Lauren Graham Talks ‘Mighty Ducks,’ and How Her Character Alex Differs From Lorelai Gilmore
From Gilmore Girls‘ snappy Lorelai to Parenthood‘s determined Sarah, Lauren Graham knows how to play a heartwarming TV parent. And now, Graham’s struggling single mom Alex is at the center of Disney+’s latest series, The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, inspired by the popular 1990s hockey franchise, and premiering March 26.
When Alex’s 12-year-old son Evan (Brady Noon) gets booted from the now cutthroat Mighty Ducks junior team, the two decide to start their own hockey team for fun, with Alex at the helm. Plus, they also get a little help from a familiar face — Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez, reprising his original role), the Ducks’ former coach, now the grumpy owner of the failing Ice Palace.
And their main goal isn’t to score points, says Graham (who most recently was seen singing and dancing as corporate boss Joan on NBC musical Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist). “The show really [asks], ‘What is important about winning? Is it important? And is losing just as important?’ It looks at all of those questions, and this eclectic group finding family and building a team.”
Below, Graham talks to TV Insider about all the hilarious details.
How did this opportunity come about?
Lauren Graham: My agent called me, laughing, because I had just done a season of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, and said, “How do you feel about skating?” So I [laugh], and he was like, “I’m serious. It’s The Mighty Ducks.”
I did not expect to like it as much as I did. A good comedy is really hard to find and I just thought the show had a great heart. There’s a skating scene at the end [of the first episode] that I thought was really funny and I thought that it would be a fun job. And it was.
Speaking of the first episode’s ice dance scene, how much of that is you?
I don’t understand why people want to know. I’m the person that like, I see the Downton Abbey cast in like, street makeup, and I’m like, ‘Don’t show me that! I don’t want to see that. They are real and they live in the Abbey.’ You know, the upper body is all me, obviously. I don’t actually know. I have both a skating double, as all the kids do, and also my stand-in. So, I don’t know, and “I don’t want to know” is my answer.
But you shot a take where you got out there and did that ice dance?
I did the whole thing and the double did the whole thing. I’m an OK skater. My level stopped at eighth-grade birthday parties, and then the pandemic thwarted my desire to become really good, but you know, it’s a mix in there.
That’s still impressive! What was your Mighty Ducks experience prior to this role?
I was totally familiar with it and I know I saw it in the theater, but when I look at what year it came out, I believe it was late 1992. That was the year I graduated from acting school and I was catering, waitering, tutoring — I had just come back to New York — and I was pounding the pavement and just starting out. I don’t ever, ever remember going to the movies, both for time and money. So, I may have seen it later.
But, the nostalgia of those movies is not only those movies, but also all the other stuff that those cool actors were in, which was like, every movie that everyone went to see from The Breakfast Club to St. Elmo’s Fire. And for those playing Breakfast Club Bingo at home, I’ve now worked with Molly Ringwald and Emilio, so I’m making my way through the list.
Your character Alex is an underdog, much like her son and the hockey team they eventually form. How will we see her grow throughout Season 1?
It’s really a journey of confidence. Not only does she feel like she doesn’t identify with these other competitive parents, but she’s put upon at work as well by a really demanding boss and has not had a lot of experience standing up for herself. So, in a way, she starts standing up for her son and has to learn how to do that for herself.
So, your question was, does she grow? Yes. By the end, she’s grown. She admittedly starts by saying, “I don’t know anything about being a coach,” and that’s where our friend Gordon Bombay [Estevez] comes in. She wants to do it on her own, but finds a good partner in him and together they triumph, in a way.
How will we see that dynamic between Alex and Gordon evolve this season?
They first find their footing as partners. We suggest at what could be, in time, but it’s a slow burn, which I think with any good onscreen chemistry is always a good way to go.
Gordon almost gives off [Gilmore Girls‘] Luke Danes vibes — the grumbly business-owner type.
Yeah, totally. I mean this is like, once, my boyfriend [Parenthood costar Peter Krause] said of me and Ray Romano in Parenthood — I think he called him a bassoon and I’m a piccolo. And I tend to just have that dynamic in these long-term TV relationships. You can’t put two piccolos together. It’s more fun to see these different instruments. [Gordon] is definitely that same way where he’s really fun to tease because he’s such a curmudgeon.
You’ve played a lot of great TV moms over the years. How would you say that Alex differs from Lorelai Gilmore or Sarah Braverman?
Well, she starts from a place of lack of entitlement, wherever that comes from, I’m not exactly sure. I think they’re all connected in that their priority is the relationship with their kid, and in Parenthood’s case, kids. Just the love of being a mom, and being a mom to this particular child and wanting to, in this case, wanting the best for him. [Alex] is less sassy, probably less confident, but she’s going to find that ultimately. That was a little bit of a different trajectory [for me].
Please tell us you’ll be back on Zoey’s soon!
You know, part of the fun when this job [for Mighty Ducks] came up was Vancouver, and the plan was always, I think I was supposed to do four or six episodes of Zoey’s. And then someone close to me, who is fine, tested positive and I had to quarantine, again, in the middle of the season. That was 14 days that would have gone to Zoey’s. It was really sad because even in the episode that I did [this season], they had to take me out of most of the episode because I only had an afternoon. But the plan was originally to do more and I hope to do more in the future. The variety of playing those two people [Alex and Joan] is really fun actor candy.
We get to see you sing, dance, and now ice skate! I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Trapeze artist! [Laughs]
The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, Series Premiere, Friday, March 26, Disney+