Leighton Meester Trades Gotham Gossip For Big Hair and Cheatin' Hearts

This “Gossip Girl” dishes with a twang.

Leighton Meester admits she loved venturing away from the world of dream-squashing NYC prepsters to dream-chasing Nashville stars for “Country Strong.”

“I’d never done country music,” Meester, who plays an ambitious if occasionally performance-challenges country singer in the film and side-gigs in real life as a pop singer-songwriter, tells PopcornBiz. “I just fell in love with it, and I have this movie to thank for that because it’s so great.”

“Country music is so cool,” she explains. “It is an entirely different world and it’s a different type of business, but everyone there is a very close-knit family and that was pretty cool.”

Meester said she embraced the teased-haired, prettily painted style of a country music diva-in-training – at least for the role.

“I would look in the mirror and just not recognize myself: all this lacquered hair and these lips and eyelashes and the nails and this blue leather dress and cowboy boots and everything – and it does help.”

Playing a character who must look perfect even as she is warbling songs about heartache and bad habits appealed to the actress.

“She’s a beauty queen, so you have to talk right and look right and be right and proper, whereas in country music, you can talk about how messed up everything is and how much you drink and smoke and how much your heart has been broken – and people don’t judge you based on that. She really wanted people to think that she’s more than just pretty – she wants to be smart and she wants people to think she’s talented and she fears being insignificant or common or interchangeable. She wants to be a big star.”

Superstardom is not really part of Meester’s own game plan, however.

“I surround myself with people who know me for me and not from any show or anything, and they don’t judge me based on anything but how I act,” she says. “They tell me if I’m being an ass, for sure. I don’t want fame. I want to grow as an actor and as a person.”

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