Who knew that after five seasons, Gossip Girl would be returning to the basics?
Last week’s premiere dropped a bombshell (Blair’s unexpected pregnancy) and set up the season’s arcs: Serena trying out the Hollywood thing, a “reformed” Chuck returning to his old ways and introducing the enigmatic Diana Payne (Elizabeth Hurley) into the fold. But after the departures of Taylor Momsen, Connor Paolo and Jessica Szohr, executive producer Josh Safran says this year the CW drama is focusing more on its core group. “This season is very much about the choices our characters making,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter.
As the show readies for its landmark 100th episode (which hasn’t been written yet), Safran discusses the game-changing pregnancy reveal, why Diana is keen on the Gossip Girl website and what viewers can expect in future episodes.
[Warning: Minor spoilers ahead.]
The Hollywood Reporter: The writers always knew that Blair would be pregnant. Can you speak to why she was the one?
Josh Safran: We knew it was her that was pregnant when we placed the pregnancy test at the end of the finale so that wasn’t like we were going to place the pregnancy test and we’ll decide who’s pregnant later. We just knew we wanted Blair to have this complication thrown at her in her very orderly future life. Blair is the kind of person who often has a vision of how she wants her world to be and that vision meets with harsh realities left and right. This is just one of those realities and now, can she fit it into the vision of her future or does her future have to be altered in some way.
THR: The other question that comes up too, knowing Gossip Girl, will she even go through with the pregnancy? Is that going to played out through to the end?
Safran: I don’t want to comment on the storyline but I will say is that all of those questions are going to definitely come up for her. She’s going to have some interesting decisions to make in the near future.
THR: How will this development affect her friendships and romances?
Safran: It affects all of them in very interesting ways. This season is very much about the choices our characters making, whether it’s Dan’s book or Serena’s choice in career or Nate’s connection with Elizabeth Hurley. Every one of these character choices affect everybody around them.
THR: Was there any discussions about the baby being someone else’s before last season ended?
Safran: No, we knew it was Blair. We only did it because we knew that Blair was pregnant.
THR: The storylines seem to affect Blair more so than the other characters ..
Safran: It’s always been about the two girls (Serena and Blair) and their friendship has been the central conceit of the show and that remains very much the case this season. In the premiere, Serena’s in L.A. and Blair is in New York. Once they both get in New York, it’s very clearly still both of them. Serena will be returning to New York, which you’ll see in the second episode, at the end.
THR: Elizabeth Hurley’s character has an interest in the Gossip Girl website. Is there anything that you can reveal about how she’ll play into their world?
Safran: Diana Payne definitely, which you’ll hear about in Monday’s episode, wants to become the new media baron in New York. In order to do that, you need to eliminate your competitors, whether they’re the Post or Gossip Girl. She very much decides that in order to get what she wants, she needs to eliminate Gossip Girl. She’s got an agenda, but her agenda is very much to get where she wants to get, not somebody hit my dog with her car and I’m going about this convoluted way to get them. She’s direct, which unsettles the other characters because we’re not used to somebody saying, “You know what, I’m done with you.”
THR: Ivy (new series regular Kaylee DeFer) is back, but will viewers find out what happened to the real Charlie?
Safran: Yes. You will find out during the course of the season. I don’t want to say how that reveal will come about, but I will say that you cannot pretend to be somebody that exists without the person who’s existing to know about it.
THR: Will Chuck’s downfall near the end of last season be explored?
Safran: That will absolutely be revisited. That’s a major part of Chuck’s storyline this year.
THR: Are you facing any challenges this season?
Safran: The writers will attest to this, but there’s still so many stories to tell. The challenges in the past might have been the beginning of college because we didn’t want to be the kind of show that put everybody in the same school and then you realize they do that for a reason because the characters can interact. That’s maybe a mistake that we learned from.
THR: Is the blueprint for the series finale already set?
Safran: No, right now we just finished building our 100th episode. It’s going to be good, that’s all I can say. I can’t comment on [whether people will be returning], but what I can say is if you haven’t watched the show in a while, you can pop back in because it pays homage to every episode that came before it. It will center around a major event, probably the biggest event that we’ve done.
THR: Is there an idea in your head where you want the characters to end up?
Safran: Even when you do, in a weird way, they become living, breathing people to us. We all set goals for ourselves and those goals shift and change. Sure you can catch me up on Monday and I can say, “We all talked and we think it should be ‘X,’” then by Wednesday, it’s gone into a different direction. Some pieces we know and other pieces we hope for, but it could all change tomorrow.
THR: Are there any new characters or guest stars dropping by?
Safran: We’re looking at the first half of the season, because that’s where we are right now, of truly reconnecting our mains. Elizabeth Hurley is the only guest star because we wanted to make our characters fully enmeshed with each other. There are guest stars but they’re more Blair’s mother, Blair’s stepfather, Nate’s grandfather; it’s really more family stories. Season one was very much about these kids trying to define themselves and act out against their parents or realizing they were becoming their parents, as you grow up, you’re going to revisit those issues again.
THR: Anything else that can be teased?
Safran: Our first dream sequence of the year is in episode seven and it’s a really fun dream sequence. All I can tell you is it involves Blair, let’s put it that way.
Gossip Girl airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on the CW.