After starring as Chuck Bass on Gossip Girl for six years, Ed Westwick is no stranger to playing a bad boy. But the British actor's stint as one of TV's most manipulative Upper East Siders looks like child's play compared to his latest role in Wicked City. Westwick portrays fictional Los Angeles serial killer Kent Grainger in the new drama, which premieres tomorrow night at 10 p.m. EST on ABC. While eluding the detectives who are trying to hunt him down, Westwick's character falls for Betty Beaumontaine, played by Erika Christensen—and the two strike up a dangerous relationship.
It's not the first time that Westwick's played half of a scheming onscreen couple, but don't expect Wicked City's love story to be Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf 2.0. In fact, Westwick warns that his latest role is nothing like the lovable yet sinister character that he became famous for playing on Gossip Girl. "They are completely different, and I think people will see that," Bass told InStyle when we recently caught up with the star over the phone. "They have different motivations, and they carry themselves differently."
So even though Chuck Bass had a dark side—and it often got the best of him—it's impossible to compare him to creepy Kent Grainger in any way, according to Westwick. "On Gossip Girl, Chuck was a young boy who was trying to figure out his early manhood," said Westwick. "But this guy is completely different. He is driven by totally different reasons and aversions, so I draw zero comparison."
And that goes for Wicked City as a whole. "It's very different from Gossip Girl, and from anything else that I have done," said Westwick. The shows may be nothing alike, but he still encourages GG fans to tune in tomorrow night. Why? "To figure out if they've got a dark side," said Westwick.
Scroll down for the rest of our conversation.
What first drew you to this role in Wicked City?
"The script was a page-turner from the get-go. I was quite shocked and kept on edge when I was reading it, and the Sunset Strip was such a cool place in 1982. I was enamored by the whole mood, time, and atmosphere—especially because I'm a fan of that year in music."
The Sunset Strip plays a huge role in the show. Would you say that it takes on a character of its own, the way New York City did in Gossip Girl?
"Absolutely. A lot of our story takes place in landmarks and venues that most people who know the Strip have heard of. And the music is also a big character in this world."
You and Erika Christensen play a killer couple—literally. What has it been like to work together so far?
"She's an absolute charm—and we seem to have a good vibe! I hope it all works out for our characters, Kent and Betty. We’re kind of the Romeo and Juliet of serial killers—and there's a little bit of Bonnie-and-Clyde in that for sure."
How did you prep for such an intense role?
"I went out and killed everybody [laughs]. I'm joking. I researched the people we’ve heard about, so the Ted Bundys of this world, if you will. Bundy was a great reference for me because he had the ability to charm and control and manipulate even the most intelligent people—he represented himself in court. So I had things like that to pick on."
How did you get into character?
"My guy is a bit of a chameleon, so he adopts a different persona depending on who he is talking to, dealing with, or trying to kill. That can be anything from changing his voice to adopting a totally different kind of image and look. We show all sorts of trends from different places in that era—not just people in the Sunset Strip. The rock 'n roll thing very present, but we play around with different looks. And there's lots of big hair!"
Was it hard to film such gory killing scenes?
"The extent of my gore stuff has been getting sprayed with [fake] blood packets that were packed inside watermelons. It goes all over my face, and then I get to enjoy trying to get the stain off. I have become a bit of a professional at stabbing a watermelon—it's been a fun and interesting experience."
What else can we expect to see in season one?
"Sex, drugs, vice, and dark fantasies. It's adventurous, and it is going to be a hell of a ride."
Watch the trailer for Wicked City below, and catch new episodes on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST on ABC.