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Leighton Meester Talks Gossip Girl's Finale, Making Music and Playing Hugh Laurie's Love Interest

In Julian Farino's indie dramedy The Oranges, Leighton Meester plays devil-may-care twentysomething Nina Ostroff, a girl who cuts her world travels shorts and returns home to New Jersey after a dramatic breakup. Once back in the ho-hum suburbs, Nina starts an affair with her father's best friend David (House's Hugh Laurie), who also happens to be her BFF's dad. At the same time, her mother (Allison Janney) is trying to set her up with David's sweet-natured son (Adam Brody). Sound complicated? It is—and those convoluted family dynamics are exactly what attracted Leighton to the role. I sat down with the actress to discuss playing a "bad girl," the end of the Gossip Girl era and what's next for her music career. Hint: don't expect any sugarcoated pop ditties.

Lucky: Your character in The Oranges, Nina, is somewhat of a troublemaker—as is Gossip Girl's Blair Waldorf, obviously. Are you instinctively drawn to characters who are drawn into these dramatic situations and aren't necessarily the most likable?

Leighton Meester: I think it's not necessarily that they're written that way—for me, it's more about finding common ground with your character, embodying something within them that you yourself understand. Nina starts off as a rebellious, selfish and free-spirited girl—and I think that most people, if they're not like that, then they'd want to be like that. She's traveled, she's fallen in love, she's partied and done drugs and had this bohemian lifestyle. And I can understand that, having been lucky enough to travel the world for my job—but at the same time, there's an emptiness in that. And also, I can understand and relate to Nina—though not on the same level—in that she sometimes looks to men for validation and wants her parents not to be overbearing or judge her. She just wants them to accept her. And all those things lead her to have that relationship with David. But yes, I always want to play characters where I can find something I love and understand in them—and try to connect in ways that I don't, too. For instance, I'd never have a relationship with a 53-year-old man who's my best friend's father! But she would—and I had to find some sort of common ground. Luckily, that's not difficult when you're working with Hugh Laurie, who's just incredible.

I found it funny that both Gossip Girl and The O.C. are seen as these sort of generation-defining series—and in this movie, you're set up opposite Adam Brody! What was it like working with him?

He's really funny, and his character sort of is the perfect person for Nina—and I think he's who she really wants, in a weird way. He brings a sensitivity to the movie—and you can totally believe that he'd be Hugh Laurie's son. Like, Nina's been around the world—and so has he, but because he's an overachiever who's traveled for his job, and he can't handle his liquor. She's clearly used to guys who, like, take rips off the bong and drive motorcycles.

I know you've been singing for years—and you're working on an album now, right?

Yeah—slowly but surely. I've written everything, and now I'm just trying to figure out if I want a producer to work on it. I had a deal with a record label when I was doing pop music before…but luckily, I'm not doing that anymore. It's very freeing. I actually started writing the music when I was doing this film. It was a period in my life where I was having a lot of growth—mostly good, but I was going through a breakup too. [The music] is what really helped me get over it, but it was funny that it would happen during this film where I have a sad breakup with a guy. I was like, "This just happened to me!"

Breakups are the absolute best time for songwriting, though, I'm guessing. What's the sound you're working with?

It's acoustic, and I write everything on my guitar. It's very singer-songwriter style.

Who are some of your musical inspirations?

I wouldn't necessarily say my music sounds like theirs, but I love Joni Mitchell...and I love Carole King, Alison Krauss, Neil Young, Tom Petty.

You must've gotten really into country while filming Country Strong, I'm guessing...

Well, that music was way more "pop country," but that's actually how I got my first guitar! Tim [McGraw] gave it to me at the end of filming, and I traveled around with it and was eventually like, "I really wanna learn this thing!"

Let's talk fashion—who are some of your current favorite designers, either to wear or just admire?

I love Emilio de la Morena—he's really cool. I always like what Proenza Schouler does. Whenever I go to their show, I'm like, "This is a fashion show." I've been working with Vera Wang for a couple of years, and I love her—she's so amazing. And I always like wearing Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs. I like his bags, too.

You wear some pretty put-together looks on your TV show—but I'm guessing that's not really how you dress day-to-day.

I like to be comfortable. I think that fashion is a really good way to express yourself but in my daily life, it's really hard to do that. That was actually one of the nice things about this character—she dresses normal! And I think that clothes, whether they're "outfit-y" or not, are very defining of a character.

Finally, I have to ask: anything you can divulge about Gossip Girl's final season, and the series finale in particular?

They're all going to die in a car accident! Haha, no—I think the audience will probably be very happy. We never know what's coming, and they've said that they want to surprise us. I assume there'll be some kind of happy ending. I've heard that there's going to be a gigantic cliffhanger with Chuck's dad, Blair and Chuck in the second-to-last episode that's resolved in the finale. But hopefully she finds love and resolution.

What's the general attitude been like on set, with the show finally winding down?

I think everyone's ready. And the closer it gets, the happier I am. I mean, it'll be strange—but I'm ready and I think everyone else is too. Personally, I feel like I've grown a lot—you grow, from 20 to 26!—but at the same time, I think it's been a creative growth period that's been good for me. And returning to the same thing over and over can be a little tedious. That being said, I have everything I have now because of Gossip Girl.

The Oranges opens in limited release today, October 5th.

Photo: WireImage

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