“For me, the big goal with Gossip Girl is to have learned from The OC.”
With this quote, Gossip Girl creator Josh Schwartz has kicked off the second season of our favorite show with ambitious, but attainable goals.
“We don’t ever want to feel like we’re sacrificing the characters to try to tell overheated stories,” Schwartz said. “There’s outrageousness to [some things that occur]. I guess if you wrote them down, they’d seem crazy and huge, but hopefully they still feel emotional and grounded and not so insane all the time that you feel like you’ve lost track of reality.”
What were the other lessons he learned from The OC - his previous hit show, which had a terrific first season but quickly fizzled out thereafter?
“No. 1, don’t do 27 episodes in the first season,” Schwartz said. And don’t wait six months to debut the second season, as happened with The OC.
“We really pushed and pushed to get back on as soon as possible,” Schwartz said Gossip Girl, one of the first fall shows back on the air September 1.
Another pitfall for a show of any age is guest-star overload, but Schwartz plans to keep the focus on the main characters while adding some new faces.
“The key is, I think, you have to introduce new characters, but they can’t overwhelm the storytelling. It’s really about your core characters and taking what people like and invest in without changing it too radically or too quickly,” Schwartz said.
One thing that will change: Dan (Penn Badgley) and Serena (Blake Lively), the star-crossed couple who broke up last week, will not follow the lead of The OC’s Ryan and Marissa, who seemed to get back together every other week.
Follow the jump for more Gossip Girl insight, news and spoilers for some upcoming episodes, straight from the creator of the show!
Dan and Serena “have broken up. That is going to stick,” Schwartz said. “They still feel for each other, but we’re not putting them together and breaking them up every week. I have learned that lesson.”
A popular pairing that will get more attention is that of the conniving Chuck (Ed Westwick), who has fallen for manipulative society queen Blair.
“You’ll see the way the season is shaped out – Blair and Chuck play a huge part in it,” Schwartz said. “They had a couple of small scenes together last year ...and they were just really funny, there were little sparks between them. Stephanie and I were like, ‘They’re really fun together.’ It grew out of there – the writers all love them and love writing for them. It was a natural place for us to go to this year. It’s really delicious.”
One thing that won’t change, he said, is the depiction of conspicuous consumption on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The family of one character, Nate (Chace Crawford), has suffered financial reverses, but he’s the only character that will be short of cash, Schwartz said.
Despite the current woes of the economy, “these people are wealthy enough to ride out anything,” Schwartz noted.
A few more bits and pieces about the show from Schwartz:
- The scene in the September 15 episode, "The Dark Night," in which the three girls approach Dan and Serena and browbeat them about their lives – based on what the girls have read online – was a “nod” to the celebrity gossip sites and message boards that obsessively follow the show and the lives of the Gossip Girl stars. But the scene wasn’t necessarily a dig at those sites: “It wasn’t about getting back at anyone ... [within the show] people read [the site] Gossip Girl," Schwartz said. "Younger and younger people are reading things online, so it’s natural to imagine the next generation of Gossip Girl users in their bedrooms, obsessively following the relationships of the kids who are in high school when they are in grade school.”
- Josh Schwartz added that the episode was written by former OC writer John Stephens, “who shares our meta, kind of self-aware point of view. It’s a little bit of a nod to New York Magazine’s Daily Intel,” sites like that.
- On the evolution of Chuck Bass: “He was definitely much more straight-up villainous out of the gate last year, and one of the nice things about television is that you start with a character who his a villain but you always intend to evolve ... We’ll start to find out more about his family life. He’s got some fun story lines with some unlikely people – he and Dan end up in jail together.”
- On Chuck and Blair: “They have a lot of common interests. But I think it was important that you see Chuck develop feelings for Blair and even a little bit of insecurity. He’s just so outrageous and Ed Westwick is so great at all that stuff, at totally selling it. But at the same time, you do feel that Chuck’s got a beating heart.” He still yearns for Blair, even though, as Schwartz says, she “is his kryptonite.”
- On how the character of Jenny took off in popularity: “Both Humphreys, Jenny and Dan, were our way into the show. Serena was our heroine [in the pilot] and that was the narrative way in, but it’s hard, because she was a character who was already on the inside. Then she was ousted, so the audience could sympathize, but ... Jenny was us last year, taking [the audience] inside. This year, [for her] the wheels start to come off the wagon.”
- On Jenny’s future: “It’s just about growing up fast. It’s not even about good or bad, it’s about coming into her own as a young woman. And as an artist [in the fashion design field]. It’s hard for her dad, who also had his dream when he was young, to look at her and what she wants to do with her life and not be supportive of it. But at the same time, he worries for her trying to navigate this world on her own.”
- On Wallace Shawn as the new love interest for Blair’s mother: “Blair will go up against him, and Blair vs. Wallace Shawn feels like it’s going to be really fun.”
- On the influence of Gossip Girl fashion, especially Chuck’s outlandish duds: Chuck’s clothes are “based on my wardrobe,” Schwartz joked. But he added that the show’s style was the result of a collaboration between Savage and the show’s costume designer, Eric Daman. “I show up in my jeans and T-shirt and Stephanie walks me through the wardrobe choices and I trust her completely.”