Alexis Bledel is known for playing bookish ingenues: sweet, smart upstanding young women like Lena in the film adaptation of the young-adult books Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, or, most famously, Rory Gilmore, one half of the highly caffeinated mother-daughter duo on Gilmore Girls. But in Regrets, a new play by up-and-coming British playwright Matt Charman that opens at City Center tonight, Bledel takes on a pleasantly warped version of that good-girl-next-door in Chrissie Meyers, a young prostitute from rural Nevada who shakes up a group of divorcing men in 1954. We talked to a very shy Bledel — who admits she's nothing like the verbose Rory — about her Broadway debut, as well as her taste in movies and books.
Regrets takes place in a settlement that really existed in the fifties, where men seeking a quick and legal resolution to their marriages often moved temporarily to boarding houses in Nevada, where they’d wait the few weeks required to become residents, then file. Did you know that those existed before you read the play?
I didn’t. And Matt [Charman] was telling us the other day that apparently you can still get a really quick divorce in Reno. So not much has changed, but back then it was an incredible thing for these men because there was the stigma of divorce, and for it to be able to happen fast was hugely important to them. But even in six weeks these men feel so lost, like they’ve lost everything. That really says a lot about the time when the story takes place, because it would be different now; they would be able to bounce back much more quickly, go back to their lives or at least start a new life.
There were moments in your performance where you feel that whip-smart dialogue exchange that’s reminiscent of your role on Gilmore Girls. Is that a natural part of your personality?
No, that’s work. I am not a good talker in real life unless I know someone really well, and I’m not chatty in any way, which is confusing for people when I meet them for the first time, because they always think I’ll have all these amazing things to say, and I usually don’t. I always feel like I’m disappointing people, but I’m very internal; I process a lot in my mind, and then I don’t really communicate much of it unless I feel like I have something valuable to say.
How did you go about developing your character, a prostitute. What did you think of her?
She comes into this camp pretty self-assured about what she’s doing, pretty determined to make money off of these men, but she’s sweet, she kind of is a breath of fresh air. She brings this lightness, this thing that they all need, which is what women can often offer men: comfort. It’s more than just selling yourself or selling sex to them, it’s almost more about this sweetness and this companionship that she can offer them. And she’s funny, she entertains them.
And what does she get from them?
Primarily money, but also a feeling that she’s special. She lives a little bit in a fantasy land, which is why she’s so fun. She makes up her own rules, and she lets these guys in on that world of hers.
What's it like being on the ground floor of a play, as part of the original cast ever to perform it?
That’s definitely been one of the most thrilling parts of this experience. I mean, the process of putting a play together feels very special because there’s so much care taken in the rehearsal process, there’s more time — it really feels like you’re piecing together a work of art in a very tangible way. TV did prepare me quite a bit for the rewrites, of course — as film did, the script always tends to change — so I was not unprepared for that part of it.
Have you been turning to any stage performances for inspiration?
Oh, yes, yes. I just saw Death of a Salesman last week and Andrew Garfield was so incredible.
What else are you into these days? Movies, books ...
Last night I stayed up late watching The Whistleblower with Rachel Weisz. Oh my goodness, it’s incredible. I will watch anything she does, but it was so disturbing I couldn’t sleep. And right now I’m reading The Social Animal by David Brooks, and I’m totally fascinated by it. I just started it and I’m completely sucked in. I have The Hunger Games; I’m trying to read both at the same time, but it’s not really working out.