It's been nearly 20 years since "My So-Called Life" first debuted on television, and it's been nearly that long since four of its stars were in a room with creator Winnie Holzman.
At the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas, on Friday, we were among the first to join her, Devon Gummersall (Brian Krakow), Devon Odessa (Sharon Cherski), Wilson Cruz (Ricky Vasquez), and Bess Armstrong (Patty Chase) in that room, and we can confirm that while much has changed, even more has stayed the same.
The biggest change? Devon Gummersall. Gone are those poofy curls and high-waisted pants. He's not nerdy Brian Krakow anymore, ladies!
"He's gorgeous, right?" Wilson Cruz, who played the effervescent Ricky Vasquez on the show, gushed to us.
Even Gummersall understands people's fascination with his transformation.
"My hairstyle — let's just say I cut it shortly after that show went off the air, but here's the thing: Similar to the show in general, I'm happy with it, I loved it, I wouldn't mess with it, it was perfect at the time, but I probably wouldn't do it again," he told us. "People don't recognize me because I do look so different, but when they do, they're just completely baffled. They're like, 'What?!'"
But it wasn't just the hair that makes the actor, now 34, cringe when he watches reruns.
"At that age, having to tuck your shirt in, that just felt really wrong to me. I had to wear those leather braided belts and tuck my shirt in all the time," he confessed. "It took a good 10 years to opt to tuck my shirt in in real life because I was just like traumatized."
Other than looks, though, the cast agrees that little has changed since the show was on the air for its brief 19-episode run. They'd all have mobile phones, but the stories would remain the same.
"In our hearts and souls, one generation is not that different from another," Holzman said. "It's just the trappings that change."
"The writing was so good and the story, the challenges that the characters were dealing with were timeless things," Gummersall agreed. "It could be pretty much the same now, or it could've taken place at a time earlier."
Another thing that's stayed the same for nearly 20 years is the relationships between the stars. In fact, much of our conversation with the cast was spent discussing their more recent connections.
And, yes, everyone still loves Claire Danes.
"We all met up at the Chateau Marmont meeting Claire's baby," Armstrong shared, pointing to Odessa and Holzman.
"If I'm ever in New York, I see Claire. I mean, if she's in New York," Holzman added. "Nowadays, she's not always going to be in New York, she's going to be [filming 'Homeland'] in South Carolina."
"She continued to do Thanksgiving at my house until a couple years ago when she decided to start her own on the East Coast," Armstrong said. "She called me the night before going, 'How do I make the green beans?' … In her vegetarian phase, she used to stand and when I poured the caramelized onions over the green beans — that's part of the trick — she would stand there with her fingers and eat them out of the dish so that only about a quarter of them got to the table."
As for Jordan Catalano, Jared Leto works on his infamous lean with a decidedly different crew. Even Holzman admitted she hasn't seen the 30 Seconds to Mars crooner in ages, but Cruz recalled a pleasant run-in with him recently.
"I was in Miami checking out of my hotel and all of a sudden I found myself being picked up and twirled around and, when I was put down, I turned, and it was Jared Leto," he explained. "And sitting in front of the hotel was his huge tour bus and I was like, 'You're a rock star.'"
"Of course he is!" Armstrong insisted. "You know if we were going to glamorously lose touch with anyone, it was always going to be Jared."
"I'm not sure we ever got to be that close in touch with him on the set," noted Holzman.
Some of the other connections still run deep, though.
"Winnie married my husband and I. She officiated our wedding," Odessa added. "My husband is friends with Devon Gummersall — they go mountain biking."
"Tom Irwin [Graham Chase] and I attempt to get together fairly regularly and that's the best 'My So-Called Life' freakout," Armstrong laughed. "When Lifers see the two of us in a booth together and you see their whole reality being rearranged. It's just delicious."
"The point is," Gummersall concluded, "we're all close and we've all stayed in each other's lives, but this is a rare opportunity to be in one place at one time."
No, Devon. The point is that "My So-Called Life" is still just as poignant and resonating as it was nearly 20 years ago.
- Devon Gummersall
- Bess Armstrong
- Wilson Cruz
- Winnie Holzman
- Devon Odessa