Grace Duah on ‘Gossip Girl,’ her journey from late night TV production assistant to series regular and more

The actress currently stars as Shan on the reboot of the beloved The CW series.

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Grace Duah is just getting started. The actress, currently starring in the HBO reboot of “Gossip Girl,” has been having quite the year. After appearing as a recurring character in Season 1, the actress was recently bumped up to a series regular, marking an exciting step on her journey as an actress.

TheGrio recently sat down with Duah, breaking down her journey, her time as an intern at “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” while also auditioning every day and when she learned that she’d been promoted to series regular for Season 2 of the show.

“It’s been an uphill climb,” Duah quipped. While she always knew she wanted to act, she revealed that it was not a path that her parents initially saw for her. Once she decided in high school that it was her career choice, a supportive high school theater teacher helped convince her parents that their daughter should in fact pursue acting.

Grace Duah attends the “Gossip Girl” Season 2 Newfest screening on Nov. 30, 2022 at Nitehawk Cinema in New York City. (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images)

“My dad was like, ‘We’ll support you in this but we are very limited in how we can help you … You have to know that we are 100% behind you, but in the ways that other people can be supportive in this industry, we don’t have that’.”

This realization helped keep the fire going that was “already raging pretty hard” inside of Duah. “I was like, not only do I need to succeed for everyone who has supported me, but there is no cushion. There was no plan B! Plan A was entertainment, so everything I did leading up to [Gossip Girl] was in the realm of entertainment.”

After receiving a degree from Pace University’s Film Acting program, Duah avoided common actor day jobs like waitressing and pursued digital production internships at Discovery. She would go on to intern at “The Late Show” right before the pandemic, eventually landing a full-time gig on the show.

On her first day of work as a bonafide employee, she went on an audition and secured an agency. “It was all happening so fast,” she explained. “I had just started at ‘The Late Show’. I told my agents, ‘I am not leaving my job for anything less than a series regular. I can navigate around it but this is a steady job and these are wonderful people’.”

It all worked out for Duah, as she was able to balance her heavy load of auditions and her “day job.” And five months in, it happened: Duah booked “Gossip Girl,” somehow managing to balance working both shows.

The role of Shan was originally only a guest spot, but Duah knew from her initial audition that there was a possibility that it could be beefed up in Season 2. During and after filming Season 1, she kept her hopes up for a Season 2 renewal. At the end of last year, she got the call. “I’m a crier, I will cry at anything,” she said when recalling the phone call. “I was sobbing on the phone!”

Duah added, “I think the fans being as excited and vocal as they were [about Shan], it helped. When it’s your first work in general, it’s always hard. You have to prove yourself, not only to fans, but to people in the industry — to executive producers, to casting and everybody. It’s like, ‘You’ve given me this responsibility and I can handle it’ … for them to have the faith and be like, ‘OK let’s see what she can do’, meant a lot to me.”

As for Shan, Duah has loved sinking her teeth into this character who is trying to find her place among this group of elite Upper East Siders. “Shan is a character who purposely has no friends,” she explained. “She is OK with being an outcast. Everything is really deep in the Upper East Side and it’s not that deep for her. I think when she first interacted with Zoya [Whitney Peak], she was gonna mess with her and leave it alone … but with Zoya she’s like, ‘Why do I care so much?’ You see her go back and forth with this. It’s like adding a rock to a kite.”

Concluding, Duah mused, “That journey is so exciting to play. When you get the chaotic character, you get someone who is down to do anything and to the outside world there is no motivation. But for the actor, it was up to me to understand her and her motivation.”

Season 2 of “Gossip Girl” is currently streaming on HBO Max.

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