Serena (Blake Lively), Blair (Leighton Meester, Jenny (Taylor Momsen), Nate (Chace Crawford), Dan (Penn Badgley) and Chuck (Ed Westwick) – the characters, and actors who play them, in Gossip Girl have become household names.
As the series moves into its fourth season, many of the characters are heading to Paris for the series’ premiere on September 13th. Producers Joshua Safran and Stephanie Savage, along with actor Ed Westwick, spoke with us about the extraordinary success of the show and its upcoming season.
Beyond shooting the first two episodes in Paris, where are you going this season with the show?
Joshua Safran: We’re doing the event, Fashion’s Night Out, in the third episode. We are dealing with that in multiple episodes, the planning of it, the people that are involved with it, which is really fun. It’s a great event in New York City that happens in September that the characters of our world can really fit in.
Stephanie Savage: We’ve had incredible participation and cooperation from Vogue magazine and all of the people who are really creating Fashion’s Night Out, having cameos on our show, bringing models in. We shot in Diane von Furstenberg’s store, and she showed up.
Joshua Safran: She was great. One of the things I most love about Gossip Girl is the events every week and just dreaming up new events and new places for the characters to go. And I think we have a lot of great ones coming up.
Ed, when you were shooting in Paris, did you step out on any balconies and drive the French into a frenzy?
Ed Westwick: It was pretty crazy. They were parked outside our hotel most days. So I was holed up watching the remaining games of the World Cup semifinals from the comfort of my hotel room. It was absolutely nuts, but the show of support was fantastic there. Everyone was great.
Did you shoot the show with a French crew?
Ed Westwick: Yes, and they only work 11 hours a day over there. So that was very enjoyable. Everyone pretty much spoke English. I didn’t have to try to call up any of my school French that I learned.
What were some of the iconic locations that you went to? And was it hard to get permission to shoot in Paris?
Stephanie Savage: We went in June to do a scout because it’s not necessarily difficult to get locations, but it takes a long time. We were amazed that we got to shoot everywhere we wanted to. We were the first people who ever shot inside the Musee d’Orsay. You see Blair standing in front of the real LeDejeuner Sur l’Herbe. We shot in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Ed Westwick: I’m happy to say that was mainly Blake and Leighton that got to shoot at those locations. I got to shoot in the oldest market in Paris, which was quite quaint.
Stephanie Savage: Yeah, one of the neighborhoods that our French production crew turned us on to was this little village area that became Chuck’s world on the show, and that was something that was very special.
Was there a plot or aesthetic reason that you wanted to open the season for Gossip Girl in Paris?
Stephanie Savage: I think we all felt that a trip to Paris was the ultimate expression of the Gossip Girl universe, the characters are so in love with fashion, architecture, music, lingerie, coffee, everything Paris has to offer. All those elements are part of our Gossip Girl world.
What does Clemence Poesy bring to the show?
Ed Westwick: I was blown away by Clemence. I think she’s absolutely fantastic. I had to catch myself in moments in the scene and remember that I was supposed to be acting. She was really great, another great dynamic to bring to the team.
Stephanie Savage: And a really fresh, different energy for our show.
Since Mercy is ending, will we be seeing more of the Georgina Sparks character played by Michelle Tranchtenberg?
Stephanie Savage: You will be seeing more of Georgina Sparks in more ways than one!
Ed, can people delineate between you and Chuck? How do you find people reacting to you?
Ed Westwick: It’s a little strange actually. Some people are still surprised that I’m English after three seasons. So I’m under the radar to some degree. People sometimes expect me to be like my character, whether it’s a disappointment, I don’t know. I’m not. I’m just a very well-behaved English lad!
Part of the initial premise of the show was the way people communicate through technology, electronic gossip. Have the changes to technology over the last four years affected the show at all?
Stephanie Savage: Yes. Interestingly, when Gossip Girl comes online this year, she will be under construction because she’s giving herself a facelift and adding some new features that we never previously had.
We felt like this year some of the things that we were doing on our show had fallen a little behind the times, versus leading the times. So we made some changes to get ahead of that curve.
Does Kristen Bell (the voice of Gossip Girl) and her contribution get more complicated as she gets busier?
Stephanie Savage: She’s been amazingly gracious about the whole thing. She’ll be on location shooting a movie, and they’ll record her in her hotel room. She’s been in linen closets in hotels with pillows trying to create a soundstage in Hawaii. She’s been really great.
Speaking more broadly beyond the Paris episode, this far into the series, can you reflect on your experience a little bit?
Ed Westwick: I think about it in terms of it just being good. We’re having a good time still. Everyone is enjoying themselves, and I’m enjoying my work with the character. I’m in the interesting position where the character has been shot and left for dead and his whole world is crumbling down around him, to now deciding on whether or not he really wants to be Chuck Bass. It never ceases to surprise and amaze me.