LOS ANGELES, California—In part two of our feature on “Gossip Girl,” one of television’s much-buzzed about shows, we share excerpts of our press con with the second set of stars: Blake Lively, Penn Badgley and Jessica Szohr.
Blake, your nieces may have told you by now, plays Serena, the blonde queen in “Gossip Girl’s” world of loving and bickering students in a posh New York high school. She and Penn, who portrays Dan Humphrey, are on- and offscreen sweethearts. Jessica plays Vanessa, a rebel from Brooklyn who’s Dan’s friend, who frowns on this Upper East Side clique of money, fashion and fundraisers. All this drama—or comedy, if you will—is reported by an anonymous blogger named, well, Gossip Girl.
What was your own high school experience like?
Penn: Mine was sort of nonexistent. On paper, I didn’t even go to high school. I went for a couple of months and then, I graduated early. I took the California State High School Proficiency Examination, then I started taking community college courses (at Santa Monica College). I was 14. Over three years, until I was 17, I got enough credits to transfer as a sophomore to USC (University of Southern California), but I deferred admission. I was working and getting all my classes in alternately. You know, it’s like the Hollywood life. It was quasi-college, so I loved it. In fact, I miss it! Santa Monica College is a great campus. It’s one of the things I miss about LA.
Blake: Mine was very different (from the one on the show). I grew up in the LA area—in a small town, Burbank, where my parents’ grandparents went to the same school. Three years after I graduated from high school, when the homecoming game was in town, if I walked into IHOP (International House of Pancakes) wearing the opposing team’s color, I was shunned. It was very much a small-town mentality. I was very involved with school and fundraisers. I dressed up as the Bull Dog mascot for football games.
Jessica: I grew up in a very small town that was really considered a village back then. Now, there are more people there. The football team was a big deal. Everyone’s parents went on Friday nights, and everyone was involved with the Student Council. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way!
What we can look forward to in the show’s second season?
Penn: There are other love interests. I mean, it’s one of those relationships that, in this genre, you’re always going to get that push and pull. Will they or won’t they? For Dan, I know he’s not having so much on the love front. He’s enriching his life in order to enrich his writing, which sounds backwards—but that’s the way he wants to go about it. He dabbles in the dark side this season with Chuck Bass (played by Ed Westwick) as much as he might hate it. There’s always the anchor—his relationship with Serena. It’s always going to be something that’s present with him, because she was his first love.
Blake: There are new love interests for Serena. The interesting thing about this is that Serena was a bad girl. You met her returning and trying to be good—then, she met Dan. She avoids finding out who she is as a person and who she’s going to become, because she has this other person. She still needs a bit of the power that she had before. She was able to fall back into the shadows when she was with Dan. She does rise to power this season, and she’s finding that balance. She meets an artist who’s in his 20s. He’s a free spirit, and he tries to break her out of her shell. But, as much as he’s helping Serena as a person, there’s still that constant tug with Dan.
Jessica: I’m thinking that Vanessa will meet a guy in Brooklyn or something, because I don’t know if she can deal with these kids from the Upper East Side or Nate. She has a little flirtation with Chuck in a couple of episodes coming up, but they can’t stand each other, so we’ll see where it goes.
Blake, you have an influence on the young generation. I saw a teenager, who’s around 13 years old, who told the sales clerk at Neiman Marcus that she would like to have the same dress and shirt that your character had on the show. The girl spent about a thousand dollars. Do you feel guilty?
Blake: I do (laughter). But, her mother should tell her not to spend a thousand dollars! When I watch TV or movies and admire the wardrobe, I’d go to “Forever 21” and make my own version of those clothes. If you go to our website or look at magazines, they show you ways to get Serena’s look for less. I don’t pay all that money for Serena’s look. I’ll take an idea and say, “I like what Serena wears, but they’re really expensive,” so I’ll do Serena’s look for less. I’ll just treat myself every now and then.
Do you keep clothes from the show?
Blake: Yes, I definitely do (laughter). Clothes go missing!
Penn: Yes, the reason we do the show for less is because we get all the clothes for free (laughter).
Blake: No. Sometimes I borrow, and sometimes I don’t give them back (laughter). But, I also share my clothes with the show. I share handbags—Chanel, Burberry and Gucci. It’s great that we have a look that is classy. Blair and Serena dress with such class and elegance for young women. It’s nice not to be wearing midriff tops, with our chests busting out. If girls want to emulate our characters’ style, that makes me happy, because it’s a very classy look!