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The Genius of Gossip Girl

Chace Crawford and Ed Westwick in Soho.   

"I live in the downtown region," she said.

Like Soho?

"Gee … I don’t know … " She smiled.

Leighton, on the other hand, has a mouth as big as her Bette Davis eyes. She willingly shares (okay, overshares), even pointing out the exact building where she lives (we promised not to set up a tent on the stoop, at least not before summer). Her friends say she talks like a sailor, which is evident on the Gossip Girl blooper reel: After finding out her character was not pregnant after a close call, she ad-libbed to her lover, "If I were you, I would have rode me a little harder."

"I don’t know what’s wrong with me!" she told us, hacking into a dad-size veal chop at the Flatiron-district restaurant Lunetta. "I need, like, an edit."

Leighton will even talk about a subject most starlets consider taboo: boys. She’s loosely entangled with Sebastian Stan, who plays scruffy trust-fund hippie Carter Baizen on the show. They were introduced by Chace, who became best friends with Sebastian in 2006’s forgettable supernatural thriller The Covenant. Leighton and Sebastian were snapped kissing outside of a Halloween party in October, and now he might move in with Chace and Ed. For a girl who claims that she never has a good time on dates, she seems a little smitten. "We still hang out," she says coyly. "He reminds me of Ray Liotta." (She’s obsessed with GoodFellas.)

Lest anyone think, after all this dishing, that Leighton is our new BFF, it must be noted that the actress can easily slip back into her role as the Queen of Mean. The first time we met her, at a party at Barneys for Donatella Versace, we nervously approached her and introduced ourselves. At a loss for what to say in the presence of Her Leightness, we complimented her on her dress and asked her what it was.

"Versace," she hissed. "Duh."

We learned, in that moment, that it is indeed possible to be both appalled and in love at the same time. And that’s exactly how we feel about her character: She’s bitchy, to be sure, but with wicked comedic timing and a vulnerability that makes you understand how she got so screwed up. Her villain-you-want-to-root-for is the most sophisticated performance on the show.

Coverage of Leighton in the gossip columns has focused on one thing: her relationship with Blake. Blind item! "Which rival young actresses on the same hit show are forced to pose together at PR events, even though they hate each other?" wrote the Daily News. "One resents the other for having knocked her off her ‘star of the show’ pedestal."

Both girls are quick to deny rumors of animosity. "I was just reading something about, like, how Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson didn’t get along [on the set of The Other Boleyn Girl]," says Leighton. "Why don’t they say that George Clooney and Brad Pitt don’t get along? It’s always the girls."

Blake does give off a "star of the show" vibe that could inspire pedestal-knocking. Sitting in a swivel chair in the makeup room at Silvercup Studios, as her hairstylist carefully curls, then straightens, her superabundant blonde extensions, Blake is extremely cheerful, but a little edgy. We are informed that photographs are not allowed until she’s in full makeup, despite the fact that she looks great pretty much all the time. "We’ll let you know when we’re ready," she trills. ("Blake," we had heard a production assistant saying earlier, "is not laid-back.")

While we wait, she talks about her career. "The people I look up to do very serious character roles," she says to the makeup-room mirror. Currently, she’s signed on for a Rebecca Miller–directed ensemble film with Robin Wright Penn. "It’s a really incredible cast," she says. Plus, she has a kissing scene with Alan Arkin.

"He’s a little bit of an upgrade from Chace and Penn," she says. "So I’m looking forward to that."

Harsh, considering that Penn is supposed to be her real-life boyfriend, but Blake doesn’t want to talk about that.

"I thought this was New York Magazine," she says to us cheerfully, as we withered under the glare of her ultrabright smile. (Caps? Definitely.) "I thought you were supposed to be classy."

Guess the question about the nose job is off the table.

Reason No. 5 Because there may really be a Gossip Girl.

To our delight, a couple of weeks after the male half of us met with Leighton at Lunetta, an item appeared in "Page Six" about her having an intimate dinner there with a "hot male companion." How flattering! And how exciting to be part of the real-life gossip that surrounds our favorite show. It would have been the highlight of our month, had we not known that a publicist for the show placed the item, as a favor to the restaurant and as a teaser for the soon-to-return-to-air Gossip Girl. But readers of "Page Six" didn’t know that—all they knew was that Leighton Meester may have been on a date (and that she ate a more masculine meal than her companion—never should have ordered the calamari!).