Actor Penn Badgley may have portrayed a stalker on both You and Gossip Girl, but he knows the troublesome realities of being the object of someone’s affection all too well. He admitted that he’s “literally been molested” before due to his fame from starring on Gossip Girl.
Spoiler alert, Badgley’s character Dan Humprey outed himself as a psychotic stalker on The CW’s retelling of Gossip Girl upon revealing in the series finale he was the internet harasser terrorizing the Upper East Side gang. In Lifetime’s adaptation of You, Badgley plays bookstore manager Joe Goldberg, who develops a crush on an aspiring female writer. Joe’s crush, however, takes a problematic turn when he utilizes social media and the internet to grow closer to her.
Unlike the fictionalized characters of Dan and Joe, Badgley has suggested he’s encountered “pretty full-on obsession” from fans because of his rising presence courtesy of Gossip Girl.
“I think as an actor you can become an object of desire, which is something women are already accustomed to more or less around the world—I’ve definitely been,” Badgley, 31, told the Daily Beast in an interview published Sunday. “I mean I don’t want to sound sensationalist, but I’ve literally been molested—just in the literal sense of the word—by many people in the moment. Because that’s what they do.”
Badgley addressed the double standard of men facing such misconduct. He then elaborated on the problem with his character Joe, adding: “You’re led as a man, particularly, that when it happens you should feel great about it. Particularly when it comes from someone who’s feasibly an object of your desire as well. And I think that’s the interesting thing about this show, is that Joe looks like me, he acts and talks like me to a degree, so I think the audience is supposed to be like, ‘Aw that might be nice if someone was that infatuated with me.’”
Due to the stalker aspect of Joe, many fans have equated Badgley’s You role to his former part on Gossip Girl. Badgley acknowledged how there are “parallels” between Joe and Dan at a Television Critics Association (TCA) panel in July, but he believes these similarities are only evident in “the first scene of the first episode, and by every measure, Joe might appear to be Dan. And then he diverges,” according to a report by TV Line on July 26.
Badgley, at the TCA’s, said he “felt the most troubled by” the male stalker character in the #MeToo era of television. Executive producer Greg Berlanti, therefore, felt he “was the right guy for the role” as a result.
“I think it will add to the conversation, it will create its own conversation,” Badgley said, according to July 26 report from Deadline. “I just focused on his curiosity and sensitivity; there are so many things that are human.”
Before it’s premiere, Lifetime greenlit You for Season 2 in July. You airs Sunday at 10 p.m. ET on Lifetime.