It aint easy being David Sutcliffe.
After all, there are more than a few people out there who would like to see his Gilmore Girls alter ego Christopher banished from Stars Hollow. Sure, he’s Lorelais first love and Rory’s dad, but every time Christopher shows up things tend to spiral out of control for the dramedy’s dynamic duo. Take, for example, the final episode of the recently concluded season in which Luke’s rejection drove Lorelai into Christopher’s bed.
“There are some people who really don’t want my character on the show,” the actor concedes. “They want him out. They’re very upset with that ending.” And Sutcliffe certainly understands their position. “Viewers have a lot at stake. They’re invested in the show emotionally and they want the relationship between Luke and Lorelai to work out.” And that makes Christopher a major detour on the couples road toward love one that fans want bulldozed! But Sutcliffe isn’t taking all the Christopher bashing too seriously. “I don’t have bodyguards,” he says with a laugh.
Unlike viewers, the actor had a sense that he might soon play the iceberg to Luke and Lorelei’s Titanic. “I knew that the writers were bringing me back for a reason, and generally that reason is to create some kind of mayhem in Lorelei’s love life.” Sutcliffe did not, however, know just how far things would go.
Then again, how could anyone imagine that the gig, which he says originally, was described, as one episode with the possibility of recurring would turn into a career-defining role? “At the time, it was early in the shows run and it seemed to be catching on, but it certainly wasn’t the kind of phenomenon that it is now. Which it really is. The show is going into its seventh season! This is how most people know me as an actor as ‘Christopher’ on Gilmore Girls.” And how, exactly, does he feel about that? “At first, I had mixed feelings. It’s sort of a recurring character and I enjoy working on the show, but it wasn’t my show, and I wasn’t sure what my relationship with the show was.”
But Sutcliffe is not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. “Over time, I really started to embrace it and realize how unique the show is and how lucky I am to be part of something that has seeped into the conscious of the public. I’m very proud to be part of it.”
And while some fans would be happier if Christopher packed his bags and left Stars Hollow, its hard to deny the sparks that fly whenever fate, aka the writer’s throws Sutcliffe and Lauren Graham (Lorelai) into a scene together. “Lauren and I have a natural chemistry,” he says. “That’s something you can’t anticipate. You don’t know when the cast meets, and I don’t think the writers really anticipated the characters developing in that way. But once they saw the chemistry that Lauren and I had together, I think it was inevitable that they would write the character in more and create that dynamic.”
Although the very definition of an actor’s job is to create illusion, Sutcliffe maintains that there are some things you just can’t fake. “There really is a natural chemistry and an ease in how we work, and that plays,” he says. “And it doesn’t happen all the time. There is a love and respect between us and that shows on the screen.”
Sure, viewers have waited years for Luke and Lorelai to get together, but darned if Christopher doesn’t somehow charm his way into the equation. “Its hard for the audience to deny, as much as they might want to. I know they’re afraid of Christopher and what he might do to upset the balance or the forces in Luke and Lorelais lives.”
One thing Sutcliffe is aware of is just how connected Gilmore Girls fans are to their favorite Stars Hollow residents. “Occasionally, I go on line to see where the audience stands with what Christopher is doing and how they’re reacting,” he admits. “And people come up to me on the street sometimes and kind of yell comments. It’s all in good fun. Most fans have some perspective on it.”
In other words, viewers know that without Christopher, Lorelei’s life might be a tad boring. “It’s kind of been my characters job to wreck havoc in their lives,” Sutcliffe says with a chuckle. “It’s a great character to play, because he’s Rory’s father, so its always going to be dramatic and powerful when he shows up. There are a lot of unresolved issues between Lorelai, Rory and Christopher.”
That proved more true than ever during this past season, which saw Christopher step forward to become more of a presence in the life of his daughter. “He’s been kind of unreliable through the years,” reflects his portrayer. “And now this year, they sort of redeemed him a bit and turned him into more of a good guy. It gives more of a sense that maybe we can rely on this guy and maybe he’s stepping up to the plate, which kind of shifted the audiences perception of him.”
Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that suddenly, Christopher is rich. “I was surprised when he inherited a lot of money,” admits Sutcliffe. “That was definitely an interesting story point. It completely changed the dynamic of the character in relation to both Rory and Lorelai. It also gives him a different kind of flavor. He is independently wealthy and, let’s face it, that’s an attractive quality! Women don’t necessarily go for guys because they have money, but they’re certainly not upset to find out he does!”
With money came not only privilege but the chance for Christopher to step up to the plate. “Having Christopher pay for Rory’s education was interesting in that it allowed him to take responsibility for the situation, which he had been unable to do for a long time. My sense was that they were trying to redeem the character to a degree.”
Of course, who knows what will happen to the tempestuous triangle now that major changes are afoot behind the scenes. Were nervous, Sutcliffe admits when asked about the general feeling on the set now that Amy Sherman-Palladino the creator, executive producer and guiding force behind Gilmore Girls from day one has left the show. “It’s very clear to everybody that the show is her vision and that she’s in control. To have a successful show, you need the person on top who has a strong vision. With her gone, obviously there’s trepidation about how the next season will go.”