15 Surprising Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Gossip Girl
Prepare to feel a wee bit old: The first episode of Gossip Girl aired almost 10 years ago.
As you may recall, the CW hit made waves on Sept. 19, 2007, following the popularity of the book series written Cecily von Ziegesar, quickly catapulting Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Ed Westwick, Chace Crawford and Penn Badgley to fame.
In honor of the major anniversary, Vanity Fair caught up with the cast and crew—including creators Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz as well as writer Joshua Safran—who revealed some surprising facts not even the show’s biggest fans may have known about.
1. It Was Inspired After The O.C.‘s Success: Schwartz and Savage were also the creators and showrunners of The O.C. They were looking for something just as exciting to execute after the show’s end, and Gossip Girl was just the way to do it.
“We learned a lot of lessons [on The O.C.] and its kind of crazy four-year run that we wanted to take and apply to something moving forward,” Schwartz said. “And we were really excited about doing something in New York.”
2. Blake Lively Was Pegged for Serena Van der Woodsen From the Start: Thanks to the books’ fan groups and message boards as well as Lively’s popularity in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, the creators already had an idea Lively was the girl for the role.
“We didn’t see a lot of other girls for Serena,” Schwartz said. “She has to be somebody that you believe would be sitting in the front row at Fashion Week eventually.”
3. But Lively Wasn’t So Sure: She wanted to get her degree. “I said, ‘No, I want to go to college. Thank you, though,'” Lively recalled. “Then they said, ‘OK, you can go to Columbia [University] one day a week. After the first year [of the show], it’ll quiet down. Your life will go back to normal and you can start going to school. We can’t put it in writing, but we promise you can go.’ So that’s why I said, ‘OK. You know what? I’ll do this.'”
She never ended up finishing college.
4. Leighton Meester Was Underwhelmed By the Audition Process: “I think it was just the normal, typical pilot season audition for me,” she recalled. “I auditioned, and then I tested once, and then we did a screen test with everybody. And then, that was it…I dunno. I got it.”
But her recollection doesn’t entirely match her actions at the time.
“She came in and she was really funny, and really smart and played vulnerable,” Schwartz clarified. “But there was one problem: She was blonde. And Blake was blonde, obviously; Serena had to be blonde. So, [Leighton, who played Blair Waldorf] went to the sink and dyed her hair. She wanted it.”
5. The Two Girls Couldn’t Have Been Any More Different: “Blake is very much in the moment. Blake knows what’s happening. She knows this movie’s coming out, this band is happening,” Safran recalled. “Leighton [on the other hand] was very removed and very quiet, and, after her scenes were done, she would wander the stage. I had this image of her just in these gorgeous dresses with a book in her hand, sort of a little bit out of focus out in the corners.”
6. And They Weren’t BFFs: “Blake and Leighton were not friends,” Safran continued. “They were friendly, but they were not friends like Serena and Blair. Yet the second they’d be on set together, it’s as if they were.”
7. Ed Westwick and Chace Crawford Were BFFs: The two—who played Chuck Bass and Nate Crawford—actually lived together in an apartment in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood when the show started filming. They first bonded at an Arctic Monkeys concert.
“We had these girls coming up to us, and they were kind of freaking out about it: ‘Oh, we love the books.’ [Ed and I] kept looking at each other like, shit, man,” Crawford recalled.
Giovanni Rufino / The CW
8. Westwick’s Style Was Inspired by Jersey Shore: But not how you’d think. Rather, the reason Westwick was so put together and fashionable was to bring the opposite of Jersey Shore to TV.
“I think because he was a Brit and had a different understanding of clothing and what it means, he was game day one,” Gossip Girl costume designer Eric Daman explained. “He had a very big influence on menswear and how men dress today, and on what getting dressed up means. Menswear, at that point, was still very Jersey Shore…I’m very proud we got to break through to the men and be like, ‘No, it’s OK to dress up. You’re not gonna look like some big pansy because you’re in a fucking suit, dude. Suck it up, put on the bow tie.'”
9. And Penn Badgley Was Very Much Dan: Despite often his obvious dislike for the show, Badgley (who played Dan Humphrey) was very much like his character both on- and off-camera.
“Penn didn’t like being on Gossip Girl, but…he was Dan,” Safran said. “He may not have liked it, but [his character] was the closest to who he was.”
10. Badgley and Lively Kept Their Split a Secret for Two Months: The on-screen couple dated in real life for three years while filming the show. However, when they split in 2010, they didn’t want it to interfere with the show or their careers.
“The shocking thing was, I found out on the set of the season two finale that Blake and Penn had broken up months before,” Safran recalled. “They kept the breakup hidden from the crew, which you could never do now. I don’t even know how they did it. They kept it from everybody which is a testament to how good they are as actors. Because they did not want their personal drama to relate to the show.”
11. And Leonardo DiCaprio Eventually Had an Impact: When Lively started dating DiCaprio in 2011 (before she ended up with Ryan Reynolds), it inspired the Gossip Girl writers. In fact, they even moved the show’s filming to L.A. for a little while.
“We learned a lot from Blake,” Safran said. “When I think about shooting the L.A. episodes, Blake was dating [DiCaprio] at the time, and she had this thing where she had a doll that she took photos of that she sent to Leo. Blake was way ahead of the curve. It was pre-Instagram. She was documenting her life in photographs in a way that people were not yet doing.”
12. It Felt More Like Marketing Than Acting: Lively admitted that her real life and the show often crossed boundaries, which only heightened its popularity. In fact, she said she never really felt like she was acting.
“It felt like we were in the center of a marketing machine, a cultural pop phenomenon,” she admitted to Vanity Fair. “We were creating three episodes at once sometimes, we were given our lines at the very last minute, we didn’t know where our characters were going; there was no planning or arc…It almost felt like a sketch show. We were basically sort of reading off of cue cards. There were people taking pictures the whole time and paparazzi jumping in front of the cameras—it felt like we were part of a cultural experiment…There was something neat about that.”
13. The Show Actually Had Its Own Gossip Girl: Before hacking was even a major thing, someone was getting into Gossip Girl emails and stealing scripts to sell online.
“Our scripts were ending up online, and we couldn’t figure out how,” one of the show’s producers recalled. “We hired a private investigator. We didn’t understand what was happening, because everything was getting leaked, every detail…A teenager, I think either [from] Russia or Bulgaria, had hacked one of the writer’s e-mails, and was selling scripts on eBay. But they were underage, so they couldn’t be prosecuted. It was a f–king production nightmare. We would have to ‘X’ out every script. We would have to print on red paper…It was like there was a ‘Gossip Girl’ in our system.”
14. Westwick Still Doesn’t Know Who the Real Gossip Girl Is: Even though the season finale revealed who’d been signing “xoxo, gossip girl” all those years, Westwick didn’t get the memo.
“I still am not sure who GG was lol,” he admitted to VF.
15. A Reboot Isn’t Off the Table: When asked about a potential spin-off series or reunion show, both the producers and the cast didn’t completely deny it.
“Yeah, I don’t really hear [talk of] that,” Meester said. “I guess I hear that in fits and starts here and there, but it’s hard to say. If everyone was into it and if the timing was right, you know? I don’t want to say, ‘No, never.'”
Lively, on the other hand, said she’d “of course” take a role on a reboot into consideration.
“I’m open to anything that’s good, that’s interesting, and that sort of feels necessary,” she said. “I imagine we all would [consider it]. I can’t speak for everyone else, but we all owe so much to this show, and I think that it would be silly not to acknowledge that.”