In their Gossip Girl recaps, New York‘s Daily Intel writers are fond of saying that Leighton Meester’s Blair Waldorf has a different writer from the rest of the show. It’s a funny conceit, the idea that there is some David Mamet-of-teen-soaps ghostwriting the delicious dialogue that Blair spouts each week. But we think that’s just ignoring the obvious, discounting the talent of Ms. Meester. Perhaps everything Blair says seems heightened because an actual actress is delivering the lines. It’s time to give the girl some credit!
We know it sounds like faint praise. A votive candle could out-act Blake Lively, and as appealing as most of the other actors and actresses are, none would have made the late Lee Strasberg stand at attention. However, that doesn’t mean Ms. Meester is any less impressive. In Gossip Girl‘s first season, the actress seemed adrift in the plots of the show, saddled with playing an arch triumvirate of Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions, Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls and Rachel Bilson in The O.C. But this year has seen Ms. Meester come into her own. Blair might still be an amalgam of those characters, tied together with a satin headband and a smirk, but it seems like every week Ms. Meester adds another layer of nuance to herperformance. Even last night, in a lame rehash of Cruel Intentions that saw Blair connive and scheme her way through forty-minutes of episode time, we still felt bad for her at the end.
Gossip Girl is fond of taking well-worn genre characters and turning them on their heads. So the underdog Dan is really a selfish dick; Jenny, the saucer eyed ingénue, is actually an ambitious little pill; Chuck, a bloodless and heartless rascal is… well, a bloodless and heartless rascal, but one who shows flickers of humanity, even lovesickness. At the center of everyone, though, is Blair. She’s ostensibly the villain you love to hate; but she’s not. She’s the hero, the character you root for. No matter how nasty Blair gets, Ms. Meester only makes us empathize with her more. In the hands of a lesser actress, the part wouldn’t work. While no one was looking, Leighton Meester became one of the best actresses on television. What happened? That’s one secret we’re sure she’ll never tell. xoxo