Penn Badgley has been in the headlines recently, and not only because Part 1 of the fourth season of “You” dropped on Feb. 9: On his podcast “Podcrushed” last week, Badgley talked about his strong dislike of filming intimate scenes — and the internet exploded with thoughts about his remarks. He also said that he’d shared his feelings with Sera Gamble, the “You” showrunner, ahead of the season. In turn, he said, Gamble had a “really positive response and they came back with a phenomenal reduction” for Season 4.
In two wide-ranging interviews for this week’s Variety cover story, which will be released on Feb. 15, Badgley spoke expansively on the subject. In our story, Badgley details how the number of sex scenes he knew he’d have to do for “You” had been a major factor in 2017 in him not wanting to play the role of serial killer/love addict Joe Goldberg. The whole series, after all, revolves around Joe’s romantic fixations, and how he gets the women he’s fallen for to submit to his charms. By design, “You” has a ton of sex.
Badgley spoke carefully describing his discomfort with sex scenes, “having done a fair amount of them in my career.”
“It’s not a place where I’ve blurred lines,” he says. “There’s almost nothing I could say with more consecration. That aspect of Hollywood has always been very disturbing to me — and that aspect of the job, that mercurial boundary — has always been something that I actually don’t want to play with at all.” He’s also now older than his romantic interests on the show. “Didn’t used to be the case,” he says.
Badgley wishes he didn’t have to do any sex scenes. “It’s important to me in my real life to not have them.”
When asked to clarify what he means, Badgley responds: “My fidelity in my relationship. It’s important to me. And actually, it was one of the reasons that I initially wanted to turn the role down. I didn’t tell anybody that. But that is why.”
Badgley has been married since 2017 to Domino Kirke-Badgley, who “encouraged” him to play Joe: “And I wasn’t going to listen to anyone more than her.”
There are fewer sex scenes in the current season of “You,” and all performed fully clothed. Badgley tells Variety that he brought the issue up with Gamble ahead of Season 4 when she pitched him what would be happening with Joe.
“One of my responses was, ‘It sounds like we’re in a good place for me to …’ — I told her kind of my desire, and she immediately was accepting and responsive,” Badgley says. “I’m always very practical. I said I know it can’t be none, because there’s something coded into the DNA of the show, and I signed the contract, and so it is what it is but as little as possible would be my preference.”
Badgley began acting professionally at age 12 after he and his mother moved, at his request, from outside of Seattle to Los Angeles so he could pursue a career — but to say he has regrets about having been a child actor would be an understatement. His first movie credit was the 2001 queer cult film “The Fluffer,” and it serves as an illustration for his conflicted feelings. “When I read the script, neither my agents, my mom, nor I knew what a fluffer was — and I was the first one to find out because I read the script first,” Badgley said . “That is a microcosm of the whole thing! Should a 12-year-old be…? Let’s go ahead and just say no.”
On past episodes of “Podcrushed,” Badgley — who starred as high-school student Dan Humphrey on the CW soap opera “Gossip Girl” from 2007 to 2012 — has also expressed his unease with teenagers on television always being portrayed by fully grown adults. Badgley believes it would be too disturbing were actual teenagers playing high-school aged characters.
“You wouldn’t want to watch it!” Badgley exclaims. “I don’t think we realize how upsetting it would be to see teens drinking and having sex — like they’re literally 40- or 50-year-old business people.”