[04/18/11 - 12:10 AM]
Interview: "Gossip Girl" Executive Producers Stephanie Savage & Joshua Safran
By Jim Halterman (TFC)

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In the last original episode of the addictive CW drama "Gossip Girl" that aired in February, straight-arrow Dan (Penn Badgley) and queen bee Blair (Leighton Meester), two very different characters who have been slowly building an unstoppable attraction for each other all season, finally shared a kiss that not only wow'd the characters but also those viewers who have been patiently waiting for a coupling to commence.

Now, as the remaining episodes of the stellar fourth season begin to air tonight, the question is will we see "Dair" blossom into a new super couple on the show and how will the others react? Who are the new characters being added to an already crowded cast tonight? How does a show with such a strong base of younger viewers get away with pushing-the-envelope-sayings like "What the wuck?" Our Jim Halterman went right to the sources and rang up Executive Producers Stephanie Savage and Joshua Safran to get all the answers about "Gossip Girl" and also to see how Savage's newest project, the ABC pilot "Georgetown," is shaping up.

Jim Halterman: Let's jump in with the Dan and Blair pairing. How much thought went into it before you thought 'OK, let's go there!'

Stephanie Savage: We feel that that dynamic went back to season one. That very first episode that Josh wrote had a critical Dan and Blair bonding scene and I think when we saw the actors together we realized that even though we had created these characters to be polar opposites they actually had a lot in common. It takes a certain level of maturity and it seems like something that happens to you in college instead of high school when you can actually feel comfortable being with someone who is so different from who you thought you were supposed to be with.

JH: I feel like Blair has really come into her own this season and isn't defined by her relationships like maybe she was in the past. Was that a goal this past year?

Joshua Safran: In episode nine this year, Blair says 'I need to become powerful on my own before I'm attached to somebody who is powerful.' I think that was very much a decision we had made. You have to stand alone and find the strength within yourself to be not only powerful for the world but powerful for a relationship.

SS: Blair was really put through the ringer at the end of season three so we wanted to give her her space to get grounded and find herself a little bit.

JH: You have so many characters to service but yet you introduce new characters in this first episode back. Can you talk about bringing Carol (Sheila Kelley) and Charlie (Kaylee DeFer) into the mix?

SS: Carol and Charlie are a part of this family so adding them was very organic. Aunt Carol in Miami is mentioned in the pilot so we feel like she's always been with us and we had a great time involving her character in our flashback episode with Krysten Ritter so we knew we would always meet adult/grown-up Aunt Carol. Lily's pending incarceration felt like the right moment for that.

JH: Charlie has a moment that made me think this could become an 'All About Eve' story. I'm not sure if I'm the right track but what can you tell me about her?

SS: One of the things we like about the Charlie story is that it's a unique dynamic in that she is someone who was born to this world and it's definitely her natural birthright to be there but it's not an opportunity that's ever been afforded to her. It's not quite a Cinderella story but it's a little bit of a story of a Princess who's been exiled and is returning to her kingdom but learning about it for the first time.

JH: William Baldwin is also back. Was it a surprise that he fit into the 'Gossip Girl' world so easily?

SS: No, we always felt like he would be a great fit for the show and we were excited that we were able to find something that works. This episode that's coming up [tonight] is kind of a family drama and romantic comedy episode where CeCe (Caroline Lagerfelt) is with her two sons-in-laws and two daughters; all of that family dynamic is really fun.

JH: I had never heard 'What the wuck' before but I loved it when Blair said it. Who came up with that!?

SS: We're always trying to see what we can sneak by standards and practices and we think we're providing with this and 'fustercluck.'

JS: And 'motherchucker.'

JH: Are there things that you have to be careful about putting in the show be it language, sex or drugs either due to the network or the fact that you have a young audience?

JS: I don't know if we'd want to show people doing drugs on television anyway. What these characters do have their repercussions. Chuck did light up a joint and they talk about it but it's the way it should be. People talk about it but they don't do it unless they're in private.

SS: We consider ourselves to be very good partners with the people at the network and at standards and practices and if we want to do something that we feel is pushing the envelope we'll have that conversation beforehand and keep that dialogue really open so there are any big surprises.

JH: In the last new episode, the Blair/Dan kiss was quite a big moment to end on. Are you going to be able to keep topping yourselves especially with the upcoming season finale?

JS: Definitely. We love our finales. We love knowing that all our stories are going to connect in surprising ways and getting all our cast together to rally around something is always fun. It's not like last year's dark finale...

SS: I think this season more than any previous season including season one you'll feel like all the stories that we started telling at the beginning of the year are the stories we're bringing to fruition at the end of the year; it's a strong through-line.

JH: How far mapped into season five do you need to be so you can do the season four finale right?

SS: You definitely need to have a sense of where you want to go when you end the show so that you don't paint yourself into a corner. I think we're really excited about the cliffhanger that we've planted and the suggested story areas. We're in the process now of figuring out how those stories are going to work next year.

JH: Stephanie, I wanted to ask about 'Georgetown' and how the pilot is going. Would it be safe to call this a 'Gossip Girl' for D.C. or is that selling it short?

SS: We just wrapped production last week and we're very excited to see the first cut. It definitely has its own tone and is very distinct from 'Gossip Girl.'

JH: The fact that so many of your 'Gossip Girl' cast are making movies, singing songs, etc... how does that effect what you're trying to do on the show in terms of scheduling and just the work of making the show?

SS: It's definitely challenging in terms of scheduling but it's a challenge that we've chosen to take on. We think it's really important, first of all, that our actors be happy and satisfied and make the best of the opportunities that are afforded to them not only because of their success but it also helps feed interest in the show and keeps everything fresh and exciting.

"Gossip Girl" returns with new episodes tonight at 9:00/8:00c on The CW.

  [april 2011]  


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