ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How closely do the writers work with author Cecily von Ziegesar?
STEPHANIE SAVAGE: We didn't really work with Cecily on the script specifically, but I went to New York to do research for the show, and I had a great afternoon with Cecily where we met for lunch at Barney's and then she walked me through her old neighborhood. And we spent about four or five hours just talking about her world, because a lot of the stuff in the book is based on her own experience…. It's been really collaborative and really positive. I think she's pretty happy with where we ended up on it.
How many of the books have you read?
When we started out, Josh and I had only read the first book.
Have you read others since then?
Yeah, I'm working my way through all 11, and we just got the prequel, which I'm very excited about.
When you guys were first coming up with the script, did you sit down with the first book and say, ''Okay, we're going to take this as a base, but riff from there''? Or did you want to stay as similar to the books as possible, but later decide to go in a different direction?
We fell in love with a lot of the stuff that was in the book. I think the core characters are very similar in the two, and Gossip Girl and her voice carries over in both. Josh [Schwartz, co-producer on Gossip Girl and O.C. creator] and I both thought that was a great hook that we were very excited about. So we started from a place of wanting to honor the characters and the world and the tone of the book, and then we had to ask ourselves as writers and working in a different medium, what changes we thought we had to make in order to make it a successful television show.
One of the immediate changes I noticed on the show was that the character of Jenny Humphrey (played by Taylor Momsen) doesn't have the big chest that she was best known for in the books.
We made a point of not writing Jenny's large chest into the script because we just felt we would be saddling — quite literally — a young actress with something that would prove to be difficult over time. Either we had to limit our casting pool to young actresses with enormous chests, or we would be asking a 14- or 15-year-old girl to go to work every day with a giant padded bra or chicken cutlets in her bra, and it didn't sit well with either of us. When we met Taylor, we just felt she was so interesting, and she brought another layer to Jenny in the way that she had a kind of intelligence and danger to her, in addition to being naïve and sweet and wanting to be a part of this world. You also felt like she could go All About Eve on Blair's ass any moment.
Why did you put the Humphrey family in Williamsburg, a Brooklyn neighborhood, instead of on the Upper West Side, where they live in the novels?
We felt that for the vast majority of Americans, the difference between the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side was a little bit too subtle to try to grasp. So we talked about making them a downtown family, and then we were like, you know, the new downtown is Brooklyn, so we put them there.