Fans of Chad Michael Murray often know the actor as a 2000s heartthrob. He was a staple in many teen drama shows and movies, including Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill, A Cinderella Story and Freaky Friday. Before landing those roles, however, Chad earned his status with his brief stint on Gilmore Girls. Many viewers were sad to see him go after less than two full seasons, so what happened to him?

Who Did Chad Michael Murray Play in ‘Gilmore Girls’?

Chad played Tristan Dugray, a rebellious student and notorious player at Chilton Preparatory School. When Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) transferred to Chilton, Tristan immediately took an interest in her and began teasing her by calling her “Mary.” He made a continuous effort to get Rory to date him, but she refused and didn’t believe he actually liked her. 

They shared a kiss while Rory was broken up with her boyfriend, Dean Forrester (Jared Padalecki), but Rory ultimately got back together with Dean. However, throughout seasons 1 and 2, Rory and Tristan developed a friendship as she tried to convince him to date more loyal girls and stop getting into trouble. 

Why Did Chad Michael Murray Leave ‘Gilmore Girls’?

In season 2 episode 9, Tristan told Rory that he was leaving Chilton because his father was sending him to military school in North Carolina after he and his friends got caught breaking into a parent’s safe. This was a nod to Chad’s next adventure in real life, as he was heading to Wilmington, North Carolina, to film his roles on Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill.

In a December 2021 interview on fellow Gilmore Girls star Scott Patterson’s podcast, “I Am All In,” Chad revealed that he was offered the chance to continue his time on Gilmore Girls. However, it was his decision to leave the show to explore himself as an actor, as it was still very early in his career. 

Chad Michael Murray
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“For me, it was about just … trying on different clothes, different costumes, different walks, different feels,” he said. “Sitting in the same character for too long can get stagnant. I was so young. I needed to find out who Chad [was.] Who was Chad as an actor?”

Though his exit left many unanswered questions about Tristan, including whether or not he and Rory would have eventually dated, Chad said he did not regret his choice to leave. It allowed him to “discover so much” about himself.

“I genuinely wouldn’t be the man I was today without making that decision,” he added. “When the opportunity came to stay on Gilmore, I just wanted to know more about me.”

Does Tristan Come Back in ‘Gilmore Girls’?

In total, Tristan appeared in 11 episodes of Gilmore Girls. The character also briefly returned in the 2016 revival on Netflix, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, but it wasn’t a speaking role and Chad did not play the character. Instead, actor Anton Narinskiy was recast as Tristan, who was seen flirting with someone at Chilton while Rory and Paris Geller (Liza Weil) visited the school for alumni lectures. 

Chad reportedly turned down the chance to return for the revival, according to TVLine, but the reason is unclear. It likely had to do with his busy schedule. In a 2016 interview with Entertainment Tonight, the actor said, “I wish I could’ve been there but it’s all good — life is good. All my buddies got to go back.”