Hey, Upper East Siders: Gossip Girl almost didn't have a voice in the original CW series.
In the premiere episode of Jessica Szohr's Gossip Girl-related podcast XOXO, series creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage revealed how the iconic voice of Gossip Girl was nearly cut from the series.
As fans know, Kristen Bell voiced the unseen antagonist for all six seasons of the teen drama, which was on the air from 2007 to 2012. Though the creators didn't consider any other voice actors for the series, Schwartz said a test audience watching the pilot episode showed lowered interest in the series whenever Bell's voice appeared.
The audience was asked to turn a dial upwards if they were interested in the show's plot and turn the dial down if they'd lost interest, the series creator explained.
"Interestingly, every time the Gossip Girl voiceover would kick in, it would drop," Schwartz said of testing the pilot episode. "People were into it, and then like, 'Who's this voice that's coming in and distracting me?' Do you lose the voice-over? [We decided] we can't. That's part of the show and we just have to ride with it."
Kurt Iswarienko/The CW The original "Gossip Girl" cast
The creators also revealed that Bell was the only voice actor who read for the part — despite starring on another CW series, Veronica Mars, at the time of her casting.
"We had some reluctance of, did we feel comfortable having two shows on the same network with the same voiceover?" Savage explained.
But the timing worked out. Veronica Mars was canceled on the network in 2007 and Bell was immediately asked to become the voice of Gossip Girl. In the end, her voice wasn't too similar, the creators said.
"When she recorded it, she created an entirely different character with just her voice than how she read Veronica Mars," Savage noted on the podcast.
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While there was some initial controversy surrounding her voiceover, Schwartz called Bell's role "one of the most critical pieces of casting in the whole dang thing."
She was so memorable, in fact, that when creating the reboot of Gossip Girl, which now airs on HBO Max, getting Bell to sign on was the first priority.
"When we did the new show, which we knew would be a new generation and cast... the one piece we needed to have was Kristen," said Schwartz. "That was the one piece that was gonna make it feel like Gossip Girl because she's so — she's the tone. She set the tone."
The original Gossip Girl, which was based on author Cecily von Ziegesar's book series of the same name, centered on the drama-filled lives of rich teens living in New York's Upper East Side and starred Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Penn Badgley, Chace Crawford, Ed Westwick, Taylor Momsen, Kelly Rutherford, Matthew Settle and Szohr.
The reboot premiered on HBO Max in June 2021, starring Whitney Peak, Emily Alyn Lind, Evan Mock, Jordan Alexander, Thomas Doherty, Eli Brown, Zión Moreno, Savannah Smith and Tavi Gevinson. It has already been renewed for a second season.