One of the defining programmes of the 2000s, the glossily glamorous Gossip Girl managed to have its cake and eat it, straddling both satire and celebration of New York’s gilded youth. The bold decision to reboot the show about the beautiful students of an elite private school for a new generation brings fresh problems – a post-pandemic, post-BLM world dominated even more by social media – but also new sights, new dream locations and even, with the rise of Brooklyn to social desirability, a whole new island. And, just like its original incarnation, it’s the best advert for New York since Sex and the City.
In the gang of Gossip Girl 2021, the queen bee is Julien Calloway (Jordan Alexander), who introduces her newbie half-sister Zoya Lott (Whitney Peak) to the ways of the Constance Billard School for Girls in no uncertain terms: ‘Sant Ambroeus or Yura for coffee, Starbucks for group orders. The Met steps or the Great Lawn to hang, not the south side. JG Melon for burgers, though they check IDs. Momoya if you’re west. Mezzaluna, not Serafina. Sweetgreen, but for pick-up only. Dumbo Hall, not House.’ The series is a catalogue of NYC’s most on-trend addresses and, thanks to the show’s pedigree, it’s almost always the real thing, shot on location. Here’s our guide to some of the sights.
UPPER EAST SIDE
The show’s focal point, as it was in the original, is the Constance Billard School for Girls, a smart private school in the heart of the city. For this, it returns to The Museum of the City of New York at 1220 Fifth Avenue, a Thirties red-brick building in neo-Georgian style. Its European grandeur and position close to Central Park give off all the right Gilded Age signals, while its central courtyard provides the characters with the perfect place to mingle. The original series switched in later seasons to another site, the Synod of Bishops Russian Church on 75 East 93rd Street, which also appeared as the private school in high-society drama The Undoing, but the MCNY is the home of this Gossip Girl, with shooting taking place inside some of the offices as well as the exterior.
Another key location carried over from the Noughties version is the Met steps – the steps of The Metropolitan Museum of Art – where the clique gather for lunch. This landmark is the USA’s largest art museum, and its 20th-century Beaux-Arts façade is famous as an establishing shot in movies and TV. The choice of hangout is another sign of the group’s relaxed attitude to their position in society, and it’s the site of a key plot point in episode one, when Julien introduces Zoya to her friends.
Episode one also makes use of another Upper East Side titan for a fashion show in which Julien is modelling. This takes place at the Park Avenue Armory on 643 Park Avenue, another relic of the Gilded Age. Built in Gothic Revival style in the 1880s, it was the home of the Seventh Infantry Regiment of the New York Militia, which took in some of the city’s wealthiest families including the Vanderbilts, Roosevelts and Harrimans. It’s now an arts centre known for its adventurous taste.
Most of the lavish apartments we see in the show were wholly created in Steiner Studios in Brooklyn, including Zoya’s on the Upper West Side, the West Village townhouse of Max Wolfe (Thomas Doherty) and the loft of Otto ‘Obie’ Bergmann IV (Eli Brown) in Brooklyn’s DUMBO – Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. Julien’s penthouse is the exception here: those floor-to-ceiling windows with 360-degree views of Downtown are all too real. Production took over an apartment covering the entire 52nd floor of The Beekman Residences on Nassau Street, a building linked to the Beekman Hotel, housed in one of the city’s first skyscrapers and designed by Martin Brudnizki. As production designer Ola Maslik told House Beautiful, ‘The views from Julien’s apartment would be almost impossible to capture on a stage set and they were so amazing that we decided to take full advantage of the location.’ Although this is distinctly old New York, it’s still close enough to Tribeca for Julien to have breakfast at Locanda Verde, Robert De Niro’s restaurant on Greenwich Street.
We’re also in the Financial District for episode two’s school fundraiser. This is filmed at a venue with an equally spectacular view: Manhatta, a restaurant on the 60th floor of a tower on 28 Liberty Street. Overlooking the East River and Brooklyn Bridge, the hotspot is run by Danny Meyer, the king of contemporary American cooking who opened his Union Square Café in the 1980s.
The Gossip Girl crew spend a good deal of time in this part of town and its fringes. In episode three, they gather for a night of drama (both staged and otherwise) at the Public Theater, an upmarket but progressive spot set in the former Astor Library at 425 Lafayette Street that held the earliest stagings of A Chorus Line, Fun Home and Hamilton. From here, they move across the street to Indochine, the famous French-Vietnamese restaurant that has been a star-studded haunt since opening in 1984. As location manager Matthew Lania told Vogue, ‘We all think to ourselves – is this where the characters should be? If there’s an opening at the Public Theater, we have to go to Indochine later because that’s where everybody does their after party.’
A few blocks north at 125 East 11th Street is Webster Hall, where Julien and Zoya have a birthday party in episode four. This prestigious space dates from 1886 and is known as New York’s first modern nightclub, its reputation as a venue for Roaring Twenties decadence adding a frisson to later incarnations as a gig venue, recording studio and hall for hire.
While the original series was firmly Manhattan-based, the new Gossip Girl splits its time over the bridge in Brooklyn. Obie has his DUMBO loft in the north of the borough, next door to the Dumbo Club where the group head for a night out with new girl Zoya. The club, roughly based on Soho House’s outpost Dumbo House, is set in Empire Stores on Water Street, the converted coffee warehouse that’s now a marketplace.
In episode two, we’re just south of DUMBO when Zoya and Obie visit an art store, filmed inside Apple Art Supplies on Dekalb Avenue. And later we see Kings County Distillery on Sands Street a few blocks east, though this legendary bar and whisky distillery – New York’s oldest, supposedly – is given the name O’Flanagans for the show.
Then, in episode three, we venture even further into Brooklyn with Max’s visit to a bar on Myrtle Avenue in Bushwick. Filmed at Bossa Nova Civic Club, a renowned electro venue, the scene is proof that Gossip Girl has really changed in its decades away.
‘Gossip Girl’ is on BBC One from Wednesday 25 August 2021 at 10.35pm, with all six episodes available to stream on BBC iPlayer, alongside all six seasons of the original series
Like this? Now read: