Interview: Producer Josh Safran On Everything 'Gossip Girl'
Interview: Producer Josh Safran On Everything 'Gossip Girl'
Meghan Carlson
Meghan Carlson
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
If you've been reading my spoiler and news updates, you know there is lots to discuss about Gossip Girl lately, and the season hasn't even started yet! Before Season 3 begins on Monday, September 14, show writer and co-executive producer Josh Safran spoke with Adrienne Gruben of Examiner about everything under the Gossip Girl sun, from Chuck's upcoming controversial gay kiss to the overarching themes we will see on the show this season.

Below are many of the highlights from their interview, with most of Safran's more meaty responses about what we can expect in Season 3. If you have the time, be sure to read the full, three part interview over at Examiner.

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On the pervasiveness of spoilers on the web:

I understand why they exist and some people like them and some people don't, and if you don't like them, don't look, but what I don't like is how it feels more and more like everything is being spoiled.  Like there isn't somebody going, "You know what? I have two pieces of information. Why don't I use one and not the other?" Although not everything gets out, of course, it's sometimes hard to write stuff when you feel like "can we do this, or will it get out?" It's just troubles us. I wish that people gave a little more care to what they put out there.

On Chuck's (non)-bisexuality:

Chuck is not bisexual in the first book. The pilot mirrors the first book, and Josh and Stephanie drew from there for each character. We've deviated from the books for the show quite a bit, but it's important to state that there was never a "we don't want to make Chuck bisexual" conversation. The book was used merely as the launching point for the character of Chuck, for each character. Once the show was up and running, the writers' room mindset, per Josh and Stephanie, was to "let the books be the books and let's use them where we can, but let's also make the series the series."

On Chuck's rumored gay kiss:

All I can say is that the moment that people are talking about was created organically for the story. And there was honestly never any thought that it would be anything other than enjoyable for the audience as they watched. We just thought, "This will be a great episode," and I think the audience will see when they view the show that [that moment is] not a stunt. [...] This kiss happens in episode 6, and episode 1 hasn't even aired yet, and won't for weeks! We'd so like to bury things so that people are actually surprised when they watch the episode, but lately with all the spoiler sites that isn't possible. Our intention for this was that people's jaws would drop while actually watching the episode because they wouldn't know we were going there. And the thing is, it's a great episode filled with so many juicy things. It's not like we were sitting their pitching promos like "You'll never believe what Chuck's about to do!", and again, when you see the episode, you will see it's not that kind of moment. It's truly a tiny character beat in a much larger story.

On gay Gossip Girl characters:

I'm proud of how we've woven gay characters into the tapestry of the show. I feel like, as the only gay writer on the show from the beginning and as someone who feels a huge responsibility towards the creation of fully realized gay characters in television, I am supremely proud of what Gossip Girl has done with its gay characters. [...] If you look a Eric, in my mind, he is in one of the only, if not the only, secure relationship on the show. He is also one of the youngest out gay males on network television. And starting with Georgina's outing of Eric, we've done, in my opinion, really strong stuff surrounding the reality of being a gay teenager, that how for some people in your world it's not a big deal, but for other people, they might try to use it against you, hurt you for it. It's never black and white, and it's never easy.

On a Gossip Girl... musical?

Well, there's something we're putting together right now, an event we're really excited about. It's something we've been wanting to do for a while now -- a musical. But a musical in only the way Gossip Girl could do it. Sometimes we have an idea like this, but then something else comes up and we put it on the back burner. Hopefully this time it'll happen.

On Dan and Serena vs. Penn and Blake:

This season isn't about Dan and Serena as a couple. [...] These are two people who in real life are a great couple, and yet, on screen, you believe that they are just friends, that they are no longer in a relationship.

On Blair and Serena's friendship:


This season, with Serena and Blair in different places, their friendship might be tested. But their bond is always so strong underneath. It's funny, at the very beginning, people talked about how Blair was dark and Serena was light, but as we've shown, they each have both. Which is universal.

On Queen Little J:

Jenny is going to be a different kind of queen than Blair, and that is what is going to make that story not a retread of Blair's queendom in seasons one and two. And continuing on from finding people in different places than when we left them, that's also true where Jenny and Eric are concerned. She's queen -- but not exactly comfortable with it.

On Rufus and Lily's "lovechild," Scott:

All I can say about him is that he definitely figures prominently in the show as the season opens, and that he has a complicated romance with one of our leads. You know, by you even saying the term "love child", it just strikes me as funny.  It's such a soapy turn of phrase.  And we might call him the love child too, in the writer's room. But yet the show never seems soapy to us. Even if the stories seem outlandish - I'm dating an artist who happens to be the son of my best friend's mother's new boyfriend -- the relationships between the characters, and the characters themselves, are always grounded.

On ripping from the headlines and into the script:

Hilary plays a well-known actress named Olivia Burke who comes to NYU. We try to rip stuff from the headlines, so she's like Natalie Portman at Harvard, Claire Danes at Yale, Emma Watson going to Brown. That was our jumping off point. [...] Socialites are in the news, and our show is very much based around, socialites, the Upper East Side, heiresses and the like. We'll read about things happening to them, and it's like, "Hey! That would make a great Gossip Girl."

On College:


The other thing to expect from the season is we are very clear that these characters are bridging into adulthood. College is one of the last transitional periods of your life, so we've taken that idea and ran with it. There is a scene in Episode 2, "The Freshmen",  written by Amanda Lasher, that to me contains one of the major theses of the season, which is who are you going to be now that you're out of high school? Do you like who you are? Change happens now -- can you actually create your own path now that you're no longer under your parents' thumb?

On what Gossip Girl would be like if it took place in space:

The challenges? You want to coop them up? That ship would blow up! We can't even be on a city block without characters going at each other!  The ship would last an hour and a half and then boom! Even with no gravity, Blair would still think she's floating in Serena's shadow, and that everything revolves around Serena -- the earth now, especially  - and Serena would still pretend to be oblivious to that fact.

On the diverse relationships on the show:

I feel like all the characters and couplings are fun in different ways. Each couple, be it Dan and Serena, Lily and Rufus, Chuck and Blair -- each one represents different things we love writing, seeing play out. Chuck and Blair are our longest standing teen couple on the show, so their dynamic is going to reflect that, their history, their issues, but I feel like when you look back, Serena and Dan also had amazing chemistry, they were super fun together, the way their issues played out, and even if they're no longer a couple, they still have that chemistry in their scenes. Just like Nate and Dan have great friend chemistry together. Their scenes together always make me smile. Writing for Chuck and Blair takes a different part of your brain, the more dastardly, manipulative, bon-mot tossing part, but I'm also grateful to be able to write Serena's knowing sense of humor, her soul searching, her strength, Jenny's bold determination and irreverence, Rufus' steadfastness. All the different sides to each character and coupling is what makes the show interesting, and I don't weight one over another. You need a well-balanced meal.

On something the fans haven't noticed before:

Gossip Girl has an event every week. It has never not had an event. [...] we structure it so that every week, the episode leads to an event. I feel like it is much like a procedural, and you might think you are watching something a little soapy, but there is actually a procedural element in it. The event of the week can be small, like Blair's birthday party, or as large as graduation. Bart's funeral. Blair's annual sleepover. We didn't consciously decide it.

Final thoughts on the lasting impact of Gossip Girl:


It bothers me when people think of this show merely as a guilty pleasure because I think it's more than that, and I hope it'll stand the test of time. The show is smart, sharp. The writing staff is full of emotionally intuitive people who pull from their own personal histories as much as they do from headlines. And, of course, we draw from classic works like "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" and "The Great Gatsby" as much as we do from pop culture. Blair can quote Chekhov and Britney in the same breath. I feel like it's that strange mix that makes Gossip Girl special.



-Meghan Carlson, BuddyTV Staff Writer
[Source: Examiner]
Image courtesy of the CW

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