It can no longer be said that my close, personal relationship with Lauren Graham is one-sided. Why? Because last Friday, Gilmore Girls' bedazzling banterer had just survived a massive flood in central Virginia and was stranded alongside elephants, giraffes and all manner of wildlife on top of a humongous ark, covered in dirt and melting under 110-degree temps, and you're never going to believe what she did. She picked up her cell phone and called... me.

Ausiello: Are you OK?
Graham:
[ Frantic] I'm [shooting Evan Almighty] the sequel to Bruce Almighty, where God tells Steve Carell to build an ark, and he refuses to do it, so animals start following him and he starts, like, growing long hair and a beard - he starts turning into Noah. But we have this ark that we've built that is literally at least one football field long. It's truly insane. I've been stuck on top of the ark for, like, hours and here I am. Hello.

Ausiello: Are you sure this is a good time? I got a call from your manager saying you might have to postpone.
Graham:
I'm OK now. I called [my manager earlier] and was like, "I've been on top of the ark. I have dirt on me that's, like, 3 inches thick." And they're like, "OK, it's not really the flood. Calm down." [ Laughs] But I'm OK for the moment.

Ausiello: How much more filming do you have to do?
Graham:
It's endless. It overlapped with [ Gilmore Girls] by, like, a month, so there were about 30 days where I would work in one place, fly overnight and work in the other place.... It's been, like, two and a half months. And then we still have two or three more weeks here in Virginia and then like three weeks in L.A. doing effects and green screen and stuff. It's huge. It's a huge shoot - animals and a flood and craziness!

Ausiello: How meaty is your role? This isn't the kind of thing where you spend four months filming and you only get 10 minutes of screen time, is it?
Graham:
There's no way to say now, and I certainly wouldn't offer conjecture that would harm me in anyway. You know, I'm his wife, and it's a great part. The family is important to what happens in the movie. It's a bigger job than I've ever had, so I'm just happy with that.

Ausiello: How is it working with Steve?
Graham:
It's been great. It's been totally great, especially because now we're nominated for [a TCA Award] together. We had a fistfight this morning.

Ausiello: That's right! You're up against one another in the best-comedy-actor/actress category!
Graham:
I know! Isn't that funny? So, it's been really fun. It's just been really fun.

Ausiello: How does it feel to be nominated against all men?
Graham:
It feels really cool because those are the guys on TV that I enjoy the most. That, to me, would make a great dinner party. It's totally unexpected and really cool, and [the critics] have been so important to the success of the show and to me in particular, so I'm really thankful. This is the time of year when I start getting asked a lot about [the Emmys], because I think I've become, like, the Susan Lucci [figure] - except I'm not even nominated.

Ausiello: Are you aware of the changes in the Emmy system this year?
Graham:
Yes, but I don't totally understand them. I know that it's sort of like they hole up everybody in a screening room and you're sort of forced to watch an episode. I don't really understand what the difference is.

Ausiello: As I understand it, Academy members will decide the top 10 to 15 nominees in the major categories, and then a blue ribbon will choose the final five, but only after watching episodes of all the pre-noms.
Graham:
Well, I think that's interesting, but I wonder if it will help or hurt, frankly, because the [ Gilmore] episodes I like the most tend to be the most dramatic. I think our strongest episodes are the least funny, [but we're] in the comedy category. You're still gonna be watching it along with something with a laugh track, and it might seem weird.

Ausiello: Well, speaking of Gilmore, what was your reaction when you found out Amy was leaving?
Graham:
I still am in some sort of denial. She was directing the [season finale] and she told me personally one night after work. You know, there had been rumblings, but there always are this time of year, because they have renegotiated pretty much one year at a time. I thought there was a chance for a reconciliation. From what I understood from her and then from what was printed, the reasons why don't really match. So I don't know. They're both really talented.

Ausiello: How do you feel about it on a personal level?
Graham:
I feel sad. I feel sad because I think this is probably going to be the last year of the show and we won't all end it together. There have been ups and downs over the years, like any collaboration, but I trust her dialogue. I haven't always liked where the story's going, and I haven't always liked the plots, but I really enjoy her language. And she really had a huge part in every episode. On the other hand, we're in the hands of David Rosenthal, who's very talented, and who's really kind, and who really deserves the belief that the show will be really good. Most shows, at this point, don't have their original show-runner still attached. And we have a much bigger crew of writers now, because when you're a husband-wife team writing every other episode, you don't have a lot of other writers. So we now have some really high-level people who are fans of the show, and I think that energy might be really important. It's our seventh year, so we have to look at it as an opportunity to kind of have a renewal. But [Amy and I have] been e-mailing back and forth. I think it'll be OK.

Ausiello: One of the things Amy and Dan wanted was a two-year deal, which struck many people as odd because you and Alexis have made it pretty clear that you're leaving after next season. What's your take?
Graham:
I mean, I don't know. I think it's really better left... I think they hoped that we would change our minds.

Ausiello: Is there a possibility of that?
Graham:
There's no way to say. No one's approached us about [an eighth season]. It's a lifestyle thing as well as a creative thing. I'm not set for life or anything. I need a steady job, and this is a wonderful character and a great show and something I'm really proud of. So there are definitely reasons to keep doing it. But to me, when you start staying someplace for money or security, it shows in your work. It's a very difficult show to do. It's a lot of language and that makes for very long hours.

Ausiello: Will it be a decision you and Alexis make together?
Graham:
It will be something we talk about. We talk about major things involving the show frequently. I don't think we'll ever get in a situation where she wants to stay but I don't and one of us is holding out. We wouldn't do that in a vacuum without the other one knowing.

Ausiello: Would you ever continue without Alexis?
Graham:
Never. Can you imagine? "Lorelai's Place." I, like, move into Luke's diner and, you know, hang up a new sign and start singing the theme song and directing all the episodes. That would be terrible.

Ausiello: I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but the majority of fans I've heard from hated that Lorelai ended up in bed with Christopher in the finale.
Graham:
I don't think people were probably thrilled - of course, all my references are 50 years old - when somebody shot J.R., you know? Oh my god, I'm 100! It stirs up your passion for what you would like to happen and for the characters you're interested in. And it's human. The thing I don't like on television is when somebody does something that makes absolutely no sense just for the shock of it. [The Lorelai-Christopher thing], to me, was such a long time coming. This was built into the story for a long time - that Lorelai didn't feel understood [by Luke] and they weren't communicating. [Christopher and Lorelai] have a connection and it made total sense to me, just given the story. To me, that's a satisfying season finale. I'm sorry if people were upset.

Ausiello: Fans also didn't understand why Lorelai was so passive when Luke shut her out of his life with April.
Graham:
I totally agree. But I've [voiced] these complaints before and it always gets sort of explained to me like, "We're going somewhere. You have to trust." And our show is not that "plotty." It's not Lost. It's not like you get a lot of, "And then they're all living in a cave," or whatever happens on Lost. The whole season has an arc of these little moments of behavior. I don't think this is a passive character, but both in the Rory situation and in that April situation, it's hard to play. But I do think the payoff was good. And had you not had all those episodes where you and I and everybody was frustrated, would the payoff be as good? I don't know. I really trusted [Amy's] way of telling a story and that's her way of telling a story. There may be some difference in that this year, and then will people complain about that? "Too much happened!" You know, "Lorelai's too sassy again!" If you have a show you like or characters you like.... it's like the Clippers. The Clippers don't always win, but I still like going to a Clippers game. If you like the team, then come back and watch the team. But that's another reason why I think maybe this will be our last year. I think the story is kind of headed to a place where Rory will graduate from college and something is gonna be resolved with this [Luke/Christopher] thing. And maybe Lorelai ends up with Mr. Big.

Ausiello: Do you know what David has planned next season?
Graham:
No. But he doesn't either. I had a nice meeting with him not that long ago, and the writers are just sitting down together to break stories. I know that he'll talk to me about it because he's like that. So, I think I'll know more than I might normally have.

Ausiello: Will you be more involved in the creative process?
Graham:
No. I would like to be a producer on the show, but that's not anything they're gonna let me do.

Ausiello: Why not?
Graham:
I think, at this point, any request [might lead to], "Well, if you want something then we want an eighth season" kind of thing. It's nothing quite that bold. It's not David's decision anyway; that's higher.

Ausiello: That's [Warner Bros. TV president] Peter Roth.
Graham:
Yeah. But they have their reasons. It's important to me to be involved in that way. I'll still be involved, just in a less formal way.

Ausiello: I have one more question that I've been dying to ask you since September. Did something happen backstage at the Emmys between you and Jennifer Love Hewitt? You looked like you were about to claw each other's eyes out when you presented together.
Graham:
Oh my god, that's terrible!

Ausiello: The way she darted to the podium and left you in the dust....
Graham:
That was the only thing! I was in a tight dress, and she was in a more Audrey Hepburn kind of shape, and I just think she could move faster. I was laughing. I was just sort of like, "And here I am, nine hours later.... the nominees for.... " [ Laughs] No, there was nothing. She's a doll. She's a really sweet girl.