Sarah Aubrey, Head of Original Content at HBO Max, addressed the status of the anticipated redo of the beloved 2000s teen soap, confirming that the first script by showrunner and executive producer Joshua Safran has been turned in and it's reminiscent of the original series.
"We have gotten the first script and I can tell you we all breathed a big sigh of relief because it's quite good," Aubrey told reporters Wednesday during HBO Max's winter Television Critics Association press tour session. "You can imagine the bar is very high. I think that one of the benefits of having the original creators involved, they're very clear of what the essential elements of the show are and are not. And also, really excited to bring a modern lens to it 10 years later. Josh and team have done a great job so far."
While Kristen Bell confirmed she will be reprising her role as narrator, casting on the Gossip Girl reboot is still in the infancy stages.
"We're very early in casting conversations," Aubrey said, hinting that they have their eye on a few young actors to fill the new roles. "We've kind of drawn circles around a few people but it's early days on that."
Gossip Girl takes place eight years after the original website went dark (and after Penn Badgley's Dan Humphrey revealed himself to be the culprit) as a new generation of New York private school teens are introduced to the social surveillance of Gossip Girl. The series will address just how much social media -- and the landscape of New York itself -- has changed in the intervening years. The crux of the new Gossip Girl won't revolve around the mystery of who the gossip maven actually is, but rather another twist that's yet to be revealed.
"I think it very much represents where we will be at in 2020 when the show airs. It really looks at how social media has changed," Safran, who was an executive producer and showrunner on the original series, told ET in December at the Los Angeles premiere of Netflix's Soundtrack. "You know, the first time around, when the show started people were, like, checking in places on Foursquare and updating their locations on Facebook. Things we would never do now because we don't want anyone to know where we are. That change alone changes the dynamic of what Gossip Girl means and how Gossip Girl interacts with the kids this day and age, so I think it's gonna be really interesting to see. The modern age reflected through Gossip Girl."
Safran echoed what has been said before by returning executive producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, that at the center of the new iteration will be a crop of Gen-Z high schoolers still attending Constance Billard and St. Jude's, who likely won't be the new versions of Serena van der Woodsen or Blair Waldorf or Nate Archibald. "I think of it like the Marvel universe. It's not a continuation or a sequel. It truly just is looking at a different angle," he said.
"It's the same high school, so we're back at Constance Billard. We are looking at a group of friends in their junior year. Those pieces are the same. They're still in the uniforms," Safran noted, adding there will be stark differences from the original series. "Not everyone lives on the Upper East Side, though. Brooklyn's not the bad place to live. Brooklyn’s probably cooler in the new version than Manhattan, 'cause it is in some places. Other than that, it has the DNA of the original."
Schwartz has been vocal in the past about approaching original cast members to pop back in for an appearance, saying earlier this year that standing offers are out to Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Penn Badgley, Chace Crawford and Ed Westwick.
"They are a part of the world," Safran added. "The characters talk about them and that they do exist. So, yeah, I would love to have them come back. The show jumped five years in the future when it ended and we are past that five years now, so it's whole new things that they could be doing."
Gossip Girl launches later this year on HBO Max.
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