Fussy, filterless and unapologetically French, Michel Gerard, the Dragonfly Inn's sarcastic yet lovable receptionist in “Gilmore Girls,” is one of the series' most memorable characters. This Friday, he returns for the show's Netflix revival, “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.”
The actor behind the role, Yanic Truesdale, is actually Canadian and not at all persnickety, but admits to sharing some commonalities with Michel—his passion for fitness, for example. We chat with Truesdale about returning to Stars Hollow, look back at his audition for the role and discover the actor’s second career as the owner of a cycling studio.
How does it feel to be reprising the role of Michel in "Gilmore Girls"?
It’s a gift because this is something that doesn’t happen much in my field. You’re usually done with a part and you move on to the next one, which is part of the excitement. So it’s rather unusual to go back to a part that you did eight years ago and have another chance at it. You have the perspective of the time that has gone by and you’re aware of the impact that the show has had.
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Is anything different about filming this time around?
Yeah, we’re all more mature. [Laughs] We’re all older and I think everyone appreciated it even more this time around because we knew that this was a unique situation to have the chance to go back. The show has changed everyone’s lives, pretty much. I think everyone felt very grateful [during filming] — that’s how I felt.
Did the cast stay in touch with each other over the years?
We were a large cast, and like any job, you remain in touch with some people. Because most of my scenes and my work has been with Lauren [Graham] and Melissa [McCarthy], those were the two that I have remained the closest with because we worked together all the time. Over the years, we would touch base and have a dinner or lunch and you know, chat.
What was the initial inspiration behind Michel’s character?
You would have to ask Amy [Sherman-Palladino]. I don’t know if she saw someone like that or where he came from. I know at first when they were casting they were looking for someone in their fifties, an older gentlemen, but they didn’t find the right person. That’s when they decided to go a little younger. I was in my twenties when I did Michel in the first season but I’ve always had some gravitas in my performance, even at that age. I gave him that maturity even though I was younger than what they had in mind.
He’s certainly one-of-a-kind. So memorable. What do you love most about him?
I think the strong part of this character is the fact that he has very little filter. We’re taught to say “thank you” and “please” and all that stuff and to kind of hide how we feel about people and remain nice, but Michel doesn’t really bother with that. He just says things how they are.
If Twitter was around then, Michel would have been a superstar.
I know, I know. But also what I like about him is even though he doesn’t have any filters, I think he has a good heart. I think he means well. His issue is that he cares too much. He cares too much about everything. Everything has to be his way. It’s very French, you know. The French have a way of doing things and they think if you’re doing it otherwise or differently, it’s wrong. They mean well.
When you first got the script for “Gilmore Girls” did you think at that time it would be so successful?
I felt very good about the character — “Gilmore Girls” was my first audition in LA! I thought it was very good, the part was very well suited for me. Immediately when I read it I was like, “Huh, that is strangely a very, very good fit.” I connected with him immediately. I understood where he came from. My audition scene was actually the scene in the pilot where he says, “People are particularly stupid today, can’t talk to anymore of them.” It was really a nice unfolding, first experience for me and everything about it was beautiful.
What can we expect from Michel in the revival?
You’ll find out much more about who Michel is. That is the big thing for me. We finally go into his personal life, his love life — there’s a lot of stuff that has happened since the show ended, he’s in the midst of a lot of things and there’s much more that is revealed at a human level.
How did you initially get into acting?
There was a girl in my high school who was going to audition for the National Theatre School of Canada, which is like the biggest school and out of thousands of applications they pick 20. But she asked me to be her scene partner and I said, “Well, why are you asking me? I’ve never done this.” I eventually decided to apply too because if I was spending time on it, why not? I got accepted and then I got excited, but didn't know if I was going to like it and I certainly didn’t know if I had talent. I discovered in the first year that I did like it a lot and I realized that this was for me. It’s really where I felt like I was becoming an adult and discovering what I love.
Did your friend get in too?
Poor her, they didn’t accept her and she really wanted it. Life is weird that way. Sometimes when you don’t really want things they come to you and when you really want them they don’t come.
Was your family supportive?
Yeah, I grew up with my mom — I didn’t know my dad. My mom is a product of the '70s — a hippie. She’s been a yoga teacher for 45 years and a photographer. She went to India for a year. No matter what I would have done in life, as long as I was happy, she didn’t have any kind of feedback. I could have picked anything and my mom was like, "Vivre et laisser vivre," which means "live and let live".
So since the show ended its initial run, I heard you started a cycling studio in Montreal called Spin Energie. How did that come about?
I really don’t know how it happened. I’m not a businessman but I figured it out. I’ve always been passionate about health — it’s just how I was raised. But I’ve abused my body a bit too much and my knees aren’t as good so I can’t jog like I used to. I discovered spinning and I loved it. I was in Montreal to shoot a new show and there was no spin studio. I thought someone should do it and then I thought, I should do it. I found a space, signed a 10-year lease and five months later it was open. I just ran with it. It felt bigger than me.
"Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life" makes its debut Friday, Nov. 25 on Netflix.