April Nardini is, to put it mildly, a contentious character among Gilmore Girls fans. She came in toward the end of the show as — decade-old spoiler alert — the daughter who Luke Danes (Scott Patterson) never knew he’d fathered. Her entrance in Season 6, for many, symbolized the point at which Gilmore Girls took a turn for the worse. At the Gilmore Girls Fan Festival in Washington Depot, Connecticut — aka the partial inspiration for Stars Hollow — the actor who played April, Vanessa Marano, told BuzzFeed News she knew at 13 that she was about to step into an incredibly controversial role in the beloved series.
“I was a huge fan of the show. I remember, the [casting] breakdown came out and it was like, ‘13 years old, quirky, has storyline with Luke,’” Marano recalled at Marty’s, a small café in Washington Depot reminiscent of Fran’s Bakery in Stars Hollow, all warm vibes on a cold and rainy day. “Immediately I was like, Oh my god, they’re giving Luke a daughter. Oh my GOD, she’s gonna ruin their relationship. Oh my god, I hate her already. I have to play her.’ … It was my last chance to ever get a real part on Gilmore Girls.” Yep, Marano — who is about to turn 24 and has been starring on the ABC Family/Freeform show Switched at Birth for five years — was no different from the hordes of viewers who decried April’s existence.
“Believe it or not, how full circle it comes, it was the reruns that were on ABC Family,” Marano said, reminiscing about what got her into Gilmore Girls. “And I was able to catch up there, and I eventually switched over to The WB and watched it religiously on Tuesday nights.”
And Marano knew it wasn’t going to be easy to get fans on board with April. “Not because of the character herself — she’s actually really fun, and one of my favorite characters I’ve ever gotten to play — but everyone loves Luke and Lorelai [Lauren Graham], and that’s the storyline that broke them up,” Marano said. “It just goes to show what you’ll do based off your [fandom]. I’d say to myself, ‘I don’t care that the world is going to hate me for a little bit, I get to be on Gilmore Girls. I get to take pictures of Taylor Doose’s market on set.’”
Marano found ways to appreciate April, and she hopes fans will too. “She was a really nerdy kid who never tried to be different [than who she was] — and that’s awesome,” she said. “I think that’s a super cool thing about Gilmore Girls, too — how they highlighted how important it is to be educated, and to be intelligent; how cool it is to be a girl, and to be really smart, and to not apologize for it. I thought that was a really cool thing the show did — in the character of Rory [Alexis Bledel], and then I feel like I got to do a little bit of that with April, too.”
Most fans, according to Marano, have at least chilled on their April hate over the years. After all, she joked, “it’s not April’s fault. Don’t blame April! It’s like leave Britney alone — leave April alone.”
Sitting in the place that Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino once called a fairy town, Marano said, “Honestly, it’s been really cool to have people come up to me [at the festival] like, ‘I loved you on Gilmore.” They’ll be like, ‘I didn’t love your character, but I ended up loving you on Gilmore, and when I saw that you were on Switched at Birth that’s why I wanted to watch that show.’”
Marano said returning to set for the revival, which debuts Nov. 25, was especially interesting, considering she was the youngest member of the original series’ cast. “In a way, it wasn’t different. But everyone was also, like, ‘Oh my god, you’re so big now.’ And nobody has talked to me like that in years. Everyone’s kind of used to me being big now,” she said. “I can vote, I can drink, I’m an adult now.”
Yes, both April and Marano are all grown up. And with promotional photos and the new trailer indicating that Luke and Lorelai are very much together in the upcoming Netflix revival, Gilmore Girls fans may have found the perfect time to let go of their April Nardini resentment.