Alexis Bledel, Set for the Stage


In the new play Regrets it’s the year 1954 and a group of men escape to a Nevada retreat where they can wallow in their marital misfortunes in peace and secure a quick divorce. In a place where “no girls allowed” is a dictum, not a mantra, Alexis Bledel’s character, Chrissie Meyers, is vivacious and sexy. A townie, Chrissie is an object of desire to a pack of lonely men, and she’ll sleep with them for money, but it doesn’t take long to realize she is also innocent despite herself—the type of girl who sweeps in on her bicycle, all smiles. She wears her reputation like she can shed it at any time.

Probably best known for her roles in the television series Gilmore Girls and the films The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Robert Redford’s The Conspirator, Bledel takes on her first original role for the stage in Regrets. On her day off, she spoke with Interview about working with playwright Matt Charman, playing a not-so-wholesome young woman, and how much she is loving theater.

MERYL CATES: The full cast for Regrets was announced before previews. How long have you been working with each other?

ALEXIS BLEDEL: I think its been almost about a month now. Nearly a month—I think we had three weeks of rehearsals and we started previews about a week and a half ago.

CATES: Yeah, so three weeks of rehearsals—that’s a pretty quick turn-around.

BLEDEL: It was quick but we’ve had a lot of previews, which is good. So we’ve been having rehearsals before the previews.

CATES: This was one of those plays where you’re really pulling back the layers. Here’s this retreat in Nevada where no one wants to leave. How was it working with Matt Charman? Was he very hands-on in getting his vision across?

BLEDEL: Incredible, yes. He’s been here with us most of the process. It’s just incredible, he’s such an amazing writer, and every change he makes just really seems to fit well, and he’s really open to trying different things. He’s really trusted us, as far as what our instincts are for the characters and what feels right. He and Carolyn Cantor, the director, work really well together. They’re really on the same page; they just want to make the best play they can.

CATES: Immediately, the audience is struck by the set. It really reflects those aspects of isolation, and it’s so ornate. As an actor, a great set like that must really put you in the play, right?

BLEDEL: Yes, absolutely, and it’s very detailed and realistic as well. I mean, the cabins are filled with these items that are mostly older, they’re vintage pieces of furniture and linens, and down to the tiniest details—the sinks in the bathrooms work, and you can hear that when somebody runs water. There are all these sounds, the sound of the fire crackling and the crickets, all these tiny things that you don’t even notice at first. Once we got on stage, we just couldn’t believe it! You sit in one of these cabins and you feel like you’re really there.

CATES: This is a new play, a world premiere; how did you respond to the play the first time you read it?

BLEDEL: I loved it, I thought it was so thought-provoking, and I wanted to read it again and again because there are so many layers to the story and to each character. Each character is a completely whole person with their problems and many sides to their personality. It’s so rich with details as well, like the set. You can read it again and again and find different ideas to ponder and different things strike you. I still hear it sometimes when I’m backstage waiting for my cue—there are things that tie together. At the beginning, kind of halfway through, Gerald says to Ben, “We should take a picture of ourselves to remember our time here.” And I didn’t even correlate that with the end of the play. All these little lines that could almost just be thrown away, they’re just comments from people, they all tie in somehow or they add some kind of flavor to the story that gives your mind somewhere else to wander. So it’s really cool.

CATES: In your mind, is a new play riskier to do? It hasn’t ever been put before an audience.

BLEDEL: It doesn’t feel risky at all for me, because Matt is so brilliant. I think that anything he’d put up before an audience would be great and interesting to watch. It’s just different in the sense that we’ve had rewrites as we go. But that process has been fascinating to me, just to see how each change affects the through-line of the story and how the characters have changed a little bit as we go and now they really feel like real people. We still have rehearsals this week, there’s still a little bit more to go before the opening, so it just feels exciting to be part of a new play.

CATES: Tell me about your character, Chrissie. She’s a young woman with a reputation, we’ll say. [laughs]

BLEDEL: Right. [laughs] Well, when she comes on stage she brings a breath of fresh air to the camp. She is light and funny, but she’s there to make money. [laughs] So she has a couple of different sides to her personality and she kind of uses each of them as she sees fit, that day. She kind of has this relationship with Gerald and he is sort of smitten with her, but she’s there to appeal to most of the men at the camp and she’s trying to get out of her situation, her home life. She’s a local girl, and she’s really been through a lot in her life. That’s my take on her, anyway.

CATES: And like you said, when she walks in, she is like a breath of fresh air, she’s actually so fun, even though she’s there to make money. She has a sweet quality.

BLEDEL: Yeah! It’s not really just the exchange of sex. That is there, and that is the reality of it, but I think it’s a lot more fun to go there because of all the other interactions she gets to have with them.

CATES: How did you approach this role, developmentally?

BLEDEL: I think I started with watching old movies and identifying somebody that she would fixate on, someone she thought was really fabulous, and then having that in the back of my mind. I just wanted to make sure that she also felt really earthy and a little bit crass. So those two things going on at the same time are really fun to play, because you can switch between the two and mix them sometimes. And then, I just try to play things as honestly as I can in the moment, and you get a lot of that from the other actors, and what they’re feeling each day, and the energy they bring. She’s, in a way, a reactionary character. She’s a force of nature. She comes on stage and she brings this energy with her. She’s interesting these men as an object of their desire, hopefully; [laughs] and putting that energy out there as well.

CATES: So, your look gets progressively more disheveled, sort of in tandem with what’s going on with the rest of the characters, but I love your ’50s look in the beginning. I would definitely want to wear that dress out. Have you ever wanted to sport that look around town?

BLEDEL: It is a good dress. [laughs] It feels great to wear; and they actually found a vintage dress that they wanted to use, but it was almost too beautiful. The fabric was really gorgeous, so it looked too classy for her. The costume designer found this fabric that felt more like a house dress, even though it has great colors and it’s still a really pretty print, but it could be a house dress that got handed down from one of her sisters.

CATES: And I love her hair.

BLEDEL: Yeah, and initially I was like, well I think she should be more disheveled from the beginning because she takes such a drastic turn. I was talking to Matt about it and he said it has more to do with how the men see her when she arrives. It’s almost like a mirage in the desert. And maybe if she did fashion herself after a starlet, maybe she would go through a lot of effort and really deck herself out. Then she arrives later and that’s real, what she really goes through, and you can actually see that then. I really like that idea, that’s what they see.

CATES: That’s really brilliant. I like that. So do you enjoy doing theater? I know you did community theater in Houston when you were little—so then it’s a little bit like getting back to your roots. [laughs]

BLEDEL: I do, I mean most of the theater I’ve done in the past was when I was a kid or a teenager so it feels like being a kid again. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. [laughs] You really get to go to work every day and play, and try different things. I don’t know, I’ve never felt so lucky to do this job. So I hope to do a lot more theater.

CATES: Well, you’ve done a lot of different roles, but when you’ve played a character with such a cult following like Rory Gilmore and in Sisterhood, and then you play a character [like Chrissie] that’s different, people want to say that you’re reinventing yourself. How do you handle that? Do you see it that way?

BLEDEL: Oh, I love that! I hadn’t thought of it, but I love that, because I think that’s what we’re supposed to do. As actors we try to find different sides of ourselves and I would credit Matt with being such a good writer because so much of his character is already on the page and then I just get to fill his shoes. That really makes it easy when the writing is so good.

CATES: And you live in New York City, right?

BLEDEL: I do, yes.

CATES: I imagine your hours are really rigorous right now with the show, but do you go to the theater often?

BLEDEL: I do! I try to go as much as I can.

CATES: Anything in particular that you’ve seen recently?

BLEDEL: I saw Death of a Salesman last Monday. They added a Monday show; I was so excited, because it’s hard to see theater when you’re doing theater, because everyone has Mondays off, but I got to see it and it was incredible. Andrew Garfield was incredible, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, of course, I was so excited to see him on stage. I love that play. I like a serious play. [laughs]