Penn Badgley, Gossip Girl

Patrick Harbron/The CW

Hey there, Upper East Siders. TV Gossip Girl here. Suddenly, everywhere you look, around watercoolers, dorms and subways all across town, the words on all the cool kids' lips seem to be Gossip Girl—even those naysayers who were convinced they wouldn't like it. It's the show du jour.

And of course, Gossip wouldn't be half as delish without its leading man, Penn Badgley. So, why don't we listen in as "P" tells a recent convert/reporter all about his experience on the show, his costars and what’s coming up (including whether his character could be gay).

Keep reading and enjoy the convo.

TV Gossip Girl

Gossip Girl is the first freshman series to get a full-season pickup. That must feel pretty good.
Yeah, it’s cool. We were on set when we heard the news. [Executive producers] Josh Schwartz and Stephanie [Savage] had us all gather around the speakerphone, and they told us, so that was exciting.  

Were you guys expecting it?
I wasn't really surprised. People who expected us to do better [ratings] right off the bat were being unrealistic, because the CW is still trying to establish itself as a full-fledged network. I think a show like Gossip Girl is just going to keep building an audience. It seems to be doing that slowly but surely every week. 

Are you getting recognized already?
Actually, multiple times a day. If I go out in the city, chances are it’s going to happen, especially if Blake [Lively] and I are together. We have this Serena and Dan complex going, so people freak out if they see the two of us. 

Have you guys been hanging out together off set a lot?
Yeah, the whole cast gets along really well. I think I’ve made some pretty incredible friendships.

Are we going to see Dan’s mom come back into the picture?
I don’t know if I can tell you that...  

Gotcha. [Editor's note: Ahem, that's a yes!] So, are you having fun playing this sort of "outsider" character?
Yeah, sure. What’s great about Dan, on one hand, is that he’s the most relatable, because he’s the "everyguy." But he’s also sort of on a moral high ground, which, not that it can get boring but it’s more fun to explore the darker side of a character. I really like the scenes where I’m able to work with his temper a little bit and do something a little more exciting.  

I don’t think this would be happening if Gossip Girl weren’t a Josh Schwartz show, but people are making this comparison between Dan and—
Seth Cohen? 

Exactly. Have you been getting that a lot?
No, not at all. I can’t imagine why anyone would compare me to Seth Cohen! That’s just absolutely crazy! [Laughs.] No, I think, on the page, Dan started out like a Seth Cohen in New York. But that’s one of the reasons why, I think, Stephanie probably wanted to bring me on. Because I’ve worked with her before, and I typically play the "Dan role," but one of the things I think has worked well for me is I try to bring as much dimension to that character as possible. I try to make him unique and not just a bumbling, awkward kid but a charming and innocent kid. You know, Adam Brody has his thing, and he’s great at that, but I wanted to do something a little different. People are probably going to see the similarities at any chance they can and be like, 'Oh, he’s just trying to be Adam Brody.' I’ve already gotten that in a lot of the reviews, but I think if you pay a little more attention, I’m actually doing something very different.   

Are you familiar with the Gossip Girl book series at all?
I read about 40 pages of the first book, just to get the idea and the tone. Then I realized there’s really no point, because we’re not emulating the books. We’re only using the premise as a platform to go off and do our own thing. But fans of the books won’t be disappointed, because we’re going to bring the same kind of fun entertainment: a little bit of trash but a lot of substance.  

Producers recently cast a new character that was a major part of the book series but has yet to appear on the show: Dan’s former flame Vanessa.
Yeah, yeah. We’ve actually shot two episodes with Jessica [Szohr] already. It’s really great having her on. She adds a nice dynamic to the show, and she’s a great actress. I’m excited to see where Dan and Vanessa’s relationship could possibly go. So far she’s recurring, but I think given the character's prevalence in the book series, she could easily become a series regular. I mean, she definitely shifts things around a little bit, and I think it works.  

Is she playing bald like she is in the books?
Oh no...she actually has a lot of hair! Great, curly hair.  

In the books, she’s sort of the love of Dan’s life. Will it be the same on the series?
That is how they’re pushing her. She was the love of Dan’s life, but now Serena is. There’s a history [between Vanessa and Dan] and an immediate comfort and ease that isn’t there with Serena. Maybe he will eventually find that is what he’s after, but at the moment, Serena is very much the one he's with or wants to be with.  

In the books, Dan has a bi-curious element, no? He has questioned his sexuality.
Yeah, I think he’s straight-up gay in the books. But I don’t think network TV really has the balls to make one of their [teenage] series regulars gay. Let's say the show builds up to become a big hit, then I think they'd maybe explore it in year three or four. It would be an interesting thing to do. It could bring in a whole different demographic.

—Reporting by Korbi Ghosh

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