Season 2 of HBO Max’s Gossip Girl comes in swinging and its sharper than ever, with a lot of this due to the fact that Monet de Haan is front and center where she belongs.

Savannah Lee Smith talked about the character’s big arc in an interview with Shadow and Act’s Managing Editor Trey Mangum along with co-stars Whitney Peak, Evan Mock, Zion Moreno, Grace Duah, Emily Alyn Lind, Thomas Doherty and creator Joshua Safran.

Safran said that the power play Monet is making against Julien Calloway (Jordan Alexander) is one that has been building since the first season. But while the writing team always intended for this to happen, no one knew it would take center stage.

“If you look back in season one, we always planned for Monet to go after Julien. Did we plan for Monet to go after Julien to be as big and prolonged an arc, that I can’t say because when we first…knew in season one [that] in season two, we wanted to pit Monet against Julien…the seeds are there from the very beginning,” he said. “Monet’s upset with her on episode two, episode three last year, and in episode five, she’s like, ‘I’m out, you’ve squandered this.’ So even back then, Monet was getting ready to grab the ring for herself. That was always planned for.”

“But you’re right, you write something, you meet the actors, the actors bring it to life in a whole new way, and you see things you never saw before and that’s the beauty of making art in this way,” he continued. “Savannah’s abilities, where she took Monet, it was the best of all possible worlds. So instead of making Monet go after Julian in the background over many seasons…let’s go all the way there. Let’s end season one with, ‘I’m taking it,’ and let’s start season 2 with ‘I am taking her down. It’s not enough just to take it, I have to destroy you.’ And the rest fell from there.”

Smith, who plays Monet, said that she has had fun playing in scenes with Amanda Warren, who plays Monet’s mother Camille de Haan. She said that the two are taking into account how relationships between Black women are shown on television.

“Amanda Warren is incredible. She’s given me the opportunity to show my colors and encouraged me to really show my chops because you’re gonna have to when you’re acting with Amanda Warren,” Smith said. “She’s sort of becoming a mentor to me and we have those conversations a lot about the way that our relationship as Black women are depicted in this world. We’re both very happy with it and we work really well together. I’m excited or people to see it became that really was one of the best parts of the season for me.”

Watch the full interviews with the cast of Gossip Girl below. The first episodes are streaming on HBO Max.