It’s the day earlier than her long-awaited trip, and Leighton Meester is within the temper to dance.
As haze from a fog machine envelops her throughout our Alexa cowl shoot, she rocks out to a string of ’80s hits, playfully lifting her oversize Alessandra Wealthy jacket to “flash” the crew with flesh-tone shorts, arching her eyebrows à la Charlie Chaplin. Moments later, she cradles a small canine within the glam-squad room, slow-dancing with him in her skivvies. When our stylist slides a ruffled purple Dolce & Gabbana robe over her head, she breaks right into a shimmy and her finest werewolf claws, not lacking a beat of “Thriller.”
It’s clear that the actress and former “Gossip Woman” queen bee is a pure comic; her buoyancy is guileless, magnetic, contagious. Along with her most up-to-date roles — on final yr’s “Making Historical past” and ABC’s new sitcom “Single Dad and mom” — she’s lastly getting to showcase these comedian chops.
“It’s good to go to work and know that you simply’re going to be laughing all day,” she tells us, lounging in a Downtown LA loft après dance break. “After all I like taking over dramatic roles, however for long run, like a TV present, I really like doing comedy — it’s simply type of the place I need to stay.”
She’s at present dwelling within the character of Angie, a single mother and lawyer on that latter ensemble collection (debuting September 26), which additionally stars Taran Killam and Brad Garrett.
Meester, 32, describes Angie as a “take-no-bulls–t, no-nonsense type of lady.” (Certainly, her sardonic-with-a-heart-of-gold portrayal imbues the pilot with Liz Lemon-esque zest.) “As a result of Angie’s had to make it on her personal, it’s additionally shut her off in loads of methods to opening herself up and being weak and delicate.”
Meester, who’s married to actor Adam Brody and mom to 3-year-old daughter Arlo, is equally guarded about her private life. (She met the previous “O.C.” star whereas filming the romantic comedy “The Oranges” however has managed to maintain their 2014 marriage ceremony — and the remainder of their relationship — below wraps.)
“The reality is, I simply stay a traditional life,” she says. “After I’m not working, I’m at residence. And that’s it. I elevate a child. I’ve no secret suggestions or methods.”
We’ve got so many hang-ups as adults. To not put that in your child is a crucial lesson.
Nonetheless, she acknowledges that changing into a mom has modified her. “I feel it’s made me extra open and extra free, and on the identical time far more protecting of myself and of my life.”
That features her sophisticated childhood. When Meester was born, her mother and father have been serving time in federal jail for his or her involvement in a drug-smuggling ring — each have been finally launched and later separated.
“For me, it was essential that I didn’t do what my mother and father did,” she displays. “Your child is selecting up on who you might be and what you’ve been by means of and attempting to make it higher for you. It’s higher to simply give them a clear slate. However it’s arduous to do, as a result of we’ve so many hang-ups as adults. To not put that in your child is a crucial lesson.”
Meester remembers discovering the idea of performing at a really younger age. “I keep in mind watching motion pictures that have been most likely considerably extra mature than I ought to have,” she says. “Like ‘Interview with a Vampire’ or one thing, however I might additionally watch Nickelodeon. And realizing slowly that, ‘Oh, these are actors — that’s not actual.’”
She joined a theater troupe in her hometown of Marco Island, Fla.; by age 11, she’d moved to NYC together with her mom and two brothers to pursue knowledgeable performing profession.
The tween quickly snagged a spot on “Regulation & Order” and modeling gigs with the likes of Ralph Lauren; a number of years later it was off to LA, the place she graduated from highschool a yr early and landed a number one function on “Gossip Woman,” when she was solely 20.
So would Meester encourage her daughter to comply with an identical profession path? “No,” is the fast reply. “I might encourage her if she needed to do it when she was older, however I wouldn’t push her. In actual fact, I might discourage her from doing it as a child.
“It’s being surrounded by adults in grownup conditions, being knowledgeable and dealing all day, as an alternative of taking part in or going to college,” she continues. “That being mentioned, I work with children on my present and I do assume that there are some children who’re naturals — that is their calling.”
Meester took almost two years off from work when Arlo was born. “It was a privilege. I really feel very, very, very fortunate,” she says. “However I used to be keen to get again to doing one thing I liked.”
She’s much less enthused in regards to the fixed query — posed virtually solely to girls — of how she’s balancing parenthood and work.
“I’ve labored loads within the final couple of years and so has my husband. Folks, just about day by day, will ask me, ‘The place is your child? Who’s she with?’ And my husband has by no means been requested on set, ‘Who’s taking good care of Arlo?’
“I’ve had a feminist awakening in the previous couple of years,” she continues. “It’s essential to me to tackle roles — and type of at all times has been — that I really feel are totally fashioned and that assist that sentiment.”
Within the latest Fox collection “Making Historical past,” for instance, Meester performed a time-traveling feminist who was pointedly not anybody’s girlfriend or love curiosity. “She had her personal factor, her personal storyline, her personal targets, her personal profession, and her personal sense of self — and was stronger than the male characters in some ways, as a result of she type of had to be.”
“Single Dad and mom,” in the meantime, is written, created, executive-produced and showrun by girls, a few of whom are additionally single mothers themselves. (Liz Meriwether and J.J. Philbin, of “New Woman” fame, created the present and are EPs, with Katherine Pope additionally executive-producing.) “I really feel very protected,” Meester says.
Her most iconic character, Blair Waldorf, additionally embodied feminine empowerment, ruling an Higher East Aspect prep-school kingdom (if a bit ruthlessly) throughout the collection run from 2007 to 2012. Which begs the query: With so many zeitgeisty TV reboots on air, would she ever need to revisit “Gossip Woman”?
“I liken it to any individual saying, ‘You had an incredible time in highschool. You made a few of your finest buddies. Would you need to return?’” she says. “No. However, nonetheless, I’ve nothing however love and optimistic emotions about it. I look on it fondly. New York Metropolis was for a very long time my residence and remains to be such an enormous a part of who I’m and part of my coronary heart. The folks I met throughout that point are nonetheless my closest buddies.”
Off-camera, Meester ditched Blair’s signature preppy headbands for extra refined kinds, changing into a fixture at Met Galas and New York Trend Weeks (she final attended NYFW two years in the past, dropping by Prabal Gurung and Kate Spade exhibits).
As of late, although, the LA-based star is concentrated on consolation — extra particularly, the power to crouch to toddler stage with ease. “I just about stay in denims,” she says. “However I’ll combine it up. I like an informal costume. If I’m sporting denim, I like to put on one thing a little bit bit dressier on high or vice-versa.” Her favourite day-to-day labels embody Reformation and Christy Daybreak, whose items are all made in LA.
As for her busy profession, Meester is recording her third album — “singer-songwriter, people, however with some nonacoustic sounds” — which she wrote over the previous a number of months and plans to launch within the subsequent yr or so. She’s additionally guest-starring on the Seth MacFarlane sci-fi collection “The Orville” and is open to returning to Broadway, the place she appeared in “Of Mice and Males” in 2014. “It was so difficult — the schedule and the subject material have been so relentless and heartbreaking,” she says. “However it was probably the greatest experiences of my life.”
Regardless of her impressively bold schedule, Meester additionally makes time to bond together with her “Single Dad and mom” castmates.
“Oh, yeah, we do karaoke,” she laughs. “I really like doing ballads. En Vogue is an effective means to begin off the night time. I will be useless sober and do karaoke — noon if you need.”
True to type, I spot Meester and a pal on a busy DTLA road nook after our interview. She’s singing and grooving with gleeful abandon, ready for the sunshine to change.
Trend editor: Serena French; Stylist: Anahita Moussavian; Hair: Clariss Rubenstein at The Wall Group utilizing Dove; Make-up: Matthew VanLeeuwen at Starworks Artists utilizing Tatcha; Nails: Nettie Davis utilizing Rooted Lady nail polish