Words by Mr Freddie Campion
Mr Chace Crawford is in a rush. "He has an event to get to tonight," I'm told, as I arrive to interview him at the St Regis hotel, shortly after his MR PORTER shoot has wrapped. And he has "to be downtown in an hour to change".
With not much time, we head to the hotel bar, but find it packed with noisy foreign businessmen and cocktail-soaked bankers clocking off from work. I set about looking for a quiet spot for us to talk. And as I do, I see Mr Crawford, dressed down in a green windbreaker, sneakers and jeans, eye what looks like a private bar tucked around a corner. Two intimidating female staff members guard it, but as soon as he approaches, I watch as the air of standoffishness melts away and he is invited in. No questions asked.
It's all par for the course, I assume, when you're a heart-throb of Mr Crawford's standing. For more than five years he has played one of the male leads on Gossip Girl - the sometimes-outlandish drama about a group of sexed-up Upper East Side rich kids, and maybe the most visible relic of pre-recession New York excess still on TV today. After six seasons as one of TV's most talked-about shows, Gossip Girl is now coming to an end. And only a couple of days before we speak, Mr Crawford, who plays the much-lusted after Nate Archibald, was wrapping the final episode.
I want to do something really shocking. I know I'm capable of it
"It was a surreal experience," he says about his last scene with co-stars Ms Blake Lively, Mr Ed Westwick, Mr Penn Badgley and Ms Leighton Meester. "Like leaving college, just without a degree."
Now 27, Mr Crawford moved to New York from California to work on Gossip Girl. And while Archibald would be right at home sipping cocktails in a private bar at the St Regis, Mr Crawford is still noticeably out of his comfort zone. "Obviously, this is not my usual haunt," he says as he sits down.
That said, it doesn't stop him seizing the moment when a waiter walks in to take our order: "I'll have a dirty Martini, with Ketel," he says, in his commanding and naturally raspy Mr Dean Martin-esque drawl.
Born in Texas, Mr Crawford spent the first couple of years of his life moving around the central US while his father finished his training as a dermatologist. It's possibly why, today, he prefers the quiet of New York's financial district to the hustle and bustle uptown. "I was worried I wouldn't like it at first because it's too quiet," he says about the high-rise apartment he's lived in for the past three years. "But now I absolutely love it. You're isolated, and because you're high up you feel as if you're out of the city."
What To Expect When You're Expecting
Mr Crawford as Marco and Ms Anna Kendrick as Rosie in the 2012 comedy. ©2012 Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK. All Rights Reserved
From left: Mr Crawford as Archibald, Mr Ed Westwick as Chuck Bass and Mr Penn Badgley as Dan Humphrey in the sixth series
Mr Crawford as Tyler Simms in the 2006 supernatural thriller
As a teenager his family settled in Dallas, and he passed his time playing golf and football at the private Christian high school his parents enrolled him in. "We would play out in Odessa, where Friday Night Lights is kind of based," he says.
At 17 he moved to Malibu to study communications with the aim of becoming a broadcast journalist ("I did a little bit of hosting stuff in high school," he says, "so I already knew I had the voice for it") but he quickly lost interest and within a year was working as a parking valet in West Hollywood as he tried to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. "I'd done a little bit of modelling, and hated it," he says, "but then I met these agents who told me how much money I could make being in commercials and I was like, OK."
He describes his first acting job - a commercial for Time Warner Cable, which never aired - as "a bizarre concept, and a bizarre experience," but after a while his otherworldly good looks (what I'd describe as a real life Ken doll, with bed hair and two-day stubble) saw him landing dramatic roles too - notably, in the supernatural teen thriller The Covenant.
"It was a story of these four warlocks," he says, pausing to chuckle at how ridiculous the concept sounds when you say it out loud. "It was kind of like The Craft meets The Lost Boys meets a boy band... At least in Harry Potter their powers were more defined. Ours were kind of ambiguous."
I can't help but wonder if he'll soon be taking Gossip Girl with a similar pinch of salt. Even among its most die-hard fans the show has a reputation as something of a guilty pleasure, and when the final question of what he wants to do next comes up, Mr Crawford seems in two minds.
"Working. I just want to be working," he says, when I ask him where he sees himself in the next couple of years, although he then almost instantly follows it up with: "I want to do something really shocking. I know I'm capable of it. The right thing just has to come up."
His upcoming projects tell the same story. On one hand his first post-Gossip Girl film is going to be the commercial romantic comedy Responsible Adult, which also stars Ms Katie Holmes, and is a safe next step for someone who has spent the past half-decade as a teen idol. But on the other, there has also been serious speculation he's going to play sadistic businessmen Christian Grey in the film adaptation of the blockbuster erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. A risqué choice, but one that could do for him what American Psycho did for former child actor and now Oscar winner Mr Christian Bale.
"I'm a huge fan of that movie actually," Mr Crawford reveals, as our time winds up and he heads off to swap his green windbreaker for what I later see in the pictures from his event was a sleek, black three-piece suit. An intentionally Patrick Bateman-esque choice? Maybe.