We're shaking things up on the Upper East Side in Season 2 of the HBO Max show Gossip Girl (premiering on Crave in Canada Dec. 1), with meaner characters, higher stakes and more scandalous secrets that's giving us all the drama we crave from iconic TV creators and writers Joshua Safran, Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz.
We're starting right where we left off after the New Year's gathering in Hudson. Tensions are running high with the Constance students, particularly when it comes to their relationships with their parents, but also Kate's (Tavi Gevinson) relationship with their parents.
Gossip Girl is a twisted and dramatic story where the "good" and the "bad" of the characters is constantly blurred, and we wouldn't have it any other way. We absolutely love stepping into this addictive world of wealth. There's no such thing as "perfect" television, but Gossip Girl is perfect escapism entertainment.
The new queen of Constance
Most notably in Season 2, there is a new queen of Constance, Monet (Savannah Lee Smith). She's gone full Blair Waldorf in her attitude and style, but Monet actually takes it up a notch to really rule the school. Monet isn't just mean, she implements school-wide rules about what to wear, introduces a ticketing system to enter the bathroom and "banishment" of students.
“Channeling Blair, you can see through her fashion that she's really trying to stand out and make sure people know, or think, that she's super powerful,” Savannah Lee Smith said. “I think we're trying to show that she's trying to look like the head boss.”
In true Gossip Girl fashion, behind every teen girl is a mother that's really bringing the fire. In the first episode of the season, which features a debutante ball, Monet has a particularly heated confrontation with her mother Camille (Amanda Warren) when her presentation at the event doesn't go as planned.
“I don’t have an ounce of pride for you," Camille says to her daughter. “How do you not feel that shame. I feel it every second I look at you. I’m embarrassed to know you.”
It's those harsh words that give you a glimpse into why Monet needs to be the most powerful person in the room.
“It was really exciting to play a different side of Monet and…to showcase where some of her her anger might come from, or her bitterness,” Smith said. "She feels subordinate to her mom. So I feel like with other people, she wants to feel on top.”
'That openness is intoxicating to a point where it becomes a problem'
So what happened to the previously most influential student at Constance? Julien (Jordan Alexander) moves in with Zoya (Whitney Peak) and Nick (Johnathan Fernandez) but while these previously separated step-sisters couldn't wait to reconnect in Season 1, now it's getting a little too close for comfort. That's the case for Zoya in particular, who decides to spend a lot more time with her friend Shan's (Grace Duah) family.
“When Nick and Julien and Zoya are living together, it doesn't necessarily turn out to be what she had expected it to be,” Whitney Peak explained. “Then when she gets to kind of have the familial experience with Shan’s family, it's a comfort, this isn't something that she's ever had, and it's something that she's probably never going to have.”
“There's being comfortable with somebody's family and there's being close with your friend’s family, but then there's also that guilt of, I don't act this way with my family. I don't show this side to my own family so why is it that I'm showing it to these people, where my actual family doesn't have this access to me? So I think it's kind of a weird and painful duality to play with.”
For Grace Duah, she highlighted that while we're exploring Zoya's evolving relationship with her dad Nick, Shan's family allows us to see a wealthy family in the Gossip Girl world with a relationship that's built on a level of openness, instead of secrets.
“[Shan] comes from a very united front in her home life and I really liked the juxtaposition of that with everybody else's family, because I think it kind of explores the idea that not necessarily everybody in those positions have really toxic backgrounds," Duah said.
"Shan isn't doing anything to rebel against her mom and dad, she probably told her mom and dad everything she was going to do… I think with Zoya, because there's so much of her life that her dad can't know, seeing that openness is intoxicating to a point where it becomes a problem.”
Three-way relationship is more than just a scandalous, sexy plot point
When it comes to romantic relationships, our favourite three-way union is still together in Season 2, but ironing out exactly how and when they want to go public with their relationship is a challenge. Max (Thomas Doherty) has no issue bringing this relationship to the world, while Audrey (Emily Alyn Lind) and Aki (Evan Mock) have some reservations. As it's described in the show, while Max is very much out and proud, the possibility of "not being accepted" is something that's still a bit scary for Audrey and Aki.
While it can be easy to point to this relationship as something that's purely about showing sexy and scandalous scenes on TV, that's not Gossip Girl's style. The way it's portrayed in the series is with a lot of heart and earnestness from the characters.
For Emily Alyn Lind, what's always been important to her is not showing nudity or sex "just for the hell of it," but participating in something that really moves the story forward.
"A lot of times in my career, I've had to say, ‘no, this isn't needed,'" Lind said. “I think that it's important that every young actor, young artist, no matter what avenue you're in, [knows] that you can 100 per cent say no, because in the end it's your body and it's your choice."
"But for art, in a sense, I felt like the scenes that we've done in Gossip Girl might get backlash, but I do believe that everything that we've decided to do has been to further along storylines, and not just to see it."
Much like other HBO Max shows like The Sex Lives of College Girls, Gossip Girl exemplifies the necessity of having an intimacy coordinator on set.
“I think it's really important, thinking back to the times where intimacy coordinators weren't a rule of thumb is really crazy to me,” Lind said. “Me and Evan’s first day together, which was also his first day on a film set ever, was an intimacy scene, and that is pretty frightening when you think about it."
“It's a very vulnerable thing but having someone there, I just feel like it's a must, because it really did make everything go way smoother. At the end of the day, we could all just have a laugh about it because it was done right and no one felt like it wasn't, and that can so easily happen. It's happened to so many people in the past. So it definitely needs to be a must.”
“It's a nice safety blanket to have on set, basically, just to make sure everything runs smoothly, everyone's comfortable, you're not overstepping, you know exactly what to do, you know exactly where to be,” Mock said. “It's crazy to think that wasn't really a job title a couple of years ago.”
“It turns something like a simulated sex scene into [something more] choreographed, it’s almost like a dance,” Doherty added. “I feel like an intimacy coordinator really facilitates that and you feel safer.”
Luna is the character to watch
Much like how Monet has a significantly bigger role in Season 2 of Gossip Girl, the same goes for Luna (Zion Moreno), and she's absolutely the grounding force we love to see in the show.
“I definitely think that Luna came more into her own sexuality, you can see it through her clothes,” Zion Moreno said about playing Luna. “You can really see that she owns her womanhood and her own body, and that's always just really fun to play, an empowered woman."
"As the season progresses, her style evolves in a really cool way. I can't really say why because you're just going to see something really unexpected that happens to her, and it kind of elevates her style even more.”
While the season just started, showrunner Joshua Safran is already teasing that Luna isn't just the character to watch in Season 2, but also for a Season 3.
“We start to spend more time with Luna and I would say we leave Luna in a place at the end of Season 2 for her to expand even more greatly in Season 3,” Safran said. “There's a lot of Luna coming,...Luna has a very big cliffhanger, so Luna has a very big story in Season 3.”