After tweeting with David Sutcliffe (Christopher Hayden on Gilmore Girls) about his project, Group, (Go support it!) he was kind enough to agree to an interview. He answered a series of questions via his video blog – here’s Part 1 of the 2-part interview!
GilmoreNews.com – Did you always want to pursue acting? Tell us a little about your journey into this field
David: I did not always want to pursue acting. I grew up as a jock: I was a hockey player then a basketball player. That was really my identity. I was asked to audition for a school play in high school, because I was good at reading aloud in class, Shakespeare and that kind of thing, so there was some recognition of some potential for talent… I said no, of course, as a jock and ‘we don’t do theatre.’ Secretly, I wanted to do it. I went to the play and watched it and had some excitement and some fantasies around ‘Maybe I could do that…”
Finally, when I got to college, the opportunity presented itself. I got injured while playing for the basketball team and I was living with a playwright and he asked me to audition for his play and I did. And that was it.
How did you get casted for your role as Christopher on Gilmore Girls?
I just went in for a general audition. I remember getting the sides (the script, the audition scenes) and feeling like I had a pretty good handle on it. I worked really hard at it. The show, at the time, was still new, in its first season, but there was a little bit of buzz about it. People were talking about it, writing about it, because the writing was so good. I could see that. The writing was really strong, so it was fun to play with.
I remember going in and reading; it felt like I had done a really good job. I left the room and I heard this burst of laughter from the room and I wasn’t quite sure what that was about. Later they told me that they started laughing because they knew immediately that I was ‘the guy’ as soon as I started to read, which was a really good feeling.
They went through a couple of weeks where I was told ‘Well, you’re the first choice for the part, but the network wants to see if there are some stars out there who might want to take it.’ I heard they went out to Ben Affleck and Jason Priestly, but Amy [Sherman-Palladino] apparently really fought for me, she really believed that I was the right guy and eventually I got cast.
I was really excited, actually, I dug the show when I saw it. It was fun.
There was a serious split in the Gilmore Girls community over the role of Christopher – either people loved him or hated him. How was that for you as an actor?
It was great. That’s the kind of part you want to play. Christopher was a controversial character and he inspired a lot of feelings in people. And that was apparent even on the set.
Whenever Christopher showed up, you knew there was going to be drama. You knew that something was going to go down. The charge around the father returning to the family is a big issue, it provokes a lot of feeling in people.
Obviously, a lot of people can relate to that: the feeling of a distant father. I think, in a lot of families that are split, the father is either missed or is hated. There is a lot of stuff that is projected onto the absent father. There’s a lot of feelings about that in our culture. I think that’s the source of it.
I related to that. My parents split and I related to the idea that my Dad was not really around, which was really painful for me. I missed my Dad a lot, and then of course, there’s a place when you hate your Dad for not being there. It’s very very complicated the relationship we have with a parent who is gone.
I loved it, it was a great opportunity to feel into that. It was certainly not a boring character.
Do you have any special or funny memories from your work on Gilmore Girls?
There are things that are probably best left on the set, but I think the thing that I remember most about working on Gilmore Girls is the constant direct of ‘Do it faster, do it faster, do it faster.’ That seemed to be the only real direction there was. It was terrifying. There was so much dialogue.
The average 1-hour tv drama script is probably 40-some pages, a page a minute is what they go for, and I remember getting Gilmore Girls scripts that were 73-pages long and dense with dialogue, so you had to burn through it. Obviously, it was the style of the show. It was tough sometimes, particularly when it was a walk-and-talk and you had to do it in a ‘oner’, which means no cutting. They were just going to put the camera on you and follow you in one shot for 3, 4, 5, 6 pages of dialogue, rapid fire. You knew there was absolutely no margin for error. You cannot flub a line, you cannot miss a cue because you’re going to have to start all over again. That pressure was intense sometimes.
People ask me all the time what it was like working on the show. It really fun, working with that calibre of material and so many great actors, but the flip side is it’s challenging. It’s really really challenging to make that dialogue work: to memorize it all and to keep the pace up. But, when you got it right, you nailed it, it was exciting. You could feel the energy of ‘Wow, you just bagged that.’ And that was exciting.
Thanks David for taking the time out for GilmoreNews.com and all of your Gilmore Girls fans. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the interview!