'Gossip Girl': Which cast members will succeed once the show ends?
There comes a moment in most TV series' run when even the most faithful fans have to acknowledge that the show doesn't have much time left. For "Gossip Girl," I fear that time is upon us. All the signs are there: Most of the characters are stuck in a tiresome holding pattern, with Chuck and Blair breaking up and reuniting on just about every episode, while Serena still can't decide whether she's meant to be with Dan or Nate. And it's been ages since other characters (hello, Vanessa) have had a substantial, compelling story line.
"Gossip Girl's" core cast is beginning to seem restless, too. Last month, around the time that his breakup with Blake Lively made the news, Penn Badgley didn't seem too excited about the show in a conversation with Page Six. "It's the fourth season. It's become routine," he said, before revealing that he is "not friends" with his co-stars Jessica Szohr and Ed Westwick. Less than two weeks later, Chace Crawford admitted to Vulture that his character, Nate Archibald, is so stupid "it's gotten funny."
It's only fair, then, to start wondering what's in store for the cast once Gossip Girl gives her final "XOXO." I've taken a look at the original seven stars' current and future projects to predict who will succeed post-"Gossip Girl" -- and who may be doomed to the same quasi-obscurity as, well, most of "The O.C." cast.
A co-star in the hit film adaptation of beloved young adult novel "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," Blake Lively was the best-known "Gossip Girl" from the very beginning. More than three years into the show's run, she remains its biggest star. Despite the fact that her role as Serena van der Woodsen doesn't require much in the way of serious acting, Lively has managed to land several key movie roles. So far, she's made a lot of good decisions: by taking substantial roles in indie films ("The Private Life of Pippa Lee"), Oscar bait ("The Town"), and blockbuster comic-book adaptations (2011's "Green Lantern") alike, she's setting herself up for a versatile career. Her name has already been mentioned in connection with some of the buzziest upcoming movies, from "The Dark Night Rises" to Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" (Lively was being considered for the role of Daisy Buchanan but lost it to Carey Mulligan).
Outlook: Excellent. Lively, with her thick, blonde hair, thin but curvy silhouette and throaty voice, has always reminded me a bit of Scarlett Johansson. If she plays her cards right, their careers might start to look pretty similar, too.
Now, hear me out. We've all seen our share of horrifying Taylor Momsen headlines: She flashed her boobs in public, praised her vibrator, inspired Tim Gunn's hatred, and is really, really angry at her parents. But the lifelong actress (perhaps you've seen the Shake 'n Bake commercial she did at 3?) may be savvier than she looks. Since joining the "Gossip Girl" cast, Momsen hasn't done much outside of acting -- but she is fronting punk-tinged rock band The Pretty Reckless. Their music isn't bad, and Momsen actually has a strong voice for rock 'n roll. She also has some fairly powerful fashion-world allies, as the face of Madonna's Material Girl clothing line and the muse for John Galliano's newest perfume, Parlez-moi d'Amour. Over the summer, Momsen fired her stylist and has since taken a lot of criticism for her revealing ensembles and comically smudgy eyes. Whether you like her look or not, her insistence on defining herself sets her apart from just about every other star her age.
Outlook: Potentially very good. As long as she steers clear of Lindsay Lohan-style meltdowns, Momsen's bad-girl persona just might become her personal brand. She may end up more successful in music and fashion than in Hollywood, but it appears that she may not mind that at all.
Although she might be "Gossip Girl's" best actor and spent years doing small TV parts before landing the role of Blair, Meester isn't a Lively-level star yet. (It occurs to me that this isn't entirely dissimilar to the way Serena always steals Blair's thunder on the show.) She's done a lot of not-particularly-great teen movies and also popped up in romantic comedies such as the Tina Fey/Steve Carrell disappointment "Date Night" and Drew Barrymore/Justin Long vehicle "Going the Distance." Meester has a raft of movies on the horizon, including "The Roommate," in which she plays a psychotic college girl. But it's January's "Country Strong," where she'll take a supporting role alongside Gwyneth Paltrow, that has the potential to break her out of the teen-movie ghetto. An auspicious preview clip suggests that her singing in the film will be more enjoyable than the few bland pop singles she's released.
Outlook: At this point, Meester's future is uncertain. Her success may depend largely on how she's received in "Country Strong."
Earlier this fall, Badgley and Lively announced that they had ended their nearly three-year relationship. That breakup, and what happened next, may serve as a good metaphor for where each of their careers is heading. In the past few weeks, tabloids have spotted Lively with everyone from Ryan Gosling to Leonardo DiCaprio. As for Badgley, well, we haven't heard much about what he's up to. Before "Gossip Girl," he did a few fairly small parts in teen films including the horrible "John Tucker Must Die." And things haven't changed much since he started playing Dan Humphrey. Last year, he starred in "The Stepfather," a thriller that was met with abysmal reviews and did poorly at the box office. While September's "Easy A" was lots of fun, it was also all about Emma Stone -- and Badgley's love-interest role felt a bit too similar to Lonely Boy. But I'm intrigued by his upcoming role in "Margin Call," a film about the financial crisis that also stars Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany, and Kevin Spacey. Might Badgley finally get a shot at doing some real acting, alongside talented actors?
Outlook: It depends. If his role in "Margin Call" is a significant departure from the teen nice-guy roles he's known for and if he does a good job with it, then Badgley has a shot. But if he keeps taking Dan Humphrey parts, then he might not have much of a career left when he starts looking too old to play a teenager.
Considering his rakish good looks, across-the-pond charms and predilection for dark, decadent characters, Ed Westwick should be well on his way to becoming the new Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Why, then, do we hear so little about his work outside of "Gossip Girl"? Before landing the show, Westwick cut his teeth on artsy films, taking small roles in "Children of Men" and "Son of Rambow." More recently, he's switched over to scarier fare -- the unsatisfying "Donnie Darko" sequel "S. Darko" and Syfy-to-DVD slasher flick "100 Feet." Forthcoming projects include "Chalet Girl," a chick-lit adaptation, and "Trap for Cinderella," a remake of a '60s French film about a girl who experiences amnesia after surviving a fire that killed her friend. Frankly, neither of these sound like roles that will help Westwick pave the way for a long, interesting career. He needs a part that takes him out of his smirky, seductive comfort zone.
Outlook: If Westwick fails to land a more compelling role soon, he'll be typecast as Chuck Bass, and the future may be bleak. But if he manages to persuade someone that he can do more than just growl and leer, he could very well turn out to be the most versatile of the "Gossip Girl" guys.
Westwick's on-again, off-again girlfriend actually came into "Gossip Girl" with more experience than much of the young cast, having guested on a handful of Disney shows and played recurring roles on "CSI: Miami" and ABC's short-lived "What About Brian." Since landing the show, she's appeared in straight-to-video fare, taken fairly small roles in teen flicks like "Fired Up," and scored a spot in last summer's trash-tastic "Piranha 3D." There is some hope, though: Szohr's next two projects, both slated for 2011 release, are two fairly buzzy indie flicks, the sci-fi "Hirokin" and "Art Machine," about a bipolar painting prodigy who falls in with a group of anarchist artists.
Poor Chase Crawford. He is a very good-looking guy, and it's nice to know that he comprehends the stupidity of his "Gossip Girl" character. The role of Nate doesn't give him much of a chance to prove his acting skills, and the pretty-boy film parts he's done reflect what may be a lack of range. Even Joel Schumacher, who directed him in "Twelve," admits that he objectified Crawford, who plays a young Upper East Side drug dealer in the film. Worse yet,"Twelve's" trailer resembles nothing more than a "Gossip Girl" promo, and Sundance audiences laughed out loud at the drama. At least Crawford will have another shot in next year's "Peace, Love, and Understanding," where he'll play the love interest of Catherine Keener's teenage daughter in a movie that also stars Jane Fonda.
Outlook: Not so great. He may still surprise us, but the way things are going, Crawford is liable to end up in Luke Perry-style limbo once he's no longer a teen dreamboat. If he wants to escape that fate, he going to have to show some talent and range, and fast.
-- Judy Berman
Photos, from top: Serena and Blair; Blake Lively as Serena Van Der Woodsen; Taylor Momsen as Jenny Humphrey; Leighton Meester as Blair Waldorf; Penn Badgley as Dan Humphrey; Ed Westwick as Chuck Bass; Jessica Szohr as Vanessa Abrams; Chase Crawford as Nate Archibald. Credits: Giovanni Rufino / The CW