Imagine walking down the street in New York City and seeing Leighton Meester. The actress, famous for her portrayal of the beloved Gossip Girl character Blair Waldorf, recently paid a visit to her old stomping grounds, where her husband, Adam Brody—bred from similar teen royalty on The O.C.—is shooting a new project. This time though, it was less Nairtinis and masked balls and more kid-friendly activities. As a married mother of two, “I’m keeping my eye out for the playgrounds,” Meester says with a laugh. “That’s really what I’m looking for.” Perhaps in Manhattan, but the actress has also set her sights on some fulfilling, age-appropriate work.
Her latest role is Beth, a 35-year-old with a 10-month old who’s accused of killing her best friend (Christina Wolfe) in the Netflix thriller The Weekend Away, based on Sarah Alderson’s novel of the same name. Meester, also 35 years old with a newish baby, was intrigued by the script for obvious reasons. “That was exactly me, by the minute,” she says. On a getaway to Croatia, Beth grapples with not only being separated from her child, but also “out-of-this-world, unbelievably dramatic and tragic suspense.” Here, more from Meester about her new movie, her thoughts on the Gossip Girl reboot, and why she still hasn’t watched Euphoria.
What made now feel like the right time to return to the screen?
When I wrapped Single Parents on March 3 of 2020, I was pregnant [and] going to have a baby, so I thought, I’ll take a little time off, and if the show comes back, great. Then mid-March 2020 happened. A little over a year later, I felt like [The Weekend Away] was the right project, the right script—I went to Croatia to film it, so that wasn’t too shabby [laughs]. And I felt like my youngest was old enough for me to be away from him during long shooting days. How I Met Your Father came around kind of last-minute in the fall. We’ve had a really weird couple of years as far as work and scheduling [goes], plus having a kid really…shakes things up [laughs].
What was it about this movie that appealed to you so much?
I thought it was a really interesting perspective to tell the story: someone who’s going through motherhood for the first time, who’s rediscovering herself and finding herself. And, of course, going through the out-of-this-world, unbelievably dramatic and tragic suspense—that stuff was also incredibly appealing to me, because I thought it read really exciting and fun on the page.
Are you into true crime? Were you a Serial fan?
I did love Serial—I actually loved all them, even the non-murder ones. I understand the interest in it, but I have become so incredibly sensitive to it…I don’t know if it’s getting older or having kids or hormones, but I have to pace myself, because then I start going, “Someone’s in the house!” and it’s too terrifying. The amazing thing about this film is that there doesn’t seem to be a good or bad guy; nothing’s that clear. Even as suspicious red herrings get revealed, you can see where somebody might lose their temper—there’s no excuse, obviously—but there is a human element to it. There isn’t just a monster lurking.
There do seem to be some real-world parallels…Amanda Knox comes to mind.
I’ve heard that comparison. While it’s not totally parallel with that case, wow does it put you in that headspace of, “What would I do if I truly were stuck in a mystery, and this thing happened, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t do it, but I don’t know.” The other part that I had a real connection with was being thousands of miles away from your kid and feeling powerless and not completely stable; like, “Well, at least I can go home to my family at night.” You’re stuck, and it’s scary.
Did you feel a similar sense of guilt as Beth being away from your daughter while filming?
Yeah, that doesn’t go away. There’s no amount of banking hours with a kid. I just spent a whole weekend doing everything with them, and now I gotta go to work all day; they’re like, “But you’re not here now.” I actually had to split my kids up during filming, so I kept my son, who was 10 months old at the time, and my daughter, who is six, went with my husband back to the states where he was working. That was the longest I’ve ever been without my daughter by far, but I couldn’t be separated from my son because he was nursing. The reuniting was heaven.
Have the roles you’ve gravitated towards changed since becoming a mom?
I think anyone, especially an actor getting older, will probably find the roles to be more exciting and interesting regardless of if they’re portraying a parent or not. As you get older, you don’t just stand there, which is great.
Are you referring to ageism in Hollywood?
Yeah, definitely. It’s nice to have an imagination and be like, “That person who’s 35 could also be 40, or 30.” Let’s put people in different roles that are different ages, or from different backgrounds. I understand it and I’ve been there—there’s an obsession with youth. If you’re doing it right, hopefully you get older. I feel like that is the point. There’s a real dissidence between what women say—“I feel better as I get older; I feel more confident; I feel less insecure; I feel more libido”—and yet, media and culture is like, “No, you’re worthless now; you’re invisible.” We’ve gotta find some way to navigate that. I think it’s getting better. Listen, I’m 35, and I think that’s young; and I also started my career so young and was on TV so young and benefitted from that so young. At the time, I wasn’t aware; I was like, “I’ll be young forever!” So coming to understand that and how life goes is interesting. It’s interesting to have been in this business for so long.
What was your wildest weekend away?
When I got married, my girlfriends decided to take me to dinner and brought out this game where I guess the object is, you get an answer right or wrong and you drink. There were no real rules, just “get drunk.” And I remember being extremely [drunk]. The next morning, I just laid in bed and was like, “I need a bagel.”
There’s a memorable episode of Gossip Girl where Blair plays a similar game at her bachelorette party.
I didn’t get arrested, thankfully. But I did [get arrested] when I was in my late teens or early twenties. Before I moved to New York for work, I was living in a house in L.A. with three or four roommates, and we threw parties that would very often get really out of hand, and the cops came a few times. One of the times, we had so many people [that] it was going to be impossible [to get out of], and they threatened us with a ticket, so we got a ticket, because what else could we do? We had some blowouts. I look back and I’m like, “Was it fun? That was pretty dark.” But it’s good to have had those times. [Laughs.]
It was the same growing up in New York.
Even if you’re smoking a joint on the street [in New York] they’re like, “You’re under arrest!” I think it’s different now. I was just in New York and I smelled a lot of pot, so I feel like it might be a little more accepted.
Have you watched the Gossip Girl reboot?
I’ve watched it; I think it’s great. I’m really happy for them finding a new way with it. It was such a…is it weird to call it iconic when you’re in it? It really is so evergreen. Still, young women will come up to me and I’m like, “Wow, you were not born when we started.” It’s interesting that it can continue to be something that means a lot to even this generation. And so the fact that they can capture some of that magic while making it its own thing is quite a feat and really cool.
What else have you binged? One of my favorite Inventing Anna memes is of Blair Waldorf, saying she would’ve immediately clocked Anna Delvey.
[Laughs.] That is really funny. I actually just started that show, because everyone has been asking me if I’m watching it. That and Euphoria. I don’t know if I can do that one, though. Just ‘cause…wow.
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People on Twitter have also been talking about your collaboration with Cobra Starship for “Good Girls Go Bad.” Are you planning to record music again?
I love that. That was a fun time. I will continue to make music and write and sing—I’d like to perform soon, at some point. I probably will release music within this year. I didn’t really have an affinity for pop music as far as writing or performing [goes], but it felt like that was what I was gonna do, so I just went with it. Then I was like, “Nope, this isn’t right.” So I ended up cutting ties with my label amicably, and I released an album in 2014 and toured with a much different sound. So, [the new music is] sort of an evolved version of that sound. It still gives me chills to see live theater; we went to see My Fair Lady at the Dolby Theatre, which was a really amazing production, and I got emotional. It made me go, “I wanna do it again.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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