By EW Staff
Updated August 18, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
KC Bailey

9-10 PM · The CW · Debuts Sept. 19

You want some juicy gossip? Okay, here goes. It’s one of the hottest days of July, but a soundstage in Queens could not be icier. Why? Because actress Leighton Meester has just dubbed her costar Blake Lively a ”whore” and a ”liar.” (OMG multiplied by infinity!!!)

Well…kinda. You see, Meester is actually in character as uppity teen Blair Waldorf, irate upon learning that Lively’s character, former BFF Serena Van Der Woodsen, has slept with her boyfriend. Still, Meester must feel a little bad for yelling such hurtful things while portraying her bitchy alter ego, right? ”I actually really like it,” says the 21-year-old, flashing a playful smile. ”I shouldn’t enjoy it so much.”

This is the world of Gossip Girl, The CW’s adaptation of the popular novel series by Cecily von Ziegesar. (Eleven books have been published so far, with a prequel planned for October.) Set on New York’s tony Upper East Side, Girl is a soapy melodrama — complete with blogger narrator, voiced by Veronica Mars‘ Kristen Bell — that focuses on teens who have never heard of terms like ”credit limit.” Social battle lines are drawn when former queen bee Serena returns to Manhattan after leaving abruptly (and mysteriously) for boarding school the previous year. Her arrival opens old wounds and creates new rivalries, particularly when it comes to frenemy Blair, who had usurped Serena’s throne. ”She’s not caught up so much in the superficial anymore,” says Lively, 19, lounging in Blair’s bed while on a break. ”She’s really trying to find her inner self.”

If cries of ”Welcome to Park Avenue, bitch!” are ringing in your head, you’re not alone, and The CW certainly didn’t shy away from The O.C. comparisons by signing its creator Josh Schwartz to develop the series. ”I really loved the idea of a show about young people in New York,” says Schwartz. ”It’s the most exciting city in the world. It’s the most exciting time in your life. The stakes all of a sudden became so much higher than even in Orange County.”

Gossip Girl also distinguishes itself through a much more biting and edgy tone. Like many of the tabloids’ favorite socialites, the young ‘uns of Gossip Girl indulge in their fair share of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. However, the producers are well aware of pushing the limit too far, especially after some critics raised concerns about the plethora of adult material appearing in a show aimed at teenagers. ”We really do take [criticism] to heart because we’re all kind people who love children and would never want to promote something that would be negative,” says exec producer Stephanie Savage (another O.C. alum). An even more pressing concern for the cast and crew is to do the books and their fervent fans justice. ”The books are what they are,” says Penn Badgley (The Bedford Diaries), who plays Serena’s hipster love interest Dan Humphrey. ”They’re not Shakespeare. The kind of entertainment that they provide, the show will provide. I think that’s all that the fans can ask for.” —Tim Stack