Former Gossip Girl star talks TV projects

Gossip Girl fans remember her as Dorota, the Upper East Side maid from Poland.

The Knick watchers now see her as Nurse Pell.

Or Priya on the most recent season of Girls, a fellow writer alongside Hannah (Lena Dunham).

She’s Zuzanna Szadkowski (pronounced Sharkofski), a 36-year-old YoungArts alum who will be in Miami this weekend, imparting a few tricks she’s learned along the way. The actress, who was born in Poland and raised in the Midwest, will teach a Master Class at the organization’s Biscayne Boulevard headquarters to a group of rising, standout stars in the program.

Can you talk about the effect YoungArts had on you?

YA has made such an impact. When I talk to these actors, I talk about my journey and how it relates to them. I mean, I get it. I was in their shoes. Sure, show business is one of the toughest careers. You have to want it for sure. One of my best friends from the program is Andrew Rannells, who is also in Girls, so I’ve come full circle.

What’s it like acting alongside Clive Owen on “The Knick?”

He's actually really awesome and funny and sweet — and obviously super hot! At first I was intimidated but he was so welcoming and — this is going to sound stupid — a team leader. He’s the star and he kind of leads this ensemble with a special kind of grace. I’ve learned a lot from him; he’s playing this crazy doctor in the turn of the century New York City who is falling apart, and is so good. The way he handles the details of his work is extraordinary.

Do you ever get disturbed by the graphic operations?

Well, the first scene in the surgical theater, I saw what was on the table and I sort of had to take a moment and put my head down. It looked so real it was freaky. Some people may not like the blood and gore, but if you can stand it, The Knick is dramatic in a different way than other shows in the medical genre. What’s so great is the authenticity. Everything is so researched and representative of what happened back then — from the equipment and costumes, down to the undergarments! You really feel like you’re in a different time. And if there were an emergency I could probably give you stitches [laughs].

How did “Gossip Girl” help your career?

I’m so grateful. It was a huge gift. I get a kick out of the fact that people still watch it. I miss working on that show. I remain very close with Leighton Meester because most of my scenes were with her. We had a lot of fun on the set; she was very supportive of me. When I first met everyone they were youngsters. Now people are having adult lives!

How is being a part of “Girls?”

My character is a blast. Priya has this very sarcastic world view as a writer and an unhealthy interest in women’s prisons. Plus, the wardrobe was fun. A lot of the time I’m playing characters who aren’t that cute but I get to wear little, edgy outfits and jewelry for a change.


Check out homegrown talent during YoungArts Miami, Friday through Sunday, with public performances and an exhibition. For a full schedule of events, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the campus, 2100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, go to