“I was having a [4th of July] party at my house, Steph [Savage] was over. I think you came with Adam Brody [and] we were in the casting process of Vanessa,” show cocreator Josh Schwartz revealed during the Wednesday, January 26, premiere episode of her “XOXO” podcast about the 36-year-old actress’ casting as Vanessa Abrams. “I opened the front door, you were standing there, [I was like,], ‘Vanessa!’ And found Stephanie. I don’t think we presented it to you at the party [and] let you enjoy yourself. … It was early Internet days!”
On the series, fans followed a group of wealthy high school students in New York City’s Upper East Side neighborhood. Set at Constance Billard School for Girls and St. Jude’s School for Boys, fans soon fell in love with Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), Serena Van Der Woodson (Blake Lively), Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley), Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford), Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) and Vanessa Abrams (Szohr).
The CW iteration wasn’t the first time that producers had attempted to bring the NYC Upper East Siders to life. Schwartz revealed during his podcast appearance that Gilmore Girls’ Amy Sherman-Palladino was set to pen a film script of Gossip Girl with Lindsay Lohan on board to star as Blair. However, that version was soon scrapped before the Marvel’s Runaways cocreators were brought on board.
“In the books, and in prior adaptations, I’m assuming, the mystery of why Serena left and why she came back was kind of, like, a little bit, like, she’s a party girl and she got in trouble and she left,” Schwartz noted about its literary predecessor. “There wasn’t a super concrete reason to her return or one that was generating a lot of sympathy for her character. … The idea that she came back for her family was one that we made early on to really root the audience’s interest.”
The Nancy Drew creators further recalled the Internet’s intensities about bringing these beloved book characters to life, especially in terms of the cast’s physical appearance. For Meester’s naturally blonde locks, fans were insistent that her character should have darker hair.
“They just could not see it,” Savage recalled. “During pilot season, Leighton got her hair dyed brown to come in and read for the role. [She] gave exactly the same performance and [fans] were like, ‘We get it now.’”
The Single Parents alum wasn’t the only CW star to make considerable hair changes to better fit the role. Badgley, for his part, shaved off his curly mop hours before filming the pilot.
“He showed up on set with his big hair,” Savage recalled of Badgley’s first day on set. “And that morning, on camera, the first scene we shot was him and Rufus putting up flyers for the Lincoln Hawk concert. And we just brought him into the trailer and they just buzzed all of his hair off. It was like a Brad Pitt head buzz cut of the day.”
Scroll down to discover the biggest “XOXO” podcast revelations about Gossip Girl and its cast: