The insults are thrown at Leighton Meester fast and furious -- "tart," "tramp," "floozy." Well, OK, not at Meester, but at her character, "Curley's Wife." She's the only woman onstage, among a mess of ranch hands, in John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" -- and is so mistreated and misunderstood we never even learn her first name.
That play, based on Steinbeck's novella, opens at the Longacre Theatre Wednesday, starring James Franco and Chris O'Dowd as a drifter and his dull-witted pal who cross paths with this "purdy" woman who's also (they fear) purdy dangerous.
Meester, 28, making her Broadway debut, is best known for The CW's teen drama "Gossip Girl." She'll soon be seen in the upcoming feature films "Life Partners" (with Gillian Jacobs), "The Judge" (Robert Downey Jr.) and Frank Whaley's "Like Sunday, Like Rain."
Meester and "The O.C.'s" Adam Brody stunned fans when they were secretly married in February. The newlywed sat down with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio.
Congratulations on your wedding, and your debut -- 2014 is quite a year for you.
Yeah, thanks, thanks so much.
I have to confess -- I remember reading this in school and finding it soooo dull . . .
But the story really comes to life onstage. Like Shakespeare.
I read it maybe in seventh grade, and I've always had such an affinity for the story. We were doing a line-through earlier, where we speed-read our lines -- it's kinda fun -- and I'm baffled at how someone can write like this. I know that's what people always say about theater. "Ohhh, you discover new things about the play every dayyyy." Well, I don't know if that's true for all plays, because this is really my first time -- but every line here has meaning and emotion and . . . it's so cool.
What's it like being the only woman in the room? Well . . . almost.
Yeah, our director is a woman.
There's a lot of testosterone onstage.
But we have a lot of feminine energy, with our stage managers and people backstage. And the guys are ranch hands and hardened -- but they're also actors, so they've been super-kind and supportive. I never feel like the odd man out. Although that's the point -- I'm the only woman.
You're also the one everybody dislikes. Every time you enter, there's such hostility toward you.
It's part of life as most women know it. We may not be told every time we come in a room filled with men, "Get out of here," but . . . that kind of prejudice is still very alive today.
What's it like working with James Franco?
It's no surprise that anyone so intelligent is so funny. He's very funny. He finds a lot of funny moments that really make the character more human.
And Chris O'Dowd? It's wild to hear his real voice after the show -- with the Irish accent.
We did a big table read in Chicago when we all met for the first time. And I wondered "what is he gonna do with his voice?" When you do a table read in a movie, you don't really act it out -- you go through it so you can hear what works. You put some feeling into it. But you don't go all out. Well . . . from day one, he had the voice, the register, he had it all.
You have some cool movies coming out this year, too.
Yeah, all at once.
So . . . tell: Robert Downey Jr., in "The Judge," about a lawyer whose estranged dad may be a murderer . . . due out this fall. One of my favorite actors of all time.
That -- ohmygod!
He's one of those people, too -- he's sooo funny. So quick and full of life. And so gentle and supportive and kind. I think it's gonna be . . . really . . . the best.
And "Life Partners" is at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Gillian Jacobs and I are two best friends. I play Sasha, who happens to be a lesbian. It's great -- they don't wallow in that. It's written and directed by women, starring women, tons of women on set. . . .
But then that pesky dude, Adam Brody, comes in and upsets the balance.
Yeah, that pesky guy. It's about finding each other, and how it kinda hurts to change and grow . . . for the better, even. It was the best. We basically got to say whatever came to our minds. There was a lot of improv.
Must've been fun working with Adam.
Yeah. That came along just by chance. I was like, "I'm gonna be playing the person you're not dating." [she laughs] "That OK? I'm gonna be playing the opposite of that." And yeah, I'm biased -- but he's incredible in it.