Described in the casting notes as “Male, the most miserable looking 38-year-old you’ll ever see, his clothes are thrown on, his hair’s a mess, he’s as pale as hell, and he never smiles.” That’s the role of Nat Compton, a new character set to appear in the third episode, Summer, of the Netflix revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. I had a chance to speak with Eric Henry, who landed the role of Nat Compton and will make his Gilmore Girls premiere on November 25th, 2016.
Eric Henry didn’t start out as an actor, he began his career as a singer. Eric began singing in high school and made his way to the stages of Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, later working in musical theatre during his college years. After doing a national tour for a children’s musical, then taking a five-year hiatus to travel around Hawaii with a puppet theatre, Eric returned to LA and began his on-screen acting career just three years ago.
Eric walked into the Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life casting room with very little awareness of the fandom surrounding the past seven seasons of Gilmore Girls. He was able to be “present” as an actor, which in this case meant turning off his naturally bubbly character and transforming into someone miserable.
Fellow Gilmore Girls co-star Biff Yeager describes Eric Henry’s character, Nat Compton, as “a great character” that we’re “going to love,” but there’s no question that he’s a miserable person. “I just needed to go into the office and play ‘miserable’!,” notes Eric of his audition for the role, ”Which I guess I did a really good job at doing! It was a very quick turnaround. I literally went in on a Tuesday and then I started work that next day, so it was really exciting and awesome.”
Eric notes that his favourite times on the set of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life were those he spent out of character, when he could turn ‘off’ being miserable: “I lived for our rehearsals before our scenes because I was just able to be grinning ear-to-ear enthralled with what I was seeing.”
Although we can’t dive into the character of Nat Compton without introducing spoilers, Eric was able to tell us that his character was present for the show-within-a-show, Stars Hollow: The Musical.
“I can tell you that I have something to do with the Stars Hollow Musical,” shares Eric, “And mostly bearing witness to the Stars Hollow Musical, more than anything else. That’s what made my role so much fun. The first half of my shoot was watching Christian Borle and Sutton Foster be brilliant doing what they’re going to be doing for that episode.”
As you know, Stars Hollow: The Musical will star Christian Borle, Sutton Foster and Kerry Butler, with a score penned by Jeanine Tesoro and lyrics “about the ridiculous story of the town of Stars Hollow” written by Dan and Amy. If given a choice to be any other character on Gilmore Girls, Eric says that he would have loved to be up on the stage with Sutton and Christian: “Im a singer, so I would have loved to be up on stage with Sutton and Christian, let me tell ya!”
Eric notes that the scenes he filmed involved a lot of people: Rose Abdoo (Gypsy), Sally Struthers (Babette), Sam Pancake (new character Donald), Michael Winters (Taylor Doose), Biff Yeager (Tom), Lauren Graham (Lorelai), Alexis Bledel (Rory), Scott Patterson (Luke), Sutton Foster, Christian Borle and even some other actors / characters who haven’t yet been announced, though Eric shares “I wish I could because they’re so cool!”
Eric shares that his whole time on set was very special, from the location of his trailer by the Stars Hollow gazebo to the infamous Snack Shack that co-star Rose Abdoo also raved about: “The snack shack is the best! The best! I was really lucky, too. Biff and Sam and myself, we all had trailers that were right in the centre of Stars Hollow, right by the gazebo. It was such a trip to see the Seasons change and have that as your back yard, kind of thing. Not all of the trailers were right by the gazebo.”
— BiffYeager (@biff_yeager) March 29, 2016
When it comes down to it, Eric shares that his experience on Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life was made the most special by those he worked with and the unique way that Gilmore Girls episodes are shot.
“It was cool because there were so many of us that were in the scenes together and worked together that whole time: Rose, Sally, Sam, myself, Michael Winters, Biff Yeager, Lauren (obviously). We had a lot of down time together, which was really special. I feel like a lot of times you go on set and you’re in and out, it’s over. Or you don’t get to intermingle with other people because your scene was just with one or two people, so it was a really unique and special situation to be all together And it was an outstanding cast and crew,” Eric continues, “Truly, I loved everyone that I worked with. I couldn’t believe the crew that Amy, Dan and casting brought together because it felt so warm and collaborative. And I’m a minor character, so to feel so welcome on such an established show where they’ve all worked together for years…that was a dream.”
Eric believes that some of the magic of Gilmore Girls lies in how it was shot while he was on set. “In my experiences, even with ensemble-sized scenes, the goal would be to get the master shot and then the choice closeups and two-shots, with focused parts of scenes with principals, and start wrapping people. And though that style of shooting is functional and timely, it takes away from the product as a whole. Here, everyone really had to be present and available to the scene, as we shot the full scene with each close-up and two-shot. And with this talented and present cast, everyone was contributing, even when the camera wasn’t directly on them, which I think makes it all the more magical. I feel like my character, for example, could have just been shot and done, but they had me there for the whole scenes where my character took part. I am immensely grateful for having gotten so much quality time with quality people.”
Gilmore Girls has a way of rooting down amazing friendships, which has been the case for Eric, who stays in touch regularly with Sally Struthers, who he describes as “one of my favourite humans, she’s just so great.” Indeed, it was the off-set breakfast between friends (Eric, Sam, Sally and Rose) that really opened up his eyes to how large the Gilmore Girls fan base truly is.
“I didn’t realize until I wrapped my shoot (I was on set a week) that ‘Oh my gosh! This has such a cult following!’ Just posting a picture of me and Sally and Sam and Rose and it would get all this press and likes and retweets. It’s just like ‘Whoa, this is wild!’”
Eric says that being a part of Gilmore Girls has been a very positive experience: “I feel like I received such a warm reception, and it was so sweet, too, that people like Biff were tweeting: ‘Oh, you’re going to love this character!’. People were really excited.”
If the rumours of the potential for more Gilmore Girls revivals hold true, Eric hopes he’ll be back as well:
“Oh man, I hope so! I don’t know, though, he was such a miserable dude! I feel like they’d really have to drag him back in!”
Although I have my own guesses as to the kind of character Nat Compton will end up being, we will all have to tune into see Eric on Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on November 25th to find out if our guesses hold true! Until then, we can find Eric in many upcoming parts! You may have seen him performing back-up vocals recently on the season finale of The Voice, and he’ll be on screen soon for guest roles in USA’s Colony and in the films House Cat alongside Rhys Wakefield and in Terry Sanders’ film Liza, Liza, Skies are Grey.