Gossip Girl 100th episode Featurette (part 2)
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Gossip Girl 100th episode Featurette (part 2)
Gossip Girl 100th episode Featurette (part 1)
A 100th episode is always a crowning achievement for any series but it’s only expected that the CW drama “Gossip Girl” would go above and beyond the pack. In tonight’s episode, the various story threads currently weaving throughout the fifth season culminate in grand fashion with a Royal Wedding involving none other than our favorite society gal, Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester). But will Blair really marry Prince Louis Grimaldi (Hugo Becker) as planned or will longtime love Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) or ‘Lonely Boy’ Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley) find a way to break it up? And how will Serena (Blake Lively) and Nate (Chace Crawford) figure into the drama? And just what will the elusive Gossip Girl have to say? Our Jim Halterman rang up Executive Producer Joshua Safran to see what he could find out about the hush-hush landmark episode.
Jim Halterman: In general, did you kind of know that the show would get to this point or do you approach it season by season?
Josh Safran: Definitely season by season. We have felt really honored and grateful to make it this far. You always like to hope but, really, nothing more than the glimmer in our eye. ‘I hope we can make it there.’
JH: Was there a different kind of pressure knowing this is was the 100th episode and you might want to do something bigger than what you normally do?
JS: Yes. I wouldn’t say it was pressure. It was more wanting to honor getting that far and knowing what that means. I definitely felt pressure as a writer to live up to expectations and, if you’re a viewer who had stopped watching at some point and wanted to tune back in, I wanted this episode to stand on its own as well as be a part of the serial storytelling. Also, just to be something emotional and moving and also funny as only Georgina Sparks (Michelle Trachtenberg) can make it.
JH: It’s really been clear this season just how much everyone has changed including Blair. Has that been a conscious choice to make sure the characters change but not so much so they’re still making mistakes?
JS: Yeah, at the beginning of every season we sit down and we start towards the end of the season that we’re in and we talk about where we are at with closing that character’s journey for the season and then opening the new journey. Every finale gives a hint of what’s to come. It was definitely very clear from the moment that Blair got engaged that this season would follow what it was like for her to be an American Princess, basically, or about to become an American Princess. In some ways that makes you powerful but in other ways you lose your identity because you’re in service of something else, which is a Royal Family.
The other story we were very conscious of is that Serena has had a lot of relationships and has defined herself by them at some point but we feel like now Serena started to realize ‘Now that I’m growing up I have to start to find myself by myself.’ That has been her journey this year. And then Chuck and all that. Dan and his book has been years in the making…
JH: In the last few episodes, the religion card has come in with Blair’s pact with God in saving Chuck’s life. It seems whenever you bring religion into any story it can stir some people up or turn them off. Is that anything you thought about?
JS: We didn’t figure it that way. It was definitely a turn in that story [that] was something we talked about but it was not ‘Blair should believe in God.’ The story didn’t derive from there. The story derives from the fact that in a way Blair has lost something very, very, very important to her and it was out of her control having lost that. It’s not so much that pact with God as so much as religious as it sort of is emotional and, in a way for Blair, a reason, a way to get control of the situation that was completely out of her control and devastating. Serena makes some very good points about the pact in the next episode.
JH: Of course, I feel like the 100th episode is going to be a lot about the wedding but what else is going on that you can tease? There are probably other pieces floating around.
JS: You definitely have pieces in terms of everyone’s stories converge at the wedding, which we wanted to do anyway but in this particular episode I think more so than a lot, it really is the whole wedding. What I mean is that the entire thing revolves around the wedding. Sure, there’s Dan and Serena’s story, then you have Georgina, you have Chuck and Father Cavalia (Marc Menard) teaming up, you have Blair’s two Dads… it’s a lot but it’s all just circling the wedding.
JH: Can you tell me does someone, anybody, get married in the 100th episode?
JS: I cannot tell you that but I appreciate you asking.
JH: I feel like Blair is not going to get married to who we think but there might be someone else…
JS: I understand as a viewer of television myself that that would totally make sense to me, the old switcheroo where ‘I thought it was going to be… ?’
JH: How much is the ‘Dair’ (Dan and Blair) relationship going to keep popping up? Blair has a lot going on but that piece keeps popping up. Does that continue moving forward?
JS: Yes. That story definitely… as I said before, I know that I recently said that the triangle goes to a square and that’s essentially what happens. Blair becomes more aware that there are more than two people vying for her heart.
JH: Assuming there is another 100 episodes in the show…
JS: … that would be lovely but I somehow doubt that because I don’t know if you want to see them still dealing with Gossip Girl when they’re 35… but I’ll let you finish your question.
JH: … have you thought about a next generation of the show? I thought maybe you were heading that way when you had Jenny, Eric and Charlie but now a lot of them are not around anymore.
JS: It’s funny, we always talk about a next generation but the strange thing is what do you create? I personally think that would be a lot of fun and I definitely would like to see the next generation but the problem comes up because our characters are all out of high school, including Jenny and Eric if they were on the show at this time. None of our leads are old enough to have children and now you don’t want to say ‘Here’s a 16-year old you’ve never met who’s interacting with Serena and Blair and yet going to Constance.’ It’s just difficult, unfortunately. I feel like they’ve aged themselves out. They’re in that weird middle ground where they can’t know anyone that age and they wouldn’t know anyone who would be close to people of that age. But, again, we do talk about versions of a next generation and what’s that like.
JH: Now that we’ve met the real Charlie Rhodes (Ella Rae Peck), is that someone we’re seeing pop up again?
JS: Absolutely! The real Charlie Rhodes is very much around the periphery of our world.
JH: Assuming there’s a season six, which I hope there is, it would be a sixth season of a show but have you thought about a reboot or a refresher? Or does it not need that?
JS: We like to think that every year there sort of is, because of what you said earlier, the characters goes through growth arcs every season but they’re so organic so I think we’d want to look at it that way. Reboot is the wrong word but what is going to be the new growth for this character. That said, I do think this season more than ever the outsider influences on our characters [are there] but it’s not like a Juliet (Katie Cassidy), who is an outside source. It’s the fake Charlie Rhodes (Kaylee DeFer), who is related to the real Carol (Sheila Kelley)… it’s within the family within this group so in a weird way a reboot of any kind would just be more of this family. The kids are all family with each other at this point and I don’t mean the legal family but they’re friends who have become family which is why you see the real Charlie Rhodes, the fake Charlie Rhodes and you know Jack Bass (Desmond Harrington) is coming back and William van der Woodsen (William Baldwin) is coming back. CeCe Rhodes (Caroline Lagerfelt) is coming back. It’s a deepening of this family.
JH: Is your plan for whenever the last episode comes that we will find out who Gossip Girl actually is?
JS: Ummm… is it the plan? It’s funny, I can’t answer that question for reasons that will become apparent very clear.
JH: Now, you’re freaking me out! [Both laugh.]
“Gossip Girl” airs Mondays at 8:00/7:00c on The CW.
I need my Ivy fix sooner!
(part 8 of 8)
On the eve of Gossip Girls’ 100th episode, here are the key strategists behind the CW series that shaped and defined the 6-year-old, femme-focused network.
(part 7 of 8)
Mark Pedowitz, CW President: This is the first CW show to hit 100 episodes, and we have great pride in it. We hope that it lasts for a long, long time. Time will tell how things go.
Schwartz: We’re very proud of the 100th episode, but my favorite scene has to be Chuck and Blair’s first moment in the back of the limo [during season one]. There’s also a shot of Dan kissing Serena on a cobblestone street in the Meatpacking District — it’s moments like that when you say, “This is the show.”
Roth: This was defining, much the same way CSI has been defining for CBS and Lost and Desperate Housewives were defining for ABC.
Gregorian: And it’s resonated worldwide. It’s in 197 territories and No. 1 with young adults and women on the channels they are on in Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Finland, Greece, Romania, Sweden and the U.K.
Schwartz: You hope that these shows can serve as time capsules. Hopefully this one will be remembered for the characters, how we were ruled by gossip and technology in a way that feels true. And hopefully we’re remembered for capturing New York and what it was to be young there.
Savage: We have no plans to wrap things up this season. The actors’ contracts expire at the end of next season, so that feels like probably an organic ending point.
Roth: I certainly hope we get at least one more season. We’re contracted for another one. The show has had an extraordinary impact on all of us, and I’d be thrilled to be able to appropriately say farewell after six remarkable seasons.
(part 6 of 8)
Savage: All of a sudden, people wanted to do cameos. During Lily and Bart’s wedding episode, I was working with [baker] Sylvia Weinstock on the cake and thought: “Sylvia is a New York celebrity. She should come to the wedding.” [Socialite] Tinsley Mortimer came to our white party, then Michael Kors, Tim Gunn and Vera Wang.
Ostroff: It started a fashion craze. During the second season, there was a front-page article in The New York Times about Gossip Girl’s fashion and how stores like Bloomingdale’s couldn’t keep the show’s clothes on shelves. People watch the show the way they read a magazine: They want to know where to get the clothes, where to get the music and where to go in New York.
Schwartz: New York really embraced us. When you’re first shooting, nobody wants you there. All of a sudden, bars and restaurants were opening their doors. Our New York magazine cover was a big deal because it was a larger New York cultural magazine. The pinnacle, though, was Rolling Stone. It’s really very gratifying because you believe in these actors early, but there’s no evidence to suggest you’re correct yet.
Meester: You always want to grow and change, and the show has allowed me time off to pursue other projects and parts of the business. The biggest highlight for me is the 100th episode. It was a dream because my character wears this gorgeous Vera Wang dress. And because it took eight days to film, I wore my wedding gown way more than a typical bride would.
(part 5 of 8)
Haskins: When I saw the “OMFG” ads, I knew that was it, but then I had to sell it internally. A lot of people didn’t know what “OMFG” meant, so I had them call in assistants to get their reaction. The assistants would either smile or gasp. Once that happened, I had 100 percent support.
Ostroff: As controversial as it may have been, the campaign set the tone for the network and the brand.
Haskins: That’s when Gossip Girl went from 60 to 120 miles per hour. We planted a very strong flag in the marketplace, and to this day we’re known as the “OMFG network.”
Savage: We loved it. It was using the language of the show to promote the show. It felt smart and had attitude.
Haskins: A lot of companies would not put “OMFG” on billboards or [run it on] certain cable stations, so we created two alternatives: for some an emoticon and for others we changed “OMFG” to “OMG.”
Crawford: I remember Jay Leno doing a bit where he asked an old grandma what “OMFG” meant. (Laughs.) Oh, and being shirtless on a poster with some girl.
Haskins: The message got out loud and clear. We had a lot of negative things said about it. For phase two, we took negatives and turned them around. We used the “Mind-blowingly inappropriate” and “Every parent’s nightmare” quotes to sell the show. The Parents Television Council gave me the nickname the “snake in the grass at The CW.”
Lisa Gregorian, Warner Bros. TV Chief Marketing Officer: It was provocative, but we didn’t want to do it just for the sake of getting attention. The show had to back it up.
Haskins: The next year we did the “WTF” campaign. We’d show provocative scenes that were coming, and then we’d cut to a card that said, “WTF?” before panning out and seeing “Watch This Fall.” We were in a groove; we really understood what the brand was and, more importantly, we understood how to talk to our viewers.
Savage: Like the campaign, the show is edgy, but we have a great relationship with the network’s standards-and-practices people. Whenever we do anything where we feel like we might be controversial, we have a lot of conversations. When we did our threesome episode in season three, we definitely caught some flack.
Meester: We’re not whitewashing on this show. We’re talking about issues people hold back on: drinking, drug use, sex. We’re not pretending it’s glamorous; we’re just portraying something teenagers do.
Morgenstein: I live on the Upper East Side, and the reactions shifted from moms of young teen girls being upset about the show to those same moms being fans of the show and wanting set visits.
(part 4 of 8)
Haskins: The hardest thing about launching a new show is that people don’t know the characters yet. You have to do an overall concept sell. We launched with a tagline: “You’re nobody until you’re talked about.”
Schwartz: When it premiered in September, it got a lot of buzz, but we didn’t necessarily come out of the gate and pop a number.
Ostroff: It was incredibly frustrating. Nielsen doesn’t have a great grasp on measuring younger viewers. You couldn’t go anywhere in the country without finding people obsessed with the show. Where Gossip Girl ranked No. 100 on the Nielsen list, it was No. 13 when you looked at the power-content ratings — a combination of Nielsen ratings, traffic online and buzz.
Schwartz: Everyone told us these shows take time.
Meester: When we first started filming, people would walk by and ask, “What are you filming?” Once we aired, the whole mania started.
Crawford: We were shooting on the Upper East Side one afternoon and must have been outside three all-girl schools. Within an hour, 10 girls multiplied to 300. I mean, we weren’t the Beatles. Ed and I were crossing Park Avenue and had a ring of girls around us. We got stuck on the median and our make-up people had to fight them off. They were getting their hair pulled and had to throw elbows to get us through.
Ostroff: I’ll never forget, I had someone come in from China to talk to us because the series was the No. 1 downloaded show in China — obviously not legally, but it had created a huge phenomenon.
Schwartz: Then the writers strike hit. It was devastating and scary. Initially, we wondered whether the show would ever come back.
Meester: I thought every episode was going to be the last one.
Schwartz: We ended up being one of the few shows that came back that year with new episodes, but because we had been off the air for so long, The CW had to relaunch the show.
Haskins: We used an outside research company and went to different markets to sit in living rooms with viewers: Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, Dallas and New York. We began to see how viewers were talking about the show. They would text each other about it, even if they were sitting on the same couch. That really was our “Aha!” moment. We realized we could flip our marketing and talk about this show the way they talked about it.
(part 3 of 8)
Schwartz: When we first started casting, we read a lot of blogs that said, “You need to cast Blake Lively as Serena van der Woodsen.” We were like, “Isn’t that the girl from the [Sisterhood of the] Traveling Pants movie?” After we convinced her to do television, the network was concerned that she was “too California.” So we dressed her up in boarding school attire — clothes out of Stephanie’s closet — and straightened her hair to prove that she could look New York.
Savage: I had worked with Penn Badgley [on WB’s The Mountain] and had told him several times to stop doing WB pilots. Then I had to go back and say, “OK, one more!”
Schwartz: Ed Westwick came in and blew us away. He originally read for Nate, but Stephanie and I looked at each other and wrote, “Chuck?” on a piece of paper. Once we cast him, he had to figure out his green card. We got several calls that he actually wasn’t going to get it in time.
Savage: The network was like: “You have to have a backup choice. We can’t delay production. It would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Schwartz: But we refused to make the pilot if Ed wasn’t Chuck Bass. Chace Crawford was very new and probably read 30 times.
Chace Crawford, actor: I went back and forth to countless auditions because [CBS president and CEO] Les Moonves needed to sign off on me. They stuck me in this empty room with a hundred vacant chairs around a conference table. I sat down and this girl swiveled around in her chair, and it was Leighton [Meester].
Schwartz: Leighton was a blonde when she came in to read, but Blake was the blonde, so we asked her to color her hair. A risky move on her part in the middle of pilot season, but she did a sink-rinse dye job to audition as a brunette.
Leighton Meester, actress: I started auditioning back in December 2006. The process was really long. At the time, I wanted to move to New York, but I didn’t have a reason or any money. So when my agent sent me the Gossip Girl script, I thought Blair was perfect for me. Originally the script had my character suffering from an eating disorder, but they ended up taking it out.
Schwartz: Taylor Momsen [who played Jenny Humphrey and has since left the series] was an innocent 13-year-old when she came in. She played us the sweetest, poppiest Gwen Stefani music. (Laughs.) As for Matthew Settle and Kelly Rutherford, we really had to fight to get more money to pay for them. It was important to have adults to anchor the show.