Emily Gilmore, a passionate yet difficult woman and mother to the equally difficult Lorelei Gilmore, was not an easy character to portray; that is unless you are Kelly Bishop. The veteran actress took to the role of Emily Gilmore as though it were already embedded in her bones and she had fans convinced that she was the mother of a daughter whom she could never control. The relationship between mother and daughter was always strained and with each new episode fans could see the pain of both parties involved, but none more convincing than Kelly Bishop’s.
The younger generation of fans may not have the same kind of appreciation for all Bishop has accomplished in her varied career and still has yet to accomplish, but they can appreciate the dedication and passion she brought to the role of one Mrs. Emily Gilmore. Kelly Bishop took some time out of her busy schedule to speak with us about her experiences both on “Gilmore Girls” and with her dedicated fans.
BECCA ROSE: “Gilmore Girls” was the kind of show that really helped a lot of mother-daughter relationships; what was it like working on such a unique but often inspiring show?
KELLY BISHOP: Well it was astonishing because the writing was so good, which is what struck me initially when I read the pilot script. I was quite charmed by the juxtaposition of the two different kinds of relationships somebody can have with their mother-and-or daughter. I was thinking about it before I actually found myself talking to people who’d seen the show .I thought “this is going to be very helpful” in terms of mothers and daughters watching the show together and possibly getting a different idea of how to relate to one another instead of just yelling and screaming which is usually what happens between teenagers and their mothers. And it was rather inspiring because there was a genuine sweetness to the show which is interesting in that the show was very quirky and kind of skewed, a little odd, a little off. When you look at the basic show itself including the opening titles and closing it’s a very sweet show. That’s really quite a trick that Amy Sherman Palladino pulled off. The show is very clever and very irreverent and yet still ended up being a very nice show about people doing the best they can. I really enjoyed being a part of it.
BR: It was great to watch .I watched with my family and I said, “I want to live in a place like Stars Hollow” where everybody knows everybody else and its like one big family.
KB: Exactly with all the quirky characters that you find in town, that’s what was so cute too, just these odd little characters who would pop up and come in and become recurring characters. I thought it was very clever and very funny.
BR: Speaking of some of those characters; if the characters of the show were real people whom would you want to sit down and have a conversation with?
KB: Oh definitely Lorelei, definitely. That would be my person and that’s appropriate since she is the leading character of the show. In real life we became good friends. The one I related to the most would be Lorelei.
BR: It’s kind of funny that the people who played her parents would want to sit down and have a conversation with her.
KB: The character is very feisty. She’s very intelligent, she’s fair and she is very knowledgeable about a lot of things. That comes from the brilliance of Amy who is very eclectic about what she brought into the show. Referring to the latest band and within the same show referring to movie stars of the 1930’s. Lorelei actually was Amy, I think, and Amy is a very, very intelligent woman.
BR: Have you ever had any fun fan encounters that you can share?
KB: It’s always just nice; I can’t think of anything specific although I do have one fan of the show of me, who is in Germany. She’s actually flown to this country a couple of times to see me in plays since Gilmore Girls She was very aware of what I had done. She put together the most astonishing little book for me of my career; I mean a book with pictures of me in my career .It was very clever. She likely discovered me from Gilmore Girls although I never asked her. She is like my “regular person”; she is a clever and resourceful young lady. She apparently has a network of people who are Gilmore Girls fans, internationally. They all email each other and stay in communication. They refer to themselves as the “vicious trollops” which was I believe actually, the title of one of our episodes. I don’t recall what show it was but that phrase came up. So this group of Gilmore Girls fans refers to themselves as the “vicious trollops”. She is quite good and she is the only fan who has my email. She is very respectful about not inundating me with allot of things. I let her know that and she said I promise not to bother you a lot. And she never has. She’s aware of everything I’m doing but I hear from her maybe once every two months to three months. That’s perfect. I have this line that:” I‘ve been very bad about answering fan mail” which I really have to sit down and do. I said to her with her various networks throughout Europe I should go to Europe someday and have somebody from each one of these countries take me on a tour, which they probably would.
BR: One of the funniest moments, at least in my opinion, involving Emily Gilmore was the episode when she was arrested. What was one of your favorite episodes to film?
KB: Was I arrested?
BR: The character was. I think it was in the seventh season there was a scene in which you were driving in the car and you got into a fight with a police officer.
KB: Oh right! With the cops! Yes I forgot about it! I guess I blocked it out along with Emily. I really enjoyed just from an acting standpoint and also from finding out something secret about the character the episode after my husband’s mother died. I discovered the letter she wrote the day before our wedding asking him to not marry me. I went off on the deep end and sat around drinking and smoking and doing what I referred to as my “Tennessee Williams” moment. I really enjoyed that because it was so bizarre. But there were a couple of them. I had fun with the scene in the mall when I was losing my mind on the shopping spree when the girls were following me around. And there would be shows where I had a strong story line ;I liked those. There were a couple of others but I can’t recall offhand. I generally enjoyed my work on that show all the time.
It was very interesting to watch the dynamic between the husband wife relationship and then the daughter and the granddaughter relationship. It was a lot of fun to watch.
And not an unusual thing for the mother-daughter to not get along and the affection or at least the tolerance skips a generation and the grandmother ends up liking the granddaughter but wont cut the mother any slack at all. That’s really not uncommon at all and it’s something to be noticed. In a lot of ways I think Gilmore Girls is very good about that .It really opened up our eyes to certain behavior in a really entertaining way. It was really a pleasure to do.
BR: There are new fans being developed everyday because it is on syndication on ABC Family and also Soap.Net.
KB: I am finding that there are more people who are aware of it. There seem to be more people recognizing me surprisingly often and stopping me and talking to me about Gilmore Girls then there were until the last couple of years of the show .I am sure because it is running everyday isn’t it?
KB: And so there is this whole other audience who has picked up on it. Which is kind of a shame that they weren’t aware of it when it was actually running .I am really glad that people have seen it because I was very proud of that show. I thought it was quite intelligent and very clever and rather profound considering that it was “light” .It wasn’t a serious melodrama. It had a lot of stuff going on so it’s nice to know we’re in a funny way gaining new audience all the time. Satisfying.
BR: One thing that some of the other actors on the show said about working on the set are that it was like “one big family”. I know you all still keep in touch from what I’ve heard but what do you miss most about being on set and working with the people that you worked with every day?
KB: There is just such comfort; as an actor you have a limited number of situations where you are together with the same people for an extended period of time .You do a play, actually more and more these days plays have limited runs but even if they are intended to be an open ended run they don’t always succeed. So other than having a soap-opera contract where you have a two or three year contract you don’t have the opportunity to work with the same people generally for more than a couple of months. Whether it’s a film or doing guest spots -I just finished four appearances on Murphy and that was rather unusual because usually when you do a guest spot it’s one and possibly two. So to have done four is really kind of nice and what happens when you are around people you are used to working with and that includes crew, there is a comfort level sort of a safety level where you can get down to business and get down to work. Which you do anyway, you attempt to, but it’s all so sort of strange when you don’t know the people you are working with. Even if they are very pleasant and you understand the whole set-up you cant remember people names and that sort of thing. When you have the comfort of stepping on a set and these are the people you saw the last time you were on the set it does become like a family and its very pleasant .You get to each know others’ personalities and back-stories .I am talking about crew also and who is irritating and who is weird and who is funny. I always have my crossword puzzle because there were probably about 8 of us between cast and crew who were into doing the New York Times crossword puzzle every day. It does become a family- like atmosphere so it’s always sad when it break up. That goes with the territory, we know it’s going to.
BR: If you could ask the “Gilmore Girls” fans a question, what would it be?
KB: Hmm….”. Would you like to see us do a film?”
BR: I think I already know the answer to that one.
KB: I think we should. I really do .I am actually curious as a viewer .I know that I was a large part of it but. I actually enjoyed watching those shows, even more so the shows I wasn’t in because I could follow what was going on .I didn’t have to criticize what I was doing or how I looked, I didn’t miss any shows; I watched those shows unless I was working on the night it was airing and I was at the studio. And I want to know now what happened! Its been three years and I want to know where they are now what are they doing what happened, who is with whom. Truly as a fan I am curious to know what went on. So I would love to see them thinking about doing a film. Every once in a while I bother Amy in an email about that. The movie is we going to do the movie. So that’s what I’d like to know. I would like to know how many fans would go and see a movie of “Gilmore Girls Revisited “or” the Next Step” or “the Next Chapter”. That’s what I’d like to see.
BR: It’s a great question. A lot of fans have been hearing rumors that there might be.
KB: Well I was just looking at the news online and there was some referral to “Gilmore Girls” and it was that Alexis Blidel had an interview with I don’t know who and that question came up: would there be a film. There should be buzz about that; I think it’s a great idea. I’d love to be hanging with my buds again it would be wonderful.
BR: Did you ever think when you first started on the show it would turn into the amazing phenomenon basically that it is and that it would have such an avid fan base that, even when it stopped airing, they would still be as devoted to the show as they were when it first started?
KB: I didn’t, of course you don’t. When you are doing a series like that you go year to year. You are not even sure if you are going to get picked up. You start to get a rumor that you are going to get picked up towards the end of the year of filming. But I didn’t expect it to last seven years; most shows don’t -straight out whether they are good or not they just don’t. I was always frustrated because it was on a syndicated network that we didn’t have the viewer ship that we would have on a regular network show. That was always a little frustrating to me because I thought the more people would see this the more they’re going to like it. But it is really gratifying to see people after the fact really coming out and talking about it because I think there were more people watching the show even when we were airing then the network realized. I know they are always counting the numbers and the whole thing but I am thinking that there were more people out there then we were acknowledging. When people came up to me and talked about it, especially that first year after it was off the air, people were really upset. They said, “I don’t know what to do with that…we ended up on Tuesday night didn’t we?
KB: “I am lost on Tuesday night I don’t know what to do.” They were serious about it. Of course there were people who would come up to me in the grocery store and say: “my daughter and I watched that show since she was fifteen when it started. When she went away to college she would call and talk about the show after it was over”. It’s really very satisfying and I didn’t expect it but I was always very proud of it.
BR: It is one of the better shows that have been on TV.
KB: Yes. Absolutely because so often in television the pay is good and there is a lot of viewer ship and you do the job unless you just think it’s awful. But usually the work for an actor that you can do that you are truly proud of is in theatre where the pay isn’t good and of course the audience is each audience each night. You never hit the numbers that you do on television. So to be able to put that together, to have the perks as it were that goes with a television job and the quality that would be comparable to a theatre job was just dreamy. I mean that doesn’t happen. I think the real quality shows often don’t get on and this one did. So it was just terrific.