Gilmore Girls Secret: The Truth About Why Rory Didn’t Go to Harvard

The Gilmore Girls costumer addressed rumors that Rory didn't attend Harvard over filming restrictions. Find out what the crew member had to say about Rory's decision to attend Yale instead.

By Lindsay Weinberg Sep 06, 2023 12:37 AMTags
Watch: Melissa McCarthy Has "Paranoia" Watching Gilmore Girls

What, like it's hard to picture Rory at Harvard? 

As Gilmore Girls fans start their annual fall rewatch of The WB show, they'll be taken along for the ride as Rory (Alexis Bledel) starts out as a teenage bookworm trying to realize her dream of getting into Harvard University. But the twist came in season three in 2003, when Rory ultimately decided to go to rival school Yale instead. 

Rumors have circulated for years that the reason for Rory's shocking college choice was due to alleged filming regulations at the different Ivy Leagues, with show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino telling Deseret News in 2002 that Yale would "let us film there, which makes it a lot easier."

But now, Gilmore Girls costumer Valerie Campbell is setting the record straight, saying that wasn't really the full picture.

Responding to a TikTok user that wrote, "I thought it was because Yale agreed to let them film there and Harvard did not," Valerie noted in a Sept. 5 video that the crew could have made either school work because they actually shot at "fake" Harvard and "fake" Yale across multiple episodes.

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"What they did not take into consideration was we didn't shoot at Harvard, but we also didn't shoot at Yale," the costumer explained. "That is not the reason why we didn't shoot at Harvard. If we wanted to build Harvard on a stage, we would have."

Indeed, scenes from Rory and mom Lorelai (Lauren Graham) traveling to Harvard's Massachusetts campus were actually filmed at UCLA in Los Angeles, whereas her first visit to Yale's Connecticut campus was shot at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., according to Yale Alumni Magazine.

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The crew member said she didn't remember "any conversations" about the crew not being able to film at the real Crimson grounds. So, a year ago, she reached out to an unnamed writer on the show for clarity. The scriptwriter also didn't know why they switched, but "didn't think" it was related to Harvard, recalled Valerie, who was also a costume supervisor on Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.

Instead, it may have had to do with the Gilmore family feud involving Rory's grandparents Emily (Kelly Bishop) and Richard (Edward Herrmann).

"My guess is that we thought it made for [an] interesting story," Valerie remembered hearing. "Rory and Lorelai had this plan for years, and then just when it's about to become a reality, Rory essentially chooses Richard and Emily's side by picking Yale."

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In the end, the Gilmore Girls team built sets in Burbank, Calif. to look like Yale's campus, which Valerie noted was closer to Rory's fictional home in Stars Hollow, Conn. to allow more onscreen interactions with her family.

At the time, production designer Lauren Crasco explained why they chose Rory's specific dorm, telling Yale Alumni Magazine in 2003, "Calhoun was easiest to replicate. Plus, it has these high wood panels and stone arches that play great on film."

They ultimately used a material similar to bulletin boards to build walls, with crushed walnut shells for additional texture, according to the outlet.

"Rory's crucial visit was actually filmed at Pomona College, and despite the crew's best efforts to avoid shots with palm trees, the classic Southern California architecture looked absurdly unlike New England," reporter Michael Taylor wrote at the time. "But with Rory slated to be a full-time student, it made fiscal sense to build a more authentic slice of Yale."

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