As Lorelai Gilmore on “Gilmore Girls” for seven years, actress Lauren Graham ’92 typically worked 14-hour days. “To do anything else feels like I’m on vacation,“ says the M.F.A. theatre graduate.
So she was unfazed during two days of training SMU theatre students in February. Hustling back and forth from one conference to the next workshop held at Meadows School of the Arts, she barely took time to sip from a bottle of water.
Theatre Chair Cecil O’Neal says that Graham has been generous with her time, energy and expertise during visits to SMU. “It is absolutely wonderful for our students to have an opportunity to learn from someone as knowledgeable, experienced and successful as Lauren.“
While on campus, Graham observed that the student experience has changed somewhat since she attended SMU. “They’re so much more exposed to the business of the business than we were,” she says. “My class wanted to be theatre professionals, mainly. We were kind of biased about what it meant to be an actor in film and television. I don’t think students have that bias so much now. They’re more interested in working in a world where they can make a living. They seem really enthusiastic and very smart.”
Although trained for the stage at SMU, Graham’s experience in film and television comes into play when passing along insights about the business to students. M.F.A. candidate Lydia Mackay found the workshop beneficial and supportive. “She reminded us that to be ourselves, and to be confident in who we are and the choices we make in our art, is vital not only to our success but to our integrity,” Mackay says. “Theatre students worry about being right or wrong, but Lauren really encouraged the belief that there is no right or wrong, there is only you. And people want to see the real you.”
Graham realized she wanted to be an actor at an early age. Growing up in Virginia near Washington, D.C., she participated in the renowned Arena Stage program for children and young adults. When she graduated from Barnard College, however, it was with an English degree. “I’m from a pretty academic family, and when I called home talking about my acting studies, I was hearing, ‘You’re rolling around on the floor? That’s a class?’ ”
Going to school in Manhattan exposed Graham to plenty of theatre and acting classes, and she was hoping for a career as a performer. “Then I got out of school and I was working retail during the day and cocktail waitressing at night, six days a week,” she says. “I was in the city, but I had no access to the business.”
After a long run of “Gilmore Girls” and Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations for best actress, Graham is concentrating on movie roles; her next feature, “Flash of Genius,” is set to debut in June. But she hopes to play a different role in her next TV show. “I’d really like to be an executive producer,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot about how a show succeeds and the kind of world I like to create and be part of.”