How acting on an episode of “Gilmore Girls” totally changed my life
True confession time: Before I became a screenwriter, I was an actress. I feel like I should be sitting in a circle of folding chairs saying, “My name is Kara, and I’m addicted to applause.” You may (or, more likely, may not) recognize me from some of your late ’90s early oughts television faves from Clueless to Angel, with Saved By the Bell and Step by Step thrown in for good measure. In my illustrious onscreen career I played four cheerleaders, two bitches, two ditzes and the “Young Blonde” who had the distinction of being the only victim ever to escape the evil Angelus on Angel.
But while I had a blast acting on each show, and being on set was a buzz better than even the finest shot of Patrón Silver could give – somehow all of the cheering and scowling on camera left me feeling less than creatively fulfilled. And then one day while adjusting my slip dress and exercising my eyelashes in preparation to flirt with Chad Michael Murray for an episode of Gilmore Girls, I saw a vision: a woman with headphones wrapped around her neck and a nifty orange and white iMac laptop balanced on her knees. This was Amy Sherman-Palladino, the creator, writer and sometimes director of Gilmore Girls…and She. Was. Magic. The kind of magic that didn’t require a wand or a cape or any special charms – just a computer and a wicked way with words. You should’ve seen her run that set; when she spoke, people listened. And, more importantly to this story, I listened – to my heart.
I had loved writing for as long as I could remember. As a child who moved a lot, creating whole new worlds and people somehow helped me to be less afraid of the new towns and students I encountered in real life. So much of art is about making meaning of our experience and that impulse to create came rushing back to me as I stood on that Stars Hollow set watching a powerhouse of a woman bring her vision to life in the form of one of my favorite shows. And while Sherman-Pallidino and the incredibly talented Lauren Graham discussed the script between takes, I knew what I had to do. It was time for me to get over the rejection I felt when I didn’t make it into the screenwriting program that I applied to years earlier and try try again.
I reapplied to the USC master’s program and wonder of all wonders – I got in this time. Which of course ended up being the right time because I now had a new and invaluable ear for dialogue thanks to my time as an actress. Cut to 16 years later and I am fresh off the set from my new movie Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life where I had the amazing experience of hearing the wonderful Lauren Graham saying words I wrote. And folks, I’m here to say: full circle feels pretty freaking fantastic.