It would probably be an understatement to say that I’m a fan of the “Gilmore Girls.” I became obsessed with the show after I rented Season One last year (that’s right, last year–I was really late to this party!). It sucked me right into the world of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, and I never wanted to leave.
There were a lot of fun sets featured in this show, so for starters, I thought we’d take a look at the Dragonfly Inn that Lorelai and her best friend Sookie owned. Then we’ll visit some other scenes from around town.
2/11 UPDATE: Steve tells me: “This house was not the original Waltons house (which burned down in late 1991) but a reconstruction on the Warner Ranch (the first one had been on the Burbank backlot), and was used for the three 1990s Waltons reunion movies. One of the few shows to use the Waltons house (after TW had ended) was “Dukes of Hazzard” in 1985 – after all the house was ‘typecast’ by then!” Thanks, Steve!
You may recall when Lorelai and Sookie first went to look at the house to consider buying it (in Season Two), it looked pretty much like this, with the same white siding, screen door, and front porch. They added some (falling down) shutters and wrecked everything up a little, though:
It was fun to watch the story of the inn unfold on the show. First we saw them looking at the abandoned old house. Then we followed along as they bought it and construction began. Finally, we saw the results of the renovated inn.
It played out in “real time.” There were several years between the episode when they first went to see the place and when they opened for business. But it was worth the wait!
Amy Sherman-Palladino, the creator, writer and co-producer of “Gilmore Girls,” had the idea for the show after visiting a small town in Connecticut called Washington Depot.
She says she and her husband Daniel (who co-produced and wrote the show with her) went into a coffee shop at Washington Depot where everyone knew each other, and customers were going behind the counter to pour their own coffee. It inspired her to start jotting down dialogue for what would become “Gilmore Girls.”
The Dragonfly’s Front Desk:
Rory Gilmore, played by Alexis Bledel (above), was putting herself through college at NYU when they began casting for the show. She wasn’t really interested in being Rory and had to be talked into auditioning at all. Then she had to leave the audition early to make another appointment. She got the role anyway.
I wish I could eat all the junk food that Lorelai and Rory wolf down on the show and still look as great as they do. Lauren Graham mentioned in an interview that people ask her all the time if they really eat like that. Her answer: “Um, no.”
The Stairs That Lead to the Guest Rooms:
I grabbed a (fuzzy) screenshot of the foyer set during the behind-the-scenes tour on the DVD. You can see that the stairs don’t actually go anywhere:
The Living Room:
The old jukebox in the otherwise-traditional living room seems like a perfect expression of Lorelai’s quirky personality–and her love of music.
How the Dragonfly’s living room set looks when the cameras aren’t rolling:
The Dragonfly Dining Room:
Lorelai has lunch with Christopher, Rory’s father, in the dining room:
You can see through the doorway behind Christopher and Lorelai (and Christopher’s daughter Gigi) the inn’s library.
Behind the Scenes: The Dining Room Set
I loved the library with the black painted moldings and bookshelves. Few scenes were shot in this room, though.
Sookie was originally played by Alex Borstein in a pilot that never aired. They had to recast the role because Borstein couldn’t get out of another contract, but she ended up playing some smaller parts in the show now and then, like the harp-playing Drella at the Independence Inn.
Now it’s hard to imagine anyone but the fabulous Melissa McCarthy as Sookie. I loved her as Christina Applegate’s friend Dena in “Samantha Who,” too. I was excited to hear she’s been cast in a new sitcom, so we’ll be seeing her on TV again soon.
In this shot of the Dragonfly kitchen you can see the big message board, the shelves lined with cookbooks, and the doorway into the pantry:
Behind the Scenes: The Kitchen Set
In the DVD Special Features, Melissa McCarthy (Sookie) gives us a behind-the-scenes tour of the sets. Here she shows us what the kitchen looks like from above:
Sookie makes herself at home in one of the Guest Rooms:
Scenes from Stars Hollow:
The pilot for “Gilmore Girls” was shot in a small town in Toronto (Historic Unionville). When the show was picked up, they reproduced the look of the interiors from the pilot on soundstages in Burbank, California.
For the exteriors, they filmed on a Warner Bros. backlot that had been built decades earlier for movies like The Music Man and used by shows like The Dukes of Hazzard (Stars Hollow High School, for instance, was the Hazzard County Courthouse).
Luke’s Diner was actually a hardware store in Canada. They left the hardware sign up and wrote it into the story (that Luke’s dad had run a hardware store in that spot).
Inside Luke’s Diner:
Luke was originally written as a woman named Daisy who ran the diner. Because there were so many female characters in the script, they decided to cast a man (Scott Patterson) instead.
They had no intentions of pairing him with Lorelai–the relationship just evolved. Viewers clamored for the show to bring them together. When they finally did, ratings soared.
Remember when Luke’s troubled nephew Jess (Milo Ventimiglia, who went on to star in “Heroes”) traveled to California to meet his estranged dad (Rob Estes) and his dad’s new wife (Sherilynn Fenn)? I thought that episode was so strange. Turns out it was supposed to become a spin-off called “Windward Circle,” but the WB didn’t pick it up.
Amy Sherman loved Sherilynn Fenn so much that she wrote a new character for her on the show, as Luke’s ex-girlfriend Anna. She was intended to get in the way of Luke’s relationship with Lorelai, but after Sherman left the show, the new writers took things in a different direction.
The Independence Inn:
When the series began, and before she opened the Dragonfly, Lorelai worked at the local Independence Inn.
Yanic Truesdale, who played the acerbic Frenchman Michel (shown above), is Canadian. He doesn’t really have that heavy French accent.
The Independence Inn was much more traditional and masculine looking than the Dragonfly Inn.
The Independence Inn’s Dining Room (during the Mother-Daughter fashion show Lorelai organized for Chilton):
Mrs. Kim’s Antiques:
Rory’s best friend was Lane Kim (played by Keiko Agena), who lived in the town’s antiques store with her mother. Lane was based on Amy Sherman’s real-life best friend Helen, who had a similar upbringing (strict, Korean, religious).
Sookie’s house is warm and colorful like she is.
There’s a wonderful website that features locations for various movies and TV shows, including this one. Check out the page for “Gilmore Girls:” It’s Filmed There.
Amy Sherman explained her fascination with the small Connecticut town that would become Stars Hollow onscreen:
“Now, I’ve never been there in winter, when you’re snowed in and you can’t go anywhere, and you and your husband want to kill each other because you can’t go to a movie. But at the time I was there, it was beautiful, it was magical, and it was feeling of warmth and small-town camaraderie. . . . There was a longing for that in my own life, and I thought — that’s something that I would really love to put out there.”
Aren’t we glad she did?
*UPDATE: You can see Lorelai’s house, the Gilmore mansion, and Rory’s pool house here.*
Visit my TV/Movie Houses page to see more, including another show that shot on this same lot and uses many of the same houses…