Gilmore Girls fans know an inordinate amount about Lorelai Gilmore, played for seven cozy, coffee-fueled seasons by Lauren Graham. We know what makes her tick (conversations with her parents about money, the plural use of the word cul-de-sac), her strengths (hardworking business owner, excellent parent), and her weaknesses (Christopher…alas).
And now, with the release of Have I Told You This Already?, a book of essays packed with poignant moments and wry humor, we now know a lot more about the inner-workings of Graham herself. The actress and writer takes on everything from the unspoken social hierarchies of Hollywood to aging to some thoughtful commentary on boobs.
There are also the intimate, more private moments that make quiet appearances, including reflections on the end of her ten-year relationship and her complicated dynamic with her mom. When we get those passages, tucked away in the text, it feels like we’ve carefully earned them. And in between, it’s a fun, sparkling read with a narrator who feels like your funniest friend.
Our conversation below, on writing, Hollywood lessons learned, and running to Taylor Swift.
When you first sat down to write this book, were there seedlings of ideas you were most itching to tackle?
It started with the title of the book. I realized that I have gotten to a place with friends and family who know all my stories — we know each other’s stories. I was most struck by the discovery, which is the first essay in the book, that the story my father had been telling of the day I was born my entire life was incorrect. When confronted with the reality, he was like, “Oh, well that’s how I remember [it].” He didn’t care, basically. And I thought, “Gosh, we change stories over time according to how we remember them and who we’re telling them to.”
That’s where the idea began. I thought, “What are some of these seminal stories that I tell people to say, “Here’s who I am.”
Is there one chapter in here that you would most want to give someone to read, if you wanted them to best understand who Lauren Graham is?
To some degree, it’s “Boobs of the 90s” because it’s about being part of a trend without really questioning it and then taking that idea of yourself into a time when it’s not relevant anymore.
I wonder if that is just a natural piece of growing older. I have tried to be someone who’s constantly reassessing. I never want to get stuck in, “Here’s my story about who I am, and I’m not going to grow from there.” I feel like you can get stuck in your family history or a particular idea of who you are. That’s kind of a theme of this book — constantly re-evaluating.
I learned a lot about boobs and I learned a lot about Hollywood from reading this book. If you could go back in time and give your 32-year-old self advice about the industry when you were just starting out on Gilmore Girls, what would you say?
I think ask more questions and try to cultivate a sense of self. I would walk into these situations always feeling like I was so lucky to be there and sometimes I didn’t bring my whole self in, in a confident way.
I think of even simple things, like when I played one of Diane Keaton’s daughters in the movie Because I Said So. I was so in love with her and couldn’t believe I was working with her that I almost robbed myself of the experience of getting to know her. She [was] accessible and easy and lovely and reached out. I guess, take up a little more space and not wait to be given permission.
That makes me think about an essay in your book where you talk about the pressure of being polite. That’s something, I think, women have to navigate quite a bit and I’m curious what your evolving relationship with politeness has been?
I was raised to value manners and speak kindly and I think that’s fantastic. But it doesn’t mean you need to limit yourself creatively. There’s a joke amongst actors when you’re working with a director who is giving you notes that you don’t want to do. You say, “Oh, yeah, thank you so much.” And then you do what you want to do. That took years [to figure out]. I was like, “Wait, that’s a category?”
The only thing you control as an actor is between action and cut, and everything else is manipulated by a million other people…you have to be a good collaborator, but that doesn’t mean letting all your ideas go away. It’s a very tricky balance.
The chapter you wrote on aging particularly stood out. I wonder what stayed with you after exploring that topic?
It was a revelation how much more writing and comedy and conversation there is among women on that topic. I talk about this essay of Nora Ephron’s called “I Feel Bad About My Neck” [in the chapter]. Out of curiosity, I googled “men, necks, feelings” and what came up was, “Why are men so obsessed with women’s necks?” I [thought], “Wow, there’s not even one man…” That was interesting to me, that it’s a topic that’s uniquely female in some ways. It’s just good to have a conversation and to keep that going.
Do you have a favorite Nora Ephron essay you like to re-read?
She has a whole thing about egg white omelettes and how stupid they are. She has a thing about her handbag, how she hates her purse and she’s not a person who understands people with fancy purses. I think one of the things that attracts me to her writing is the snippets. They’re just such time capsules of New York of a different time. She talks about the process of workshopping and writing When Harry Met Sally with Rob Reiner and how they’d have these conversations and he’d say, “Well, men would never do that.” And she’d say, “Women would never do that. ” And that was how the script was born. I just love process. I love hearing about how somebody made something.
You talk about this idea of how, in Hollywood, if you play a lovable veterinarian, you’re going to keep being asked to play that lovable veterinarian in other projects. How have you navigated that experience, having played one really beloved character for so many years?
I think, especially in television, unless you’re on The Crown or something that’s a period piece, you do use a lot of yourself. You’re so close to [the character], you’re telling a story in increments and, in some cases, 20 episodes…you live with them. In a way, I just didn’t fight it. I tried to have the projects be different enough from one another. But I have now been on television playing three single mothers in a row. I wouldn’t look for that again.
I think once you’ve done something you crave the opposite. I’m really fascinated by Danny Strong’s work [writer of Dope Sick, Empire and Doyle on Gilmore Girls]. I would like to do something that is less comedic, I guess.
Someone recently tweeted and asked you if you were listening to Taylor Swift’s new album. You said you were. I’m curious — what’s your favorite song off of Midnights?
The way I listen to it…I’m not looking at the titles. I run on the treadmill to it. But I got to meet her this summer at somebody’s birthday and she was so lovely. I’m a fan of all of [her] music and also just how she’s handled herself, with a lot of grace and kindness. I’m just a super fan in general.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
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