Don't worry if you tune your television to the CW network tonight and you see upper class young people wearing the best clothes, sipping the most expensive champagne and exhibiting more than a little over-the-top drama. But, you may ask, where are "Gossip Girl" staples Serena or Blair or Chuck Bass? They won't be found on the new reality series "High Society" even if the New York worlds they exist in are shockingly similar. Real life socialite Tinsley Mortimer is the centerpiece of "High Society" and in this series cameras follow her and her group of friends around their life of club hopping, shopping trips and, of course, more than a few explosive feuds. To find out how producers went about filming the upper echelon world that Mortimer exists in as well as reigning in the troublemakers on the series and how Mortimer's mother, Dale Mercer, could end up upstaging everyone, our Jim Halterman talked with Mortimer and Executive Producer/Creator Andrew Glassman last week.
Jim Halterman: How did Tinsley and the rest of the cast come to you, Andrew?
Andrew Glassman: A colleague of mine mentioned Tinsley to me that he had reached out to her and it just happened to be on a day when I had been over at the CW and they were talking about the desire to break into this docu-soap world in a way that was upscale, set in an exclusive world with wild characters and great stories. It was like the two things came together.
JH: So when you hear that 'High Society' is a real-life 'Gossip Girl' is that an insult or a compliment?
AG: It's certainly not an insult by any stretch of the imagination. I think that I read an article that said 'Gossip Girl' meets 'Sex and the City' and we can only hope to have that type of success. I thought it was a great compliment. That was our appeal when we brought Tinsley Mortimer in to the CW right from the start. This is a person who is really living in that world and can get us that kind of access and these kinds of stories.
Tinsley Mortimer: I was on 'Gossip Girl' a couple times playing myself and that was so flattering. 'Gossip Girl' is about New York and that world and this is a real version of it. We're not in high school but we're a little bit older than 'Gossip Girl' and what happens after school.
JH: Was the filming of the show what you expected it would be, Tinsley, considering you were going through your divorce at the time?
TM: It definitely wasn't what I expected but I have been around cameras a little bit and I was comfortable with it but certainly when you're put in this environment and the cameras are there all the time and you're tight-scheduled with every hour filming something else... it was definitely a lot. It was almost like a therapy session because there was this traumatic part going on in your life and you kind of look at your life from this outsider's point of view. It was an intense situation where I felt it really helped me grow. I learned a lot about myself. I feel so much stronger now. I feel that it was a really positive experience.
JH: Tinsley's mother is such a character! Was she always going to be part of the show?
AG: You know what? Dale Mercer is going to be the quiet breakout star of the series. She's a wildly entertaining person. She's really fun to be around and she's incredible comic relief.
JH: Obviously she loves her daughter but she also seems to be up for doing anything to get her way in her daughter's life.
AG: All those things, absolutely, but the other ingredient you need to be successful in this field [of reality television] is you need to have no filter and she definitely falls into that category.
TM: She's certainly like one of those 'Gossip Girl' mothers. And she also had an amazing time with the cameras. She's never been around a camera and you never know how they're going to be if they haven't been in that environment. I was shocked. The moment that cameras were on her she was... she had a blast. I was proud of her but I was also upset with her at the same time because we'd have some battling issues going on and she wasn't happy with me at the time.
JH: So what are you going to do when your mother becomes this big TV star?
TM: Isn't that funny? Well, if that happened I would be so happy for her. She just made the most out of every single moment and she just blossomed when that camera came on her. The truth is that my Mom and I are so close; we're best friends and that's why it was so hard during that time. It was hard when I felt like I'd always her support but then I didn't at that time so it was very difficult because she's my best friend. I adore my Mom.
JH: How did everyone else come on board with the show, Andrew?
AG: It's a pretty small network of people who go from party to party, opening to opening, red carpet to red carpet and we reached out and had a terrific response of people saying they would love to be a part of it. By the way, I think it's a good mix of characters, too. Tinsley is going through some problems that are real and emotional and turbulent and then there are other people whose lives are completely carefree to an extreme.
JH: Some of the others on the show - Paul and Jules come to mind - have a lot of drama but how do you not get pulled in, Tinsley?
TM: Well, some of the stuff that you've seen I wasn't there when they were filming. When I am around them, it's not my style to throw drinks and that's not who I am. If that's what somebody else wants to do to take care of a situation then that's up to them. I handle those things differently and I always have. When I go out, I do represent and work for companies and I would never want to jeopardize them or myself. I'm not really confrontational, I don't gossip so much but they are also fun people to be around.
JH: As a producer, how do you get your head around the fact that some of these people on the show may not have redeeming qualities? Or do they?
AG: Well, I think that there are definitely likable moments for every one within the body of the series... let me back up... almost every one. I think you definitely find yourself rooting for Tinsley to get her bearings and to find happiness. The characters that you mentioned, you might not want them as a personal friend and you might not agree with anything that they have to say and I would definitely put Jules in that category but Paul, in particular, winds up being very entertaining and I think as you watch him you'll see him admit that it really comes from a place of vulnerability and not just being unlikable.
JH: Overall, what do you hope people take from watching 'High Society?'
TM: I hope that people enjoy it and find it entertaining and they can see that this is a world that definitely glamorous with the fashion side and New York City is an amazing place and we are in a very privileged place and it's an amazing life but it's not so perfect and nobody is so perfect and I know a lot of people think that it's something that I cling to and that I shop a lot and lunch a lot and that I don't work hard and that's not true. There's also real-life drama and hardship and it's not as perfect as it seems.
AG: This is not a show that is producer driven and people are acting out producer/scripted storylines. We went in the opposite direction with this one. We just let the cameras roll and go along for the ride so what you're watching are people who are living out loud, real moments of spontaneity and we put it all in there, the good, the bad and the ugly and I just as soon let the viewers decide.
Viewers can decide tonight when "High Society" airs at 9:30/8:30c. The series will air at the same time on March 17 before moving into its regular slot of Wednesdays at 9:00/8:00c on March 24.