Written, directed and executive produced by series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and executive producer Daniel Palladino, the four-part Netflix series Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life brings back countless favorites from the original series, including, of course, Lauren Graham (as Lorelai Gilmore), Alexis Bledel (as Rory Gilmore), Kelly Bishop (as Emily Gilmore) and Scott Patterson (as Luke Danes) while also paying tribute to actor Edward Herrmann (who played Richard Gilmore on the original series), who died in 2014. A true gift to the fans that have supported the series and felt like it deserved the chance to end on its own terms, Stars Hollow has been fully restored in all its glory, from Luke’s Diner to the Dragonfly Inn to Lorelai’s charming Connecticut home.
During a roundtable interview to promote the Netflix revival, actor Scott Patterson talked about having to find his character again, being surprised that it took this long to bring the series back, going to deeper places this time around, where Luke fits in among the other characters, his favorite episode, the importance of bringing the right cast together, and where Luke and Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) are now.
Question: Was it easy to slip back into the skin of Luke?
SCOTT PATTERSON: I thought it would be easy, but the reality set in, right away. My first scene was in the diner, and I did not feel comfortable. I didn’t feel like I had him yet. We did a quick rehearsal, got the blocking down, and something was off. So I said to (creator) Amy [Sherman-Palladino], “I need to take a little walk around Stars Hollow. I need a minute to get this guy.” I’ve changed. I’ve had a son and a life. It’s been eight or nine years, so you’re going to change a little bit. So, I took a walk around the town for about 10 minutes, and I thought the thoughts and felt the feelings. And then, I came back in and there he was. That’s how it happened.
So, the town really helped you get back into it, then?
PATTERSON: I think for actors and for an audience to really buy in, how well crafted the buildings are and how real it is, is important. It takes months to do that. That’s what so many less budgeted productions suffer from. You aren’t suspending disbelief because the construction crew wasn’t as good or the designers weren’t as detailed. Here, it’s just the best of the best.
Are there some updates in Stars Hollow?
PATTERSON: Yes. Not many. I can’t be specific, but there are a few.
Were you surprised to be at a point where you could revisit this character, or were you more surprised that it took as long as it did?
PATTERSON: I’m a little surprised it took this long. I figured it was inevitable, just because of the fans. The show is more like a religion to fans. It’s not just, “We really enjoy the show.” It’s a daily ritual. It’s part of people’s lives. Especially before, during and after ATX, I realized that this was going to happen, and that if it didn’t happen now, it wasn’t going to. That really drove it home.
How did your own growth and change help influence the character?
PATTERSON: The show is deeper. We’re going to some places that we didn’t really visit in the original series. I’m not saying it in a derogatory sense, but it was a little sacchariney. It hasn’t lost that, but it’s able to go into deeper places. The passing of Ed Hermann influenced the story a great deal. It affects every single character. We’re going deeper. We’re plumbing the depths here. The stakes are raised, for sure.
Where do you see Luke’s place, among the hierarchy of characters?
PATTERSON: He’s the Rock of Gibraltar type. No matter how big a wave or how many tidal waves were going to crash into him, he was just going to stand there. He was going to take it. He’s a throwback character to how men used to be, and how fewer and fewer men are today. Luke is a guy who’s not in it for him. He’s like, “What can I do for you?” He’s not looking to be the center of attention. He’s not looking to even really get any credit. He just wants to be there. He loves and he loves deeply, and he’ll take the pain and be quiet about it, so as not to attract the enemy while he’s screaming. He’s a solid guy.
What were some of your favorite episodes?
PATTERSON: I enjoyed the pilot. You knew the flowers were going to be beautiful and you knew the soil was rich. The chemistry was there and flying all over the place. The pilot, for me, has always been my favorite. There wasn’t a person that wasn’t a joy to work with. It was all terrific.
How did you originally find who this guy was?
PATTERSON: I think all of the credit goes to Amy, in casting the role the way she did. That’s a casting choice. I don’t know what conversations went on behind closed doors with the network, at the time, but I don’t know that they wanted me. I don’t know that they wanted any of us. If you’re a network, you want names, you want recognizable people, and you want people who you think are really going to help sell the show. I think Amy fought for all of us. I think they had an agenda for the character, but I was just a guest star on the pilot. I think Amy sensed, when I walked in the room, that I was that guy. She was looking for a guy who was a little outside of society, who was a non-conformist that didn’t care. I really walked into that room with what I refer to as the dumb courage of the truly burned-out because I was really burned-out on auditioning. I was auditioning beautifully for years, but wasn’t getting to first base. I was always the bridesmaid, just getting left at the altar. They were like, “You’re our guy, next time.”
I just didn’t care anymore, and I think Amy sensed that. She sensed that I had the ability or the innate personality to not try to make Luke likable, and to just be myself. That’s the way I was in the room with them, and they felt very comfortable with me. It can be a very intimidating thing, walking in those rooms, especially with people of that caliber, but it was just a wonderful connection with everybody. I think the psychology of the room got flipped because I just didn’t care. I didn’t want their job. I didn’t expect it. I didn’t needed it. I needed it, but I didn’t let them know that I needed it. And it was just a guest star thing. But, I automatically hooked in with Amy. She got me, and not a lot of people do, when I walk into those rooms. I think that’s really the core of it. It’s about having somebody hire you that’s going to let you be you. Casting it all of it, and Amy is brilliant. That’s 90% of the battle. If you cast the part right, you’re good, and I think she absolutely did. I read it and said, “That’s me. No one else is playing it.”
What can you tease about where Luke and Jess are now?
PATTERSON: I can’t really touch on that, that much, but he’s there. You’re going to be very happy. Ultimately, Luke is proud of Jess. Luke isn’t ashamed of him. Luke feels good. And I really enjoyed working with [Milo Ventimiglia] because it made me feel like a father. It was a precursor of what was to come. He’s such a great kid to have around. He’s a good time. Plus, when you’re with him, nobody pays attention to you, so you get a lot done.
Do you think this show was ahead of its time?
PATTERSON: It was absolutely influential with pacing, and that’s a throwback to ‘40s dialogue. That’s Gregory Peck and Cary Grant. That’s the pace that they did so beautifully and so well. It’s also maybe a little bit of a throwback to The Donna Reed Show or The Dick Van Dyke Show. It’s familiar, but with a new twist. Has there ever been a show that is so accessible, so open and so unashamed, with such rich characters? This a diverse group of weird characters. This is a town full of misfits, basically, and they’re just as non-threatening as they can be. No matter how angry Luke gets, you know he’s not going to go crazy. He’s just this silly guy. His world is small and he doesn’t like change. That’s the point. Fans know they can go there and they’re going to get what they get and they’re not going to be disappointed.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is available at Netflix on November 25th.