We at ETonline are cordially inviting you to attend a one of the most prestigious and sought-after soirees ever to take place on television: Friday night dinner at the Gilmore house.
This weekly tradition was the glue that bonded our formerly estranged Gilmore clan back together on The WB's Gilmore Girls, and, subsequently, provided us with some of the best scenes in the series' history. From dating inquires at the pre-dinner drinks, to Yale announcements at the dining table, and watching the hilarious firings of countless incompetent maids, Friday night dinners were the perfect setting to satisfy all of our Gilmore Girls cravings.
"Oh, they were great fun," Kelly Bishop, who played matriarch Emily Gilmore, recalled to ETonline at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas. "They were great fun and there were so many of them. I don’t remember any specific scenes that stood out more than the others, but they were always such a wonderful opportunity to go into crazy places that made Lorelai uncomfortable or angry and they were pretty amazing."
While we impatiently wait for the Gilmore Girls reunion rumors to be sorted out, we're looking back with Bishop at the food, the drinks, the conversations, and more behind-the-scenes secrets that made Friday night dinners so special.
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The House: From the antiques-filled living room where the pre-dinner drinks took place, to the oil painting of Rory in Richard's study, and the balcony where Lorelai used to sneak out at night, the Gilmore house in Hartford, Conn. held many rooms and countless memories.
"I loved that house!" Bishop gushed. "I loved being in that house. It felt like my house and I would go in there as if it were an actual house and not just a set. I always had a high comfort level of being in my house because it was very close to my trailer. It was where I was always happy."
The Drinks: When it came to the drinks at Friday night dinners, the props department had to get a bit creative. Unfortunately for the actors on-set, Lorelai's gin martini and Emily's glass of wine could not actually be alcoholic. "With the wine, it was just colored water," Bishop said.
And the Gilmore Girls' famous cups of coffee were not always actually filled with coffee. "If it was supposed to be coffee, they'll ask you if you want a hot coffee, or if you want it to be cold," Bishop explained. "Or, if you didn’t want coffee, they would figure out a way to put something in there that was the right color." Fun-Fact: Alexis Bledel hates coffee with a passion, so her cups were usually filled with Coca-Cola.
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The Food: On screen, it always looked like the Gilmores had lavish and delicious dinners each and every Friday night. Luckily for Bishop and all those at the table, the food actually was "pretty good" in person too.
"We had a good prop department," the star said. "They usually ask you if there are any foods that you're allergic to, so they're pretty good about accommodating. The food was only barely adequate because it was never going to be hot, or else you'd burn your mouth."
Bishop said that the lukewarm food helped her craft Emily's signature table manners. "I found myself taking rather small bites," she revealed. "While I find it very interesting to watch actors who, in a very realistic way, are talking with a mouthful of food, I just didn’t see Emily doing that. So I took very small bites."
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The Flowers: When Bishop wasn't too busy taking itty-bitty bites at dinner, drinking her faux wine, or trying to keep her fast-paced dialogue straight, the Tony Award-winning actress was lusting after Emily's gorgeous floral centerpieces.
"What impressed me were the flowers," Bishop said in awe. "The floral arrangements were always just amazing. Especially in that center hallway, there was always that giant one. They were beautiful and gorgeous and they were all over the house too."
Sometimes Bishop was able to reap the benefits of having Emily Gilmore as her onscreen alter ego. "If I was staying around for a few days and we were done shooting and we weren’t going to be in the house anymore, I would ask if I could take the flowers back to my apartment with me and they let me," Bishop said with a smile.
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The Conversation: It's well-known that our Gilmore girls delivered some lightning-fast, tongue-twisting dialogue in each and every episode. However, when you combined those quick-paced conversations, with the very specific back-and-forth rhythm of Friday night dinners, Bishop explained that sometimes our cast couldn’t always keep up at the dinner table.
"We were pretty good as a group. I think maybe Alexis broke a couple of times, but it was other scenes where she would lose it," the actress remembered.
"But every once in a while, we would all get the giggles because the lines were so complicated, and fast, and there were so many of them that sometimes you would get your tongue twisted. Then everyone would get the giggles. It was very hard to stop after that," Bishop remembered with a smile.
Luckily, the Gilmore clan had an on-secret for getting their lines back on track. "The nice thing about those dinner scenes is you could keep your [scripts] really close to you," she revealed. "If nobody had to get up, you could sit on them or something like that. After they said, 'Cut!' you could go back and look at them and really get it right in the places that you messed up. It was fun, it was really great."
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Future Friday Night Dinners: Like all Gilmore Girls fans, we’re just dying for that rumored reunion to happen! So does Bishop think that we'll ever get another Friday night dinner in the future? "Well, that's the question," she mused. "I might have answered that differently a year ago, but now, because Ed [Herrmann] is not here, it has to be dealt with because it's huge."
Herrmann, who played the beloved patriarch of the Gilmore clan since the series' pilot, passed away last December after a battle with brain cancer. Since then, Bishop has thought a lot about what Emily would be going through, if a Gilmore Girls continuation were to come to light.
"Whatever their marriage was, there was no question that Emily and Richard were solid together and that [their relationship] was going to last forever. So I can't imagine what Emily's going through and how much strength she's getting from her daughter and granddaughter," Bishop said.
"I think that now that Richard is gone, I think the Gilmore girls would re-start their weekly Friday night dinners," the actress speculated. "I think Emily would need it. She might be lost without it because it's one of those schedule structures that she has in place, but then again, she would be looking down the table at an empty seat, wouldn’t she?"
With Herrmann's passing, Bishop said that plotting a Gilmore Girls movie or TV continuation would be "really complicated," but she's confident that it could happen. "One of the few writers who can handle that level of emotions, but still keep it funny is [Gilmore Girls creator] Amy [Sherman-Palladino]."