Ed Westwick plays Tybalt in Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes's upcoming Romeo and Juliet, which holds fast to the time period and romanticism of the Shakespeare classic. We caught up with the actor to talk about tackling The Bard's beloved play and the film's wise-beyond-her-years Juliet, Hailee Steinfeld. Westwick also reflected on why he left NYC in his rearview after Gossip Girl came to a close and how he's working to transcend Chuck Bass in the next chapter of his career. Romeo and Juliet hits theaters on Oct. 11.
POPSUGAR: Tybalt has always seemed to me to be maybe the most interesting character in Romeo and Juliet. What attracted you to this specific role?
Ed Westwick: Well, first of all, we share something there, because I agree. I was always intrigued with the character ever since I was young, and when I heard the project was coming around, I thought, 'I have to do this. I have to give it my governance.' So that was it. I wanted to go on my own journey with the character but try to be something different.
PS: There's sword fighting required for this part, of course, so that had to have been a fun element to pursue. Did you have any related experience beforehand?
EW: No, I didn't. We worked with [an expert] in Italy — he was brilliant — and that sort of scene choreography, it was so much fun. I really enjoyed watching it in the film. I think it came off really well.
PS: What has life after Gossip Girl given you in terms of freedom to pursue different things in your life and your career? A TV show schedule is so grueling.
EW: Yeah, I mean especially with the character that I played. I suppose for a lot of people, they think of me being that role, and I think one of the challenges is to show people I'm not a one-trick pony. I'm an actor, and that was one character that I designed, and what I want to do now is expand on that and be involved in different projects that I'm passionate about and that I can be inspired by and work with people who are inspiring in themselves. Just enjoy the different things that are out there, hopefully.
PS: And have you stayed in New York, or did you decide to leave once that chapter was done?
EW: I decided to leave. I felt like I experienced New York in a very specific way, and I was ready for a fresh break and a change elsewhere.
For more from our conversation with Westwick, just read on.