Even if you’ve only watched Gossip Girl for five minutes, you’d know that Leighton Meester is impressively able to transform herself into Upper East Sider, type-A, Queen Blair Waldorf. But, did you know that Meester wasn’t always the network’s #1 choice?
According to The CW’s casting director David Rapaport, Ashley Olsen was their first pick. But, that’s not all. Blake Lively wasn’t the network’s first choice for Serena van der Woodsen, either. “I think the network initially pitched us Ashley Olsen and Rumer Willis for Blair and Serena — I love Rumer, she’s grown into quite an amazing actress and person, but that, to me, was based on protecting the investment of a television show where creatively, these lesser-known girls really captured the essence of the show and carried it for six years,” Rapaport told BuzzFeed.
While we’re sure that Olsen and Willis would have done an amazing job, it’s hard to imagine what the show would be like without Meester and Lively.
Luckily, both women aced their auditions and left a significant impression on the man who would eventually cast them. “Leighton is a little bit colder than Blake, but I like that,” Rapaport revealed. “A lot of actors come in and want to please me and are super-kind [and] trying to be my best friend … and that’s great, but I look for people to come in and be professional and to be kind and courteous. I’m not looking for you to love me; I’m looking for your personality. I’m looking for your uniqueness, so to speak. And Leighton wasn’t a b*tch when she came in, but she wasn’t overly nice or overly generous. She was professional and she did the job and played the role well, and what I liked about her is that she owned who she was. She wasn’t going to kiss everyone’s a$$ and that was very Blair.” And we love that.
Now, what would Blair be without frenemy Serena van der Woodsen? In other words: how did Lively score this highly coveted role?
“Blake was the front-runner. We did a screen test with her and the note we got back was that she was ‘sunny California’ and they said, ‘I don’t think we’ll buy her as an Upper East Side debutante,'” the casting director explained. “So we did another screen test with Blake and all we did was straighten her hair to make her look a little more sophisticated, so to speak. What’s ironic is, in the pilot, she ends up having the wavy hair. From there on out, so much of the casting on Gossip Girl became about the hair because Leighton Meester is naturally blonde and the way we got her the job was we dyed her hair. Ultimately they were the best actors for it and brought something really special to their roles.”
Okay… we hate to continue bursting your Gossip Girl bubble, but… Ed Westwick ALSO almost didn’t make it onto the show’s set. In a more literal way, though.
Rapaport said, “Ed’s visa did not come through until, I think, the day they shot the pilot because he’s from the U.K., so we had to cast backups. I don’t even know how many guys I read and the producers — I don’t think they’d be mad at me for saying this — would not watch any of the tapes. They said, ‘It has to be Ed.’” Fortunately, Mr. Westwick got his visa and was welcomed by the studio with open arms. (Phew — that was a close call!)
While devoted fans may be shocked by this news, at least all’s well that ends well in this fictional, Upper East Side world.
[Images via The CW and Twitter]