Gilmore Girls is a show that has been so iconic for so long that it’s hard to even think about all the decision making that went into the creation of such an elaborately written, fast paced, enormously character-filled world. From decisions that went into the casting process, to plots that were continued longer than they should have been or dropped at a moment’s notice, all the way to decisions at the network level regarding spinoffs and contracts, there was a whole lot of work put into the series behind-the-scenes that most fans likely don’t know about.
Within these decisions, of course, can be found some incredibly smart choices, and some really big mistakes, too. Many of these choices were driven by business reasons, while others came as a result of actors moving on and realizing they wanted different things. Some were cast for a role, or auditioned for a role, only for another, better suited actor to come along. Also, in some cases, money really does decide everything, as it limited the scope of storytelling in a key moment that fans had long waited for.
It’s only fitting that, for all of the ups and downs of the Gilmore lives within the world of Stars Hollow, there are just as many peaks and valleys within the world of show running and development.
Here are the 9 Last Minute Changes That Hurt Gilmore Girls (And 11 That Saved It).
20 Hurt: Budget constraints lessened the importance of Luke and Lorelai's wedding
It was the moment that Gilmore Girls fans all over the world had waited nearly a decade for – or nearly twice as long, if you count the fans who wanted to see Luke and Lorelai together since the series’ pilot. Finally, the revival was going to show these two crazy kids getting their act together enough to get married – and to be fair, A Year in the Life did include a wedding ceremony between the two, albeit one sparsely attended and without dialogue.
However, had the Palladinos had their way, the entire wedding would have been a much grander affair. In the end, the budget constraints of the mini series prevented that from happening, resulting in the smaller, intimate ceremony between Luke, Lorelai, and only a handful of attendees.
19 Saved: Paris was created for Liza Weil right after her failed audition for Rory
Casting directors certainly have some of the toughest jobs in all of Hollywood. One wrong casting choice, and a series can truly fall apart under its own weight. In some cases, however, the talent the casting directors see is exactly what the series needs, even before they realize it. When Liza Weil originally auditioned for Gilmore Girls, she was reading for the part of Rory – and she was totally wrong for it.
However, upon quickly realizing what kind of talent they had in front of them, and falling in love with Weil’s signature snarky energy, the powers that be behind Gilmore Girls created the role of Paris Geller, Rory’s high school nemesis turned best friend, all for her.
18 Hurt: Gilmore Girls missed the chance of discovering Ryan Gosling
Mark this down as an “oops” moment for the creative team behind the casting of Gilmore Girls. When Jami Rudofsky saw a young actor she thought would be perfect for a small role on the series, she eagerly sought him out and brought him in to audition for the part. However, while she was totally enamored with his performance, none of the other members of the casting team were remotely on the same wavelength.
“Everyone was like, ‘Really, Jami?’" Rudofsky recalled in 2015, highlighting her teammates’ disbelief at her choice. However, in the end, the joke was on all of them because that young up and comer was none other than future award-winner Ryan Gosling.
17 Saved: Melissa McCarthy managed to squeeze in filming a cameo for the revival
Just when Gilmore fans thought that Luke and Lorelai’s relationship was the ultimate will they, won’t they, it turned out to be some behind-the-scenes back and forth that really took the cake. Leading up to the revival series that was released on Netflix in November 2016, the initial report was that Melissa McCarthy was unable to participate in the series – and, further, that she had never been asked.
However, in April 2016, after some semi contentious words exchanged back and forth between the Gilmore camp and McCarthy’s own media presence, it was confirmed that everyone’s favorite clumsy chef Sookie would indeed make a small appearance in the revival series – one that provided quite an emotional moment between long time best friends Sookie and Lorelai.
16 Hurt: An emotional moment of growth between Lorelai and Michel was a late cut from the revival
While besties turned business partners Lorelai and Sookie got to have one long, really meaningful moment in A Year in the Life, it turns out that a similarly resonant scene between sparring partners and best pals Lorelai and Michel was left on the cutting room floor at the eleventh hour. Much of Michel’s storyline in the revival concerned his struggle to decide whether to remain at the Dragonfly Inn, loyal to Lorelai, or forge his own business path.
According to Yanic Truesdale, who plays the winningly sarcastic Frenchman, a scene was cut that “was a big moment for Michel and Lorelai where they go and they buy that other place to do the spa,” therefore showing their continued partnership.
15 Saved: Nina Garbiras was passed over for the role of Lorelai
While it’s definitely true that major supporting players need to be perfectly cast, there’s no way that a series can be able to cut it without getting the casting of its lead exactly right. Gilmore Girls, as the title suggests, had two leading ladies to secure the perfect actresses for – and, according to the 2015 book The Gilmore Girls Companion, Lorelai could have once looked very different.
It’s impossible to imagine anyone other than Lauren Graham inhabiting Lorelai’s fast talking, coffee chugging shoes. However, in the final days of the casting process, the role very nearly went to Nina Garbiras, an actress who appeared in the early 2000s series Boomtown and Leap Years, as well as the 2007 movie The Nanny Diaries.
14 Hurt: Jess is written out via a failed spinoff pilot
Not every planted spinoff pilot is going to work; recent failed attempts at soft launching series have proven middling, at best, and horrible, at worst. However, back in the early 2000s, it was far more frequently done with dramas than it is nowadays, when spinoffs usually get that treatment for sitcoms. Gilmore Girls decided to dip its toes in the spinoff water with the season three episode “Here Comes the Son”, which found Jess heading to California in search of his absentee father, Jimmy.
After that episode, which never quite matched the Gilmore tone just right, The WB pursued filming a real potential pilot, Windward Circle, which would have had Jess moving to California full time. However, the series was ultimately dropped, and the pilot never saw the light of day in full.
13 Saved: Jared Padalecki replaced Nathan Wetherington as Dean
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone these days who really thinks that Dean Forester was an especially wonderful character, or even remotely likable, in the end. However, there’s no doubt that Dean would have been far less tolerable, especially early on, had he been played by anyone else other than the boyishly charming Jared Padalecki. Long before he was a member of the Winchester family on Supernatural, Padalecki was Rory’s first love, causing girls everywhere to swoon.
When the first pilot for Gilmore Girls was filmed, though, Dean was played by another up and coming actor at the time, Nathan Wetherington, and he had much more of a sketchy, troublemaking vibe to him than the goody two shoes Dean we all know ultimately would.
12 Hurt: Tristan was written out of the series
Tristan Dugray was Gilmore Girls’ first attempt at including a bad boy character for Rory to spark with, long before Jess was even ever mentioned. Played by future One Tree Hill star Chad Michael Murray, Tristan was entitled, arrogant, and entirely smitten with Rory, even if he relished in annoying her by calling her “Mary.” While it was clear the two would never work in any romantic capacity, Tristan was always a guaranteed way to stir up excitement during any given moment at Chilton.
However, in 2001, Gilmore was forced to say goodbye to Tristan for good following Chad Michael Murray’s casting in an extended recurring role on Dawsons’s Creek. Murray’s episodes of Dawson began airing in October of 2001, and he would stay on the series through April 2002. As a result of this move, Tristan last showed up on GG in November 2001.
11 Saved: Rory's age when becoming pregnant was changed from 22 to 32
Whether you loved the ending of A Year in the Life or absolutely hated it, those four little words that change the lives of the Gilmore family are here to stay. As it turns out, however, those four little words were the exact ending that Amy Sherman Palladino had always envisioned for the series – even when Rory was barely 22 years old and right out of college.
On the one hand, it’s still not the best ending (or “ending,” should Netflix revisit Stars Hollow again) for her character, seeing as she spends the entire revival aimless, mostly jobless, and as immature as ever. However, on the bright side, having Rory become unexpectedly pregnant at 32 instead of 22 is definitely a much better choice.
10 Hurt: Including Mitchum Huntzberger after considering omitting him
Let’s be honest: Huntzbergers are the root of so many of the problems that happen in the last few seasons of Gilmore Girls, and even in the revival, too. A dynastic family that rivals the Gilmores, the Huntzberger clan is led by patriarch Mitchum Huntzberger, a sneering cutthroat businessman who won’t ever accept anything other than what he wants. It’s Mitchum’s criticism of Rory that sends her on a downward spiral in seasons five and six, after all.
However, when the series was initially unable to secure Gregg Henry in the role, Mitchum’s character was very nearly removed from the show altogether. However – unfortunately – Henry’s schedule cleared up, allowing for him to take on the part, and Mitchum to ruin basically everything in the process.
9 Saved: Kirk became a major player after a small part as a different character
Few characters on Gilmore Girls have more, shall we say, character to them than the resident town weirdo Kirk Gleason. With nearly a hundred jobs to his name over the course of the series, and some of the most bizarre moments all occurring thanks to him, it suffices to say that Stars Hollow would have been a very different place had Petal the Pig’s father never existed.
In the beginning, however, there were no plans for such a character – and in fact, Sean Gunn appeared in an early season one episode as Mick, a DSL installer working on the Gilmore home. When it became clear that Sherman Palladino had taken to Sean Gunn as an actor, though, Mick became Kirk and a much more important character as a result.
8 Saved: Alexis Bledel was cast despite a botched audition
Job interviews and auditions can be nerve wracking for pretty much anyone, but imagine coming close to losing out on a career-defining role just because of a case of the sniffles. That was what very nearly happened for Alexis Bledel, who, of course, will now and forever be known as the idealized Rory Gilmore. When the pilot was being cast, Bledel auditioned multiple times, including one crucial audition that she was forced to struggle through while fighting off a bug.
Her screen test was going so poorly that she very nearly lost out on the role. However, according to casting director Jill Anthony, “Luckily, we had videotaped one of her early auditions. We popped that in, and they saw her on camera and she just jumped off the screen, you know. Those blue eyes.”
7 Hurt: Dave was written out of the series
Dave Rygalski, we hardly knew you. As the kind, gentlemanly, nerdy, and musically genius boyfriend of Rory’s best friend and aspiring rockstar Lane Kim, Adam Brody was exactly everything a girl like Lane deserved, more than proving his worth and his commitment to her and her family on many occasions. However, some behind-the-scenes career changes forced Dave to disappear from the world of Stars Hollow without hardly a word.
Adam Brody was cast as Seth Cohen in The OC in March 2003, and he last appeared as Dave on Gilmore in May 2003. When The OC officially made it to air in August 2003, Brody’s star finally took off, and he remained with the series for its entire run, never returning to the world of Gilmore Girls again.
6 Saved: Lane's casting was a last minute addition
It’s hard to imagine a world where Rory Gilmore didn’t have a Lane Kim. Admittedly, especially in the later seasons, Lane’s active role in the series is diminished as Rory’s friendship with Paris was prioritized, and Lane does wind up getting the short end of the stick when it comes to her seventh season storyline. As played by Keiko Agena, though, Lane is one of the series’ strongest characters, and certainly one of its most inspiring, independent female voices.
However, it’s entirely possible that the series could have happened without Lane ever existing. When the casting team was coming up unsuccessful in its attempts to find a young, comedically gifted actress, they were forced to look elsewhere, and thankfully found the gifted Agena for the role.
5 Hurt: Milo Ventimiglia walked away from a six season contract offer
Whether you love him or hate him, there’s no way of denying that Jess was one of the most interesting characters Gilmore Girls produced, and perfectly cast at that. While he was a main character for seasons two and three, Jess only appeared a handful of times over the remainder of the series, and stopped by for a few short scenes in the revival.
If Amy Sherman Palladino had gotten what she wanted, however, there would have been a lot more Jess than fans may have known what to do with. In a 2006 interview with Player magazine, Milo Ventimiglia revealed that Gilmore Girls “was the first job where I really was put into the public eye, where I was on a show regularly. With Gilmore, I had a two-year contract, they wanted six years and I said no."
4 Saved: Lauren Graham was able to join the series after initially refusing due to other commitments
We’ve already expressed our utter refusal to accept any other actress besides Lauren Graham in the role of Lorelai Gilmore. However, as it turns out, not only were other actresses finalists for the part, but Graham was even originally forced to refuse the role due to commitments to another series.
When Gilmore Girls was casting its pilot, Graham was signed on to the series M.Y.O.B. (Mind Your Own Business), and no matter how much the show wanted her and how much she wanted the part of Lorelai, she was bound to her commitments there. However, to the delight of Gilmore fans everywhere, M.Y.O.B. was cancelled, freeing Graham up for the role that would go on to serve as the real launching point and star making turn of her career.
3 Hurt: Amy Sherman Palladino and Daniel Palladino exited the series
Sometimes, Hollywood can be downright ugly, especially when the business side of things is concerned. When Gilmore Girls was picked up for a seventh season on the newly launched The CW, following the merger of The WB and UPN, it should have been a moment of great joy for fans of the series.
However, it was an announcement that was tainted from the very beginning, as it was also revealed that series creators and writers Amy Sherman Palladino and Daniel Palladino would not be carrying over to the new network due to failed negotiations behind the scenes. Yet what the Palladinos didn’t know when they departed the series, however, was that the upcoming season on The CW was to be Gilmore’s last, serving as a bittersweet cap to the otherwise mostly perfect series they had created during their run on The WB.
2 Saved: Luke was changed from a minor female character to a main male character
Gilmore Girls without Luke and Lorelai is like… well, Gilmore Girls without coffee: totally unthinkable, and even downright horrifying. However, if it weren’t for a note from the network, that’s entirely the reality we would have had. In the first version of the pilot script, the diner owner that Lorelai bantered with was a random female diner owner, who would likely never be seen again.
When the powers that be behind-the-series decided that there wasn’t enough testosterone in this series basically devoted to the idea of strong women, though, Luke was born, Scott Patterson was hired, and the iconic curmudgeon with a heart of gold began to win hearts everywhere, including the one belonging to Lorelai Gilmore.
1 Saved: Melissa McCarthy replaced Alex Borstein as Sookie
If it weren’t for a very last minute change following the first version of the pilot, we very well may live in a world in which Melissa McCarthy never became a comedy superstar. When Gilmore Girls was first filmed, Sookie St. James was played by the now Emmy-winning Alex Borstein of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Decidedly different than McCarthy’s Sookie, Borstein never felt right for the role in any of the scenes in the unaired pilot.
However, not to worry, Borstein would recur throughout season one as Drella, a snarky harpist who worked events at the Independence Inn. McCarthy, of course, would become the adorable, hapless chef mastermind and Lorelai’s partner in crime – and the rest is history.
Which of these last minute changes do you think helped or hurt Gilmore Girls the most? Let us know in the comments!