ENTERTAINMENT

The Curious Case Of Michel Gerard From ‘Gilmore Girls’

Yanic Truesdale sets the record straight on the mystery of Michel.
Who is Michel Gerard?
Who is Michel Gerard?

He's French, he's persnickety and he loves Celine Dion, but for seven seasons of "Gilmore Girls" Michel Gerard largely remained a mystery. Described as "a very attractive, extremely intolerant black man" in the beloved WB dramedy's pilot script, viewers have seen little of Stars Hollow's unhappiest resident beyond his station as concierge and reluctant friend to one Lorelai Gilmore. 

In January, Netflix confirmed that "Gilmore Girls" would return with four 90-minute episodes, much to the pleasure of fans who discovered the series on television 16 years ago. Since then, a new generation of viewers has been inducted into the club after the complete catalog was made yours for the binge-watching on the streaming service in 2014. But as the revival draws closer, now we're confronted with the daunting question: What do we actually want to happen?

Yanic Truesdale, for one, has been anxious to learn more about Michel. The Canadian actor, who played the character in more than 90 episodes of the series, has already created a fully realized version of Michel in his mind to fill in the blanks left in creator Amy Sherman-Palladino's famously long scripts. 

"Michel has always been an enigma in the sense that you have this French person in this little town, working in this hotel, and most of the time he’s miserable," Truesdale, who, unlike his alter ego, speaks without a thick French accent, told The Huffington Post. "We haven’t seen much of his personal life or what anchors him as a person, so I kind of always have to create backstory for myself."

In Truesdale's eyes, there are only two options for what Michel has been up to since "Gilmore Girls" wrapped production nine years ago. He's either opened up an inn of his own or moved on to a far more glamorous city than Stars Hollow. Did somebody say spinoff? 

[Editor's note: How could any city be more glamorous than Stars Hollow?]

Now, the revival finally gives fans the chance to understand Michel in a new context and outside the confines of the Dragonfly Inn. Truesdale is set to reprise his role on all four episodes of "Gilmore Girls: Seasons," the unconfirmed title of the continuation, and describes the discovery of Michel's inner life as an experience long in the making. 

"The good thing about the revival is that we get to see him more outside of work and learn more of his personal life," he said. "That’s very rewarding for me and for the fans, as well, to get to know him at a deeper level."

One major question fans want answered about Michel concerns his sexuality. His romantic life remained strangely unaddressed in a series so deeply involved with its characters' personal relationships. Although Michel's interest in women was mentioned a few times throughout the seven seasons, much of the character's humor -- zingy one-liners that might as well have ended with a snap -- is derived from mannerisms and responses that could be easily read as stereotypically queer. Add some tight sweaters and a Celine Dion obsession into the mix and you're bound to stoke some fans' curiosities. 

Yanic Truesdale as Michel and Lauren Graham as Lorelai. (Photo by Patrick Ecclesine/Warner Bros./Getty Images)
Yanic Truesdale as Michel and Lauren Graham as Lorelai. (Photo by Patrick Ecclesine/Warner Bros./Getty Images)

It also didn't help that "Gilmore Girls" seemed generally uncomfortable with gayness, especially in its earlier seasons. In the absence of an out and proud queer character, be it Michel or any other Stars Hollow resident, this lack of acknowledgment threw all other references to LGBTQ people in stark relief. But considering the television landscape at the time, it's unsurprising that "Gilmore Girls" never went fully gay. In fact, Melissa McCarthy's character, Sookie St. James, was initially intended to be a lesbian, but, in Sherman-Palladino's words, it was "a non-starter" for the network. 

When "Gilmore Girls" debuted in 2000, television was still a crucial battleground for LGBTQ acceptance. Remember, that same year "Dawson's Creek" aired the first “passionate” kiss between two men on primetime television, a highly controversial decision at the time. For "Gilmore Girls" to take a similarly pro-gay stance, the series would need to swim upstream against a current of opinion labeling all things queer as anything but normal. 

“Things were different back then,” Sherman-Palladino told The Huffington Post in 2013. “The networks were very different in how permissive they would allow you to be."

Nothing said or done on "Gilmore Girls" was ever explicitly offensive, but every now and then a joke would use being gay as a punchline. Luke Danes, one half of the show's most popular couple, would often be at the center of these unfortunate moments. Any queer viewer watching at home might remember Luke asking the town weirdo, Kirk, "What's with the gay bag?" or Zack, another character, saying the word bulwark "sounds totally gay."

However, none of these confrontations with queerness ever centered around Michel, whose stereotypically gay characteristics seemed to exist in a vacuum. Instead, the character was left to languish in gay no man's land for seven seasons, which, according to Sherman-Palladino, was a conscious narrative choice.

“We all know men who seem creative, who have wives and children,” she said. “So we never actually pursue it one way or the other and sort of let it lie.”

Although some fans might be unsatisfied with that answer, for Truesdale, Michel's sexuality was never an integral part of his identity. 

"Whether he was going home to a wife or a husband, it didn’t change anything of my vision of Michel," he said. "The character has been defined in so may other ways that, at this stage, it wouldn’t have an impact to know one way or the other."

"I’ve always been very intrigued how the media are obsessed with so and so's sexuality," he continued. "Who cares who they fuck?"

But in the nine years since we said goodbye to Lorelai and Rory, our politics, culture and TV have progressed. Now, our families are "modern" and LGBTQ-inclusive programming, like "Orange Is the New Black," "Empire" and "How to Get Away with Murder," is becoming increasingly commonplace, so shouldn't "Gilmore Girls: Seasons" follow suit? According to Truesdale, the revival probably won't address the issue, restating that although we will get to see more of the character's personal life, there will be no major reveal about his sexuality. 

What is important for Truesdale, however, is that the audience can sense that a three-dimensional character lies behind the delicious one-liners. Michel works as a member of the earnest world of the Gilmore girls because of his refreshing pessimism. Acting as a counterbalance to Lorelai's caffeine-fueled witticisms and chef Sookie St. James' crazy, Michel regularly reads them to filth, and yet somehow remains completely lovable at the same time.

This dynamic, says Truesdale, is the bedrock of the character. 

"In my head, Lorelai has always been my little sister. I have always been, in a way, protective of her," he explained. "All of my pushing back or criticism of her is tough love. It’s for her best interest and never out of not liking her or being angry at her. And he’s French! French people have a very specific way of seeing everything."

The man behind the snappy comebacks is what Truesdale has tried to cultivate throughout his time on "Gilmore Girls" and what he hopes will seep through come revival time. 

"If you don’t understand where [Michel] is coming from, you don’t find him funny and you don’t really know him as a person," he said. "It’s only interesting and funny if those zingers and moments of comedic relief are backed up with an inner life that makes you understand him."

We can't say we fully understand Michel yet, but one thing's for sure: we do love him. On second thought, he would never stand for that kind of brazen sentimentality. 

HuffPost

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