A year ago at a party, I spotted a stunning woman in a tight-fitting red dress who seemed eerily familiar. I stood by the punch bowl for at least five minutes trying to place her. And then it hit me. “Wait, isn’t that Dorota from ‘Gossip Girl‘? Only in a cocktail dress rather than an apron?” And it was in fact Zuzanna Szadkowski, who plays everyone’s favorite Upper East Side housekeeper. After the jump, Zuzanna dishes on her co-stars and tells us why her character has become one of the highlights of “Gossip Girl.”
You studied acting at Harvard’s American Repertory Theater. Did you ever think you’d be on a teen television show?
No. I’ve been in theater my whole life. In graduate school, I did a lot of Chekhov and Shakespeare and I expected I’d have a very boring theater career. But auditioning professionally, I ended up with a bent more and more to television. With this part, I knew right away it was a big gift. But I had no idea Dorota would turn into a popular character and that I’d have the work that I do today. It’s all been a lucky ride. I had no idea which way it was going.
When you first auditioned for Dorota, were there lines?
There were not really any lines to start with. The relationship was definitely set up from the beginning—the relationship in which Blair’s mom was absent and her housekeeper had her ear and was there for her. But you get more and more of Dorota unraveling over time. In the beginning there were very small glimpses, so I feel really lucky to have seen the part grow.
Why do you think Dorota has become such a popular character on the show? What about her speaks to people?
A lot of people love Blair, and Dorota is all about things Miss Blair. That’s why she captures the hearts of the fans. In my mind, she’s really really funny. And generous and compassionate and she has a sharp take on things. She has a quick wit and advice to give. In that way, everyone has a Dorota. Sometimes I need one. Also, in that universe of the Upper East Side, she’s an outsider, or at least a different type of personality than we see in the rest of the stories, so she provides a different take on the action.
What has been your favorite episode or scene to film so far?
Obviously, I love the Dorota and Vanya wedding. For me it was such a thrill—such a huge happening in Dorota’s life, and being able to be in her shoes and wear this beautiful dress and have this huge ceremony all about me was really cool. Generally, I love all the small moments between Dorota and Blair. I love working with Leighton Meester. She has incredible comic timing and I’ve learned a lot about working in television from her. Every time I walk away from one of those scenes, I’ve had a great experience. Other favorite little moments—a few seasons ago, there was a scene where Dorota was helping Blair do her community service, and she was picking up trash for her in Central Park. I love to go on location. I love to meet the fans and when we shoot on the street, there’s so many people watching and there’s such a great energy and it’s such a New York show. Whenever Dorota gets to leave the house, it’s a big thrill for me. She’ll get involved in whatever antics Miss Blair and the crew have going on. When she hits the streets, it’s a big thrill for me.
On “Gossip Girl,” Dorota is a Polish countess who fled to America and became a maid for the Waldorfs. What’s your background in real life?
The same. [Laughs.] I actually was born in Poland, and when I was 3 years old, moved the U.S. I grew up in the Midwest and fled to New York to become an actress. I’ve been in New York for quite a while—I went to Barnard College and then stayed in New York. I was always an actor—never a countess. But close.
Was it true you were voted “Most Likely To Be Famous” in high school?
I was. I have the plaque here in my home to remind me of my goals. In high school, I was very Little Miss Theater, so I did everything I could in school and also community theater. I was definitely the most impassioned actor, so I got that award.
I’m curious what it’s like being a slightly older member of the cast where multiple couples are dating. How much does the cast resemble the characters of the show?
From my point of view, I’m not that much older than they are. But it makes a whole world of difference because they’re these young, gorgeous—beyond gorgeous, not like regular gorgeous—people. Sometimes I feel a little like the dowdy old housekeeper around them, but they do a really good job of making me feel like a part of the family. Leighton is great, so is Blake. They make me feel at home and like part of the ensemble. Once we get to work, we have a lot of fun and a lot of things in common and are able to talk. It’s a really easy-going set. For me, the most extreme thing is being around that kind of fashion. As a person in real life, I’ve never experienced such glamour before. I’ve learned a lot about shoes, bags, designers, and jewelry. I’m absolutely obsessed this season because Serena is living in the Waldorf home in an official capacity, so I’ve had a little bit more interaction with her on set, and the statement necklaces that Serena wears, I dream about that stuff now.
What is your dream storyline for Dorota?
I kind of already had it. I had no idea Dorota would get a boyfriend, and then a fiance, and then get married, and have a baby and a family. So I had my Dorota dream realized. At this point, I’d like to see how she can keep folding into Blair’s life and help her realize her desire to be a powerful woman. My favorite storylines involve Dorota going undercover and really getting into the mix. I think there’s plenty of opportunities for those kinds of things in the future.
I’d love to see Blair become a politician and you become her head of staff.
That’d be great.
Do you have any theories on who Gossip Girl is?
It’s become more and more confusing with this new, even more text-savvy Gossip Girl this season with the streaming video. I think that really complicates the issue even more. I have no idea.