Arguably the biggest character in Gilmore Girls doesn’t have the name Gilmore. Rather, it goes by “Stars Hollow,” the small town that’s home to Lorelai, Rory, Luke, and a number of larger-than-life characters.
Better known as the “townies,” the secondary characters that make up the town quickly became a central part of the show’s dynamic. As for which townie stood out most, well, every Gilmore fan will offer a different opinion (including Jimmy Fallon).
But there’s one thing no one can argue with: Stars Hollow wouldn’t be the same without Kirk. From his 40-plus jobs to his need to please Taylor, Kirk is everything fans love about the town in one person. “When I first read the script for the very first episode I ever did, I had a strong sense that I understood the tone of the show,” actor Sean Gunn tells EW. “I’d been a fan of old film comedies like Preston Sturges and Howard Hawks movies — the fast-paced dialogue in movies like His Girl Friday and Bringing Up Baby and Twentieth Century and Sullivan’s Travels. And I got that there was a sense of that tone in this show.
“I like physical comedy and I like precise old school comedy, and I think that’s what [show creator] Amy [Sherman-Palladino] likes as well, and she writes incredibly well for that,” Gunn continues. “There was just a nice rhythm between us with her as the writer and me as the actor that just worked. In terms of what an oddball Kirk is, that just grew at some point. I don’t know where that comes from. It made sense to me somehow.”
Throughout the show’s seven seasons, Kirk had a number of stand-out moments. For Gunn, the ones that stick with him include Kirk’s Jesus monologue — “To me that’s quintessential Kirk. Of course he’s going to get into character and become the most self-righteous Jesus you could possibly imagine” — A Film by Kirk, the night terrors, bidding on picnic baskets, performing in The Fiddler on the Roof — his favorite episode of the show ever —the hockey game, and of course, the dance marathon. As Gunn puts it, “Lorelai was so upset that Kirk won that contest but got Kirk has so little. You gotta let him have the dance marathon.”
But what most people have been talking about lately is an upcoming moment for Kirk. When the first trailer for Netflix’s Gilmore revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, hit the internet, fans couldn’t stop talking about Kirk attending a Friday night dinner with the Gilmore family. “That was very fun to shoot,” Gunn says. “Over the whole course of the series I almost never got to work with Kelly Bishop, and she’s such a master. She’s such a brilliant actress, so it was nice to be able to interact with her a little more.”
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At the end of the day, the appeal of Kirk is simple. “I think you’re always going to have a huge section of people in the audience who either know someone like Kirk or they feel like Kirk themselves sometimes,” Gunn says. “Everybody can relate to that feeling that, ‘I’m having one of those days where I’m not doing anything right.’ And Kirk feels like that all the time. He wants so desperately to do the right thing and to be loved and respected but he just can’t seem to get it right.”
Kirk’s relatability has led to a number of fans coming up to Gunn on the streets, expressing their love for the man who once crashed a car into Luke’s diner. “I get a lot of people saying, ‘We know a Kirk; I work with a Kirk,’” Gunn says. “I’m glad I don’t have too many Kirks in my life, I’ll tell you that. One is enough for me.”
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life hits Netflix on Friday, Nov. 25.