‘Gilmore Girls’: Ted Rooney and Sally Struthers Had a Connection Long Before They Played a Married Couple

Ted Rooney and Sally Struthers played Babette Dell and Morey Dell on Gilmore Girls. The actors reprised their roles in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Still married and still adorable in the Netflix revival, their chemistry was undeniable. Interestingly enough, Struthers and Rooney have a connection that predates their on-screen romance.

Sally Struthers and Ted Rooney both grew up in Portland

Long before they became a mismatched couple on Gilmore Girls, Struthers and Rooney had something in common. Both grew up in Portland, Oregon, and both were graduates of Grant High School, albeit many years apart.

The Portland skyline is seen from the Wllamette River in 2012
Downtown Portland, Oregon | George Rose/Getty Images

Struthers lived in Portland until college graduation when she attempted to break into Hollywood. Her first credited acting role came in 1970. Her breakout role came in 1971 when she was cast as Gloria Bunker in All in the Family. Rooney’s road to Hollywood was a bit more winding. He earned both an undergraduate and graduate degree and played semi-professional basketball in Europe before pursuing acting full time. His first credited role was in the 1996 film Celtic Pride. In 1997 he appeared in six episodes of ER.

Ted Rooney’s father taught Sally Struthers

Portland isn’t a small place, and neither is Grant High School. Grant High School, located on NE 36th Avenue, educates more than 2,000 each year and has had several notable alumni. The age difference between Rooney and Struthers means they would have never walked the same halls, but they share a connection deeper than their hometown. They have Rooney’s father in common.

Sally Struthers during the opening night of 'Dude' on Broadway in 1972
Sally Struthers | Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

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Rooney explained that his father, Ed Rooney, spent years educating students at Grant High School. One of those students was Struthers. Rooney insisted his father was Struthers’ favorite teacher. The elder Rooney taught math at several high schools, but most notably at Grant. He also served as a Basketball coach at the school and coached basketball at the collegiate level.

Ted Rooney revealed that Sally Struthers knew who he was right away when they met on the set of ‘Gilmore Girls’

Despite growing up in the same town, Rooney and Struthers didn’t personally meet as adults until they were both on the Gilmore Girls set. Struthers is more than 10 years Rooney’s senior. For that reason, they never ran in the same crowds. Rooney landed his role in Gilmore Girls when he was 39. His on-screen wife was 53 when Amy Sherman-Palladino cast her as Babette.

Morey and Babette sit together at a table during a scene for 'Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life'
Ted Rooney as Morey Dell and Sally Struthers as Babette Dell | Netflix

Despite not knowing each other as adults, Rooney recalled how Struthers instantly recognized him because of his father. During his interview on I Am All In, Scott Patterson’s podcast, Rooney told Patterson that as soon as he mentioned Portland, Struthers knew who he was. She identified him as “Ed Rooney’s son” instantly.  

Rooney’s father was a huge fan of Struthers. According to the actor, there was a picture of Struthers during her All in The Family days hanging in his childhood home. Struthers could have been referring to several members of the Rooney family when she quickly identified him. Rooney is one of nine children. He has several brothers.