Get ready, Upper East Siders: Gossip Girl is really coming back. A reboot of the hit 2000s show will launch on the upcoming streaming service HBO Max with 10 hour-long episodes, showing a new generation of rich and famous prep-school teens. In the age of Instagram stars, bloggers, 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 you need to know about the exciting project so far.
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 2021, and production has officially started.
Production began on November 2 in New York, Deadline reports, with director Karena Evans helming the first two episodes. Her past credits include episodes of P-Valley several of Drake’s music videos, including “Nice for What” and “God’s Plan.”
Per the outlet, this iteration of Gossip Girl is due to debut on HBO Max in 2021.
In March 2020, it was reported that production on the series, like that of many other shows, was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. At the time of the pause, the team was “in pre-production and ready to roll,” HBO Max chief content officer Kevin Reilly told Vulture at the time.
Variety reported in early September that production for the series would take place in Vancouver, New York and Los Angeles.
Who is in the cast?
Jordan Alexander plays Julien Calloway. The Canadian actress and singer’s credits include the TV series Sacred Lies and Unbury the Biscuit.
“Julien Calloway: Influence.”
Skater and model Evan Mock plays Akeno “Aki” Menzies, marking his first acting role. Details about his part remain under wraps, but we’ve already seen him wielding a skateboard on set.
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. Per Deadline, she’s believed to be playing a cool girl at school, which we can certainly tell from her wardrobe.
Actress and musician Emily Alyn Lind plays Audrey Hope, who “has been in a long term relationship and is beginning to wonder what more could be out there,” Deadline reported in March 2020. Lind previously appeared in the ABC series Revenge as young Amanda Clarke and the CBS medical drama Code Black as Ariel. She’s also been in Days of Our Lives, All My Children, Criminal Minds, Hawaii Five-0, The Secret Life of Bees, The Babysitter, and more.
Whitney Peak plays Zoya Lott. She previously played Judith Blackwood in several episodes of part 3 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. 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.
Zión Moreno plays Luna La. With credits on TNT’s Claws, Moreno began her career as a model when she was 19 years old before ultimately transitioning into acting.
Tavi Gevinson plays Kate Keller. Rookie founder and fashion darling Gevinson has had guest-recurring roles on shows like Scream Queens and CBS’s reboot of The Twilight Zone.
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), Chace Crawford (Nate Archibald), and Ed Westwick (Chuck Bass). However, considering the emphasis on the “new generation” in the synopsis, it’s unclear how the original leads will be involved. But 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.
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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,” E! reports.
And 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!
Schwartz continued, “They played these characters for six years, and if they felt like they were good with that, we want to respect that, but obviously… it would be great to see them again.”
Original Gossip Girl creators have signed on.
Safran, a Gossip Girl showrunner, will write and executive-produce the show’s revival. The series’ original creators, 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.
Will people still be wondering who Gossip Girl is?
Nope. Schwartz told E! News that the prospect of having a group of adults being controlled by a gossip website wouldn’t “make a lot of sense.” Instead, he thinks 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 it the series still is still set amongst 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.”
The reboot will have a “very different concept”
Although Safran was hesitant about rebooting Gossip Girl, he was approached by co-writers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, who said they’d only reboot the show 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.”
The first script is already in
“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.
“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 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 said. “Your one and only source is here. You know I could never leave you hanging. xoxo, Gossip Girl.” The footage was typical 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