“She’s the mouthpiece and he’s the soul.” A quote that sums up the beautiful, yet quirky, relationship between Babette and Morey Dell. Babette and Morey have been a favourite couple in Stars Hollow, entertaining us through seven seasons of Gilmore Girls, yet the lives of two of our favourite characters mostly remained a mystery. Today, GilmoreNews has your exclusive look at one of Gilmore Girls’ most mysterious characters, Morey Dell, who appeared in 19 episodes of the series, but who said very little!
In an interview with Ted Rooney, best known to us as Morey Dell on Gilmore Girls, you will learn more about how Ted landed the role of Morey, what makes Morey & Babette a great couple, the backstory of how Morey & Babette met (from Ted’s perspective) and perhaps even a little about the man behind the sunglasses.
During my research, I read about the connection between Ted Rooney, his father (Ed Rooney) and Sally Struthers, who we know as Babette Dell, Morey’s wife, on Gilmore Girls. I began by asking him about this connection to Sally Struthers.
“My dad taught at the local high school, Grant High School in Portland, and she was our ‘Claim to Fame’, because when she graduated, she went on to be in All in the Family,” Ted notes. “My dad was one of her favourite teachers, so he always had on his desk this autographed picture. She was the Star from Grant!”
Ted shares how he was cast as Morey Dell without any pre-meeting with Sally, and it was only when they sat down for the first day of shooting that he was able to bring up their shared history. Commenting on the weather being similar to that in Portland, Sally took one look at Ted and said “Are you Ed Rooney’s son?!”
Knowing that some characters on Gilmore Girls were very specifically cast, but others evolved after an actor ‘fit’ the part, like Yanic Truesdale who was definitely not the 50-something they were originally looking for in Michel, I asked Ted what the original casting notice was for Morey.
“They wanted tall and skinny. I think when I walked in the door, I got the part!,” joked Ted. He doesn’t believe it was the greatest “acting score,” but he nonetheless feels lucky for getting such a solid part. Ted believes it was never intended that Morey would say many lines, but the sunglasses quickly became a part of his character. After some initial ‘no sunglasses’ scenes in ‘Cinnamon’s Wake’ and in ‘Rory’s Birthday Parties,’ he had “no idea he was going to end up wearing sunglasses for the whole series!,” Ted noted, “Anytime I took them off, someone would come to my side and say, ‘Put your glasses on, please.’”
Will we see the sunglasses again? Most definitely! As Ted notes, “Change is not really what Gilmore Girls is about.”
Ted shares a musical talent with his character, Morey, playing piano, guitar and vocals, and was able to play piano in several scenes on Gilmore Girls. As for the famous dance scene with Babette in ’They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They?’ Ted says he was glad to be able to bring out some of his Swing Dancing skills. Ted originally trained in theatre, with his favourite roles over the year being Don Quixote, Uncle Vanya, Charlie in The Foreigner, Malvolio, and Scrooge.
As for filming the series, Ted is forever the observer, wanting to soak in all the memories of filming while he’s on set.
“I just hang out with the cast and enjoy the fact that I’m on a popular show and when my lines come to me, I just say them. Morey doesn’t like to draw attention to himself too much anyway, so he pretty much ‘Shoots from the hip’ and doesn’t make a big deal when he does have something to say. So I just keep a low profile.”
Not much has changed for Morey, in the Gilmore Girls revival, tentatively titled Gilmore Girls: Seasons, he’s pretty much the same as ever. Ted, who recently completed filming his scenes, notes:
“We shot already and my experience was inconsequential, which is perfect for Morey. I’m just on the set, hanging out, and I say a couple of things here and there.”
Ted says that, for him, returning to Gilmore Girls was extra special this time around because he was able to bring his daughter, who is now 10 and who came to them through an adoption from Ethiopia when she was 5. Gilmore Girls was long over by then, so, having started watched the series since, his daughter has become a fan and was excited to go on set and meet everybody (Minus Alexis Bledel, who wasn’t there, and she’s sad about that!).
Although no specific Morey memory really stood out for Ted, he shares that being on set was always special for him. “Just watching Liz and Sally crack each other up, they would just hold court while we’re shooting and crack everybody up. They’ve been around, they’ve paid their dues, they were just there to have fun. Sally’s very professional, but you put the two of them together and they were just cracking up the whole time! So that was always a source of great laughs.”
One of the reasons fans have gravitated to the character of Morey is through his contrast with wife, Babette. Physical attributes aside, the two couldn’t be more different, with yin and yang of quiet and outspoken, serious and playful, but together? Always a riot. It’s no wonder they became fan favourites. Ted lends us some insight into what makes Babette and Morey a good couple and what their back story could have been:
“They know who they are and they accept each other completely, 100%. There’s no fight involved in their relationship. It’s beautiful music,” Ted shares. “It’s one of those relationships that could have happened in high school. We all know people who just fit that way. The rest of us, we fight and we make it up. But just not them. I think she’s the mouthpiece and he’s the soul of the relationship.”
While many of us wondered for years how Morey managed to live in Babette’s tiny little house, Ted shares that he never once bumped his head on the set. Being tall all his life prepared him well for the challenge of Babette’s house, and likely the same held true for Morey. Although most fans of Morey and Babette want to know if Apricot is still alive and well in the Gilmore Girls revival, Ted shares that though we don’t specifically know for sure, in his mind, Babette and Morey have a cat, even if it’s not necessarily Apricot, “There’s probably a 5-year mourning period before we replaced!”
As Stars Hollow townies, we often saw Babette and Morey as part of Stars Hollow Festivals and town meetings. Ted shares that “those were always fun times, because they always felt like parties. We really felt like the bigger the scene, the more it felt like we really were a part of a small town. It was a lot of fun. We just always had fun, dancing and all that.” It doesn’t hurt that Babette and Morey were two of the more ‘fun’ characters in Stars Hollow; just look at their Halloween celebrations:
On being back in Stars Hollow for the revival, Ted notes that one of the biggest differences felt on set is just the speed at which the set was turned over. With many different tv shows now filming on the set, the moment you’re done with an area, they flip it over to a new town, so now every building is painted differently and re-staged for different shows. “They flip things over so fast, it’s mind boggling,” Ted notes. For himself, just about the only change is that they no longer have to “fake” the grey in his hair, as they always used to do. “What’s up with that?!” Ted jokes.
And it you want to know if Ted is Team Jess, Team Dean or Team Logan… well, you will have to keep guessing! Just like his character, Morey, he’s more of an observer and that, as part of the “older set” in town, he believes Rory’s love life would be below his radar. “Those young folk! What they get up to!! I have no idea what is going on.”
Living in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two children, Ted mostly works on independent films these days. A number of years ago, he chose to focus on his family, rather than flying to and from LA for auditions, so his work tends to be on smaller films or guest roles, as we’ve seen with his stint on Grimm. Currently upcoming are the films Last Seen in Idaho and You Can’t Win. Ted also turned his talents to teaching, finding his niche in Portland as an on-camera and theatrical acting coach, which has turned out to be incredibly satisfying, having, just like his father, “the heart of a teacher,” becoming more passionate about teaching than he expected.
Ted was a super down-to-Earth person to speak with, showing incredible insight into his character on Gilmore Girls, but also incredible heart into his journey to becoming a Dad, with the adoption of his two children from Ethiopia. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone more devoted to bringing up children with a positive self-image in a loving, supportive home.