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Graham Moves Easily from TV to Movies, 11.27.03 ...

"Does she really talk that fast in person?"

The "she" is Lauren Graham, 36, the actress who plays Lorelai Gilmore, the single mother of college freshman Rory on TV's "Gilmore Girls."

The answer is "yes" and "no." Yes, she talks fast on the show and gave answers in rat-a-tat style during recent guest appearance on David Letterman's "Late Show." But no, she speaks at a normal rate when doing a telephone interview. Yes, by the end of two days of questions and answers from print and television journalists, the actress could be hoarse and certainly lacking in the ability to clip out her answers. But no, she isn't.

The talk question doesn't faze her. In fact, she laughs a little when asked. Still, Graham doesn't label her speech "chattering." She says, "The show is sound-specific. It has a specific rhythm and humor." Part of the rapid-fire repartee comes from the fact, the actress says, "that we (Alexis Bledel as Rory) really like each other."

Expect neither machine-gun dialogue delivery nor a big-screen version of Lorelai in her latest film, "Bad Santa," which is in multiplexes across the country. For starters, Sue, her character in the movie, has been downsized from Lorelai's inn manager to bartender. Sue jumps in bed at a casual suggestion from Billy Bob Thornton's Willie, where Lorelai has engaged in little sex in the four seasons of "Gilmore Girls," most of it with the man who fathered Rory.

Calling Sue "a good-time girl" elicits a laugh from the series star, who adds that is a charitable assessment. Personally, the actress describes her character as "a woman who goes from the gut and isn't very analytical about life." Yet, as time passes in the film, the character emerges as a woman with motherly instincts.

On the series, there has been a long-simmering romance between Luke, the town cafe owner, and Graham's character. The actress says, "It's starting to turn a little bit. I think Lorelai is in denial about what she feels about Luke." But don't expect the romance to come to a boil this year. That is all Graham will reveal, although fans can expect "progress."

"Gilmore Girls," on the WB network, has never been the breakout hit of "Friends" or "Everybody Loves Raymond." Despite a loyal following, the show rated a TV Guide cover more than a year ago that identified it as "the best show you're not watching." Even her Golden Globe nomination and Screen Actors Guild Award have failed to make much change on public visibility.

That suits Graham, although it means she still must audition for roles. "I love auditioning," she says. As for the lack of celebrity, that suits her fine, too. "It's all about the work."

As a child growing up in Northern Virginia, Graham's great interest was horseback riding. But she recalls a little play she did in elementary school and, more significantly, her dad reading Dickens to her, which drew her to theater.

Then she went to Barnard College in New York state, became a member of an a cappella choir and started doing theater. "The horses faded," she admits as she tackled nightclub singer Reno Sweeney in "Anything Goes" and the title role in "Hello, Dolly!"

Before graduation, with several summer-stock credits on her resume, the fledgling actress had made the decision that the acting life was for her and enrolled in the master's program at Dallas' Southern Methodist University, receiving a scholarship. Degree in hand, she opted for Los Angeles, where she landed a role in TV's "Caroline in the City." Parts quickly followed on "NewsRadio," "Law & Order," "Conrad Bloom" and "M.Y.O.B."

"Bad Santa" is far from her motion-picture debut. Graham played opposite Keanu Reeves in "Sweet November," but it was a flop that few saw. So was the thriller "Nightwatch," in which she appeared with Ewan McGregor, and "One True Thing," in spite of the presence of Oscar-winner Meryl Streep and her role as Renee Zellweger's best friend.

Then there was the Australian comedy "Chasing Destiny," barely seen in this country.

Still, part of Graham's heart remains with theater - so much so that unlike TV stars who opt for making movies on their hiatus, she chose to accept a role in a revival of "Once in a Lifetime" at the prestigious Williamstown, Mass., Theater Festival in 2002.

Sure, Graham is a TV star, but without the trappings. The luxury of a Beverly Hills mansion fails to appeal. "I don't have a honking-big house. I'd rather have a small one and a place in New York." And she does.

Nor does the actress strive for the big money of blockbuster movies. "Bad Santa" is relatively low-budget. So is the flick she made on last summer's hiatus, "Seeing Other People." Says Graham, "It's an independent movie starring Jay Mohr and Josh Charles. I'm Josh's love interest."
Credit: The Post-Standard

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