McHale is the king of snark, which made him the perfect choice for prickly, self-obsessed Jeff Winger. But here's the surprise: As Jeff continued to…

When Leighton Meester signed on to the BFF dramedy Life Partners, she never imagined she’d try something Blair Waldorf would never even consider: going off script.

“What you see is mostly improvised,” explains Meester, who stars as underachieving lesbian Sasha in the film directed by Susanna Fogel and written by Joni Lefkowitz. “I hadn’t had a lot of experience with free-for-all improvisation, but I felt that trying new things was really fun and helped make me feel more connected to the character. She [Sasha] is flawed, and that’s what I related to most.”

As Sasha, Meester wears frumpy clothes, curses like a sailor, drinks red wine straight out of the bottle, goes on a fair amount of really (really) bad dates, and has back-burner dreams of becoming a song writer while she works a low-level assistant job. She’s also completely co-dependent on her hetero BFF Paige (Gillian Jacobs), with whom she happily spends most of her time watching The Bachelor and eating sheet cake straight from the pan. But it wouldn’t be a comedy unless things went south, and they do: when Paige meets and gets serious with quirky dermatologist Tim (Meester’s real-life husband Adam Brody), Sasha feels left behind. This premise of growing up and keeping old friendships is one that rang true for Meester.

“I’ve felt those feelings of being fearful of change and having a lot invested in your friendships,” notes Meester. “This felt a lot like real life.”

Keeping things genuine was true for her off-camera relationship with Jacobs as well. “We both have a similar sense of humor, which really worked out,” says Meester of her co-star in the film, which premieres at Tribeca on April 18. “And the willingness to do embarrassing things or geek out with each other, I think, was major for me and probably for her too.”

That professed willingness to “geek out” is a far cry from Park Avenue princess Blair Waldorf, whom Meester played on teen drama Gossip Girl for six seasons. But it’s a welcome change – and part of a growing number of indie films that Meester has done since the show ended in 2012.

“I’ve been making my way away from my show that I was on for a really long time, doing things that stay away from the textbook way of having a career,” says Meester, whose film premiere at Tribeca coincides with her debut in Of Mice and Men on Broadway. “The best part about it is that I can have fun and experience different roles, sometimes uncomfortably so. I’m not ever some sort of bikini-clad girl in a superhero movie or a damsel in distress.”

In fact, the 28-year-old says, consider Life Partners the type of project fans can expect going forward.

“I see very few female roles that come my way that are strong, defined, or independent of male storylines,” says Meester. “This movie is about women and their friendship, lives, and careers – things that interest them other than dating, guys, love, and sex. My character is the type that speaks to all kinds of women and is characteristic of what I hope to keep doing.”

Take a look at an exclusive clip of Life Partners below.

Episode Recaps

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