Lauren Graham is curled up on a chair in an office on Universal’s backlot. The beautiful 40 year old actress plays the initially cynical wife of Evan Baxter in the contemporary take on Noah, in Evan Almighty, but there is clearly more to the beautiful actress thsn meets the eye. As she explained to Paul Fischer in this exclusive interview, now that she bid farewell to Lorelei Gilmore, Ms Graham is out to explore a varietry of characters but does not rule out a return to TV.
Question: I think there’s a rumour that as one of the producers of Gilmore Girls, you weren’t very happy with the original finale script?
Graham: I wasn’t. I don’t know how anybody heard that but I think the show always kind of went back and forth between being kind of more broad, more about the town, wacky and plot driven and then more sentimental and more about the characters and the relationships. And to me the original finale was about more activity, more building a tent and had a lot of scenes of activity. I felt like I wanted something where we at least gave a nod, a moment, a picture, you know, even if it was just panning across the faces of all the amazing actors who were the life of this town. I loved Sally Struthers on that show, I loved Rose Abdoo who played Gypsy who was like the town mechanic. All that stuff is what gave the colour to the show. So I just felt that it could be more heartfelt.
Question: Do you think that it would have been dramatically different if original creator Amy Sherman had stayed with it?
Graham: Yeah and you know I wish she had contributed even in her capacity – even if just because her name is still on it. But I think I understand, she’s a particular kind of person and for her she could only do it her way, so I understood that. But consequently we didn’t have any of her in that last year and while that changed to some degree the amount of input I could have I think it was an uneven way to end. It’s like six years it was one person’s vision and then one year it was different. And also one year is not enough in TV time to kind of…
Question: Bring your own voice to something?
Graham: It really isn’t, especially on a show like that.
Question: What do you think about the whole reunion TV movie thing that’s been floating around with Amy as writer/director?
Graham: I don’t know, you know, I don’t have a compelling need to do it. But I understand and I really respect and I have fond feelings for people who would like that and I know Kelly Bishop would like to do something, who played my mom. I wonder if it isn’t like when you break up with somebody and then you try to get back together. How often does it work out?
Question: You tell me.
Graham: I don’t know. I’ve done it and it doesn’t usually work. But there are no rules about this show. I could never have foreseen that it would have stayed on this long, that it would have done what it did. So if Amy wrote a script I would absolutely consider it and if we all wanted to do it. I think it would be a fun thing to do.
Question: Where did the actor in you come from?
Graham: I don’t know. I really think it’s something that you kind of have, which I did as a kid. I had a weird memory as a kid and I would remember poems and recite them for company and my dad read to me from the time I was born. So I always remember story telling being a big part of my day. I don’t remember really thinking there was much difference between having a story read to me or me reading it myself and then sort of wanting to act it out.
Question: Was it a struggle for you as a young attractive woman making her way in a tough business? I mean, do you find there was a degree of struggle or do you think it came easier …
Graham: I don’t think it’s come easy at any juncture except that I have been able to do what I want to do, so I have achieved some of the things I wanted to achieve. Therefore in that way the struggle led somewhere but I still feel like, there were ten years where I was in school or I was having another job or I was just doing commercials or I was just really starting out. There was a show that came on the air but died and then another one and another one. So there were years when I didn’t have money and I had a million weird jobs. I wonder what Alexis’ path will be, you know, the girl who played my daughter, who came one year of college and then her first thing is a hit. Now she owns a house, so I think it’ll be an interesting path for her where for me I just kind of slowly, slowly, slowly moved.
Question: Do you find yourself being relatively selective in the kind of women that you want to play and ensuring that those women are as disparate from Lorelai as possible?
Graham: Well so far, because their writing is so specific it’s not like I’ve been offered a lot of things that sound like that because I think Amy is so talented and so specific. There aren’t a lot of people writing women like that in film, so that hasn’t been a problem. I wish it was more of a problem, and I wish there were a thousand great sassy characters in features that I was worried about it seeming too similar to my TV show, but that’s not how it is. But this movie I’m doing right now I think is a great character but not as verbal – she’s more of a nervous, conservative girl. But there aren’t a lot of things that sound like her voice. I don’t find necessarily that I’m so selective, it’s that I know what I like and immediately I know if I don’t like something and I’m not interested in it.
Question: So with a project like Evan Almighty, do you look at it from a career perspective or do you look at it from a story perspective? I mean will your agent or manager go look, this is a really good movie to do, it’s a big film.
Graham: Yeah. I mean that goes into it but it’s always everything. It’s ‘Do I feel I can learn something?’ ‘Can I do a good job?’ ‘Will I like working with this people?’ Is it a good use of my time? At that time it was just a summer off, so it’s all part of it. I have done movies that I really enjoyed but no one every saw because it never got distributed and so that didn’t seem fun to me any more.
Question: In Evan, what were the biggest challenges in being cast as the wife in a movie like this? What do you bring to the table in trying to make this character more interesting and comedic and colorful?
Graham: Well, I don’t try to think about it that way because that’s not my job, kind of, in this. I love movies like this and I think somebody has to be the straight man. And also to me, one of the things I liked about this movie was the heart of it, and the sort of emotional, real story of this man who seems to be going crazy, no one believes him, and I think that’s an important part of the story. I have had years and years of talking fast and being sassy, and I’m as happy to do something simpler. [laughs] So it’s not about trying to turn it into something else, it’s just trying to do a good job with what this is. So that’s what I tried to do.
Question: What was like working opposite Steve Carell, and what did you think of his metrosexual makeover?
Graham: I thought that was really funny, because when I saw it…I mean, first of all, I got so used to seeing him in that stuff every day that he would just look weird when you saw him without it. [laughs] And the metrosexual stuff I thought played really well. It was great. I mean, again, we sort of had the more dramatic scenes in the movie, so I wasn’t like holding my sides laughing during them because that wasn’t the tone of the scene. [laughs] But he’s a very funny guy. I really appreciate how he approaches things. He’s a real actor, you know? I liked his work in 40-Year-Old Virgin because I thought, “This is so interesting. It’s so small and subtle, and he’s coming from the character. He’s not coming from like, ‘I’m doing something wacky and big!'” And I just like that. So it was fun.
Question: What aspirations do you have at this point in your career?
Graham: They’re kind of being fulfilled. for a while I just wanted to feel what it was like to be out in the world again, which both means having more down time and having more opportunities. I’ve been working with the same group of people for a long time and every time I sit down with a new director or think about working with a new actor, I just want my work to be interesting and less hard.
Question: Less hard, yet you want to go back to television right?
Graham: But I would never do it like that. I wouldn’t be the lead of a one hour show again, because it’s too hard. And I did it on a show that I love so much and that I’m really proud of. Most shows don’t work like that, which is why these one-hour shows are more ensembles. We had a unique show that just really stressed these two people. You see all the popular shows like Greys Anatomy and stuff and here are eight characters who are great and with whom you can have scenes with. Until you’ve done fourteen hours a day for seven years, four or five days a week, there’s nothing that’s worth that to me any more.
Question: And that must put a strain on you personal life.
Graham: Absolutely. Your health, everything. But it’s a great opportunity and I can work very hard, I am lvery strong, I don’t need a lot of sleep and all that stuff. I’m fine. But it wouldn’t seem appealing to me any more I don’t think. Then I think of people like Geena Davis who did Commander and Chief. I thought she’s had a good time off, she’s had a wonderful film career and here’s this great opportunity in television so I can’t say I wouldn’t be tempted in the way that she was but right now I can’t imagine it. So I would do a half hour single camera even. Those hours are not as bad.
Question: What about producing? Because you produced on the Gilmore Girls.
Graham: Yeah. Well I had a production deal there as part of my deal on the show and so I have been doing TV development for a couple of years and that’s totally interesting to me. I think my first love is being an actor and while that stuff is happening, it’s really hard to also be generating anything else because it all takes time but I’m just going to enjoy going back to that life of like I don’t know what my next job is and I’m just going to try to …
Question: So you like being a gypsy?
Graham: I don’t like going out of town and neither does my doggie. But no, it’s not even being a gypsy, it’s just being challenged in a new way and then being able to kind of feel like something’s finished and feel proud of it and put it away and move on to the next thing. You know, it’s just having a little variety for a while I think will be fun.
Question: Is it tougher the older you get to find women being written that are really interesting?
Graham: I like this movie, I like the movie I’m doing right now, I like the one that I’m going to go do. It’s a different thing. It does tend to be simpler. It’s not – I do think some of the best stuff for women who aren’t like being the babe, I do some of it’s in TV but I don’t want to be like, I haven’t founding nothing, you know, I found some cool stuff and to me now I don’t need it to be my thing. I just wanted to have a nice contribution because it teaches me something and so that if I go back to TV I will have had some other experience and just worked with some different directors and other actors and stuff. And that’s all it is for me right now.
Question: Can you talk about these other projects you’re working on??
Graham: Well this movie I’m doing right now is called ‘Laws of Motion.’ It’s an independent film that the playwright Craig Lucas is directing and Hilary Swank is a producer on it and has a supporting part in it just to lend her name to it. And that’s really cool, actually and inspiring to see an actress who has a company who is helping get stuff made because she believes in it. It’s the story of a dysfunctional family and Matthew Perry is my husband and we have sort of a quiet marriage that is in trouble and his brother and sister come to stay with us to disastrous results. And it’s just kind of a dark comedy but it’s a very conservative, preppy shut down character who is just trying to be nice to these people who she thinks are freaks. And so that’s a cool kind of different place to be. Then the next thing is I’m doing a wife world tour. I don’t know if you could tell. I’m playing Greg Kinnear’s wife in a movie about the man who invented the intermittent windshield wiper and it’s based on a true story. It’s a really great story because he felt that his patent was stolen by the car companies and he in real life spent his life not necessarily fighting for money, which he ended up getting quite a bit of, but fighting for the rights of inventors. And he’s a real figure among inventors as someone who really stood up for their rights and it’s like an amazing part for Greg. And in that one I have five kids.
Question: Who’s directing it?
Graham: Mark Abraham. He’s a big producer. He just produced ‘Children of Men’ among many other things and [?] is shooting it. I don’t know that that movie has a title. The working title is ‘Flash of Genius.’
Question: So is this the happiest that you are in your life now?
Graham: This is the happiest I’ve been in a while, yeah. To have kind of possibilities again and I feel like it’s going to end up sounding like I’m complaining about the best job that I had and I’m not. It just was a stressful place. Lots of peoples’ jobs are and so that’s not like the worst thing ever but it’s a relief to me to be just having new opportunities, so yes I’m happy.