IN CONVERSATION WITH ED WESTWICK
Interview by Jana Letonja
English actor Ed Westwick’s breakout and best known role of Chuck Bass the hit drama series ‘GossipGirl’ catapulted him into international stardom. Next, Ed will be seen in thrillers ‘Deep Fear’ and ‘DarkGame’. Besides acting, Ed has also partnered up with social trading app ‘Shares’, which focuses on social trading as it combines being an investment platform with the features of a social media app.
Ed, we all know and remember you as Chuck Bass from the hit series ‘Gossip Girl’. How has this series and its worldwide succes impacted your career and changed your life?
Oh, massively. If you look at it from before the show started or before I was given the role, everything changed. I moved to New York, to a different country, left my parents’ house, so that was the first thing that happened. The show, which was very successful and ran for a long time and a lot of people enjoyed it, gave me a little taste of fame, the chance to have a little bit of money and also the chance to meet new people. And then also the chance to grow as an actor. One of the best things about being on a long running show that was so ambitious and clever was that as a young actor, I got to play and play and play cause there were so many storylines. Towards the end things started to feel repetitive because you run out of things that you can do, but I think they did as good a job as possible at finding stories to tell with the characters, within that world.
It changed my life in every single way possible. And it was amazing that we still talk about it today. I think it’s legacy. Of course I want more for my legacy, I’m still quite a young man, but not in a greedy way. I’m very happy with what I’ve achieved and things I’ve done and people I’ve met and the places I’ve seen. It’s something to be very proud of, the fact that you can do something like that at such a young age, 19 to 25. We still talk about it, it still has presence, but I don’t know if it’s as relevant. I think some of the themes may be relevant, because it was one of those good TV shows.Good TV or film is about people, it’s about the things that we all deal with. And ‘Gossip Girl’ did that. It talked about family, about love, about struggles as an individual, about growing up, all of these themes that we all relate to. Soyeah, it was good. And it’s still good.
Being from England, how hard was it for you to adopt an American accent?
It’s a funny thing that if you don’t practice it, it goes away. ‘Gossip Girl’ was the first time I’d been hired for a job where I had to do an American accent. Right before that, I was auditioning for many shows in LA. I was in LA for a month or two months trying to get a job, so I was very practiced. I practiced every day, sometimes two or three auditions a day.And it was all different voices, because for Chuck it was a very intentional choice that I made for the way he speaks.
You began music lessons and attended Saturday morning drama school from the age of 6. What peaked your interest in music and acting? And when did you know acting is a career you want to pursue?
Well, I wasn’t one of these kids who wanted to be a star. I wasn’t one of these kids whose mom and dad were those parents that want their kids to be a star. And I wasn’t singing and dancing my heart out in the living room every five seconds or trying to put on shows and stuff like that. I did like the normal amount that kids do to have fun. When I was going to this drama group as a kid, it was very chilled, it wasn’t intense. It was three hours on a Saturday morning, one hour drama acting, one hour singing, one hour dancing.
It was something that my mother encouraged me to do because she took me to see shows in London and I would always be on the edge of my seat and just be like, wow. I was blown away by the talent and the entertainment and the magic that was taking place. So she sort of took that as an indication that I might actually enjoy doing it. And probably asked me. And I probably said yeah. I went for fun and it was always fun and that’s all it was ever supposed to be. My family are not in the arts, it wasn’t like we knew an agent or we had like a family member who was a producer or an actor. I did some things that made sense later. I did the National Youth Theater, I auditioned to get into that. I got into that and then I got a movie from that. So I was very lucky. And I have always been very lucky.
jacket ANN DEMEULEMEESTER
trousers EMPORIO ARMANI
What excites you the most about portraying new, different characters for every project?
It’s just that, it’s new. That was one of the things, one of the only downsides that comes with being on a long show, that eventually there were times when you’re going to be a bit bored cause you are wearing the same clothes, you’re speaking the same way and it becomes a little bit more like a day job. But it was still a fantastic day job. So to go and do different projects, it just keeps everything interesting. And also I get to challenge myself, because I don’t really know exactly what I’m going to do or how it’s going to be. And the thing I enjoy most now is the collaboration with other people.
When you’re on a big show like ‘ Gossip Girl’, that’s like a network thing. Obviously I can perform how I want to perform, but you don’t have any say in shaping the project or the look of it or make some suggestions or anything like that. But in a lot of the movies I do. I work with very collaborative indie filmmakers and people who respect my taste and my experience and my idea on things. And we work as a team and I love that. I’ve been executive producing the last couple of projects I’ve been involved in, so it’s been a growth step for me.
In 2020 you shot your directorial debut short film ‘Tether’. Is directing and executive producing something we’ll be seeing more of from you in the future?
Absolutely. I’m producing three things right now that haven’t been shot. I executive produced two of the three movies that are coming out this year. In terms of directing, it’s really a massive commitment to direct something. It’s all on you, so you must feel compelled. I know that more than anything. You must feel absolutely compelled and absolutely committed and absolutely love and want to do it. But you have to wait till it’s that thing and it makes sense. I have an acting career, so I don’t need to be like “I need something to direct”.
coat ALEXANDER McQUEEN
earrings DIOR HIGH JEWELLERY
hat MAISON MICHEL
jacket ALEXANDER McQUEEN
hat MAISON MICHEL
Next up, you’ll be starring in two thrillers. First of those is an action thriller ‘Deep Fear’ about shark encounter survival. Tell us more about this film, it’s story and your character.
One of the guys in the movie sent me an article the other day that apparently there was a real life situation that’s just occurred off the coast of Australia that is very similar to our movie. So it’s insane that it’s happening.
I don’t wanna give away too much that’s going on in the film, but it’s a real survival action thriller. A happy kind of couple gets caught up in this insane situation, not just with sharks, but with other enemies and their lives are on the line. It’s crazy. It’s beautifully shot. It’s a gorgeous location. The film’s set in the Caribbean, but we shot in Malta, which was stunning. It was a lot of fun to shoot some really ambitious shots and action and everything, so I think everyone will like this film. You can go and feel a little bit scared, feel a little bit excited, just enjoy the beauty of the shots, feel the romance, feel it all.
The other one is a horror thriller ‘DarkGame’, which centres on a determined detective in a race against time to stop a twisted game show on the dark web, where captives are forced to compete for their lives. Social media and dark web are a huge part of today’s world. How does the film portray these real life issues?
Well, it’s kind of a zeitgeist thing in a way. It’s like a weird zeitgeisty thing because it is very current. What’s going on in dark web, what’s going on with social media, the way that it’s ever present, the things it does to our brain, the desires and behaviors. It’s a very interesting kind of setting for a story these days. This film’s quite gruesome, thrilling dark.
I’ve never played a cop before. I wanted to play a cop, I was interested in that mentality, in that type of person. It’s so different to be a homicide detective, it’s nothing like my life and it’s nothing like most people’s lives. To be constantly inundated with death and then death in this way, it’s terrible. So this one’s probably not one for the squirmish. I’m very excited for this one as well. Two very different movies.
What’s your own view on social media and dark web’s presence in our lives?
It’s definitely something that is here to stay. Freedom of speech is massive, it’s very important. So on one side, you wanna protect that. It seems that it offers that. And then it seems that it offers some downsides, where people can be exploited, people can become bullied and stuff like that. So it’s very tricky to manage, it’s a tricky thing to get right. I don’t envy the people who are in charge. I think it’s difficult for these companies, cause they’re also there for profit.
But in terms of my presence on social media, I would like to think that I can just be positive in a genuine way. Be quite real and let people know that I made a movie. I posted something about getting people to sign this thing to stop trophy hunting and bringing trophy wild animals back to the UK. If I see stuff like that, of course I’m gonna try and raise awareness for things like that. But yeah, it’s all individual. It’s got a lot of benefits, it’s got a lot of downsides, but it’s still brand new. I mean, 10 years ago it didn’t even exist. It was these blogs and then it evolved. Where’s it going to evolve to next? We shall see.
Besides acting, you’ve also partnered up with Europe’s first social trading app ‘Shares’, which allows family or friends follow each others’ investments and has been designed to make investing more accessible to under-represented groups. Why did you decide to partner up with ‘Shares’ and embark on this path?
You’ve said it exactly right there. ‘Shares’ is very cool. I’m very happy to be a partner there. My dear friend Taylor, along with his friend Ben, started the company. Taylor is one of the most honest, straight shooting, talented young men I know. He asked me to join the company because they were launching in the UK to begin with and they thought that I would be a good partner to do some fun commercials with and to talk to some potential users. We shot these three commercials and did some stuff together. I was really happy, I got to play a character and it was very fun.
The whole idea behind the company is to make investing and finance a bit more accessible to a different type of person, a different group, to the mainstream really. Because it’s been kind of something that you have to go to school for and become educated in. It was kind of a closed door thing, you feel like you have to have a lot of money to get involved, but that’s not the idea of public stocks. The idea of public stocks is that you can invest a penny, something cheap, something low. We live in a society that is so obsessed with money and making money and all of that. I get that, but if that’s the game we’re playing to a degree, then it makes sense to be educated on finance and on money and stuff like that. And so therefore, if there’s an app and a community that kind of gives you access to this stuff and can kind of teaches you a bit along the way, which is what ‘Shares’ does, then why not. I think they’re a great company. They just signed the Williams sisters who are friends with Taylor and love what he’s doing. They’re going to be promoting in a similar way that I did, for their next territory launch.
I love tech. I think tech is gonna be the way out of the problems we’ve found ourself in. The only way out is to innovate. I think it’s fascinating, So this partnership made a lot of sense for me for those reasons.
You’ve been a very fashionable guy throughout your career and also in personal life. You’ve collaborated with a lot of leading fashion brands. How would you describe your own style? What do you love the most about fashion?
I love that it can transform your mood instantly. Whatever you’re wearing, it can just transfer. I’m very casual, I’m a T-shirt and sweatpants or jeans kind of guy if I’m chilling. But when I get to go to these shows and I wear these amazing clothes and I get to see this cool stuff, it just adds more life, more energy to a moment. And then within my job, I feel like fashion and costume design and everything like that is essential because it creates a world. It creates characters. So I get to see it in that world and then in the real world. It’s a very cool thing.
But I wish that we could find a way to make it a bit more sustainable. I think it was great that Cate Blanchett wore thedress she wore to the Oscars a couple of years ago to the BAFTA Awards now again. I don’t know the numbers of the statistics on the fashion industry and the impact and stuff, but I think a lot of these brands are making that switch and getting focused on that. And I do think that is good and it absolutely makes sense.
Last month you’ve attended the BAFTA Awards, where Austin Butler and ‘Elvis’ were quite the winners. What is the most fascinating thing about attending such an Awards show?
It’s like the Oscars in England, it’s the biggest award show in my country. I wasn’t there for a movie, but I was very happy to be there and be part of that. It was great energy in that room. It was beautiful. People worked their butts off to make these films, it’s such hard work. I think people deserve to have their night with their industry and be celebrated, so it was just very cool to be there.
If you were the one deciding on the winners, who would have won in your eyes?
‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ actually won the most BAFTA Awards. It was the best film and it was insane. It was amazing. It is an anti-war film, which I think is very important all the time because we as humans constantly forget that war is terrible apparently. And with what’s going on right now in Ukraine, I don’t know how much of an impact a film can have, but maybe people who watch it will be like “Maybe we shouldn’t keep trying to raise tensions with other people”. You know, these things should be solved diplomatically. It’s ridiculous.
But, anyway. Who would’ve won as best actor? I haven’t seen the Colin Farrell film yet, so I can’t really speak about it. I thought Austin Butler was absolutely amazing. I thought he was great. It was a very difficult thing to do, playing Elvis Presley, because nobody looks like Elvis Presley. He doesn’t look like him in the film, but it doesn’t matter. He delivers a very honest and committed and brilliant performance and he moves like Elvis. So I think he was very deserving of the award. And we’ll see what happens at the Oscars.
talent ED WESTWICK @edwestwick
photographer KOSMAS PAVLOS @kosmaspavlos
stylist LAURENT DOMBROWICZ @laurentdombrowicz
make-up EMMA MILES @emmamakeupmiles @carenagency
hair KEIICHIRO HIRANO @khairstudio @thelondonstyleagency using ORIBE
photo assistants LUKE JOHNSON & GRANT HAMMILTON @lukejohnsonphotographic
digital imaging ALEXANDRA HEINDL @dienachbarin
fashion assistants: FANTIN LOUZIER & REZA ZHIANI @fantinheiberg @reta_zhiani
editor TIMOTEJ LETONJA @timiletonja
cover design ARTHUR ROELOFFZEN @arthurroeloffzen
thank you Sherwood Management @sherwood_mgmt_pr / EMILY SHERWOOD @emzsherwood