‘Gossip Girl’ Boss Reveals What Was Cut From Series Finale & What Would’ve Happened in Season 3

Whitney Peak, Eli Brown, Grace Duah, Savannah Lee Smith, Zión Moreno, Jordan Alexander, Emily Alyn Lind, and Thomas Doherty in 'Gossip Girl'
Spoiler Alert
Craig Blankenhorn/HBO Max

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Gossip Girl series finale “I Am Gossip.”]

In a way, the last episode of HBO Max’s Gossip Girl does work as a series finale. But it also ends with a post-credits scene that teases what could have come next.

Kate (Tavi Gevinson) is in prison, after revealing herself to be Gossip Girl following the teens trapping her. The teens are looking ahead to a drama-free life. However, what they don’t know is that Roger (Malcolm McDowell) turned to Jordan (Adam Chanler-Berat) about his plans to expand Gossip Girl.

Showrunner Joshua Safran reveals what was cut from the finale and what we would have seen in a third season.

After news broke of the cancellation, you said you’re looking for another home, but also that you didn’t expect to find one. Has your take on that changed since then?

Joshua Safran: No, not at all. It’s a very expensive show and right now is the time for cost-cutting across all the networks, so I just don’t see it happening. I think oftentimes when shows get picked up by other networks, it’s actually because they fit into the economic [plans] at those networks as well as being something that they want. Right now, two things are happening: YA content is being sort of stripped across the boards and the cost-cutting. So [it’s] just very unlikely.

The finale, for the most part, leaves the group in a pretty good place, thinking they’re looking ahead to a Gossip Girl-free future. Did not knowing if you’d be back at the time influence that decision or would you have ended the same way even if you’d been renewed for a Season 3 at that point?

That was always the ending. I did make some changes once it looked like we weren’t going to get picked up, but those were actually removing some pieces of Aaron Dominguez’s character, who you meet briefly with Zoya [Whitney Peak], not anything else. But there is a sequence after the credits, which I know some people haven’t seen.

That was my next question.

OK, so that was always there to launch Season 3.

What did you cut then from Aaron’s stuff?

Aaron interacted with both Emily [Alyn Lind] and Jordan [Alexander]. There were scenes they referenced in the last scene when Julien says, I met this guy who just broke up with his boyfriend, and Audrey’s like, I met this guy at the museum. Aaron was a mysterious character interacting with all of them.

Evan Mock, Emily Alyn Lind, Whitney Peak, Jordan Alexander, and Eli Brown in 'Gossip Girl'

Stefano Cristiano Montesi/HBO Max

That post-credits scene suggests Gossip Girl could come back in an even worse way. What would that have looked like?

Yes, we were going to invent our own app, like TikTok, everybody could use with all of the intended chaos that happens when you have a lot of people on an app and the thought that they control that app versus somebody else actually being in charge of that app. It was gonna be a lot of fun, sad it’s not happening.

How would that have affected the group? It feels like they were heading towards being drama free and this would’ve been even more drama than they’ve been dealing with.

That was the whole point. Also, obviously Luna [Zion Moreno] becoming a superstar well out of the realm of what Julien or Monet [Savannah Lee Smith] ever hoped for themselves was gonna cause a lot of consternation and chaos. We were really looking to make Season 3 even bigger than the seasons before. HBO Max had kindly extended us a meeting room to break the season — this was a while ago — when we were filming Season 2, so we had arced out the whole season. A lot of the seeds for Season 3 weren’t just planted in the finale but are actually all throughout Season 2.

It seems like Luna was living her best life at the end.

Oh, yes.

She wouldn’t have been able to stay away from the drama though like she wanted, right?

Correct. And so Season 3 would’ve followed her increasing attempts to continue to stay separated from everybody and them not wanting her to because they either wanted a piece of her fame or wanted to take her down or wanted to take credit for her fame, all those things that happen when you become super famous at such a young age.

Audrey, Aki (Evan Mock), and Max (Thomas Doherty) didn’t seem to work as a triad, at least not the way they went about it this season. Would they have had a chance at the future together or — 

Yes. They were all endgame in all of our minds as a triad. The goal was to showcase how Audrey and Aki maybe in the end actually were ready for this level of adult relationships. In Season 3, we were going to continue that story.

Who is that with Max at the end? Should I recognize the voice?

No. You’re the only one to have asked me that, which is so funny because I forgot until you just said it. That is also Aaron Dominguez. So Aaron approaches all four — Max, Audrey, Julien, and Zoya — in the parts that were cut as four different named people. So you were leaving the finale being like, why is this guy pretending to be four different people in approaching all of our characters? I couldn’t cut that scene out because I wanted to show you what Max was up to. I didn’t want to not have Max in the end of the finale.

Evan Mock, Emily Alyn Lind, and Thomas Doherty in 'Gossip Girl'

Cara Howe/HBO Max

And by the way, in the cut that I had made of the finale before the cancellation, you still didn’t see him. You just saw him with the next three people so you could infer it was probably him. In no cut did you ever see Aaron’s face in that scene, but slowly, as each scene progressed — because that was the first scene — you’re like, oh, this guy must have been the one with Max.

Julien’s trying to reconnect with her family. Why now? How much would that have been part of her story in Season 3?

It would’ve been a major part. We really loved working with LaChanze. We cast LaChanze hoping to have a major arc with her. What’s interesting is I did also make an amendment to that sequence. That scene now is the scene that was scripted and shot, but in the original finale, we stripped a lot of it away so that you didn’t even know who that woman was. She didn’t say you’re my aunt. She didn’t say, I wanna know about my mother. You were like, “Wait, is that the mother? Is that the—?” We wanted to leave it more open in the original finale, but here I put the whole scene in so you could know.

Julien and Zoya never questioned or looked into enough about their mother. They just took for granted what they had been told and in Thanksgiving of Season 1, they learned a little bit more about her story. Julien, after the disgrace of her father, is actually wanting to know more about her mother. We were really going to spend time in Season 3 learning more about Marion. There was never a universe where she’s still alive. That wasn’t the story. The story was more learning about her, her family, why they didn’t know her family, just really opening up that world for Julien and Zoya.

Julien and Obie (Eli Brown) got back together and Zoya seems to have a new love interest. So that triangle is over?

Yes, definitely.

So the focus would’ve been more on Julien and Zoya figuring things out?

Yes. The hope would’ve been to tell the story of Zoya having this new love interest played by Aaron, and Julien and Obie were going to stay together while Julien both had a journey of discovery about her mother and her mother’s family, but also teamed up with Monet to either take down Luna or get a piece of that action.

Where is Kate?

Prison! Our goal was for her to be in prison and it would be a short stay. We were gonna have her get out a couple of episodes in and see what had become Gossip Girl and be interested in claiming her piece of it.

What about her relationship with Jordan?

That’s over once she finds out that Jordan is now a multi-multi-millionaire and she has nothing.

Is there anything you would’ve done differently if you had known it would only be these two seasons?

I totally would’ve wrapped up the show. I hate that the show’s not wrapped up. I hate that [with the triad], it looks as if what I was trying to say is that polyamory can’t work. That’s not at all what I was trying to say. I think that’s really the biggest regret, is not being able to wrap up that story because like you said, the majority of [the stories] actually do end well.

I’m a very big believer in season finales that don’t have major cliffhangers because gone are the days of network television where you could ensure that your show will be back in three months. Now, especially on streaming, most shows don’t come back for over a year. So the way this finale is nothing would’ve really changed with the exception of wrapping up the triad in a better way, like keeping them together.

What else would we have seen in Season 3?

Just some more shenanigans. We definitely had a storyline in Season 3 that I was really excited about that tied together the parents in a way that the kids didn’t know. It was a really great plot that would’ve shown the parents coming together to try to help the kids, which was an element we used to do the first time around, like Lily [Kelly Rutherford] and Rufus [Matthew Settle] would get together. There wasn’t a lot of integration with the parents this season. Obviously Laura Benanti and Todd Almond’s characters, Kiki and Gideon, were friends, but we had a bigger storyline tying a lot of people together. I know people don’t want to hear about parents, but I promise you it was a very juicy story that had a lot of impact on the kids.

Would we have seen any other new relationships?

Max actually was gonna have a new boyfriend, which was going to be very fun and that was gonna cause a lot of drama for Aki and Audrey, who were gonna realize how much they missed him and go about in their own separate ways to see if they could get him back. Monet was gonna get a new love interest. Luna still had Florian [Aaron Quinn Long], who was gonna take on a bigger role.