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Girls Going Gray, 2.07.04 ...

KELLY Bishop and Edward Herrmann are engaged in lunchtime banter on the Warner Bros. lot, and it's no less entertaining then their marital sparring on "Gilmore Girls." At this moment the actors, Tony Award winners both, are sharing tips on the theater.

"A wonderful actor taught me you have 10 seconds, maybe 15, to convince the audience that you're worth watching," Herrmann said. "Then they can relax, they're in good hands, you're not going to mess up."

That still leaves room for audience gaffes; let Bishop and Herrmann count the ways.

"Standing-ovation mania. I can't bear it," Bishop said. "What do you do when it's special?"

"'God, honey, they remembered their lines. Stand!'" Herrmann says, mimicking an overeager theatergoer.

"We should put a program note saying, 'Please do not stand unless we are exceptional,' " Bishop suggests.

More than polite applause seems called for when it comes to their WB series, airing 8 p.m. Tuesdays (Ch. 11) - but it's not unusual for the Gilmore parents to steal the show.

Herrmann and Bishop rely on their experience to make the most of the lengthy 75- to 80-page scripts, stuffed with the kind of witty, rapid-fire dialogue that belonged to 1930s screwball comedies.

"The king and queen of my life," series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino said of the pair.

The imposing, 6-foot-5 Herrmann plays Richard, an imposing, WASP-y New England businessman who's used to being in charge but cedes command of the house and social schedule to acerbic wife Emily, played by Bishop.

Acerbic - and estranged - describes their daughter Lorelai (Lauren Graham), who cut ties with her parents when she became a teenage single mom.

She later established an uneasy truce to gain their help in ensuring an Ivy League education for daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel).

For Bishop, 59, the part of the elegant Emily was a welcome break from the "tootsies and low-class girls" she'd felt locked into, although she occasionally played traditional wives or mothers. Her films include "Dirty Dancing" and "Wonder Boys."

Herrmann, 60, made his first series commitment with "Gilmore Girls."

But he's long familiar to viewers through TV movies, series guest appearances (a 1999 Emmy-winning turn on "The Practice") and as an in-demand documentary narrator and host.

His extensive film credits include "The Emperor's Club" and "The Cat's Meow."

He's also in the upcoming "The Aviator" from director Martin Scorsese.

"I wanted to do WB because your audience gets old," Herrmann said over a pasta lunch. "You've got to reinvent yourself."

That the veteran actors are part of an adamantly youth-infatuated network is a tribute to Sherman-Palladino, who's also an executive producer on "Gilmore Girls."

"I believe what got the show on the air and kept it on is the family relationship, that mother and father," she said.

"Without having that dynamic, without those stellar performances and those actors, I don't believe 'Gilmore' would have made it."
Credit: New York Post Online Edition

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