STAGE TO SCREENS: Former "Gilmore Girl" Alexis Bledel Arrives Off-Broadway in Regrets

By Melissa Rose Bernardo
March 27, 2012

If you notice more than the usual number of teen-to-twentysomething girls milling around Manhattan Theatre Club's Off-Broadway home at City Center Stage I these days, they're probably there to see Alexis Bledel.



*

Apologies to Tony winner Adriane Lenox, who heads the cast of Regrets, and to young British playwright Matt Charman. But Bledel has built up quite the female fan base thanks to her seven-season run as the fast-talking, quick-witted Rory on TV's "Gilmore Girls" (2000-07), not to mention her turn as aspiring art student Lena in the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" movies — the films that prove the perfect pair of jeans are out there somewhere.

Now, after testing New York's theatrical waters with a 2011 stint in Off-Broadway's Love, Loss, and What I Wore, Bledel is part of MTC's world-premiere production of Charman's Regrets, a 1950s-set ensemble drama set on a Nevada divorce ranch; along with the aforementioned Lenox, the ensemble cast also includes Curt Bouril, Ansel Elgort, Brian Hutchison, Lucas Caleb Rooney and Richard Topol. ("Gilmore Girls" trivia! Tsopol appeared in not one but two "GG" episodes: In season 1's "The Deer Hunter," he was the waiter who served Sookie's magic risotto to a famous food critic; and in season 2's "Teach Me Tonight," he was the ER doc who tended to Rory's fractured wrist.)

Bledel's Regrets character, Chrissie, isn't there to end her marriage. She's just a local girl providing comfort — or "haircuts" — to the men during their six-week residencies. "I think Chrissie always sort of made sense to me," says Bledel. "I had a take on her that felt right." We chatted with the soft-spoken Houston-born actress — "I don't like to publicize myself," she admits — just a few days before her March 27 opening night.

Bledel in Regrets.
photo by Carol Rosegg

I don't think we're spoiling anything if we say Chrissie's not really a hairdresser. She's pretty much the hooker-with-the-heart-of-gold.
Alexis Bledel: She is. It is sort of a storytelling tradition, a character we've seen before. But she's actually a pretty incredible person. She does go through a lot in her home life and you only see a glimpse of that. And what she does — all these men are waiting out their divorces and she shows up a welcome distraction to them. While she's selling herself, she does it with this sweetness. It is the '50s. She doesn't just offer them sex. She offers them entertainment, in a way. She lives in a bit of her own fantasy. I think she probably looks up to the starlets of the time, and maybe imagines that she's in some other place to make her life a little better. And when the men spend time with her, they get to be a part of that too.

I knew about quickie Reno divorces, but I had no idea all these ranches existed, or what a big business it was back then.
AB: I didn't either. It's not something you often hear about.

Arthur Miller did that before he married Marilyn Monroe.
AB: Oh wow! I didn't know.

Can you imagine Arthur Miller living in one of those tiny cabins?
AB: He'd probably be sitting in there writing like Ben [the character played by Hutchison], getting to know the other guys.

Supposedly it's where he got the material for "The Misfits."
AB: That's amazing.

Bledel with Brian Hutchison in Regrets.
Photo by Carol Rosegg

How is working with Adriane Lenox? You two are the only women hanging around the ranch.
AB: She's incredible. We don't have a lot of scenes together, but the scenes we do are fairly charged moments. I try to learn as much as I can from her. She's really easygoing and so fun and then we start the work she gets into this laser-focused mode.

Then Richard Topol — you had one scene with him on "Gilmore Girls."
AB: He was talking about it the first day of rehearsal. He played the doctor who helped me [Laughs] — helped Rory — after a car accident. It was really cool to have a familiar face in the cast. He's been doing plays for a long time. He's kind of like the dad of the group.

What was it like having the playwright in rehearsals? Was he doing a lot of rewriting along the way?
AB: It's been incredible to be a part of that process. Working on a new play, you're basically interested in discovering who the character is, and Matt really let us have input based on what our instincts were. He was rewriting as we went. A lot has changed. At this point I don't even remember the first act! I think we've really found the version that everyone's happy with.… I say "incredible" a lot. But it's been an incredible experience.

How did you find Regrets? Had you been looking to do another play after Love, Loss, and What I Wore?
AB: Absolutely. I'd been auditioning for a while, for about a year since Love, Loss. I've gone into MTC a couple times.

Bledel on "Gilmore Girls."

Love, Loss must have been a great show to be a part of. The audiences were so into it.
AB: The audiences were so welcoming. They love the show so much and they come back so many times. They really had this built-in warm feeling. It was nerve-wracking, but it was an incredible way to start stage work. Because while it is a performance, it is a reading, essentially. You're sitting — there's definitely a comfort zone in that. It was a very valuable experience. And fun! I mean, the groups of women they assemble — I loved my group.

You were with Nikki Blonsky, Anita Gillette, Judy Gold and Pauletta Washington. Did Judy Gold just crack you guys up the whole time?
AB: Yes! She would definitely change it up very night and surprise us, and we'd try to keep up with her.

So what's next for you?
I did a film called "Violet & Daisy." I'm not sure when people will be able to see that, but that was the last one I did. I'm just focused on the play.

Off screen, you've managed to keep a pretty low profile, celebrity-wise. I don't think I've ever seen you in the tabloids or the gossip pages. The most controversial headline I could find about you was "Alexis Bledel's Mortal Enemy Is the Lat Machine at the Gym."
AB: I think I was on a fitness kick at the time. [Laughs.] I don't even like to do too much press anymore. You really want to communicate in a way that feels genuine. I don't have any desire to just publicize myself. I've definitely always wanted [to keep a low profile]. I just always wanted to walk around the city and meet up with friends and not be harassed. Shows — they really stay with people. I still have people come up to me about "Gilmore Girls." It's surprising sometimes, because it's been a while. But it's really nice that people still remember it and love it.