Long Live Luke
By Teri Akman

Devoted fans of “Gilmore Girls” are in TV heaven right now as the much-loved series returns for a final re-boot. And their favorite coffee shop owner – South Jersey’s Scott Patterson – is right there to turn up the confusing heat between him and Lorelai…just like old times.

For Scott Patterson, returning to the set of the hit television show he starred in for seven seasons – the classic and much-loved Gilmore Girls – wasn’t as easy as he expected.

“I put the hat on, the clothes and everything, and when I got on set to film the first scene in the diner, I didn’t feel like Luke,” says Patterson, who grew up in Haddonfield. He took some time to walk around the set to try to get those old feelings back, and it worked. Luke came back.

“This was a role I was born to play. It fit like a glove,” he says.

scott pattersonPatterson revived the role in four 90-minute episodes, which debuted on Netflix last month. The four episodes of “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life,” named “Winter,” “Spring,” “Summer” and “Fall,” pick up eight years after the original series ended. Most of the original cast members have returned, including Lauren Graham (playing Luke’s on-again, off-again love interest, Lorelai), Alexis Bledel (Lorelai’s daughter, Rory), Kelly Bishop (Lorelai’s mother, Emily) and Melissa McCarthy (Lorelai’s BFF, Sookie).

One key character missing from the revival is Lorelai’s father, Richard, played by the late Edward Herrmann, who passed away in 2014. His absence is included in the new series, however, as his wife Emily struggles to deal with the loss.

“Losing Ed, it left a gaping hole, and was so tragic and so shocking,” says Patterson. “As far as the storytelling was concerned, it really deepened the scripts and affected the tone of a lot of it – especially our characters and how we related to one another. Fans are going to be very touched by how [show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino] has shown her respect and paid homage to him.”

Patterson expects fans to love everything they see in the new series. “To me, it’s a much-improved version of the Gilmore experience,” he says. “Not that it was bad before, but Netflix came in, and it really felt like we were doing a big-budget feature film in terms of the equipment being used and shooting schedules. Everything was different.”

Except for the writing, he adds, which was always an essential reason for the show’s success. “It affords us the opportunity to show up to work every day and know we’re going to be in dynamic, dramatic comedic circumstances,” he says. “There’s nothing better for an actor than knowing we’re in really good hands. We just need to go in and not flub the lines and not knock into the furniture too many times.”

During his break from Gilmore Girls, Patterson has kept busy with his acting career and also developing his music career.

The singer/songwriter/guitar player returned from his L.A. home to South Jersey this past summer to perform with his band – then called Gordon – in Ocean City. Patterson has since announced the band’s name change on his Facebook account: “Hey Gang! Unfortunately, we have had to make a major change and rename the band. The new name is #SMITHRADIO!! There is already another band out there named GORDON, and it is causing some problems for us, I apologize but this change is unavoidable…I hope you all understand the change and I appreciate your continued amazing support. Love you all.”

During his gig at the Shore, Patterson’s childhood best friend Tommy Poitras joined him as a guitar tech. Poitras was Patterson’s first bandmate – in third grade.

patterson“We only played two songs, ‘(I’m Not) Your Steppin’ Stone’ and ‘Back in the U.S.S.R.’ They were the only songs we knew and the only songs we performed,” Patterson says.

“Intermittently throughout junior high and high school we were in different iterations of the band. I got thrown out of the band a couple of times and was asked to rejoin. There was all kinds of drama. I wanted to take it to New York after high school and try to make it in the music business, but a couple of band members had other plans.”

After graduating from Haddonfield Memorial High School, Patterson quickly realized music wasn’t going to be his profession, so he turned to his other talent: baseball. Patterson spent seven years, from 1980 to 1987, as a minor league pitcher. He bounced around several teams, including farm teams with the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees. Patterson says Hall-of-Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax was a big influence in his life.

“I had grown up idolizing him. When I met him, we became friends and confidants, and he became more of an advisor and life coach as opposed to a pitching coach,” says Patterson.

“He knew my heart was broken, and I was thinking about making some changes in my life and walking away from the game. That’s a big decision for a young man. I had given that profession seven years of my life – actually longer because I was pursuing it many years before that. I just felt there were other things in life I wanted to pursue, and I did not want to give all of my 20s to a thing that wasn’t returning the favor.”

He spent the next year and a half traveling throughout Europe “to shed some skin,” he says.

Patterson then moved in with some friends he had met on his trip, landing in New York. “I went to their acting class, and that’s when the spark happened,” he says. Patterson lived in New York off and on between ’86 and ’94, ultimately moving to L.A. for the movie “Little Big League.”

“I thought, ‘That’s a big enough film that I could get some other work, so I decided to move out there permanently.’”

Patterson later appeared as Agent Strahm in three of the Saw horror movies. “The fun part was the research I got to do, hanging out with the FBI going through their course load,” he says. “I was trained like an FBI agent, and that was the best part.”

His favorite role, he says, was in the 2015 Lifetime movie “Kidnapped: The Hannah Anderson Story.”

“I played a killer,” he says, laughing. “I really enjoyed it, because it was just so far away from who I am. Actors thrive on going to these really dark places if the writing is good. It was a true-life, horrible, horrible story with an abhorrent character. The challenge there is to attempt to find the humanity in the role no matter how heinous the character is. Those characters don’t see themselves as evil, so that’s always an interesting challenge. You look for something where you really need to walk that tightrope between madness and just plain old crazy.”

Patterson has held other notable television roles, including Grace’s love interest in “Will and Grace” and a “spongeworthy” love interest of Elaine’s on “Seinfeld.”

Today, Patterson spends most of his time in L.A. but won’t rule out possibly moving back to South Jersey some day.

“That’s tough because the business is out here,” he says. “Maybe as the band grows, it will be more convenient to be on the East Coast. I really do miss the small-town feel. I like the fact that everybody knows each other and is accountable.”

When he does come home, Patterson always stops at Wedgewood Swim Club, even in the winter. His fondest childhood memories are of Wedgewood and Haddonfield Memorial High School. “I got a great education. The school system there is second to none,” he says. “It magnifies how important an education can be in somebody’s life.”

For now, Patterson is soaking up the revived adoration of fans who loyally appreciated every break-up and make-up of Luke and Lorelai. He had petitioned for the series to come back for years because he thought the fans deserved it.

“The fan base for this show is amazing. It’s a religion to them,” he says. “I’m glad we got to give the fans what they truly deserve.”

December 2016
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