Photographed by Charlie Gray | Styled by Kristen Ingersoll | Groomed by Kumi Craig | Produced by Cool Hunt Inc. | Special thanks to MADE Hotel in New York
Chace Crawford was the man in 2017. Emerging fresh from the pop culture hit Gossip Girl, Crawford had it all – fame, good looks and a seemingly bright future. But the promised rewards never came. Instead, he trudged through an endless desert.
Then The Boys came about. A satirical superhero series on Amazon Prime, the show was well-received by audiences and critics alike. Crawford plays The Deep, a superhero who engages in sexual assault – quite the modern anti-hero. With his career revived, Crawford himself is now recognised as an actor with a lot more range. It was fitting, then, that we met Chace Crawford in New York City, where it all started for him.
What do you think Gossip Girl meant in terms of the culture of the early 2000s?
The show was a little bit ahead of its time. It’s so funny because I remember Blake [Lively] getting the first iPhone when camera phones were still new. We didn’t have Instagram and now in The Boys, the actors get these mass emails that say, “Don’t publish this online until Monday 9am, publish this on Tuesday at 5pm, etc.” There’s a whole other side to the promotion. When Gossip Girl started, we used flip phones. It was a very interesting time.
What are your thoughts on the Gossip Girl reboot?
[laughs] It just makes me feel old. I got an email about it right before my birthday. It’s funny they’re already rebooting it. There are so many different streaming services nowadays. Our show was on a network, so you do 24 to 26 episodes per season and each episode had its own conflict and resolution. If you’re doing eight to 10 episodes, as I heard they would be doing on HBO Max, you can write with a different narrative style and have an ending in mind, like they do on Netflix and Amazon shows. It’s interesting, and I’m sure they can get away with edgier stuff these days.
How do you think you’ve changed from your days on the Gossip Girl set to now?
I feel like I’ve changed a lot. Men are late bloomers; I got to know myself better after turning 30. After the show ended, it took a while to process what happened and what we all went through. It was pretty wild for a little bit of time, but I realise I like living at a slightly slower pace. Overall, I’m smarter and more mature. Being in the public eye with that show will definitely make you do some self-examination.
Your career is experiencing a second wind, in a sense, with The Boys. What have you learnt from your experience with Gossip Girl that you plan to apply now to this series and anything after?
I’ve learnt to just let go and have fun with it. As an actor in your 20s, you can take yourself a little too seriously. Gossip Girl had a different process, and followed a formula from the cameras to the lighting. There was no room for improvisation and you had to say the lines as they were written. That’s the way it was and that’s fine. But on The Boys, they want us to own the characters.
There’s more input from the actors, more movement, and more hand-held camera work, which gives you a little more breathing room to try what you want. While watching The Boys I noticed that a lot of those crazy moments from the fourth or fifth take made it to the edit. So this year, my mantra is: “Always try something different.” Be spontaneous.
How did you manage to land the role?
It was different from Gossip Girl. With the latter, there was a round of auditions, then a test with the director, writers and producers, before another test for the network. There were seven different hoops to jump through.
With The Boys, I had just finished shooting an indie movie. It was the first week of December and usually everything is dead, as far as auditions go. Then this came to me and I called my agent, “Jamie, is this real or is it smarter going in after Christmas?” She said, “No, they need to cast this right away because they’re making these superhero suits.” I didn’t believe it but I thought, “Whatever, I’ll do it.”
There were a hundred names on the list and I was the last person. I remember that it was a Thursday and I was irritated because I had sat in the waiting room for more than an hour. That probably helped me, because I needed to have a little edge for the part. I felt really good after the audition.
The next day I got an email saying that they loved me and a couple days later they told me they wanted to do the test. And I said, “Great, when’s the next round, when am I going in?” My agent said, “You don’t need to, they’re just going to use that tape.”
That had never happened before. It was literally done within six days, which made it a nice Christmas present for me. Then Eric Kripke (creator of The Boys) called to send me all 12 of the comic books. Those were definitely not Christmas reading; I tucked them back in the closet so my mom wouldn’t find them, as they’re borderline pornographic. But it was such a special time getting that at the end of the year.