set with Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel to find out what really makes them click.
Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel are seated at a table on a southern California soundstage, rehearsing one of those quick-paced and spirited conversations that have made their Gilmore Girls characters famous. Today's subject? Jealous boyfriends and sugar hangovers. OK, so they aren't your ordinary mother-daughter topics. In their roles as single mom Lorelai and her 16-year-old daughter Rory, Lauren and Alexis indulge in constant boy talk and trade endless pop culture references on The WB's hit series. These fast-talking gals manager to make high school traumas, broken hearts and family squabbles seem, well, like fun. Even their frequent discussions about the joy of Chinese takeout and their self-declared addictions to coffee are stuff we can actually relate to. But what we really love about Rory and Lorelai is their extremely tight, it's-us-against-the-world-type bond that we all dream of having with our mothers.
So what's the secret to creating that envy-inducing alliance? "They like the same junk food," jokes Lauren. We think there's more to it. Usually, Rory and Lorelai behave just like friends. Want proof? Lorelai can identify each member of Destiny's Child and would understand -- maybe even join in -- debates over whether Rory should date nice boy Dean or rebel Jess. In typical Gilmore fashion, bookworm Rory has a more serious take than her quirky TV mother does on what makes their relationship unique: "It's really about their friendship," says 20-year-old Alexis. "They are best friends first, and mother and daughter second."
As we watch Alexis and Lauren practice lines and talk quietly between takes, it seems they have great chemistry even when cameras aren't rolling. "We find each other really funny," says Lauren during a break between scenes. Need evidence? To lighten up their grueling 16-hour workdays, the stars often make up silly rap lyrics or start talking in weird voices. "I have this character called Caveman that I do for Alexis sometimes," continues the 35-year-old actress. "My face goes blank, and I wipe a paw at her head. It always makes her laugh."
But Alexis and Lauren's relationship goes beyond just creating skits to pass time. While Lauren's long acting career has included guest-starring roles on Caroline in the City and Seinfeld, Alexis -- who has modeled since age 14 -- had no previous acting experience. "Lauren was great at showing me the ropes right from the start," says Alexis. "She's respected my space, letting me do my own thing without offering too much advice. But she's always there if I ask for help." Hmmm, sounds a bit like Lorelai's brand of parenting as well.
Of course, Lauren isn't the only mother in Alexis' life. "I'm very close to my mom," says Alexis as she leads us into the Gilmore living room to chat. "We have much more of a traditional mother-daughter relationship," says the native Texan. "But we can talk about almost anything." As Alexis' modeling career took off, her mother accompanied Alexis on photo shoots to New York City, Tokyo and Milan. "I realized how dedicated she was," says Alexis. "My mom had put her life on hold to be with me. It made me want to do anything I could for her."
And she has. One recent Mother's Day, Alexis surprised her mother by flying back to her parents' home in Houston. "I could only stay for two days, but the expression on her face when she saw me made the trip entirely worth it," Alexis says.
Lauren's childhood gave her a different perspective. When she was five her parents split and Lauren, an only child, was raised in McLean, Virginia, by her single father (he remarried when Lauren was in high school). "I didn't grow up with my mom," says the actress who's sitting in her trailer amid piles of clothes and magazines. (It looks like Lauren is just as messy as her character!) "My parents got married very young, and my mom was a very artistic person who decided to explore her life." Meanwhile, living with Dad meant lots of independence. "My father was really supportive, but he wasn't ultra-involved. He didn't always know where I was or who I was with, but I was a pretty good kid," she says. Her high school theater community became her second family, and at 17 she knew acting would be her future. "I was one of those kids who was constantly at rehearsals," says Lauren. "I've always been very focused and ambitious."
Today Lauren is in touch with her mother, who now lives in London. "It's been important for me to have a relationship with her. She's a really smart, beautiful and charismatic person," Lauren says. "Rather than think about the past all the time and why she wasn't around, I try to focus on this person who helped bring me into the world and see what I can learn from her." Sounds like Lauren is as cool and understanding as Lorelai. "My stepmom was more like a friend," she says. "I was old enough when she and my dad got married that no one was going to say, 'This is your new mommy.'"
Playing a single mother on TV has given Lauren insight into her parents. "Having a child requires unconditional love," she says. "I've come as close to understanding that as I can without getting pregnant and wrecking our production schedule." So what kind of mom does Lauren think she'll be one day? "I have an impossible task -- I could never be as cool as Lorelai. But I'm sure Carol Brady had that problem, too."
As for Alexis, she has gained some perspective on being a teen. "Adolescence is a hard time -- you're pretty self-consumed while you try to figure yourself out," she says. "Parents do their best to help. It's important for mothers to begin treating their daughters as the adults they've become. That's when you can form a real friendship."
Like real mothers and daughters, Lauren and Alexis respect each other as people and realize their boundaries. "We don't really hang out after work," says Alexis. "If we did, we'd be together all the time."
Lauren also admits it can be hard to keep that bond going strong: "It's like any other chemistry," she says. "We don't know exactly what it is, but we're lucky it really works." Hey, maybe there's something to their love of junk food after all.
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