Over-the-top scenes like these are part of what has made Gossip Girl both a guilty pleasure for old geezers and must-see TV for the under-25 set. Based on a young-adult book series by Cecily von Ziegesar, the show provides a fly-on-the-wall peek into the debauched lives of moneyed Upper East Side private school kids. It’s fast-paced, wildly inappropriate (think drug overdoses and back-of-limo deflowerings) and frequently hilarious. And after just a season and a half, every major cast member—in addition to Lively and Meester, there are Taylor Momsen, Chace Crawford, Ed Westwick and Penn Badgley—has become tabloid fodder.
The real-life romance between Lively and Badgley, who plays her ex-boyfriend Dan Humphrey on the show, generates the most chatter—all of which Lively categorically refuses to address. But there are also plenty of gossip-rag mentions of tension between the show’s two queen bees, which Lively very much denies. “I’ve never really had a competitive relationship in any work situation,” she insists when asked about her allegedly contentious dealings with Meester. “The media is always trying to pit us against each other, I guess because it’s just not interesting to say, ‘Everyone gets along; everybody just works 18-hour days and goes home to sleep.’ That’s not fun to read, I guess.”
If a recent visit to the Gossip Girl set is any indication, Lively is telling the truth. The comely costars seem to get along just fine, chatting politely between takes about the best way to stage their scene. Serena is meant to be lounging on Blair’s bed while Blair marches out of her massive walk-in closet carrying a pile of shoes. As Blair decides on the perfect footwear to go with her gazillion-dollar outfit, the discussion centers on why Serena hasn’t “done it” yet with her new, post-Dan boyfriend. His name is Aaron, and he’s both kind and, to use Gossip Girl parlance, “doable,” much like Dan.
Prior to the first run-through, Lively is locked in a nose-to-nose nuzzle with Penny, her sweater-clad Maltipoo, which she regularly brings to work. Propped on a mountain of satin pillows, she uses the setting to her full advantage, tucking her iPhone under the duvet so she can check it between takes. Her script, which she scans until the last possible nanosecond, hides there too once the cameras get rolling.
Lively and Meester hammer out a few crucial details before the director cues the action, including the precise moment when Serena should look up from painting her nails and cop to the shame of not sleeping with a guy she barely knows. Should it happen after “exactly” but before “like”? Or would the drama be heightened if it happened after “like”? The whole thing sounds ridiculously frothy, and it is. But it’s also a lot of work for a scene that runs two minutes, tops. According to Savage, the cast is expected to chew through a 55-page script every eight days. Luckily Lively is a quick study. She has to be, considering she doesn’t get her lines until the night before shooting. “You get used to it,” she says. “I can read a four-page scene once and have it memorized. It’s a skill you learn in school: disposable cramming. We’re flying by the seat of our pants a lot of times, which is why I enjoy doing films. It’s a change of pace. It sounds cheesy, but with a film, you get to let each scene marinate.”