‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’: Kelly Bishop Talks Tackling Emily’s Grief

Gilmore Girls” is returning to TV via Netflix on Nov. 25, with four new 90-minute episodes titled “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.” Variety spoke with the cast about their favorite “Gilmore” memories and what we can expect from the new episodes.

The passing of Edward Herrmann, who played Gilmore family patriarch Richard, at the end of 2014 was a massive blow to the “Gilmore Girls” cast and crew, who had played his family for eight years. Rather than turn Richard into an off-screen presence for the new episodes, having him off on a long business or golfing trip, “Gilmore Girls” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino decided art would imitate life, and Richard, too, would pass away. And so when we rejoin Gilmore matriarch Emily, played by Kelly Bishop, at the start of “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life,” she’s still trying to cope with the loss of her husband.

For Bishop, coming back to the show was a way to channel her own grief. “With Emily, it’s not only the sadness of grieving, but the rage of grieving, and trying to figure it out, and then actually evolving,” she tells Variety.

“Gilmore” was Bishop and Herrmann’s first time working together, and like Bishop’s experience meeting stars Lauren Graham, who plays daughter Lorelai, and Alexis Bledel, who plays granddaughter Rory, she knew it would work.

Bishop and Herrmann had actually met before, at the 1976 Tonys. Bishop had won for featured actress in a musical (“A Chorus Line”), Herrmann for featured actor in a play (“Mrs. Warren’s Profession”). They briefly exchanged hellos and congratulations before posing for a photo with the other recipients of acting awards. But both had forgotten the moment, despite Bishop having kept a newspaper clipping with the picture.

“Ed and I were standing right together, and we didn’t know each other at all,” Bishop recalls.

They met again nearly a quarter of a century later to take another photo, the one that would be blown up and placed prominently on the set of the Gilmore manse: “I thought, ‘My, my, things do come around, don’t they?’”

But for all the grief of her character’s arc in these four episodes, what Bishop loves most about the series is the blend of emotion and humor. “It’s funny, but not in a ‘pause for laughs,’ sitcom way,” she says. “The smarter you are, the more you get out of it. But when all is said and done, there’s a true goodness to the show, a real kindness to it.”

And in a world consumed by divisiveness and turmoil, Bishop is looking forward to sitting down and seeing the four episodes set in a comforting world, just like the legions of fans patiently waiting for 3 a.m. ET on Nov. 25. “Nothing bad really happens in Stars Hollow,” she says. “People have conflicts and little problems, but they work it out. That’s where everyone’s going to want to head.”

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