Savannah Lee Smith takes her big break
On a normal sunny summer day in New York City, you’ll likely find Savannah Lee Smith in class at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts or attending a matinee on Broadway. But today, she’s in a Brooklyn loft, dressed from head to toe in Salvatore Ferragamo and facing a photographer. This is life when you’ve landed a role in the highly anticipated Gossip Girl reboot, the new show airing July 8 on HBO Max.
“My world was the theater,” Smith says, while pausing from the set to munch on tortellini and sink into a couch. “I thought my break would be at the theater because it’s my home. Then I started getting all these film and TV auditions, and that’s where it took me.
Smith, who is now 20, grew up as an only child in Los Angeles. By the age of nine, she had already planned where she wanted to go to college – NYU, an aspiration she doubled down on in high school. “I knew I didn’t want to be in LA because I was bored,” she says. “LA bothers me.” When she finally arrived in New York City in 2018 as a freshman, she wasn’t disappointed. “It was overwhelming, but in the best possible way. It was so loud at night, and for some reason I was okay with it. Garbage trucks were my wake-up call, and I romanticized it endlessly. I loved waking up with the morning trash in New York City, ”she laughs.
After a brief stint studying music, Smith changed his major to theater. “I realized I was paying for things my family could teach me,” she recalls. Smith’s mother, singer and songwriter, began teaching him at only three years old, and she fondly remembers visits with her grandfather where “he would drop me on his keyboard.” Smith’s father is a writer and film producer, so she naturally turned to the arts. Before Broadway fell due to the pandemic, Smith could often be found in the audience at a play. “I literally ate ramen every night because the money I made from my little work in the [NYU] library, I spent it all to go to shows!
After catching the attention of the talent agent, the auditions were quick, as were the disappointments. “I almost got this role for [another show] and I was so excited. Then it fell apart at the last minute. One of the casting directors of [the studio] looked at me, and she said: “If it isn’t this one, it will be the next one”, and the next one was Gossip Girl.“
After auditioning for almost every female role in the reboot, Smith was cast to play Monet de Haan.. A student of the famous Constance Billard on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the same school attended by Gossip GirlThe original team of privileged and scandalized teenagers – Smith describes Monet as very rich and very powerful. “When she walks into a room, everyone separates. And she doesn’t have to check if they do, because she knows they will.
Although Smith caught a few Gossip Girl reruns when the show first aired, it wasn’t until her final year of high school that she watched the series from start to finish, quickly identifying with aspects of the story that reflected his own life. “I went to a private Catholic school for girls in Los Angeles [and] I came out like a sore thumb, ”Smith says, noting that she was one of the few black female students. “I totally understand the click of Constance [and] understand the mean girl part, because my high school had mean girls.
Fortunately, there are no such issues with his co-stars. “We all become really friends,” says Smith, adding that she has become particularly close to Zión Moreno, who plays her character’s onscreen pal Luna La. The two are in almost every scene together, sometimes filming until the early hours of the morning. hours. “We were talking about it the other day, like, what if we don’t love each other?” You don’t want to be with people you don’t like at four in the morning, ”she laughs.
Like the original cast before them, Smith, Moreno and the other stars of the current show – Jordan Alexander, Eli Brown, Thomas Doherty, Evan Mock, Emily Alyn Lind and Whitney Peak – go bold with their fashion choices, in looks created by homecoming costume designer Eric Daman.
“I think I really developed my fashion sense from that experience,” says Smith. “I discovered that I like to stand out… I want people to look at me when I walk down the street. It seems vain, and I am a Lion [laughs], but it’s not from this place. I spent so much time in high school wanting to fit in and be like everyone else. I wanted to look like all blonde white girls with blue eyes. And now I’m like I just wanna pop out like a sore thumb like I did. Let’s do it on purpose. Fashion is like that for me. I find it expressive.
During the day’s shoot, she definitely stands out, dressed in luxe nappa leather, strappy heeled sandals and timeless shoulder bags from Ferragamo’s Gancini accessory collections. With each look, Smith effortlessly personifies this enigmatic combination of art and beauty, themes rooted at the heart of the house’s inspired designs. “I’ve never worn a Ferragamo, so this is a first for me,” said Smith, inspecting a clothes rack and a shoe assembly underneath. “To me, Ferragamo represents mighty beauty,” she adds. “It’s solid but still has smooth, clean lines. If I saw someone walk into a room with the things I’m wearing today, I would be intimidated in the best possible way.
Whether Smith is here as the star of an upcoming TV series instead of being on summer vacation as a college student is still a reality she leans towards. “There’s this tape on Melrose that’s dedicated to the billboards for new shows,” she says. “Every day when I drove to school, every day when I went somewhere, I passed it. I saw the shows and all the stars. A friend of mine from high school sent me a picture, and I’m on that particular street. Oh my god I started to cry.
There might be more tears as the world watches the first season. “I think I can’t wait for my family to see me do what I love,” says Smith. I never thought it would happen so quickly, or even at all. I have a lot of artists in my family who jostle each other and try to be successful. It’s just cool that they are proud of me and see me doing what I love to do.
All Salvatore Ferragamo ready-to-wear and accessories; styling by Barbara Vales; hair by Ursula Stephen; makeup by Keita Moore; artistic direction by Mandi Hayes; location provided by Friends of Form.
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