Exclusive Gossip: Murtz Jaffer Interviews Gossip Girl's Leighton Meester

To end our Exclusive Gossip feature, I can think of no better way than to present my interview with Leighton Meester. Undoubtedly one of the hottest actresses to burst onto the scene in 2007, Meester is a face that is bound to be around Hollywood for a long time. Playing the dastardly Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl, the show’s primary villain is very different from the character that she portrays on TV. When I talked to Meester as part of CTV’s Upfront presentation in June, it didn’t take too long for me to see that she was nothing like Waldorf and was very personable and fun to talk to. Leighton told me more about the biggest hit of the television season so far and also hinted at a possible eating disorder storyline that will be coming up on the show. Gossip Girl airs tonight on CTV.

Murtz Jaffer: Ready to rock?

Leighton Meester: Ready whenever you are.

MJ: I want to start by asking how you got involved with Gossip Girl?

LM: I read the script a couple of months before I actually auditioned and I fell in love with it. Fell in love with the character Blair and knew that I had to play her. And then from there, I auditioned and it was a grueling process and I was like ‘just give me the part already!’ (no, I am just kidding). They have definitely got something great so I am just really really glad to be part of it. I am so lucky and so thankful. And then I went and shot the pilot and had a great experience and it actually turned out to be perfect. Exactly what I was hoping for.

MJ: And it’s a pretty big break for you right?

LM: Yeah. I mean I am not really sure exactly. We’ll see, but creatively, absolutely. I feel like it’s one of the best things I have done because it’s opened up so much for me as far as like growing and knowing how to experience a character and experience a show so it’s kind of a whirlwind actually. It’s kind of amazing.

MJ: You have been on a bunch of shows that have had a lot of success. There was 24, House, Entourage, Veronica Mars, and CSI Miami. It’s like what’s left? You have basically been on everything that’s hot so if we go with the whole Leighton touch, obviously Gossip Girl is going to be a success.

LM: I think that’s a very nice thing to say! (Laughs). Thank you very much!

MJ: (Laughs).

LM: I mean I don’t know, you know? You never know with these things but I really believe that it is such a good team and it’s (the pilot) turned out so well and we already have such a built-in fanbase of amazing people that have read the Gossip Girl books and already feel like they know the characters so I think that we have got something really good along with the music and the clothes and the people that are actually going to be playing the parts who are just phenomenal in every way and the fact that we’re actually shooting in New York (not fake New York!), we’re shooting in New York on location which is actually kind of a character in the show. Going to Central Park, there’s no mistaking Central Park…

MJ: Right, you can’t fake Central Park.

LM: Yeah. Or shooting on the steps of The Met, and we’re shooting actually in New York, on the streets which is just a totally different energy than if you are faking it at a soundstage somewhere.

MJ: I want to ask you more about your character Blair Waldorf. I watched the pilot and I was like Blair is TOTALLY my favorite and the only reason I am watching this is to see what Blair does next.

LM: (Laughs). And you’re like ‘oh god, what is she going to say?!’

MJ: (Laughs). Yeah, like what’s the next plan? What’s she going to text message?

LM: Yeah. And it’s funny because when I first read it, I was a little bit intimidated because I couldn’t quite put my finger on how to play it. You know, usually when I go to audition for something, I am like ‘okay, this is the character and this is how I am going to read it.’ But then when I was reading it, I didn’t know exactly how to play it. I wasn’t sure… you know, should I just play it straight bitch, should I play it like… she’s got so many different layers to her and you don’t usually see that with a teenage girl role. I mean they are usually more one-dimensional. Exclusively, especially if they are rich girls. You don’t usually see them wearing Dolce and then crying because they’re upset. She’s got a lot of cool things about her. She’s very intelligent and she’s very sort of feisty and she’s a pretty cool girl but then she’s got all these other different aspects that I think every girl (kind of every age but especially teenage girls) deal with anywhere you go. The fact that she’s rich and everybody’s kind of looking at her from every point of view and Gossip Girl is blogging about her, I think that it’s kind of overwhelming so it just sort of emphasizes the fact that she’s got all these problems, so it’s kind of fun to watch as you know?

MJ: And is it fun like playing the bad girl? Because it’s kind of like the heroes versus the bad guys. You have got you and Chuck on the evil side and then you have got Serena and Dan as like the virtuous people that everyone wants to be.

LM: Yeah, but I think that the best thing about it is that nobody’s all good and nobody’s all bad. Serena might be the girl that everybody wants to be or everybody wants to be with, but you also are kind of like ‘well you’re messed up too… you have problems too.’ And the same thing with Blair. That’s why it’s such a joy to play a character like that because you can’t just play her one way. You love to hate her typically. And I think the only character who you’re just like ‘I hate you but I want to see more of you’ is Chuck because he’s just all-around a bad guy.

MJ: Totally.

LM: And Nate is also kind of a bad guy too but he’s got good things about him too that you want to see more of so… it’s great.

MJ: It’s obviously a very good-looking cast and a very sexy show, are you ever concerned with how racy the show can get or is that not a concern?

LM: No, it should be more racy. It should get racier through every episode. Every episode you’re going to be like ‘what did they just show?!’ It should just be Jerry Springer. I am just kidding. I think that this is how people actually talk. If you dumb it down for an audience, if you make it seem like it’s some sort of after-school special, nobody’s going to want to watch it. And not because we’re trying to get ratings but because it’s actually real and we’re following really true to what the books are because they are very racy and people I know are so worried about teenage girls reading about sex and drugs, but the truth is most people that are that age do experiment with that kind of stuff. You might not want to say it, but it’s true and we’re also going to touch on other things that they write about in the books like my character has an eating disorder which you might not know. I think that they are going to touch on that and talk about it in a real way that’s approachable so even though these people’s lives you know people are going to see them and see what they wear and see where they go and who they hang out with and be like ‘oh my god, I want to be like them!’ but then you’re going to be like ‘they’re just like me, they just have great clothes and designers and money.’ So it’s kind of great.

MJ: Do you think that this whole text messaging like ‘oh my god, I just saw Blair at the mall, I just saw Blair at the bar…’ do you think that’s what happens in highschools now? The whole text messaging phenomenon?

LM: I think that it’s definitely dramatized for the show because these people are kind of like little celebrities for the blog’s sake they are sort of the celebrities. But I think that gossip is…

MJ: Universal?

LM: It’s been happening since the beginning of time, just now it is a little bit easier to get it when you are on your Sidekick constantly. Somebody wants to text or email you, you don’t even have to say anything, all you have to do is use your phone. Those opposable thumbs come in handy when you have a text-messaging device! I think that it’s not really highschool, it’s all ages, but I just think that in highschool people care more.

MJ: Obviously everybody is going to compare this show to The O.C. (because of Josh and Stephanie) and 90210 and Dawson’s Creek. How do you think that this show compares to those?

LM: I think that Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage have their special touch that they had with The O.C. and it’s definitely got that vibe to it, the fact that it’s got great music and great clothes and really obviously very racy sort of subject matter. I mean it’s going to be a great show because of them but I think that it stands alone. It’s interesting and great in its own right, regardless of who created it or who is in it. It’s just something that I think people are going to want to watch. I think that it’s different because the characters are very complex. It was originally written in books so if you read a character that has been in 12 books, described page by page, it might be a little bit more interesting to watch than just a character who is written for the screen. That’s why I think it was so difficult for me from the beginning to say this is just how she is because I could just add more of me but I had to kind of step outside myself a little bit. But I think that she’s a lot like me in some ways.

MJ: Can you tell me about Kristen Bell. Because she is the voice, do you see her on set?

LM: No, she’s not. She just puts her magic in after.

MJ: Kind of like an animated thing.

LM: Yeah, exactly. But I mean she’s one of the most important characters because she sort of keeps everybody up-to-date on what’s going on and she is the reason I think why the stakes are so high on the show because if you are humiliated at a party, it’s not just at the party. Everybody in all of the Upper East Side and possibly all the way to Brooklyn are going to know what’s going on. I think that it kind of raises the stakes and sort of adds a different flavor to it. You know what I mean?

MJ: Were you into the whole blogging thing before this show? Were you on Myspace and everything or was that not your deal?

LM: I wish I could say that I was and I really want to be cool and do that stuff…

MJ: (Laughs).

LM: But I haven’t! But we’ll see… we’ll see what happens. Everybody that I know that is anti-Myspace, I am like ‘what are you doing?’ and they’re like ‘nothing’ and I hear them typing on the keyboard and I am like ‘what are you doing?!’

MJ: Well Facebook just broke here and everybody’s on it.

LM: Oh, EVERYBODY is like obsessed with it. And I was just in Vancouver for like a month and everybody was like ‘Facebook, Facebook,’ and I was like ‘alright, I get it. This is going to be the new thing’ and it is.

MJ: Well, you know what the weird thing is? Even government officials use it here so it’s not just like a teen thing anymore. You know what I mean?

LM: And they’re watching you! (Laughs).

MJ: (Laughs). What else are you working on? This Dead of Winter movie right?

LM: It’s actually going to be called Dead of Night.* It’s not Winter anymore. It’s directed by Jeff Fisher. Kaley Cuoco is going to be in it. A woman named Cyia Batten and Jason London among a lot of others. So we have a big ensemble. I can’t really tell you too much about it because I don’t want you to be too shocked or horrified. It’s going to be a scary movie about oddly enough a reality show crew that sort of gets stranded in a nowhere town. And bad things start to happen. But it’s great and I worked on that for awhile up in… well, I just can’t tell you!

MJ: Oh no, that’s fine.

LM: I just can’t tell you where I worked on it, I don’t want to ruin it for everybody!

MJ: And what’s next for you? Just the movie and Gossip Girl? Anything else?

LM: I did a Lifetime movie called Hell House (I don’t think that’s what it’s going to be called though), but it’s about a haunted sorority and I am a sorority girl that’s pledging and as silly as it sounds, it’s going to be really good and it’s going to have a lot of really cool stuff.

MJ: And finally, why should people watch Gossip Girl?

LM: Because it’s hot and it’s sexy and it’s real and because if they watch it once, they’ll know why. They’ll be obsessed because I am!

MJ: That’s awesome! Thank you so much.

LM: Nice to meet you.

MJ: Nice to meet you.

*The name of the movie has since been changed to Killer Movie.

LEIGHTON MEESTER

Leighton Meester starred in the feature film Hangman’s Curse. In addition to her starring role on Tarzan, she guest starred on Law & Order, Once and Again, Boston Public and Family Affair.

GOSSIP GIRL

Welcome to Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where gossip rules and affluent prep-school students find themselves with the money, access and appetite to explore all the temptations New York City has to offer. Based on the best-selling series of young-adult novels by Cecily von Ziegesar, this drama is told through the eyes of an all-knowing blogger who is determined to uncover and fuel every scandal possible–including the intense rivalry between two girls, Serena and Blair–via her constant, avidly read text messages. When Serena unexpectedly returns home from boarding school, she stirs up an old love triangle, finds new romance and creates some powerful enemies. More info on the show can be found at CTV.ca


Gossip Girl airs tonight on the CTV network in Canada at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Gossip Girl airs Wednesdays on THE CW in the U.S. at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Sir Linksalot: Gossip Girl

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