Lately, Lauren Graham has been living a song-and-dance routine — belting out Katy Perry anthems and shimmying atop a bar in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” the musical new NBC series.
But when she’s not acting she’s most likely writing, hunched over a computer in pajamas and existing on takeout during “these awful, wonderful kind of crunch times,” she said. A sort-of-sequel to her 2013 novel, “Someday, Someday, Maybe,” is due out next year.
Graham wrapped the show in Vancouver, British Columbia, at the end of January before heading home to Los Angeles and her partner, the actor Peter Krause, with Mochi, her rescue puppy. Starting with a cast dinner on Jan. 27 and ending with Sunday puzzles on Feb. 2, she tracked her cultural diary for us. These are her edited notes. KATHRYN SHATTUCK
“I liked you better when you didn’t have a dog,” my friend and director Jon Turteltaub says. It’s the last week of production on “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” and a bunch of us are at dinner at Joe Fortes in Vancouver. I’m trying to excuse myself before dessert has arrived, which may seem antisocial, but I think is justified, because what’s a smarter idea than getting a new puppy while in a foreign country during the last week of filming a musical TV show? It’s been over five years since I had a dog, and even longer since I’ve raised a puppy, so I’m doing my research. My last dog was a German shepherd rescue, and this one seems to have some shepherd in her as well, so I’ve returned to the books by the monks of New Skete, “The Art of Raising a Puppy” and “Let Dogs Be Dogs.” The monks specialize in shepherds and their training advice is somehow practical, groovy and spiritual all at once.
I’m working with the writer Jennifer E. Smith on an adaptation of her most recent YA novel, “Field Notes on Love.” Jen was the editor of all three of my books at Random House and became a close friend and now a collaborator. There’s a TV in every room in my Vancouver corporate housing, so I’m allowing myself the soothing sounds of “Grand Designs” in the background. There’s a pleasing amount of British television available here, while at home I get my fix through the apps Acorn and BritBox. I like the abundance of low-stakes dramas, Christmas programming and game shows the Brits have to offer. There’s one game show called “The Chase” that’s a trivia competition with pretty challenging questions, and another called “Tipping Point” that’s just a giant version of those coin pusher arcade games that’s unbelievably slow and not that challenging. I love both. And don’t get me started on the baking shows …
Speaking of baking, I love cookbooks just as reading material, not even when I’m using them for their intended purpose. There’s a sort of relish I make that I found in the “Momofuku” cookbook that’s basically diced ginger and chopped green onion and a little sherry vinegar and soy sauce, and we put it on everything. I use the“Donabe” cookbook by Naoko Takei Moore a lot too. Donabes are clay pots from Iga, Japan, and they’re great for cooking sushi rice and soups, and there are ones for grilling and steaming too. There’s a store called Toiro that carries them, and their website is full of great recipes and unique kitchen tools and Japanese ingredients. My mom was a missionary kid who grew up in Japan, which is one reason I have such an affinity for the country and its food. Chrissy Teigen’s cookbooks are also a fun read, and the last time I made her mac and cheese the boys in my house devoured it in about 10 seconds.
My cast mate Skylar Astin and I go to SoulCycle and then to a sushi restaurant called Minami, where they make a type of sushi called oshizushi, which I’d never seen until I came here. It’s an Osaka-based style of nigiri that’s pressed in a mold and then seared on top. “It’s like cake,” Jane Levy once said. We’ve all eaten gallons of it while in town.
Tomorrow is our last day on set, and Skylar wants a recommendation for something to watch while he packs. I recommend Netflix’s “The Circle,” which I background-binged when I was on a deadline and had run out of “Grand Designs” episodes. Background binge is different than actual binge in that you can leave the house to go to the store or whatever for anywhere from 1 to 17 hours, and when you get home, you’re still pretty much up to speed. This year I think my favorite non-background binge shows in addition to “Cheer” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” was Netflix’s “Unbelievable.” It was directed so beautifully, and the cast including Toni Collette and Kaitlyn Dever was incredible. I met Merritt Wever at the Golden Globes this year and I gripped her hand while gushing at her for way too long.
Being on a musical TV show has reminded me of some of the musical theater that inspired me when I was starting out performing in the chorus of various summer stock productions. I recently made a playlist for my friends’ daughter who was newly interested that included some of the classics: it had selections from Barbra Streisand’s “Funny Girl,” Patti LuPone’s “Anything Goes,” Bernadette Peters in “Sunday in the Park With George,” Ethel Merman in “Gypsy,” and a few modern selections too: Ben Platt in “Dear Evan Hansen,” Sutton Foster in “Violet.” I try to see everything when I’m in New York. The last show I saw was “Jagged Little Pill,” which had a great cast, especially Kathryn Gallagher. I’ve been working with her dad, Peter, on “Zoey,” and when I went backstage at the Broadhurst, Kathryn showed me a wall of playbills from previous productions there that included her dad in a production of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” in the ’80s. Amazing! I just finished a fascinating book about the evolution of Broadway and its theaters called “Razzle Dazzle” by Michael Riedel. Like so much of New York history, real estate was everything.
After a late night at work and a surprisingly smooth puppy’s first flight, I’m finally back in Los Angeles, and the digital signs on all the city buses are flashing “RIP KOBE,” a gesture that speaks to his importance to this community, and one which also feels devastatingly sad. While driving in L.A. I’d be lost without our NPR station, KCRW. I stream it on their app when I’m away from home for the news and general NPR content, and their D.J.s are the only reason I’ve listened to any music made after Joni Mitchell’s last album.
At home, I scroll through the DVR to see what I’ve missed while I’ve been away. It’s full of “Jeopardy!” and “S.N.L.” and “Project Runway.” When I was a kid, “S.N.L.” was the one show I was allowed to stay up late to watch, and I’ve been devoted ever since. I loved “Live From New York,” a collection of interviews with cast and crew over the years by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller.
I’m usually reading a few books at the same time. I just finished “Catch and Kill” by Ronan Farrow, which was riveting. I devoured “Nothing to See Here” by Kevin Wilson. I’m also loving “Grown Ups” by Marian Keyes, and “All Adults Here” by Emma Straub, which will be out in May. “The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides was also suspenseful and fun. I don’t like scary movies, but I do love reading a thriller: anything with a woman or a girl who’s in a window or on a train or gone or with a dragon tattoo, love them all.
I love crossword puzzles and word and spelling games of any kind, but so does Peter, so we have an agreement: I get the crossword in the Sunday New York Times, but he gets the one in The Week. He gets the Spelling Bee in The Times and I get the Sudoku in The Week. We listen to music or “This American Life” and pass the papers back and forth and get away from the phones for a few hours. I hate feeling lost without my phone and keep trying to trick myself into using it less. I bought a BlackBerry. I’m on an Indiegogo waiting list for a keyboard thing called a Traveler that has no internet but only connects to a cloud. Being easily distracted is the reason I’m not on Instagram. I once went on YouTube to look up a video of Kelly Bishop from the original cast of “A Chorus Line” and when I looked up I had turned 80. Peter blames some of it on being a Pisces. “One fish goes this way, the other fish goes that way,” he’ll say when I leave the refrigerator door open for the millionth time.
Today our dog went to her first puppy school class and she basically hid in a corner while the other puppies jumped all over one another like they were at a fun party. I choose to think this is a sign that she is deep and introspective and wise beyond her years.