Lorelai once called him “the best cook Luke’s ever had.” He was the creator of the cold banana and Caesar’s Salad-but-not-Caesar-salad. He was the visionary behind the introduction of chilaquiles to Luke’s Diner. Caesar was the light-hearted counterpoint to Luke, pushing him to introduce change into a diner that has pretty much always been the same. I had the chance to talk with Aris Alvarado, who played Caesar on Gilmore Girls, about how he joined the show, what life was like at Luke’s Diner, and what it was like and to don his apron again for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, coming out this November.
Like so many others I’ve interviewed, Aris Alvarado didn’t originally audition for the part of Caesar:
“Originally I auditioned for the part of a foreign exchange student who came with a group that Doose was guiding,” shares Aris, “He was doing a guide for them. I think it was the episode when you go to the hockey game, ‘Face Off,’ and everybody was at the Inn and I was supposed to be with this group of foreigners and they left without me, so I go to Lorelai and say two lines in Spanish. I auditioned for this part and said two lines in Spanish. At the audition, everyone laughed, they had a great time and I ended up getting the part… a couple of months later, I watched the episode and I was cut out of it!”
Although his scene was cut, Aris was told they would use him again in the future. True to their word, two months later Aris received another call for a role on Gilmore Girls, this time for Caesar, and he almost didn’t make it:
“I got a call and at the time I was in Vegas with a friend of mine,” shares Aris. “My agent called and said ‘Hey, Gilmore Girls called and they want to bring you in for a fitting tomorrow and they want to work you the following day,’ and I said ‘I’m in Vegas right now and I can’t make it. What can we do?’”
Luckily for us, it all worked out! Aris simply skipped the fitting and went in to film his part the following day. The day we are introduced to Caesar, played by Aris, is the scene in ‘Say Goodnight, Gracie,’ when Jess is trying to pacify a customer not-so-patiently waiting for her ham.
“They had called me the night before to give me my call time and I was like ‘I haven’t gotten my script yet, what are my lines?’” shares Aris about his preparation for the role, “They said, ‘Don’t worry about it, your lines are ‘No ham, no ham, no ham.’’ No problem. So, I went in the next day, my first scene as Caesar, and they kept bringing me back, which is kind of cool.”
This “no ham” scene was Aris’ first speaking role, helping him kick-start his career in acting. “I feel really special about Gilmore Girls because it was my first speaking role,” notes Aris. “Even though I got cut out of the first one, they brought me back for this one, just straight out. That was pretty cool.”
As many fans of Gilmore Girls will note, Aris was not the first actor to play Caesar on Gilmore Girls, with the role filled by Christopher Cho (credited as Christopher Grey) in another episode, although Aris doesn’t know anything about why the switch was made.
Unlike the waiter in Gilmore Girls (played by Robert Lee) who never speaks, Caesar is quite an opinionated character in Luke’s Diner. Clearly proud of his “sunny demeanour” and passionate as a chef, Caesar is always trying to find ways to insert change to Luke’s.
“He always wanted something extra in the diner, to make it better,” notes Aris, “Whereas Luke always wanted it the same – he never wanted it to change. Caesar’s always coming up with new ideas: frozen bananas, chilaquiles, Caesar’s salad. Always trying to make the diner different.”
If Aris could add one thing to Luke’s menu now, he says it would be either a Starbucks-inspired frozen drink or a fruit smoothie. As would be in line with his character, Caesar would “invent” these items to be quite a bit like those at Starbucks (which neither of us could see ever being a part of Stars Hollow):
“I personally love chocolate stuff. I’m not a coffee drinker. Maybe some Frappucino-kind of drinks, like Starbucks has a chocolate drink and no coffee in it. More of those, smoothies or something like that,” shares Aris. Believing that Starbucks would never be in Stars Hollow, Aris shares “that’s why I think Caesar would come up with his ‘idea’ like a Frappucino that already exists, just like he tried to invent the Caesar salad.”
Aris shares that Caesar’s drive, which we see behind his “desire to make the diner better,” may have led him to “start his own business one day,” an idea he floated to Amy Sherman-Palladino when he heard that Gilmore Girls would be coming back.
“I threw out some ideas that maybe he has a competitive restaurant, maybe he started his own diner and is competing with Luke. Or, he really changed Luke’s around. But, I threw those ideas out there just in case she didn’t have any. Whether they’re in the show now or not… we’ll see in November. He’s still there, that’s fine. That’s great.”
Just like his character, Aris loves to dance and to cook. “I’m Puerto-Rican and Ecuadorian,” shares Aris, “And when I moved out to LA, I’m originally from New York, I used to call my mom and my aunt and asked them how to cook the food that I missed growing up. So I had to force myself to learn how to cook the food that I like to eat. I love cooking.”
Aris says that his favourite episode to film was The Real Paul Anka, when Caesar is left in charge of the diner.
“That big one where Luke is leaving and I’m being left in charge of the diner. It was such a big one and very complicated and long and I think it was the biggest scene I had on the show, I had to say so much. I talk about the flash flood in El Salvador, I talk about Metallica, and I have that little fight with Kirk at the end when he tries to take over the diner. Yeah, that’s my favourite scene, definitely.”
It’s one scene that showcases just how seriously Caesar takes his job and his desire to make the customers at Luke’s Diner happy.
CAESAR: You know, there was a flash flood in El Salvador last night.
LUKE: No, my Salvadoran paper didn’t come today.
CAESAR: They didn’t see it coming.
LUKE: That’s the flash part of flash flood.
CAESAR: So what do I do if I see a flash flood coming strait at the diner?
LUKE: Make sure all the customers have settled up.
CAESAR: It’s all a big joke to you.
Lorelai tried to boost Caesar’s confidence in managing the diner, telling him that he makes better pancakes than Luke (though Luke disagreed with that assertion!). I asked Aris who he thought made better pancakes and he stayed true to his character: “Definitely Caesar!”
In the diner, Caesar worked in the ‘kitchen,’ an incomplete set that we only see in brief glimpses. Aris shares what it was like to be in the back room, which lacked its own exit off the set:
There’s a double sink, some racks with stuff everywhere, prop food. There’s no stove, just a big double sink, it’s so big you can put stuff on either side of it. No stove. It’s not that big back there, it’s very small. I could sit down back there, I didn’t want to move, but that swinging door was my only way in or out.”
Working in Luke’s Diner, Aris obviously had many scenes with Scott Patterson, whom he describes as “very dedicated” and “very professional,” and has fond memories of working alongside Keiko Agena(Lane) as well, “She’s just such a sweetheart, I liked working with her.”
In Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, Aris returns to his character of Caesar in three episodes, noting what a great surprise it was to learn that the show would be returning and how great it was to be back on set.
“I had no idea,” notes Aris, of the potential revival for the series, noting that the airing of Gilmore Girls on Netflix, the Gilmore Guys podcast and other forces helped to create some “buzz” around the series, but that “I was really surprised when they said they were doing it again, and really excited and hoping I would be on it again, which it turned out for the best.”
As for being back in Stars Hollow, and back in Luke’s Diner, Aris notes “It was very much the same. There were some details that were different, because they had to recreate everything, but I’m going to say about 90% accurate. Being in that diner again was weird. It’s like I was there yesterday! I always have these crazy dreams like I’m back in high school for some reason, even though I didn’t like high school, I just felt like one of those dreams – back in Stars Hollow! Wow! It felt like I was there a week ago, like we just picked up where we left off. My kitchen area was a little different; you didn’t see it much, I got to see it most of the time. I made it work. Caesar got to change some stuff back there after all! Maybe he did get his way in the kitchen.”
There are many new faces in Stars Hollow, although Aris didn’t work alongside any of them for significant scenes, but Caesar shared scenes with other beloved characters from the series: “I got to work with people I didn’t get to work with before. Like Liza Weil and Kelly Bishop. I’ve been dying to meet Kelly for a while. She was really nice and sweet and it was a pleasure working with her.”
This points to some scenes with Paris and Emily in Luke’s Diner, which area always good for a laugh. Aside from shooting with different actors, Aris shares that we can expect Caesar to be pretty much the same: “It’ll be the same Caesar. He’s still there in the diner, doing his thing. In terms of getting to know him better? No, he’s still the same, he’ll just look different.”
As some will have noticed, Aris has changed quite a lot since his original time on Gilmore Girls, a change which was reflected in the work he’s done in the intervening years. Aris notes that his weight loss forced him to re-evaluate himself as an actor, a journey which ultimately brought him to Theatre 68.
“I joined the theatre company four years ago. You’ll see in the new episodes, I lost a lot of weight. As an actor, when I lost the weight, my career changed a lot. I wasn’t working as much on tv too, it took me a while to recover… I started doing more commercials, but I felt like I was lost. I lost over 100 lbs and was like ‘Wow, I’m not funny anymore, not the same actor’”
Since joining Theatre 68, a theatre where the actors support and teach each other, Aris has learned to “drive this new vehicle that is my body,” doing 5 or 6 plays over the past four years, including a lead in Storefront Church, which helped bring back a lot of Aris’ confidence. Since then, Aris has been getting steady work in television and in movies, in addition to his theatrical productions. If you want to support Theatre 68, which is currently fundraising for a new space in North Hollywood, you can read more about their story here.
You can watch Aris in recent episodes of Castle and Maron, in a movie called Kids Can, or in an upcoming episode of Get Down for Comedy Central. Aris will reprise his role as Caesar on Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life this November 25, 2016.
And we end our interview with the ultimate question I ask everyone, is he Team Dean, Team Jess or Team Logan?
“I’ll go Jess, Jess! I had my first scene with Jess, as Caesar, and I got to talk with Milo more. We only did that first scene that first time around, the first time I met him, and this time I saw him again on set and we got to talk more. Although Jared is a really nice guy… but in terms of character, Jess.”
Would Aris be back for more Gilmore Girls, if the rumours of the potential hold true?
“In a heartbeat, in a heartbeat. That’s my first speaking role. It has a very very special place in my heart. It started everything for me.”