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An Interview with Alexis Bledel, 10.08.02 ...


The star of Disney's Tuck Everlasting discusses the film, her career and the Gilmore Girls.

Sitting at a breakfast table on the second floor of Toronto's Four Seasons Hotel, twenty-one-year-old actress Alexis Bledel looks tiny between the journalists on either side of her, almost a fragile figure, though beautifully so. The word bewitching comes to mind. She wears a white with black trim dress, which makes her look even more like her Tuck Everlasting character, Winnie Foster. And she's softly spoken. But then, it's early Sunday morning, and everyone's kind of on the quiet side. I move my microcassette recorder a little closer.

As Alexis talks with me and four journalists from the international press, one can see what director Jay Russell saw the first time he met with her. In an interview (which we will soon have for your perusal) Russell said Alexis was the first actress he saw for the part of Winnie, the young protagonist of Tuck Everlasting who meets a pleasant yet peculiar family living in the forest of her father's extensive property. In all sincerity, he wanted to cast her then and there. But, of course, in keeping with the process, Russell and his casting directors Mary Gail Artz and Barbara Coen auditioned hundreds of hopefuls for the part. And in the end, they confidently called on Ms. Bledel. Her looks are, as the Russell says, "so classic," it's as if she stepped right out of 1914.

Having performed since the age of eight in community theater, Alexis turned to modeling while in high school. As a freshman film student at New York University, she auditioned for and was cast in the WB TV series Gilmore Girls, which is currently in its third season. Tuck Everlasting, which opens this Friday, marks her theatrical debut.

Q: Had you read Tuck Everlasting before you got this script?

ALEXIS BLEDEL: No, I had never read it.

Q: Had you heard about it?

BLEDEL: I hadn't heard about it until I got the screenplay, and then I read the screenplay, and then when I got the part, I read the book.

Q: So you're older, aren't you, than she is in the book?

BLEDEL: Right, she's 10 in the book, and she's 15 in the movie, they made her a little older, so that ...

Q: For the love story interest?

BLEDEL: Yeah, so the love story would kind of play, make sense to people.

Q: You could joke around and say this is quite an older man you're swimming around with in this movie, because he's 104.

BLEDEL: Right, that's true.

Q: If you had the chance to drink the water -- in real life -- if you had the chance to live forever, would you take that chance? Why?

BLEDEL: No, I don't think so. The film kind of raises a lot of, you know, the darker side of being stuck in their situation. The different characters react to it differently. Jesse's character finds so much joy in being able to experience things over and over again, and take trips and see the world, with all the time he has. And then you have Miles' character, who is just tortured by the fact that he's around forever because he's lost his whole family. So I don't know, that kind of -- I don't think I would.

Q: You're from Houston, I'm from Houston.

BLEDEL: Are you? Go Texas!

Q: What happened to your Texas accent?

BLEDEL: I never had one, actually. It comes out when you get angry, or tired.

Q: Does it come out when you go home?

BLEDEL: Sometimes, yeah, when you're around a lot of people who have it, it can come out.

Q: How did you get from Houston to showbiz, to Hollywood?

BLEDEL: I went to college at NYU, and I was working there as a model, and I started auditioning for some pilots, around that time, and then I got the part on Gilmore Girls, and then to work on the show I had to move to L.A.

Q: What were you studying?

BLEDEL: I was a film major.

Q: So you had desires to go behind the camera?

BLEDEL: Yeah, I always thought that I would work behind the camera, because ... it's a more comfortable place for me to be, really.

Q: Why is that, you're very shy ... ?

BLEDEL: I'm not very shy ... it's just more comfortable, a more relaxed way to work. I think, I mean maybe not there, directors and writers have a lot of stress as well, because they have people they answer to.

Q: Compared to going to NYU and making student films, what did you learn on Tuck Everlasting?

BLEDEL: Well, I think every film student goes into film school thinking they want to write and direct their own movies, and they don't realize how much goes into it, and what a process it is. On Tuck I was able to see up close how much work it really is, and how it basically is a portion of your life that you basically devote to the project ... and it's sort of all-consuming and I didn't realize that ... there's no way you can really realize that, until you take a stab at it, you know?

Q: What about the character Winnie? Do you think that young teenage girls today can relate to that character? I mean, that type of period, family movie is not really the typical choice for ... teenage audiences when they go watch movies on weekends with their friends.

BLEDEL: I think the love story in the film -- it's a pretty universal desire, that people want to fall in love, and I think it's a pretty classic love story in this film, that will appeal to kids as well as adults. Besides that, I think that most teenagers can relate to Winnie, because she's sort of a timeless character in the sense that she just wants to escape the control of her parents, and I don't know any teenager that doesn't want that.

Q: Any fashion issues, with the clothing from 1914?

BLEDEL: The clothing was beautiful ...

Q: Did you wear corsets?

BLEDEL: Yeah, corsets ...

Q: How were they? How was that?

BLEDEL: It's helpful when transporting yourself back in time, but it's not practical, not comfortable, not great for climbing rocks and stuff that we do in this movie.

Q: What about -- not that there are any graphic love scenes or anything in this movie, obviously -- but there are kissing and love scenes, do you find that kind of stuff comfortable to do?

BLEDEL: No, it's very uncomfortable, because everyone -- it's your job, it's not romantic in any way, it's not personal, so it's just kind of, sort of ... sterile. A very sterile environment, everyone is standing around, doing their jobs ...

Q: A lot of people say it's very choreographed.

BLEDEL: It's very choreographed -- you have to tilt your head a certain way so that the camera can see both of you and you have to stay in the frame. It's more about hitting your mark with your feet, standing in the right spot, and saying the right lines.

Q: Do you have any thought of -- you don't have a boyfriend ... who'd be jealous about you sharing those kinds of intimate ...

BLEDEL: I think it's a job, and anyone ... will understand that it's a job, because it's a job.

Q: It's a job you love, obviously.

BLEDEL: Yeah ...

Q: You were the first person the director saw for the role (of Winnie Foster in Tuck Everlasting), and you got the role? That's extraordinary, isn't it? Does that happen often?

BLEDEL: I think it just happened by chance, I was just in the right place at the right time and it's just the way it worked out. And Jay (Russell, director) thought it was kind of funny, too, he said, "You don't hire the first person you meet. That's just not what you do, you meet other people."

Q: Did you do any research at all for the period, or had you thought that was irrelevant?

BLEDEL: I've seen so many period pieces in my life, I really enjoy them so much, a lot of my favorite movies are period pieces.

Q: Like what?

BLEDEL: Like Wings of the Dove, that's a big favorite -- and all of my favorite children's movies were also period pieces ... The Secret Garden, The Little Princess.

Q: Do you think there's room in this cynical, post-September 11 world for a movie like Tuck Everlasting?

BLEDEL: I think a movie like Tuck Everlasting is very timely, considering the anniversary of September 11, because I think that it's a movie filled with hope, and it is literally a film about life and death, and making the best of your life no matter how long it is, even if it's cut short, as long as you live it to the best, to the fullest then you're doing your thing and life is great.

Q: The film has wonderful actors -- William Hurt, Sissy Spacek. Could you talk about working with Victor Garber, though ... as far as the father-daughter relationship. I've always thought he was great.

BLEDEL: Yeah, he's phenomenal, he's done so many great things. He's a very sweet guy and he was going back and forth between New York and Baltimore a lot, and it was fun working with him. He and Amy would joke around about what the parents' relationship would have been like, if it was such a sterile environment in their house, and just very strict ... I mean, how much of a relationship could there have really been? In the original script, there was a nice scene between Winnie and her father, where her mother was the really strict one, and her father actually gave her a little room to play it, and was on her sides sometimes and would bring her gifts from town, and indulge her a little bit, but they took that out, for whatever reason, there wasn't room in the film.

Q: Did Ben Kingsley regale you with stories? He's not one to be shy about talking.

BLEDEL: He has a lot of great stories, and he did share some with us, but he's very professional on the set. When he's on the set, he's working. But he's had a chance to travel around in his life, had a very interesting life.

Q: The author's still alive, is she not? Did you get to speak to her at all?

BLEDEL: Yes, she visited the set in Baltimore a couple times and brought her grandchildren and her family. Yeah, I talked to her a bit.

Q: She mentioned that the man that Ben Kingsley plays was an actual person that she knew in her life.

BLEDEL: Really?

Q: I mean, what the heck kind of a guy was that?

BLEDEL: That she knew as a child?

Q: She knew him in her life, is what she says.

BLEDEL: That's pretty bizarre.

Q: It would be weird, and almost like a predator.

BLEDEL: He's scary, yeah.

Q: Have you read any of her other books?

BLEDEL: No, I haven't, I would love to, though.

Q: You talked about Victor Garber being your father and all that, but in one sense, William Hurt is more of a father to you in the movie -- he talks to you more, he's kinder to you, we have more scenes with you and Hurt. Do you get intimidated when you first start working with William Hurt? I mean, he's done everything, he's an Academy Award-winning actor, and there's such intimate scenes between you. Do you have to get to know him, before you start working with him, or you just started working with him?

BLEDEL: Well, I think that a lot of times when you're working on a film, there aren't really opportunities to get to know all the people you have to work with. I think you just kind of take what you do know about them and, but it's not really the person, the actor himself ... it's the character, and you just play the scene out. I just kind of wing it, most of the time.

Q: Were you surprised with Gilmore Girls, the kind of success [it's had]; it's a very sweet story about mother and daughter basically, and here it's taken off quite successfully ... as well, as that allowed you, afforded you opportunities that you didn't think you were bound to get?

BLEDEL: Yeah, definitely. It's definitely given me a lot of opportunities. I guess I was sort of surprised, but I hadn't had any prior experience with television, so I didn't really know what to expect, so to me, this is normal. But, I guess it's not always the way it works out, so I think we're very lucky. I think there must have been a need for that kind of programming at the time, for it to pick up so much, for something that mothers and daughter could watch together. Something about single moms, I guess there aren't that many shows about people in that situation, and something so common in our society, which is kind of surprising that there isn't more of it (on television). I think a lot of people are picking up on it now, and making more about it.

Q: You're going into your third season, right?

BLEDEL: Yes, this is our third year.

Q: Is your character going to undergo some changes?

BLEDEL: Yeah, she's in the process of applying to Harvard, she's very excited about that. It's her last year of high school, and she's trying to figure out her situation with the guys in her life.

Q: There are two guys in her life ...

BLEDEL: Yeah, she was a little confused for a moment there, she's figuring it out this season.

Q: Could you relate to that?

BLEDEL: Not that situation, I can't say that I've ever had two guys fawning over me.

Q: Do you have any input into that at all?

BLEDEL: No, I don't. They come up with the stories, and we act them out.

Q: If something doesn't work, are you able to say, 'Can we try this instead?' Or 'I don't think she would say that."

BLEDEL: Sometimes -- it's more me asking for a way for it to make sense. ... Amy, the creator of the show, likes to keep things pretty much the way she likes them ...

Q: Is it easy for you -- it's not that long ago since you were obviously a teenager -- is it easy for you in both Gilmore Girls and this to hop back to your adolescence?

BLEDEL: I think there's so much to play in adolescence, there's so many conflicting things happening and so many changes, and there's just a lot of good stuff to play there, as an actor.

Q: What about with Gilmore?

BLEDEL: Same thing, really. I mean, she's growing up and I like the character a lot, and I'm kind of glad that I get to play a character for so long that I like so much, because it's interesting to see her kind of branch out ... see what she can do.

Q: Do you relate to her?

BLEDEL: In some ways, I mean, she's a little more of a planner than I am. She's very careful, and studious, and I don't know I guess in some ways, I can ...

Q: What about the bond with her mother?

BLEDEL: Yeah, I have good relationships with my parents, and that sense I can relate ... but she has a very unique bond with her mother ...

Q: Best friends, really.

BLEDEL: Yeah, they're best friends, and they're so close in age, that makes it unique as well.

Q: There's a lot of humor in that relationship, does that translate off set when you're working together?

BLEDEL: Yeah, Lauren's hilarious, she definitely keeps us laughing on the set.

Q: You only have a certain window to work on anything outside ...

BLEDEL: Right, I have a hiatus.

Q: So are you very selective in what you do doing that hiatus, or is it basically the best of what's available to someone your age at that time?

BLEDEL: Yeah, it's whatever character interests me, that I have the option of playing. Yeah, I just want to look for something pretty different from the last two roles that I've played so far, for my next one.

Q: What else are you looking for?

BLEDEL: Maybe just ... something a little more involved or complicated a person, because I think the characters I've played have very definite goals, and very definite obstacles, which I guess is what actually makes a great character to play, because there's so much to do, but ... maybe someone a little more messed up might be fun.

Q: Have you worked on anything else since Tuck, except for the show, any other movies?

BLEDEL: This is it.

Q: Are you trying to at least do one every hiatus?

BLEDEL: It's kind of hard to do that, because the schedule that we keep on Gilmore Girls is so strenuous, it's really a difficult, all-consuming schedule, and it's nine months out of the year, and so I took my second hiatus off, because I needed the time to kind of disconnect, and relax.

Q: Where do you shoot?

BLEDEL: We shoot it in Los Angeles.

Q: It's looks so -- Connecticut-like.

BLEDEL: Yeah, we have the whole town built on the lot.

Q: It's a very Norman Rockwell existence, that town. Do you think that that small-town Americana really exists?

BLEDEL: Yeah, definitely. It's actually based on a place where the creator of our show, Amy, went to visit one summer, and she was driving through, and she just couldn't believe it, she was incredulous -- the festivals and the people she encountered, and she said, "There's a story here." And she wrote it.

Q: Regarding Gilmore Girls, regarding another American T.V. character -- it's been 15 years since the character Murphy Brown decided to have a baby as a single mom, and it was a political problem, it was a real big deal, in that way, Gilmore Girls is kind of like the next step ... had her child, raising her, the show's critically acclaimed ... really strong viewership as well. Ironically, I think most people feel that ... we're really living in a very, very conservative time -- so what do you relating to with Gilmore Girls? Do you think they're bucking a trend? Or helping opening people's horizons, tolerance about that there's many different kinds of families, not that classic nuclear family like the '50s?

BLEDEL: Yeah, I think they're just tapping into something that is very common in our society now, that a lot of people can relate to. What a lot of people say to me -- most of the people who approach me about the program are either daughters or mothers and they say that they either have a relationship just like the one on the show or that they would love to have a relationship just like the one on the show. I think that's our main audience, and then a lot of other people have been able to appreciate Amy's writing and all the other characters that she has incorporated into the story, as well.

Q: Is this your first visit to Toronto?

BLEDEL: No, we filmed our pilot in Toronto, actually.

Q: Oh, really. Why did they decide to move it back -- economics?

BLEDEL: Yeah ... I'm not sure why the decision was made, I think it had to do something with everyone on the show wanted to live there, it would have been a big thing ...

Q: So how do you find dealing with film festivals?

BLEDEL: It's fun, I've never been to a film festival before, and it's pretty different.

Q: Are you going to try and see any movies while you're here?

BLEDEL: I have very little time, I just flew in on the red-eye on Friday, and I have to go back on Monday, and go back to work on Gilmore Girls.

Q: You already started shooting this season?

BLEDEL: Yeah, we've been back for about a month.

Q: What kind of music do you listen to? What's the last couple CDs you bought?

BLEDEL: Last couple CDs -- Ben Harper and what else, lots of good stuff. I like older stuff, too, lots of Beatles, Bob Marley. I'm a weird one, well, that's not weird, everyone likes The Beatles.

Q: You appreciate The Beatles?

BLEDEL: I think most people my age actually do, for some reason. I think it's like a college thing, going through like the punk stage -- I like punk rock, too. Just the music, not ...

Q: You haven't actually thought of shaving your head and being a rebel, that sort of thing?

BLEDEL: I don't take it that far, I can appreciate the music without shaving my head.

Q: Have you looked at any scripts that might have that kind of edge you're looking for?

BLEDEL: Yeah, I haven't found the right one yet, but I'm definitely looking through to find it.

Q: Will [your Gilmore Girls character] go to Harvard during the course of the series?

BLEDEL: You know, they don't tell me that stuff. I wish I could tell you, but they don't tell us what's going to happen.

Q: How far ahead do they tell you?

BLEDEL: Just the episode that we're going to shoot, really. I know she's applying to Harvard.

Q: Do you get letters from young girls saying, "I'd like to be like you? What's your best advice?" Do you think like that, and how do you respond, what's your best way to respond?

BLEDEL: I don't know ... a lot of girls ask for advice on how to get into acting, and I'm kind of the worst person to ask, because it just kind of fell in my lap ... I was just in the right place at the right time. But, that's not good advice to give them, because they don't like to hear that, that's not encouraging to hear at all.

Q: Tell them the place and the time ...

BLEDEL: I know, exactly.

Q: Do you like being a role model? I mean, is that okay with you?

BLEDEL: I don't really see myself that way. If other people want to call me that, it's fine, but I ... never formed the responsibility, or took it on at any point.
Credit: IGN.com


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