‘Gossip Girl’ Boss Josh Safran Breaks Down Season 2 Premiere – Deadline
SPOILER ALERT: This post contains plot details from the first two episodes of Gossip Girl Season 2.
Attention Upper East Siders: Gossip Girl is back, and she has some unfinished business.
Season 2 of the HBO Max series debuted Thursday with two episodes, which ease viewers nicely back into the drama at Constance Billard. Now that we’ve had some time to acquaint ourselves with this new cast of super rich kids and their secrets, Season 2 will show us “the kids became this way for a reason,” creator and executive producer Joshua Safran told Deadline.
“Essentially what would happen in the first Gossip Girl was the first half of the season would be, ‘These kids are disasters and they’re destroying each other.’ And in the second half of every season, we know the reason is because of their parents,” Safran said, explaining that the two-season story arc is mirrored after one, 22-episode season of its broadcast predecessor. “Whether it was Lily misreporting something that happened to Serena that hurt a teacher’s life, and that teacher’s sister was the one causing all of the havoc to the kids lives. Or whether it was Georgina doing something based on what Serena did, but because Serena did that her mother helped cover that up and sent her away. It was always the parents.”
In the first two episodes, we see that Gossip Girl has formed an alliance with Julian (Jordan Alexander) in exchange for information on pharmaceutical mogul Camille de Haan (Amanda Warren). Meanwhile, Camille has been vocal about her disappointment in her daughter Monet (Savannah Lee Smith), who is wreaking her own havoc on Julian. Zoya (Whitney Peak) is having to come to terms with her dad welcoming Julian to live with them. Audrey (Emily Alyn Lin), Aki (Evan Mock), and Max (Thomas Doherty) have been keeping a secret about their relationship. Oh, and Michelle Trachtenberg is about to make her return as the infamous Georgina Sparks at any moment.
Safran broke down those first two episodes of Season 2 with Deadline, giving details about what dirt Gossip Girl is seeking on Camille de Haan, how Aki, Audrey and Max are going to handle being a newly outed throuple — and, of course, what we can expect when Georgina makes her grand entrance.
DEADLINE: Since tipgate, Gossip Girl has lost a bit of her power. How are we going to see her reclaim that this season?
JOSHUA SAFRAN: I think in Season 1, Kate and the team felt that moral obligation to be Gossip Girl, and they also wanted to believe they were right. In Season 2, Kate no longer cares what people think. She now just knows she’s right and cares less and less as the season progresses about how people perceive her. I think one of the fun things watching the discourse around Season 1 was people being not sure whether they were supposed to dislike the teachers or whether you were supposed to align yourself with them. I really love that because you should be questioning that. All answers are valid. But in Season 2, it becomes much clearer what the writers viewpoint is on the teachers and also I think Kate accepts that she can’t both be liked and Gossip Girl.
DEADLINE: She also has this alliance with Julian now, which is destroying a little bit of her credibility since some of Julian’s tips are lies. How is Julian and GG’s relationship going to change over the course of the season.
SAFRAN: We talked in the writers room about how we could string that plot along and have her help Gossip Girl, but then we realized that actually absolutely not, because Julian would very quickly come to her senses and be like, ‘I’m nobody’s pawn.’ In the premiere, you can very quickly see Julian is not actually getting anything out of it. She thinks she’s activating her friends and getting them to do certain things but it doesn’t quite work. However, moving forward, Julian does have this lifeline to Gossip Girl, and she will use it at several points in the season. That alliance is not over. All of the stuff that Julian just gave Gossip Girl about her friends in the premiere is going to reverberate. So, that storyline isn’t over.
DEADLINE: At the end of Season 1, GG said she had one condition before taking Julian’s offer, which we now know is information on Camille de Haan. What does she want to know?
SAFRAN: Camille and Gossip Girl’s connection is a season-long arc. It runs through all 10 episodes of the season, not just Camille and Gossip Girl but also Camille and Kate, because they are two separate storylines. I can’t spoil that. I can say, Camille is the first person she’s interested in taking down, but then midway through the season, she realizes it’s not Camille. It’s something else, which is much bigger. That is what really drives the whole season.
DEADLINE: I’m also curious about Julian and Monet. It’s very clear by Episode 2 that Julian does not expect to lose this war brewing between the two of them, even though Monet and Luna were kind of the masterminds behind Julian’s image this whole time.
SAFRAN: I think Julian has blinders on, being such a popular and famous person. It’s a thing that you see a lot, which is she trusts the people around her to tell her the truth and assumes that they will and doesn’t actually realize that just because she assumes it doesn’t make it so. I think there’s this element of hubris because she just doesn’t think Monet or Luna are worthy of that role. It’s a rude awakening for Julian because I think she starts to see that Monet is actually worthy and not somebody that she should think of as like less than her. So even if she doesn’t like her, I think she can find a way to probably respect her. Monet was so smart throwing herself into the fountain. It was a way to subvert the first Gossip Girl, where that actually happened. This was better, because Monet is reading old Gossip Girl and being like, ‘Oh, Julian will never push me into a fountain but I can like make it look like she did.’
DEADLINE: It seems like that happens a lot in this new version of Gossip Girl.
SAFRAN: It’s social media. You choose what to put out. Whereas with the old Gossip Girl, that was not real social media, That’s what they were experiencing and you’re with it in the moment. Here, you’re not actually. There’s a plot to that point this season.
DEADLINE: Let’s also talk about Audrey, Aki and Max. By the end of Episode 2, they’re finally out as a throuple. But, how is that going to play out?
SAFRAN: I think the problem is just Max has been hoping that once it’s public, maybe everything will be fine, but becoming public carries with it even problems for him that he didn’t foresee. There’s a really great story coming up, which is about his cache dropping because now he’s in a couple. Max always been single, and anybody could have a dream of being with Max, like ‘He’s the hottest guy, maybe I’ll bump into him something will happen.’ But now he’s in a relationship, and so people are not so interested in him anymore. That’s really hard for Max. So much like in season one back when Julian tried to raise her profile after Obie dumped her, Max has an exploration of his own that may or may not work.
DEADLINE: How are Audrey and Aki going to handle this? I think Luna said it perfectly when she told Max that they are not people who understand what it’s like to not be accepted by someone.
SAFRAN: It’s definitely a rocky road. We talked a lot about triads in the writers room. There were some writers who had experience with that, and we talked a lot about how it isn’t just you and what you bring to it. It’s actually how the world reacts to it. You might be as comfortable with your partners as possible, but the second you go out and people perceive it a certain way, you feel that stress and pressure, even though you don’t agree with it and you know those people are wrong. I think anybody who walks through the world that’s not a straight, white man feels a level of the pressure of how society views you. I think Audrey and Aki have had a degree of safety, and Max has had a degree of safety, but together that safety is much less. So in some episodes, the problem comes from the inside and other times it’s coming from outside. Another episode that I just really love is when the boys go away, like they always do, every second semester on a boy’s trip. And Audrey never thought about the fact that they might spend the weekend alone together without her. So, what does that mean, and what could happen on that weekend? Maybe it’s okay that it happens or maybe it’s not. She has to actually wrestle with that and figure out where she stands on that and because she’s Audrey, it does not go well.
DEADLINE: We’ve barely scratched the surface of all that’s going on within this universe. How do you balance all of these storylines?
SAFRAN: That’s sort of the fun of what Gossip Girl has always been. I just yesterday rewatched the Thanksgiving episode [from the original Gossip Girl] and I was amazed how every single scene turns to get everyone to Thanksgiving dinner. Then after it’s over, every single scene spins everyone into another direction. That happened to a lot of episodes the first time around, where somebody always gets into a party and things blow up and when the rubble is cleared they’re in new areas — but especially with that episode. We tried to do that with every episode this time around. These episodes are 55 minutes, not 42 minutes like old episodes of Gossip Girl, so we do have extra time. And we have 17 characters, not a series regulars. In the writers room we come up with our A, B, C and D plots. Our D plot is always the teachers and sometimes that can be bigger, and sometimes that can be very small. All plots always have to end either in the same place or concurrently in similar places.
DEADLINE: The return of Michelle Trachtenberg is very highly anticipated. Did you know from the beginning of Season 1 that you wanted to bring her back?
SAFRAN: I definitely knew that I wanted Georgina back from pretty much the day after I pitched the show. Michelle actually started DMing about it during the Season 1 writers room. She was like, ‘I want to come back.’ And I was like, ‘I really want you to as well but I actually don’t think Season 1 is the right place,’ because I wanted everybody to be really set up so that she could come in and sort of destroy them. I was like, ‘I’m gonna bring Milo to Season 1 and photographs of you.’ She had to sign off on those photographs, obviously, so that we can pave the way for her. It’s a little easier on a streaming deal where you have 10 or 12 episodes and you write them ahead of time to actually see things coming. So when Georgina comes, I’m not going to say how many episodes, but it’s a season-plus [of drama] and you need all of that runway to get her to the max amount of trouble.
DEADLINE: Can you tease what that trouble will be?
SAFRAN: I think Georgina has a perspective on Gossip Girl having not quite lived through it the first time but watched somebody else come in and create the drama that she was used to creating. So seeing it come back to this time, she definitely has an incredibly clear point of view about what it should be and what it isn’t. And I’ll just leave it at that.
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