Lauren Graham is beloved for her starring role as fast-talking mom Lorelai Gilmore in “Gilmore Girls” and TV shows like “Parenthood” and the “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers.” But the actress and author has also worked to tell her story on her own terms through her multiple books — mostly autobiographical nonfiction.
In her latest work, “Have I Told You This Already?” which was released last year, she goes into several short stories throughout her career, tells funny anecdotes, delves into the unspoken rules of Hollywood and gives kernels of advice. To promote the paperback release of the book, Graham is embarking on a tour that started with a sold-out talk at The Wilbur Theatre in Boston on Tuesday. Ahead of the event, Graham spoke with GBH News about her book and her thoughts on the entertainment industry.
Lightly edited excerpts from the interview are below. You can hear the full interview by clicking the player at the top of this page.
Haley Lerner: “Have I Told You This Already?” is your fourth book. What has made you want to tell stories and anecdotes of things that happened throughout your life?
Lauren Graham: It's almost like when you learn a new skill or a new word and then it keeps coming to you. The process of doing these essays has gotten more enjoyable and easier, and they kind of come to me. It's less work, in a weird way, than when I'm trying to write fiction or write a script.
I'm not sure if I have another one, because I've told most of the stories as well as I can remember them. But structurally, they're really fun to work on.
Lerner: In this book, you write a lot about your early days in the entertainment industry. What made you want to share the stories of your early beginnings?
Graham: I think one of the reasons is because it's so different now, and I'm struck by the audacity of hope — to steal someone else's phrase — that I had at the time with no good reason.
I'm kind of interested in, as the business has changed and I've changed, who that person was and what that ambition was. I'm working on casting a movie right now with young actors, and it's just so different how they are noticed and social media has obviously changed everything.
I wanted to preserve my memories of that time because I didn't expect the process of getting to where I got to to become obsolete so quickly. But it did.
Lerner: Right now, we’re at a big moment in the entertainment industry with the SAG-AFTRA strike recently ending. How does it feel to get back to work?
Graham: Well, obviously, provided that the contract is signed off on, it's just such a big relief.
On the heels of the pandemic, it has just been a really sad time and I feel a lot of concern. You can't underestimate that it's not just the actors. It's all the people who work as a team to make production happen that I just feel concerned about. But, the fact that we have something to feel hopeful about, especially around holiday times, is a blessing.
Lerner: In your book, you talk about changes in the industry, whether it be with now having intimacy coordinators or just all the convoluted details that go into the making of a film or television show. What is one of your favorite funny anecdotes from the book?
Graham: I, of course, want to be sensitive about it, but as a person on a children's TV show [“The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers”], I had a very chaste kiss with my co-star. That was my first encounter with an intimacy coordinator. Meanwhile, throughout my career, I've had much more intimate scenes with absolutely no help. So, I just felt almost bad for this kind woman who was like, "How can I help you feel more comfortable?" And I was like, "It's a peck with a buddy of mine. Like, I'm OK." So, I appreciate the concern, but I'm like, "Where were you in the '90s?"
Lerner: You also bring up a funny anecdote that has to do with Boston. You were in a meeting talking about adapting your novel “Someday, Someday, Maybe” into a movie — and someone in the room remarked, “I love Boston!” despite the script having nothing to do with and not taking place in the city. It became clear to you that the project wasn’t going where you wanted it.
Graham: Well, that's pretty much verbatim. I long for the days that I used to hear about where people tell you they hate your work or your face is weird or whatever. Now there's kind of a thing that goes on when a group is making a decision and they kind of wait for the boss. So, the process of understanding that your project is getting passed on can sometimes be confusing! Also, Boston, for me personally, is quite significant as it's where my parents met. So, I wouldn't exist without Boston.
“I long for the days that I used to hear about where people tell you they hate your work or your face is weird.”
Lerner: You write about the world of navigating being a television star with “Gilmore Girls” and “Parenthood.” Seeing that these shows have had such longevity and people still love and enjoy them, what does it feel like?
Graham: It's just something I feel so happy about and so proud of and a responsibility to express my appreciation for what I've received back from people.
You never know when you're in something what its longevity will be. You don’t expect anything like this. I could not have predicted the invention of the internet, the invention of streaming. I mean, none of that existed. I grew up watching some shows and reruns, and that was how I saw “The Brady Bunch” or “Laverne & Shirley.” But now it's just a whole new world.
You know, that was one of the issues in the strike, is how do we keep up with how media is changing and how consumption is changing and make sure it's fair for everyone? When you have a success, you want everyone to benefit.
Lerner: Being on such popular shows, do you ever feel that in real life or in casting rooms, people are expecting you to be just like your characters?
Graham: For sure. But the good news for me is it's a pretty appealing character. I know some people feel [Lorelai Gilmore] talks too much, but that was the whole point of the show.
And, you know, I think in another book I gave the reference of, like, if I was Bryan Cranston — only known for “Breaking Bad” — I would have a different reaction from people in the airport than I do. It's just really sweet mothers and daughters especially that get excited and feel that they really relate to the show. So, it's a very positive residual of being part of that show. It made people happy. And that makes me happy.
Lerner: In your career, you’ve taken on multiple hats with acting and writing and directing. What's it like to keep trying new things and building on these skills? Why is it important for you to keep growing?
Graham: I wish I knew. I wish I would just take up knitting. I just think that's the form my ambition takes. I understand what this work is. That just feeds my interest in doing something else or doing it on a different level. The directing came from being on these long-running TV shows where you really begin to see them as a system that is operated by all of these different departments, without which you would not have the whole.
I have an understanding of that now that makes me want to be the one to kind of run the set and appreciate what each department brings and have the vision for what the story looks like and feels like.