'Gossip Girl' spinoff moving forward

CW orders backdoor pilot for prequel

It's the biggest mystery on the CW's "Gossip Girl" this season: Not whether Lily and Rufus will find their love child but whether the show will launch a spinoff.

After months of, well, gossip, the show's creators/exec producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage are proceeding with a spinoff that will serve as a prequel to the sophomore drama and chronicle the wild teen years of Lily van der Woodsen (Kelly Rutherford) in Los Angeles in the 1980s.

The network has ordered a backdoor pilot for the project, which will air as a "Gossip" episode May 11. The 1980s world will be introduced in flashbacks tied to the episode's story line of Lily and her daughter Serena (Blake Lively) wrestling with a problem, Schwartz said. He would not add further details.

Written by Schwartz and Savage, the spinoff will center on young Lily Rhodes (her maiden name) who, after a falling out with her parents, is forced to move in with her sister, the black sheep of the Rhodes family. Overnight, Lily has to transition from a life of luxury and education at a wealthy Montecito boarding school to living deep in the San Fernando Valley she once made fun of and going to public school. Caught between two worlds, Lily dives into the fast-paced Sunset Strip and the Hollywood lifestyle of the '80s, journeying over the hill to a world of wealth and excess that used to be her own.

Eventually, she meets rocker Rufus Humphrey (played on "Gossip" by Matthew Settle) for a fling that will result in Lily's secret pregnancy, but "that wouldn't be for quite a while in the run of the show," Schwartz said.

While a potential spinoff had been rumored for six months, Schwartz and Savage began seriously contemplating a second "Gossip" series a couple of months ago, Savage said.

Unlike the original series, which is based on Alloy Entertainment's series of novels, the spinoff is based on an original idea by Schwartz and Savage, who will exec produce it with Bob Levy and Leslie Morgenstein. Mark Piznarski, who helmed the pilot for "Gossip," is on tap to direct the spinoff.

Casting has started for the pilot, produced by College Hill Pictures and Alloy in association with Warner Bros. TV and CBS Paramount TV, which will be shot on location in Los Angeles.

Instead of pulling a character from the Manhattan-based "Gossip" to anchor a spinoff, Schwartz and Savage settled on a prequel idea that is set in a different city and era.

"We didn't want to upset the chemistry of our cast -- all of whom are crucial to the show," Savage said. "Nor did we want to dilute New York City as a character."

By doing a prequel, if it goes to series, different versions of characters would co-exist on two shows.

"We also can introduce characters in the past and see them again in the present or vice versa," Schwartz said. "Each show can inform and enrich the other, deepen the universe."

As in the original series, fashion, pop culture and music will be central to the spinoff. And setting it in the '80s might broaden its appeal beyond the teen following for "Gossip."

"Teenagers would be fascinated by the '80s, and their parents would want to relive it," Schwartz said.

Schwartz and Savage are repped by Endeavor.