Saturday, November 26, 2016

Edward Hermann, Lauren Graham and me

In November 2001, an actor was telling me about a stage adaptation of "American Letters" from the best seller "Letters of a Nation," covering 1744 to 2001, written by both the famous, such as Washington and Lincoln, Mark Twain and Edith Wharton, and by the not so famous. 

Speaking before the performance at The Miniature Theater in Chester, he said, 

"There's precious little that an actor can do to help out after an event like 9/11, and this is one of those things. I've done some readings to reinforce the notion that our history is a continuum, and that it's always had, in moments of crisis, men and women who are equal to the task. It shows how magnificent people are under that pressure and what can be achieved. It shows people struggling to make sense out of a world that was as chaotic for them as ours is for us."

That actor was Edward Hermann, 58 at the time, now gone for two years but alive in many ways on the "Gilmore Girls Revival." I found the interview in the old Union-News files when going back to look for clips to send to an editor who had listed an opportunity for a theater-related freelance-writing job. His comments about a chaotic world stand out as especially pertinent for this time.

It was before I watched "The Gilmore Girls" on boxed sets with Katie, the perfect mother-daughter activity, eating ice cream and saying to each other as one episode ended and another was about to start, "One more?" She was basically the same age as Rory and I, although not exactly the same age as Lorelai, was of course divorced also.

He had told me from his home in Salisbury, Conn., 

"Perhaps it's because I did Roosevelt a long time ago that I've been tagged with the label of the history guy,'" He said he didn't mind the label and was particularly eager, in the wake of the terrorist attacks, "to remind people of Americans' history of resilience, overall decency and humanity." 

He played Franklin Delano Roosevelt on TV opposite Jane Alexander in two miniseries, "Eleanor and Franklin" (1976) and "Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years" (1977). He also portrayed FDR in the musical "Annie" in 1982.

I wrote that he was back east on a break from filming the multigenerational TV series, "The Gilmore Girls," in which he played Richard, the old-fashioned father of thirtysomething Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham), mother of teen-ager Rory (Alexis Bledel).

He had said he likes the fact that the show portrays three generations working together. "It shows teen-agers that they're not alone, that they're connected to a continuum. Old people don't have to be idiots. They can have some wisdom to pass on, and that's very reassuring."

Mothers and daughters watching the revival now, as we are doing, can also find reassurance in the continuity. And whatever you think of the revival, most would probably agree that part of the continuum is seeing Lauren Graham's Lorelai, although obviously older, not that much changed from the last time we saw her when the series ended in 2007.

I also interviewed Graham back then. It was the summer of 2002 and she was at The Williamstown Theater Festival. She told me that she thought the relationship between Lorelai and Rory "is something a lot of people wish they had, a fun mother-daughter relationship."

And she said that while many viewers are probably drawn to the ease with which Lorelai and Rory communicate, many can relate to Lorelai's less-than-ideal relationship with her own mother. 

Back then she was performing in the Moss Hart-George S. Kaufman collaboration "Once in a Lifetime," set in 1927 as talkies were coming in. Graham played Mary Daniels, an actress turned speech instructor who follows her love interest to California.

""My father read the script and said, 'You're playing another wise guy,'" Graham had said. Same old is comforting now with so much else in turmoil.

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