‘Gilmore Girls’: ‘Happy Days’ Star Scott Baio Was Almost Cast as Jess’s Dad, But the Network Refused
In weird (and admittedly old) casting news, when Gilmore Girls was casting for their character Jess’s dad, they pulled Charles in Charge alum Scott Baio. However, The WB said no. Why didn’t Baio get to be on Gilmore Girls?
‘Gilmore Girls’ casting directors wanted Scott Baio to play Jess’s dad on the spin-off series
On the Gilmore discussion/interview podcast Gilmore Guys, the WB series’ former casting directors, Mara Casey and Jami Rudofsky, explained the process of casting Milo Ventimiglia, who played Rory’s second big love interest Jess Mariano on Gilmore Girls.
“Milo had done a lot,” they shared. “He was still quite a young kid … that was kind of a no-brainer, bringing him in.”
However, mid-way through Gilmore Season 4, the casting directors found out: “There was going to be a spin-off,” starring Ventimiglia.
(The Gilmore Girls episode where Jess goes to Venice to find his father is a back-door pilot to Windward Circle, Jess’s very own show that didn’t go past one episode).
“… so, we had to cast Jess’s Dad,” Rudofsky remembered. And Casey suggested the name: Scott Baio.
In his own interview on Gilmore Guys, Ventimiglia remembers the show’s co-creators pulling him into an office to discuss the potential series.
“So, look, we want to spin you character off,” they told the actor. “We want to explore the broken relationship between you and your father, so we’re going to be leading up to that.”
While it didn’t happen for a couple of seasons, Ventimiglia says he found out “pretty early on.”
“I knew within the first couple episodes of the third season that they were planning that,” he shared. He replied at the time: “So, okay, I’m gonna’ have my own show, but you guys are writing it.” The Gilmore Girls creators told him “it was going to happen.” Ventimiglia was all in.
“I was like, ‘Great, I’m in, I love it, I love you guys, I love the character,'” he shared on the podcast. “I think that would be a blast. We lined up for it.”
Milo Ventimiglia had worked with Scott Baio before on another TV show
The This Is Us star also explained in his podcast interview that before joining the Gilmore Girls cast when he was 24, he had actually worked with Baio.
“I was coming off of a contract that I had at the studio,” he remembered. “I did a show called Rewind, which was Scott Baio’s big comeback to TV that never happened.”
Ventimiglia only had nice things to say about the Happy Days alum.
“He’s an amazing guy,” he shared.
When Baio auditioned to play Jess’s dad on the Gilmore Girls spin-off series, he killed it.
“He came in and he read,” the casting directors remembered. The showrunner, Amy Sherman-Palladino, loved him.
“… Amy was like, ‘you’re f*cking right, there it is. Done and done,’” they said on the podcast. However, it wasn’t that simple. The WB apparently wasn’t happy with Baio’s casting.
“… we get to the studio and the network, and they don’t want to have anything to do with him, because of Charles in Charge,” the Gilmore Girls alums explained on Gilmore Guys. “…Amy pulled really hard for him, but the network wanted more of the look.”
So, they went with actor Rob Estes, known for his roles on Melrose Place and 90210, instead. However, since Windward Circle didn’t get picked up, Estes only appeared in 2 episodes of Gilmore Girls as Jess’s dad, Jimmy Mariano.