Rory Gilmore is growing up.
That may be hard for “Gilmore Girls” devotees to deal with, especially since the mother-daughter drama remains evident in repeats on both ABC Family and SoapNet, but Alexis Bledel is offering confirmation that time marches on. Seen last year in several episodes of AMC’s acclaimed “Mad Men,” the former Rory returns to television in ABC’s new Hallmark Hall of Fame drama “Remember Sunday,” airing Sunday, April 21.
The New Orleans-set tale casts the actress as lovelorn waitress Molly, who wants to be a florist and becomes interested in jewelry store clerk Gus (portrayed by television’s former “Chuck,” Zachary Levi).
However, she remains a virtual stranger to him since he can’t recall what happened the day before, the result of a brain aneurysm. She begins to take his forgetfulness personally until she learns the reason, then commits herself — temporarily, at least — to renewing their relationship from square one on a daily basis.
Bledel doesn’t deny the “Remember Sunday” teleplay by Oscar and Emmy winner Barry Morrow (“Rain Man,” “Bill”) shares the basic theme of the 2004 Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore movie comedy “50 First Dates,” but she believes it has extra substance.
“I read the script and found myself really invested in it,” she tells Zap2it. “I cared about the main characters and wanted to see them end up happy, so I thought this would be interesting to do, based on that.”
Also, Bledel likes the spirit of her alter ego Molly. “She’s a person capable of almost anything,” she says. “She has a positive outlook, but she also has a huge heart, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet some people like her in my own life. They’re endlessly inspiring because every day, they wake up knowing there are so many possibilities, not just for themselves but for others.
“It seems far-fetched when you first think of the concept,” Bledel notes of the element of continual memory loss, “but in reality, this is something that happens to people more than one might think. We’re actually quite delicate creatures, and the balance of physical health and mental health can be upset by something at any moment. This take on it is interesting because Molly doesn’t know about Gus’ condition for quite some time; he’s just trying to get by day to day, much less let somebody new into his life.”
The couple’s deepening challenges proved another big lure for Bledel. “She can love him the way he is, but it’s not easy,” she says. “It’s certainly healthier for people to find a natural fit, but some people have a very unique capability because they’ve been through difficult things themselves. And it proves to be the right match for them because of their own history. Two people can bring all that baggage with them and find something that makes both of their lives better, and to me, that’s real.”
With her background of weekly TV work, model-turned-actress Bledel appreciated that Levi came to the “Remember Sunday” set familiar with the same pace, especially with the project being largely a two-actor piece.
“We shot this really fast,” she reports, “and it still looks great. And yes, being on a series for a long time helped.”
So did having award-caliber talent behind the camera, also including Emmy-winning director Jeff Bleckner (“Hill Street Blues,” “Concealed Enemies”). “There are so many filmmakers who work in television now, the TV movie is kind of an evolving genre,” reasons Bledel, whose theatrical film credits ranged from “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” to “Sin City.” “You get the kinds of stories you used to get in the feature world on TV now, so it’s kind of cool.”
“Remember Sunday” is airing amid a spate of fresh activity for Bledel on both the professional and personal fronts. She’s filmed the pilot for a proposed Fox comedy for next season — “Friends & Family,” inspired by the British hit “Gavin & Stacey” and teaming her with a more recent colleague of “Gilmore Girls” mom Lauren Graham, Jason Ritter (“Parenthood”) — and she’s engaged to actor Vincent Kartheiser, her principal co-star and love interest during her relatively brief “Mad Men” tenure.
“She was someone who struggled with real depression,” Bledel recalls of her “Mad Men” character, Beth, who had an affair with 1960s advertising man Pete Campbell despite their marriages to others. “There was a sort of darkness about her that she couldn’t escape, and she was looking for somebody to lift her out of it. She almost had a habit of doing that, I think, and playing her helped me understand the Gus-and-Molly relationship in this.
“As you get older, you personally experience more that you’re able to add to characters as an actor. It was a great break to play Molly after playing Beth, because she has this lightness about her. It was such a pleasure to read the part, then to play her. You get to be that person for a time.”