Chace Crawford - The gossip boy putting his past behind him
He's breezed through life as a teen idol. But can Chace Crawford hit the big time? Kaleem Aftab meets him
We can only imagine the shenanigans that Texan Chace Crawford and Hammersmith-born Brit actor Ed Westwick, both stars of Gossip Girl, used to get up to when they shared an apartment in New York.
Crawford jokes: "I even gave him some good tips on how to pick up British girls! We lived together for the first couple of years of Gossip Girl, when we had no money before the show became successful." The profile of the actors skyrocketed as Gossip Girl became the must-watch show for the young and impressionable. Crawford had the prime part. The only one of the main male protagonists to have on-screen trysts with all the leading ladies, he fast became the pin-up boy of the Manhattan-set show.
With the fifth season of the show having just wrapped, 26-year-old Crawford has reached that difficult transitional moment where he needs to prove that there is more to him as an actor than playing rich, preppy lothario Nate Archibald.
No one need tell Crawford how difficult the move from television to silver screen will be. In 2010, the Dallas-born star played drug dealer White Mike in Joel Schumacher's Twelve. What seemed at the outset like the perfect project for any young actor, appearing as the edgy protagonist in the adaptation of the hit novel by Nick McDonell, by the director of The Lost Boys and Falling Down, and starring Keifer Sutherland and Emma Roberts, could not have ended up being any more of a disaster. After its abysmal Sundance premiere, American film critic Elvis Mitchell captured the general mood when he lamented, "every generation needs its Valley of the Dolls." Twelve barely caused a ripple.
While it's fine to have a blemish on the CV when appearing in a popular TV show, the stakes have become infinitely higher this time around, with Gossip Girl soon to disappear from our screens. The final show will be a moment of mixed emotions: "We're waiting to hear how many episodes we have to shoot for the final series. It will probably film at the end of this year. It has always felt so far away, and now it's going to be bittersweet to leave working with the family."
It's been clear for some time that Gossip Girl has lost some of its allure, and cast members such as Blake Lively have already seemingly moved onto bigger things. The show seems to be going through the motions somewhat as the clock winds down on contracts. Crawford puts a polite spin on it, stating, "I think everyone is kind of, not sick of each other, but wants to challenge themselves with another thing".
So once the camera rolls for the last time on the TV show, the actor will move his belongings from his New York apartment to Hollywood. "I want to make a run at film. Gossip Girl has been break and has definitely opened a ton of doors. This way I don't have to fly back and forth, logistically its easier to do it this way and it's where the business is."
With so much riding on his move into the multiplex it's perhaps no surprise that Crawford has seemingly taken the safe option of doing a romantic comedy. The actor tells me that there is no big career plan, but he does indicate that the lack of exposure that Twelve received has definitely played into his decision to appear in Kirk Jones's film: "Really, [choosing What to Expect When You're Expecting] I just wanted to work in my hiatus last summer, there is no big strategy. All you want is for people to see the movies and see what you are in. I heard Anna [Kendrick] was doing it and I thought that would be something cool and we could make the storyline real."
To be fair, What to Expect When You're Expecting does at least try to be a tiny bit different. It's a portmanteau project in the style of New Year's Day and Valentine's Day in which different tales of love are played out, and the stories loosely intertwine. Here the link is not as simple as a day of the year, but, as the forgettable tongue-twisting title suggests, revolves around a series of women who get pregnant.
Crawford plays a funfair food-vendor who hooks up with a rival food-stall owner played by Up in the Air star Anna Kendrick: they've known each other since high school, but their lives change dramatically when she gets pregnant after a one-night stand. Their relationship seems to be blossoming until she has a miscarriage.
"I have a friend whose wife had a miscarriage so I talked to him about that," says the actor. "That kind of blindsides you as much as getting pregnant. But I didn't do much other preparation, as the role is about not knowing what to do when someone gets pregnant." It's easy to like the laid-back Crawford and his seeming happy-go-lucky attitude. He chats about how he and the rest of the Gossip Girl stars would do karaoke to blow off steam. "Oh my favourite song to sing, I like anyone from Cure to Guns N' Roses, maybe a little Pearl Jam. We rent a room with all of our friends and the sad part is that we'd actually try to do good."
There is a competitive streak in everything he does. "I like to cycle up the West Side Highway in New York, make it competitive. Something people don't know about me is that I have a competitive bone in my body. Even if it's playing pool, darts, or something simple like that, board games or cards. I used to play football, and now play golf. Playing golf I don't get into real fights, but even with your friend you can kind of put it on hold and get serious, I've got into a couple of discrepancies on the golf course, we are playing for 20 bucks or something and something happens and there is a discrepancy, I'll stand my own about it, I want to win."
This adds to the growing sense that Crawford likes nothing more than being one of the guys. His favourite memory from the set of the film was the day that his schedule crossed over with a group of comedians, headed by Chris Rock, who hang out in Central Park playing dads whose lives have been changed by the arrival of babies.
"We had the best dinner and we were trying to top each other with jokes. I tried to throw in a couple of things. I can be funny if I try." It's interesting how things can go from jovial to on-edge even in our conversation. Things soon start to go awry once I mention the darkest moment from the actor's nascent career.
In June 2010, he was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana. There was one joint in the car he was driving and the actor made a statement saying he was in a wrong place at the wrong time. In a plea bargain he agreed to do community service and the charges would be wiped from his record should there be no recurrence.
When I ask if the arrest has affected his career,Crawford plays a straight bat and replies "Not really." We had already moved onto other things when the manager returns with a publicist in tow and the interview is curtailed.
'What to Expect When You're Expecting' is out on 25 May
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