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Dishing Dirt with Ithaca's Gossip Girl

Written by Meredith Farley
3/14/2009

Amanda Setton '07 of CW's "Gossip Girl." Photo courtesy of Cornerstone Talent.

On every episode of the CW’s hit show Gossip Girl, plots are twisted, partners are changed, and some killer outfits are donned as Blair Waldorf and Serena van der Woodsen compete for the place of queen bee. Among the actors portraying these classy, well-dressed high school students is Ithaca College alumna Amanda Setton ’07.

Setton has gone from student films to the small screen in the blink of an eye. She has been making a name for herself on the big screen, too. On Gossip Girl the beautiful brunette can now be seen playing the high-society vixen, Penelope Shafai. Setton’s looks and poise make her a believable child of the Upper East Side, and her time on Ithaca’s South Hill has polished her obvious talent.

Growing up in the Long Island town of Great Neck, Setton and her friends searched for creative outlets in the seaside town by heading to thrift stores and making their own jewelry. When Setton developed an interest in acting, she jumped right in and eventually became the president of her high school’s theater club. After visiting Ithaca College, she decided it was a place where she could be herself and explore her individuality.

What's she like in real life? See Amanda talk with Rocco G of Fashion News Live.




Despite being bitten by the acting bug, Setton started out as a student in IC’s exploratory program. She immersed herself in a liberal arts education and took classes on anything that piqued her interest -- from storytelling to poetry analysis. Film in particular became a true passion; she took as many seminars and production classes as possible in the Park School of Communications and attended virtually every film screening.

As Setton participated in more and more student projects, she began to get a feel for the medium. She was able to explore different camera angles and lighting techniques and learn which ones worked best for her. Setton soon became comfortable in front of the camera. She loved working with other students to create a tangible product, and she realized that film was the direction she wanted to take her career. “Having that kind of collaborative experience is important and a lot different than a live performance,” she explains. That time in front of the camera prepared Setton for her roles after graduation, in films and television shows including What Happens in Vegas, Sex and the City: The Movie, and, of course, Gossip Girl.

Setton eventually majored in drama and devoted much of her time to acting. But committing to her craft and working on student films didn’t stop her from studying other areas of interest -- she took on a double minor in speech communication and art history. Setton credits her eclectic mix of classes with giving her better insight into her own skills. “I got a better understanding of emotional life and what it takes for an artist to move people,” she adds.

In an effort to gain more experience and versatility, the actress also studied at the Actor’s Workshop of Ithaca, a studio that teaches the Meisner acting technique. The technique teaches actors to focus on reacting honestly to their environment and other actors. It was a perfect fit for Setton, and she bloomed as an actor while studying at the workshop. Setton describes it as “focusing on the idea of living truthfully in imaginary circumstances.” She also enjoyed the safe, noncompetitive environment. “You feel your emotions become more honest because you’re coming from a more real place,” she explains. “Each semester I gained more and more tools that helped with scene study and other aspects of acting.” Setton attended the workshop for several semesters and graduated from the program.

Eliza Van Court, director of the Actor’s Workshop of Ithaca, had an instant connection with Setton. “She’s breathtakingly beautiful and very talented,” says Van Court. “She really worked hard to contribute to a collaborative learning environment, and she brought a wonderful, supportive energy to the class.”

Setton still has an appreciation for live theater and would love to work on the stage one day, but for now her experience and passion for television and film are most prominent. “The Gossip Girl set is such a wonderful, fun environment,” says Setton. “It's such a pleasure and a blessing to be working on a successful show in New York.” Her character appeared in several episodes, and it’s clear that great things are in store for this aspiring young actress. Setton has been photographed at New York’s fashion week and at benefits all around the city. As she approaches New York it-girl status, her talent and drive set her head and shoulders above the crowd.



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