Gossip Girl Co-Creator Josh Schwartz on the Enduring Romantic Legacy of Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf
When Gossip Girl premiered on the CW in 2007, the show’s quick, meteoric rise to cultural prominence came as no surprise to anyone. (Especially not here at Vulture.) And there’s no way we could cap off the final week of our TV Couple Scuffle without discussing the epically tumultuous romance shared by Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf, portrayed by Ed Westwick and Leighton Meester, respectively. (Try not to get too emotional thinking about “three words, eight letters, say it and I’m yours.”) Eager to learn more about the inner workings of the romance, we called up Josh Schwartz — who, along with his frequent creative partner, Stephanie Savage, served as a co-creator and writer of the show — to examine all things Chair.
Their romance wasn’t planned when the show was initially being written.
“None of that was expected. Chuck came into the show as the villain. But it’s one of those great, fun things about making a television series — it’s an evolving, living, breathing thing, and things can easily change on a whim. You get an actor like Ed Westwick and see the chemistry he had with Leighton Meester, and their scenes just crackled. So it felt like, here are two people who are bonded by their mutual scheming and the dark side of the show, at least from the beginning, and that would naturally evolve into a romantic relationship. One that was fraught and often conflict-laden, but ultimately incredibly romantic and fulling for both the characters and the audience. They came into the show as very different kinds of roles, but the chemistry between them took over.”
Despite their tumultuous courtship, they were always built to last.
“When we went into each season, we asked what could be done with these core relationships — we have Dan and Serena, we have Chuck and Blair — at the center of the show. You can challenge them, you can put them with other people. Obviously we put Blair and Dan together, which was for some people the best thing they’ve ever seen and for some people it was absolutely antithetical to everything they wanted from those characters. And that’s also the fun of it. But the plan for Chuck and Blair was always a ‘long-term play’ once we saw that chemistry, in the same way that Dan and Serena were — as much as we were going to break these people apart, and earn their way back into these other’s lives. In a way, that love story between those two characters was always one of the overarching stories of the whole show, and we knew that. As far as we pushed them, we always had to be able to find a way to bring them back together.”
Cecily von Ziegesar, the creator of the Gossip Girl book series, supported the romance even though it wasn’t a prominent plotline in her books.
“She was great and very open to the fact that the books were the books, and the show had to be something else. And obviously you’re casting a show in a way you’re not casting books, so things can change and evolve. Very early on she was excited about the fact that fans of the books could watch the show and now know how everything was going. She was very supportive of that stuff, and that relationship.”
Their relationship was defined by their passion.
“You could tell from all the sniping and one-liners and humor that a lot of their stories played out with a palpable sense of passion. Chuck was the bad boy who was reformed by Blair. She taught and helped him become a better person. For Blair, who had all of her issues and was so uptight and was always in competition with Serena, you wanted to see her have something on her own that was fulfilling. You were able to see them both evolve and change because of their relationship, but also it was a hell of a lot of fun along the way. They were scheming all the time. We always talked about Dangerous Liaisons when it came to them, and there was a lot of that in their relationship. It was the fun of those characters, but also the deep emotion and real love and yearning there as well. In that first script where they got together, it definitely surprised and excited everyone. When we saw the scene with them in the back of the limo, it was a home run. Everyone knew at that moment that it turned up the heat on the show in a way that was really exciting.”
The most “emotional” scene between the two was filmed in the Paris train station.
“That scene was beautiful and romantic, and full of pain and longing. We were shooting it at five o’clock in the morning at this Paris train station. We kind of had the station to ourselves, but then people starting showing up to go to work and going on and off the trains, and they were drawing attention to our production. How can you forget Blair in that red dress? They were filming arguably the most vivid and memorable scene of the show; a scene of purely intense emotion between them. And for those two actors to keep that focus with all of the swirling activity at the train station at that time, I was really impressed.”
Their romantic legacy boils down to how much growth they had as a couple.
“Thinking about other shows Stephanie and I have worked on — especially thinking of which couples end up popping that you’re not expecting to pop — with Chuck and Blair it was a show about ‘young’ people, but they were incredibly sophisticated and devious compared to their peers. They were drawn to each other’s dark sides, but then found happiness and enlightenment and love because of that. The idea of these two people starting off as the ‘villains’ of the show becoming, for the large part, the romantic center of the show, was a unique quality that really makes that particular relationship more notable. Just because someone comes into a show as a villain doesn’t mean you’re not going to end up falling in love with them. There were regressions a few times, as everyone well knows, but they never gave up on each other. As bad as things got and as devious as they were, they always found their way back to each other. I think that idea of coming in from not being the obvious romantic couple from the beginning of the show, to evolving into something way more, was really fun to watch and satisfying for audiences. They had that wicked quality to them. They both knew how to deliver a joke. We wrote it like Benedict and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing, and, as mentioned before, a little bit of the Dangerous Liaisons quality. There was a lot of good inspiration driving us.”
Their familial future is optimistic.
“Henry definitely goes to St. Jude’s and hopefully doesn’t follow in his father’s footsteps. They’re definitely happy, I would say.”