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Jack Carpenter on Playing Gilmore Girls’ Poor, Sweet Newcomer Paul

Mild spoilers ahead for those who haven’t watched the first episode of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.

Fans watching the first episode of Netflix’s Gilmore Girls revival will be surprised to learn that Rory has a boyfriend. To a certain extent, so is Rory. Her boyfriend Paul is so sweet, so nice, so totally bland, that everyone constantly forgets that he exists, even though their relationship has lasted for two years. Despite all the enthusiasm for Dean, Logan, and Jess, we were won over by Paul’s charms in his brief trip to Stars Hollow, and so we reached out to Jack Carpenter, who also played an ersatz Mark Zuckerberg on The Good Wife, to hear more about the memorably unmemorable Paul. Carpenter talked about his previous work with Gilmore creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino, what it was like to take a trip to the iconic Stars Hollow set, and how he surprised everyone by somehow speaking too fast.

Did you know that you were auditioning to play Rory’s boyfriend when you came on?
I had worked with Amy and Dan on a show called Return of Jezebel James with Parker Posey and Lauren Ambrose. Unfortunately it was canceled after a few episodes, pretty much right before my character appeared. So I thought it was very funny that Amy remembered me enough years later to bring me back to play this completely forgettable character. It’d been years since we worked together, but she reached out and said, “Hey, we’d love to come have you come on to do this part.”

Paul only appears in “Winter.” Do you know what happens in the rest of the show?
I haven’t seen it, and I don’t know what the final cut looks like, but I feel like maybe my character’s mentioned. I’m not sure what happens.

Poor Paul, Rory mostly just keeps forgetting about him.
That was sort of a mantra on set: “Oh, poor Paul.”

What was it like to come in and work with Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, since they’ve been working together for so long?
Everyone was so welcoming, and I really did feel immediately embraced. When I shot the first few scenes I was in, it was only the first few days of filming. I felt like I got to be there for this incredible family reunion. They brought back so many actors from the show, and they had also brought back so many members of the crew, who had been there ten years ago. There was this sense of catching up, but also this sense that no time had passed.

Was that intimidating?
I was intimidated walking in, but they were very welcoming and very sweet about Paul. Alexis assured me that I was memorable in real life.

The Gilmore Girls dialogue is notoriously fast. Was that hard to master?
I had worked with Amy. She’s so good as a writer and a director. She has this rhythm and pace to her material that’s really fun and a challenge. During my first take, I railed through this speech to Luke, and Amy said, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but can you actually slow down?” There was a big laugh on set, because from what I understand, Amy doesn’t really tell people to slow down.

What drives Paul and Rory’s relationship? I was surprised that they had been dating for two years.
I think that everyone knows a character like Paul. He’s the boyfriend or girlfriend that’s brought home for the holidays and everyone knows this isn’t going to be the one. He cares about Rory, but at the end of the day, he just doesn’t fit into this world. I mean, c’mon, he doesn’t even like coffee!

What do you think Paul sees in Rory?
I think Rory cares for Paul, and Paul cares very much for Rory. They’re just on different pages. Neither of them are right or wrong. I think Paul’s definitely more invested, almost to the point where he ignores that maybe she’s just not feeling it anymore.

Rory has had other forgettable boyfriends before, like Marty, but she always tends to come back to Dean, Jess, and Logan.
Where the show starts, Rory has some old relationships to work through before she can move forward. I’m a fan of Team Rory. I hope she finds whatever it is, the path that she’s looking for.

Maybe years in the future, she’ll realize what she missed out on with Paul.
I think Paul will just be happy to not be fixing all of Rory’s friends and family’s computer problems.

What was it like to shoot on the Stars Hollow set?
That was a surprise for me, coming from seeing it on TV, that Stars Hollow is not this small town, but a soundstage over at Warner Bros. I definitely took a few pictures outside of Luke’s Diner, because how often are you in front of Luke’s Diner? Oh, and I’m excited that Amy’s going to end the show the way that she envisioned it with her last four words.

Having seen the show, I won’t reveal anything.
Are they, “Guys, I’m still here?” or “Don’t forget about me?”

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

Jack Carpenter on Playing Gilmore Girls’ Paul