Warning: This interview about Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life contains spoilers.
It’s not Uber… it’s Ooober. For Gilmore Girls fans who’ve already delved into at least the first episode of Netflix’s A Year in the Life revival series, you know what we’re talking about: the latest entrepreneurial project from Kirk Gleason, the man who gave us Condoleezza Rice mailboxes, the Hay There skin care line, and Kirk’s Diner.
Yahoo TV talked to Sean Gunn, the actor behind Kirk and his delightful quirkiness, about his character’s latest adventures on Netflix, returning to the Gilmore set without co-star Edward Herrmann, and the ambiguous status of Kirk’s relationship with longtime — girlfriend? — Lulu.
Gunn also offered previews of his 2017 movie projects — The Belko Experiment and a Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, both collaborations with his screenwriter brother, James Gunn — and shared his all-time favorite Kirk moments, as well as his idea for the perfect Kirk storyline should there be more Gilmore Girls episodes in our future.
Yahoo TV: Congratulations, Sean. You are part of what is arguably the pop culture event of the entire year.
Sean Gunn: Wow, thank you, yes. I’m flattered by that. It’s a little nuts. I can’t believe it, but I’m happy about it.
Does it feel that way to you? Do you feel in the middle of all that excitement?
I do, yeah. It’s been such a whirlwind from the time that I realized that we were definitely doing it, which was late last year, then through shooting earlier this year, and now, with all of the buzz and all of the interest from the fans. It’s mind-blowing. I’m happy to be a part of it… I’m trying to grab onto my seat and hang on for the ride and enjoy it.
Fans have wanted a reunion pretty much since the day after the series finale. When it became a reality that this was going to happen, did you know right away how big a role Kirk would play?
I think that’s just how it worked out. I was certainly very pleased when I read the script and I saw how much fun stuff I got to do. I think it was lucky, because I was shooting [the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel] at the same time. The fact that we were able to schedule around that and that I still got so much cool stuff to do was really great. I haven’t seen [A Year in the Life] yet. You’re one up on me.
Where were you on shooting Galaxy at that point? Were you right in the middle of that as well?
Yes. The Gilmore Girls shoot came completely in the middle of it. We started Guardians before Gilmore, and we ended after Gilmore wrapped. I was in Atlanta from January through June, shooting Guardians of the Galaxy. Then Gilmore was late February to early May. I was doing double duty, but it was awesome. It was the busiest time of my career, and I loved it.
You racked up plenty of frequent flier miles?
Yeah, I really did.
Kirk and Kraglin, from Galaxy, are quirky, yet dramatically different characters. Was it fun to really throw yourself into both at the same time?
Yes, it was. I love both characters. I love both projects. I’ve been really focusing on the gratitude that I feel for where things are in my career right now, that I’ve been fortunate enough to have roles in these two great projects that came back. A Guardians sequel and a Gilmore Girls reboot right at the same time was really awesome.
You really were going back to two projects that each have such devoted fanbases.
Totally. First of all, you have a little of the pressure taken off of you because although, of course, you still want it to be as good as it can possibly be, you’re not as worried about finding an audience. We know when we’re shooting Gilmore Girls that we have an audience. That certainly helps a lot. The same is true for Guardians. You never know exactly how well a movie is going to do, but it’s unlikely to bomb because of the success of the first movie. It’s even more reason to just focus on the work and telling a great story, telling it as well as you possibly can.
Did you pitch any ideas yourself for Kirk?
No. I never have. Amy [Sherman-Palladino] doesn’t really work like that, and I respect it. She has her hands on the reins, and she knows where she wants to take things. I have implicit trust in what she’s going to do. I’m more comfortable letting her take over than trying to think about, “This is what I think would be funny or cool to do.” There are so many different balls to juggle when you’re telling a large story that has a lot of different parts. Yeah, I’m happy to just get that script and open it up and see what I’m doing.
What was your reaction when you read that Kirk would be starting Ooober?
I thought it was hilarious. It sounded very Kirk-like. I wasn’t surprised. I thought the writing was really funny. It just really tickles me that [Lorelai’s] like, “How’s it different from Uber?” He says, “No, no. You call my mom and my mom lets me know, and then I come and pick you up.” Like, “How could you not know this? It’s the simplest thing in the world.” It’s very Kirk, and that was very fun to shoot.
We also see the premiere of the second original film by Kirk.
Oh, man. That was the first thing I shot, actually. When I stepped foot into Stars Hallow for the first time in almost a decade, I was shooting the black-and-white stuff for the new film by Kirk. That’s been a spoiler that I’ve been wanting to tell people for so long, but I haven’t been able to. I wanted the fans to know that there’s another film by Kirk coming out. I think people will be excited by that. God, yeah, it’s fun. I want to see it. I thought it was funny when we were shooting it, but you always get a little worried. You never know how things are going to end up looking.
What was that like for you, stepping back into this world? As an actor, it’s probably not something you think is going to happen when a series ends. You don’t know if you’ll ever get to work with this entire group of people again, on those sets, which were so beautiful and specific, making up that charming town.
It was a trip. It definitely brought me back. I keep using this word, but it’s true: I really just felt so grateful, because when the show started, I was in my mid-20s. I really loved doing the show, and I loved the character, but as it went on, you get wrapped up in Hollywood and in your career. I don’t know that I ever appreciated it as much as I should have while I was doing it originally. Then I came to appreciate it more as the years went on, particularly after it came out on Netflix and it had this revitalized fanbase. People started going crazy. I really realized how much the show had moved a lot of people. Then to get the opportunity to pick that back up again and to reach those fans again and to do our best to tell stories that people really want to hear, I just feel tons of gratitude for that. I was able to step back on set and know that it was special in a way that maybe I had missed the first time around.
You’ve talked previously about Edward Herrmann and how much he meant to you, some great advice that he gave you. What was that like for you and everyone in the cast, to return to that world without him there?
You know what’s weird is that yes, it was incredibly difficult, but also, in another sense, Ed was there in a way, because our collective love for him is something that’s very real and felt present as we were shooting it. It’s so sad to think about how much Ed would have loved to have come back and done the show, because I know he would have. But it’s also something to be celebrated, how great his work was and how much we continued to honor him. In my eyes — and I know that Lauren [Graham] and Alexis [Bledel] and Amy and Kelly [Bishop] and Scott [Patterson] would say the same thing — Ed is always there. Any time we do anything related to Gilmore Girls, Ed will be there.
Was it a little extra special to have Kirk be at one of those famous Gilmore family dinners?
For sure. I adore Kelly Bishop as a human being and as an actress. I think her work on this show is absolutely superlative across the board. Just the opportunity, in those little moments, to work with Kelly is a real treat for me. I really appreciated that.
What is your favorite moment or Kirk storyline from the new episodes?
Right now, I can only say it in terms of what was my favorite to shoot. I loved shooting the film by Kirk. It’s so funny to me. Kirk is out in the middle of the road, and he’s leaning over the body. I think that that was probably my favorite thing to shoot. Although on the whole, my favorite thing was the food festival in the town square, with all the different countries represented. It was a fun scene, but it was also a comfortable old slipper, that scene. Everything was in place. Taylor was running the show. I was right over Taylor’s arm with a clipboard. The long walk-and-talks with Lauren and Scott. That day was like, “Oh, this is Gilmore Girls again. We are back at it. We are back right into the thick of it.”
And pretty much any time Taylor and Kirk are together is a great moment.
I love Mike Winters. He’s such a great actor. In some ways, I think that he gets overlooked a little bit because his character can be irritating at times. He’s the guy you don’t want to be. Taylor’s always going on and on about something or other. In terms of what he had to do technically as an actor with all his dialogue, with running the scenes in the town meetings at Miss Patty’s and quarterbacking a lot of the big festival scenes and stuff like that, that is not easy work, and he’s a master at it. He is a really, really great actor. I’ve always appreciated having somebody so sharp there to play off of.
We also get to see Kirk interacting with Luke. They developed a very unlikely, odd bromance throughout the original series, and that became such a beloved part of the show. Obviously the writers realized this, that you and Scott Patterson had such great chemistry. Did that just happen organically?
Yeah, I definitely sense what you’re talking about. I don’t know how it landed there, other than to know that I really like working with Scott a lot. I think our scenes play well. Scott is another guy who I think doesn’t always get enough credit for being as funny as he is. He’s a great straight man. You have these scenes with Luke and Kirk, where he’s the straight man and I’m the goofball. Scott is really good at that. I think it just developed organically over the years, but I do like that friendship. I think Kirk considers Luke a better friend than Luke considers Kirk, but that’s OK. That’s probably true of pretty much everyone in Kirk’s life. I think Luke was grudgingly warm with Kirk.
We know that Kirk and Lulu are still together, but we don’t really get confirmation on specifics.
That’s true. I don’t know. I don’t know any more than you do, unfortunately. We can see that they’re still together. I’d like to hope that they’re not living in Kirk’s mom’s basement. But I think Kirk is still living in that basement. My guess is that they’re still boyfriend and girlfriend. I guess they’re not living together. I’ve got to ask Amy that question.
After doing these episodes, do you feel like you want to go and do more now? Do you feel like there should be another season, or do you think we should wait another few years, just continue to periodically check in with these great characters?
That’s a great question. I try not to want any one specific thing to happen because that’s then bound to probably not happen. Particularly in Hollywood, I try not to set my hopes on anything. I do believe that the idea that we could go back and shoot more in the future certainly seems possible. My gut is, let’s see how these go and then we’ll talk about it. I do think that if the demand is there from the fans, then I think it’s a question of money and schedules. I think that we all enjoy doing it. I would like to think that Kirk isn’t gone forever, but you never know.
It does seem like, hearing all of you talk about what it was like to return to the sets and be working with each other again, that many of you were almost surprised at how much you loved jumping back into the show. Is that true?
Yes, I was. I was surprised. I was mostly surprised by how much everybody seemed to really embrace it and be really into it. The first time around, we all worked very hard on the show. We worked long hours. Particularly the leads on the show worked long hours, with tons of dialogue. At times, it could be a very difficult show to shoot. This time around, I think it was just easier on everybody. We were all older and wiser and had a little more leeway from Netflix than maybe we’d had in the past, in terms of Amy being able to do things the way that she wanted to. In the same way I said to you that I was grateful for the opportunity, I think we all felt that. It was a nicer experience this time around. Yeah, I would think that that bodes well for maybe it’s possible to do it again. Who knows?
We just touched on the specifics of Lulu and Kirk, what we don’t know about them. Are there any other questions that you still have about Kirk, or about the other characters, or about the town that weren’t answered yet?
Oh my gosh. I have so many questions about Kirk. Don’t we all have questions? Isn’t Kirk just questionable in general? I try not to judge Kirk too much. My job is to breathe life into what’s on the page. I generally focus on that. In terms of what Kirk is doing when we don’t see him, he might be doing anything.
Do you have all-time favorite Kirk moments?
Yeah. The ones that jump to mind right off the bat are playing Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. The film by Kirk, obviously. Playing Jesus in The Festival of Living Art. Cat Kirk, which I’m reminded of all the time, because I have cats. Personally, I’m a big cat lover, and whenever I post a picture of me with one of my cats on Instagram, I get a dozen comments from people saying, “Cat Kirk.” Those ones stick out. Then there’s scenes. Obviously running the night terrors — any time I’m naked, I remember well, which was more than once, sadly. Yeah, I have a couple of really great scenes with Scott that I love, one where I’m telling him about night terrors. I love the scene on the first date with Lulu, where I take Luke aside and have him give me pointers on how to act on the date.
After all this Gilmore Girls hoopla, you have a pair of big movies coming up next year, Guardians and The Belko Experiment. Tell me about the latter.
The Belko Experiment is coming out on March 17. It is a psychological horror thriller, I would call it, I guess. It’s pretty violent. If you don’t like violence, you may want to skip this one. It’s intense. I had a lot of fun working on that movie, a bunch of great actors in that movie.
I was just going to say, that cast is amazing. You and Michael Rooker, Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley. Have you done a movie like that before, that kind of intense psychological thriller?
No, not really. I’ve been killed in movies before, but no, I’ve never really done one exactly like this. I don’t know if there’s ever been a movie exactly like this. It’s a very different role for me, and I’m definitely excited for fans of Gilmore Girls to check this movie out. I’m excited for them to see me acting in a totally different way. The character, Marty, in Belko, is nothing like Kirk. At least I hope. If he’s a lot like Kirk, I might be in trouble.
Will we recognize you?
I would think so. My hair is blond in it, but that’s not that big of a deal.
You said it’s maybe unlike any other film. Can you tease a little more about that?
I think it asks a very tough moral and ethical question, which is, would you be able to kill someone if you knew that you would be saving more lives by doing so? Would you be able to kill someone who is innocent if you knew that you could save more innocent lives if you did so? It is a very tricky and harrowing question, but it’s the question that the movie puts in front of you.
Is your character, Marty, part of having to make that decision?
Everyone is part of having to make that decision. Marty is a bit of a stoner, works in a cafeteria. I think the pressure of it all gets to Marty quite severely.
That is a good tease. There’s also the Guardians sequel in May, and that is a movie where your fans probably didn’t recognize you at first. What can you tease about the sequel and your character?
My role is a little expanded in this movie, which is nice. Kraglin is the right-hand man of Yondu [played by Michael Rooker], who is the leader of the Ravagers, who had abducted Peter Quill [played by Chris Pratt] from a young age. Guardians ends with Peter having double-crossed Yondu and the Ravagers, and not giving them the Infinity Stone as he had promised. The second movie takes place just a couple months after the first movie. We learn that the Ravagers are not pleased with the fact that Peter has double-crossed them. They’re also not pleased that Yondu doesn’t seem to be going after him as hard as they think he ought to. The Ravagers are starting to have a bit of turmoil within their ranks about whether they should mutiny against Yondu, and Kraglin is a part of all the drama that unfolds there. That movie was such a delight to make and getting to go back… it was yet another thing where I get to go back on the set and see all the people that I had worked with years earlier. Going back in, it’s so great.
What’s your dream next thing?
Gosh. I try not to think in those terms too much. I chase the words. My dream next thing is a great script. This year I worked on Gilmore Girls, and I worked on the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel — great scripts for both. If I can keep getting great scripts, I’m set. I don’t need anything more than that.
If there are additional Gilmore episodes, movies, whatever it be, in our future, is there anything you absolutely want to see Kirk do or try? A third Kirk film?
I’ll be happy with whatever Kirk might be doing, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Kirk run for political office or something like that. That might be fun. A power struggle between Taylor and Kirk just might really hit the spot.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is streaming now on Netflix.