Ed Westwick remembers a day when photographers didn’t bother to take his picture, when his name didn’t wind up in gossip columns.
But today, he realizes, that’s just part of being on a hit show like « Gossip Girl. »
« When I left to start this show, I was living in my parents’ home. I was 19…and it’s been quite a unique experience, » he says. « I’m only 24 but I feel like I’m 44 — in a good way. I’ve experienced so much in a short period of time. »
The character he plays — a rich bad boy — gets in all kinds of scrapes. Occasionally, the actor does, too, but that’s just part of the game.
« At the end of the day, I’m a performer and we want people to like us and watch us, » the British-born Westwick says. « It does help the career a little bit. When your privacy isn’t appreciated as much as it should be and you don’t have as much as other people, it’s difficult. But it’s champagne problems, really. »
Some publications, he says, aren’t really interested in « real » stories. « Unfortunately, we live in this world where news isn’t necessarily news. Instead of giving exposure to important issues, they’re interested in me in a bar having a drink. Attention should be on the local community, not me. »
Still, that tabloid fascination has raised his profile considerably. Since the start of « Gossip Girl, » Westwick has gotten roles in Clint Eastwood’s « J. Edgar, » « Chalet Girl » and « Californication. »
He’s shooting a new big screen version of « Romeo and Juliet » (he plays Tybalt) and he’s contemplating life after television.
A quick getaway? Not in the least. « I have this fantastic character who has had a great evolution, » he says of Chuck Bass. « Every episode is validating to me. I’m so fortunate to be doing something so many people would like to do. It really stimulates me. »
Because « Gossip Girl » remains interesting, there’s no rush to resolve Chuck’s relationship issues or plunk him in a 9-to-5 job. « It’s a testament to the potency of television, » he says of the show’s success. « It’s a huge investment on these people’s parts to stay with a show and stay with a relationship. I’m constantly baffled. »
Though Chuck and Blair have split, there’s always a chance they can get back together, Westwick says. « Why not? »
Chuck, though, is hardly made in Westwick’s image — despite the playboy reputation they share.
« I’m a much better dresser, » Westwick says with a laugh. « He’s got a lot of money, but I’m not doing badly. »
Chuck spends his nights in clubs. Occasionally, Ed does, too. « But I stay at home and watch ‘Planet Earth’ and drink cups of tea. That’s my evening. Of course I have been documented in the press once or twice for interesting moments somewhere in New York. But I’m a young man. I’m going to be going out having fun once in a while. »
A broad smile breaks across his face.
« Romeo and Juliet » should show the range he’s able to play. Other classics could be in the offing. « My favorite author? William Shakespeare is definitely up there. But I’m just reading some Herman Hesse and it’s fantastic. »
To prove he’s serious about his reading, Westwick spills out a poem. It’s a tongue-twister about women that tests his oral dexterity.
Shakespeare? « No, it’s by ‘Anonymous,’ » he says. But « that’s just what I do. »