Get ready, Upper East Siders: Gossip Girl is really coming back. A spin-off of the hit 2000s show will launch on HBO Max with 10 hour-long episodes, showing a new generation of rich and famous prep school teens. In the age of social media celebrities and influencers, it’s the perfect time to revive the famed gossip website about New York City’s young elite.
Original cast member Kristen Bell will return to narrate the forthcoming series, but what about the rest of the cast? Here’s what we know about the exciting project.
What’s it about?
Full plot details remain limited, but here’s the official summary for the series.
“Eight years after the original website went dark, a new generation of New York private school teens are introduced to the social surveillance of Gossip Girl. The prestige series will address just how much social media—and the landscape of New York itself—has changed in the intervening years.”
“It’s just a new look at this particular society in New York, the idea being that society changes constantly,” screenwriter Joshua Safran told The Hollywood Reporter. “So how has this world changed, how has social media and its effect changed? All of those things allow us to look at the world 12 years on as opposed to just redoing the story.”
The show is due in July, and production has officially started.
Gossip Girl is set to arrive on HBO’s streaming platform July 8, 2021, HBO Max revealed with the drop of the first teaser trailer.
After a COVID-caused delay, production began on November 2 in New York, Deadline reported. Director Karena Evans (P-Valley, Drake’s “Nice for What” and “God’s Plan” videos) helmed the first two episodes.
Variety reported in early September that production for the series would take place in Vancouver, New York, and Los Angeles.
The cast has been revealed.
Skater and model Evan Mock plays Akeno “Aki” Menzies, marking his first acting role. (We’ve already seen him wielding a skateboard on set.) Aki has been dating Audrey (more on her below) for “ages.”
Savannah Smith plays Monet de Haan. A student at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Smith marks her first booking with the Gossip Girl role. She and Zión Moreno play “Greek-chorus-type roles but are still fully fleshed-out characters with inner lives of their own,” according to Cosmopolitan.
Actress and musician Emily Alyn Lind plays Audrey Hope, whose mother is an athleisure designer. She’s best friends with Julien and has been in a long-term relationship with Aki, but, according to Deadline, she’s “beginning to wonder what more could be out there.” Lind told BAZAAR.com that Audrey is “very into classic, old-fashion type things,” like Audrey Hepburn and Lauren Bacall. “[She’s] very into the finer things in life.”
Lind previously appeared in the ABC series Revenge as young Amanda Clarke and the CBS medical drama Code Black as Ariel.
Whitney Peak plays Zoya Lott, who’s like the Dan Humphrey of the group, acting as a “relatable-ish tour guide” into the flashy world of the Upper East Side, Cosmopolitan reported. Peak previously played Judith Blackwood in several episodes of part three of Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The 17-year-old was born in Uganda and has had small roles in the Academy Award–nominated film Molly’s Game and the CW’s iZombie.
Eli Brown plays Otto “Obie” Bergmann IV, a “rich do-gooder and German import.” Brown is best known for playing Dylan Walker on Freeform’s Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists. The actor had two 2020 films, The F**k-It List and Run Hide Fight, andis also a singer-songwriter.
Thomas Doherty plays Max Wolfe. You might recognize the singer and actor from Disney’s Descendants 2, HBO’s Catherine the Great, or Hulu’s High Fidelity. When asked by Cosmopolitan whether “libertine” Max makes out with boys, Doherty responded, “Yes, I do get naked, and yes, I do indulge.”
Zión Moreno plays Luna La. With a credit on TNT’s Claws, Moreno began her career as a model when she was 19 years old before diving into acting.
Tavi Gevinson plays Kate Keller, a mysterious character. Rookie founder and fashion darling Gevinson has appeared on shows like Scream Queens and CBS’s reboot of The Twilight Zone.
Jason Gotay is also in the cast, though HBO hasn’t revealed his character portrait yet. The NYC native boasts a bevy of Broadway credits, including roles in Bring It On and Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, as well as a turn in the TV broadcast of Peter Pan Live!
Johnathan Fernandez will also star. The Brooklyn-born actor is fresh off a three-season stint on Lethal Weapon, on which he played Bernard Scorsese; he has also appeared on Girls, Younger, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
Adam Chanler-Berat has been cast too. He has a thorough background onstage, originating roles like Henry in Next to Normal, Peter in Peter and the Starcatcher, and Nino in Amélie.
Is the original cast involved?
As fans are well aware, the CW series gave rise to stars including Blake Lively (Serena van der Woodsen), Leighton Meester (Blair Waldorf), Penn Badgley (Dan Humphrey), Chase Crawford (Nate Archibald), and Ed Westwick (Chuck Bass). At the moment, the original leads aren’t expected to be involved, but the new Gossip Girl definitely exists in the same universe as its predecessor. Never say never!
Kristen Bell, who was the voice of Gossip Girl in the original series, will return to narrate HBO’s new version, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “Kristen Bell has always been and will always be the voice of Gossip Girl,” the producers said in a statement, according to the outlet.
Chace Crawford told Digital Spy that he would “absolutely cameo” if a reboot featured new characters. “I’d have to!” he said.
Penn Badgley, who now stars in Netflix’s You, seemed ambivalent. “I’ve never been necessarily the greatest friend or fan of Dan Humphrey, which now I reconcile in this way that I’m like, you know, I would love to contribute in a meaningful way to it. And I guess it would just depend on a lot of things,” he said in December 2019.
It also seems unlikely that the OG Serena van der Woodsen will make a cameo. Blake Lively isn’t “involved” in the production of the reboot, she told E! News at the premiere of The Rhythm Section in January 2020. She also said any questions about the reboot could be directed to the producers, as “she’s not taking part in the series in any way, shape or form.”
Further, according to Entertainment Tonight, executive producer Josh Schwartz revealed at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, “We’ve reached out to all of them to let them know it was happening and we’d love for them to be involved if they want to be involved, but certainly didn’t want to make it contingent upon [them being involved].” Basically, any of the original cast members can return if they want to!
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Original Gossip Girl creators have signed on.
Joshua Safran, a Gossip Girl showrunner, will write and executive-produce the show’s revival. The series’ original creators, Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, are also attached to the project as executive producers.
“It’s something we’ve been talking about—Josh, Stephanie, and I—for a little bit, just in terms of, ‘Is this something we want to explore?’ We’re all so in love with the original and had such an incredible time working on it, and it’s such a big part of our lives,” Safran told THR.
We’re headed back to Constance.
The new characters will attend Constance Billard and St. Jude’s, the Upper East Side prep schools attended by the original leads, Safran told Vulture. “It is 12 years, I guess 13 years after the original. So we are in realtime from the original where we are in the show,” he said.
In January 2021, the official Gossip Girl Instagram account shared photos of what the new set and uniforms look like.
There’s apparently a big twist.
In the cast’s cover story for Cosmopolitan, journalist Brian Moylan revealed that there’s a big twist in store for the upcoming series. “The ‘twist’ that apparently exists but is so super top secret that showrunner Josh Safran can’t even whisper it to me in confidence,” he wrote.
In an interview for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Kristen Bell, who is returning to her OG role as the mysterious voice of Gossip Girl, also hinted at the “really different” twist at the end of the reboot’s pilot episode that fans should look out for.
“The new show is really cool because it talks all about how social media has changed us and it’s more risque because it’s on HBO Max,” Bell teased. “And there’s a twist at the end of episode one that’s really different.”
We’ll just have to wait to find out.
Gossip Girl is now a social media platform rather than a blogger.
Moylan also revealed to Cosmopolitan that “Gossip Girl has gone from blogger to something more like an all-encompassing social media platform.”
The description is intentionally vague. “My hope is that we make it to airing and people don’t know,” Safran said. “I would love to see that conversation happen in the context of people having seen it as opposed to talking about something they haven’t seen.”
People also won’t be wondering who the anonymous poster is this time around. Schwartz told E! News that it would be more interesting to highlight “this idea that we are all Gossip Girl now, in our own way, that we are all purveyors of our own social media surveillance state.”
There’ll be better representation this time around.
Safran also told Vulture that the new storyline will better reflect the diversity of youth in New York City (even if the series is still set among Manhattan’s elite), with “nonwhite” lead roles and “a lot of queer content.”
“There was not a lot of representation the first time around on the show. I was the only gay writer I think the entire time I was there. Even when I went to private school in New York in the ’90s, the school didn’t necessarily reflect what was on Gossip Girl. So, this time around the leads are nonwhite. There’s a lot of queer content on this show. It is very much dealing with the way the world looks now, where wealth and privilege come from, and how you handle that. The thing I can’t say is there is a twist, and that all relates to the twist.”
During a Twitter AMA, when asked what difference he was “most proud of” in the reboot, Safran responded, “The majority of characters being diverse and/or queer.”
Cast member Whitney Peak told Cosmo, “I want all the hers and the hes and the theys and the people of color from all over the world to be able to watch the show and think, That’s a person who looks like me. I don’t have to be the stereotypical idea of who I am.” She added of how the series could be educational to viewers, “Maybe they’re not learning these things at home, but they’re seeing them on Gossip Girl. How amazing is that?”
The reboot will have a “very different concept.”
Although Safran was hesitant about rebooting Gossip Girl, he was approached by co-writers Schwartz and Savage, who said they’d reboot the show only if Safran was in; otherwise, someone else might take on the job. Despite the immense pressure of the proposal, Safran gave in; there were still some stones he hadn’t turned over last time.
“I was like, ‘You know what, I’d like to do some things we were unable to do the first time around,'” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “And that’s what kept me up at night—a more inclusive show, a more queer show, looking at how social media has changed in the 12 years since the original Gossip Girl—and then I couldn’t get that out of my head. There is actually a very different concept this time around, but we’re not telling you. And that made me be like, ‘Sure, it’s 10 episodes.’ Maybe that’s all it’ll be, but I’m really glad to look at it in a new way. It’s different than most reboots.”
On Twitter, Safran also explained, “The tone is different. At first that scared me, but all of us really want this to be its own thing, so I’ve embraced it.” He continued, “I really wanted this to feel like an extension and in no way a reboot. So it’s an evolution of the story, not a retread. That said, there are echoes. Constance and St. Judes are still Constance and St. Judes, after all.”
There’ll also be some awareness about (and perhaps a departure from) the show’s focus on wealth. “Part of the fun of watching the old one at the time was, Oh, this is what it’s like to be a very privileged teenager who can act with impunity, and living vicariously through that,” Tavi Gevinson told Cosmo. “But with this show, class resentment is a much more explicit part of it, which I’m very in tune with.”
The script is “quite good.”
“We have gotten the first script and I think we all breathed a big sigh of relief because it’s quite good,” HBO Max’s Sarah Aubrey revealed at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, per People, in January 2020.
“One of the benefits of having the original creators involved is they know the essential elements of the show [that need to be included in this new version]. And they want to bring a modern lens to it,” she added.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic allowed the writers a little more time to work on the series. Safran explained on Twitter, “It actually afforded me time to catch up. As I’ve gotten older, my writing process has grown to take a little longer. So I was able to give more attention to the scripts. But conversely, the pandemic made it harder to write, so I went slower, but more thoughtfully.”
The original costume designer is also on board.
Eric Daman, who designed the costumes for the original Gossip Girl series, is returning to dress the reboot. “The casting is looking really awesome and it’s surreal to be invited to be a part of it,” he told Fashionista. “I think it’s gonna be exciting—it’s definitely going to be a challenge, which I love.”
The first teaser is here.
On November 21, the official Gossip Girl Instagram account shared footage and photos from the reboot. “Never fear, dears,” the caption read. “Your one and only source is here. You know I could never leave you hanging. xoxo, Gossip Girl.”
The footage is classic Gossip Girl: shot on a cell phone, sent in as a hot tip to everyone’s favorite source.
Stay tuned for more information about the next generation of Gossip Girl.
This story originally appeared in Harper’s BAZAAR US