Penn Badgley on coming to London for season four of You: ‘I discovered how American I am’ | Ents & Arts News
Penn Badgley says he’s never felt more American than when he was “displaced and surrounded by Brits” in London while filming the latest season of You.
The Gossip Girl star, 36, who plays bookshop manager and serial killer Joe Goldberg in Netflix’s hit psychological thriller, told Sky News he “loved being in London,” and thinks his character did too.
Based on novels by American author Caroline Kepnes, Joe has a penchant for beautiful women, but also an obsessive nature, a tendency to stalk and the will to destroy anyone standing in his way.
The show premiered on US channel Lifetime, but moved to Netflix in its second season.
Location-wise, within the world of the show, following murderous sprees in New York, LA and suburbia, Joe is now heading to the UK to spill some British blood.
Filming in various areas of London, including Spitalfields (east London) and Knightsbridge (west London), as well as further out into the sticks in Egham, Surrey, Badgley says being in the UK opened his eyes to parts of his own character he’d not connected with before.
“Being an American in London for six and a half months, that for me was interesting because I was seeing the differences and grappling with them… I discovered how American I am which I’ve never really been able to feel as much as when I was displaced and surrounded by Brits.”
Despite the self-reflection, it was an experience he enjoyed: “I loved being in London personally. I really did. Joe, I think, likes it too, until he discovers that that no setting and no other person can change who he is, and that he has to change himself. I think that’s the whole exercise. But he’s as likely to be happy in London as anywhere else, I think.”
Even the British obsession with class – something that isn’t such a thing over in the US – is incorporated into the storyline.
Badgley explains: “We’ve given winks and nods to things like privilege and class in the show, but we’ve not ever delved so directly into it, and I think this season, that’s done.
“But the show is still ultimately, I think, about what we think of love and how that shapes us and how that affects our relationships in real life.”
But is it problematic that the show’s large and dedicated audience have come to love the murderous anti-hero at its centre so much?
Badgley says fans can’t be blamed for falling for Joe: “We’ve designed him – crafted him meticulously in a lab or a studio for four years, to be charming and to be likeable. So, that’s not on the viewers. I think that’s on us.”
The actor says now, like the audience, he really understands what makes his character tick: “We get who Joe is. I’m really interested in where he’s going to go, you know, and where and how this whole thing may end.”
But can the life of a mass-murderer – even a fictional one – ever end well?
“It’s a big question. I mean, you look at look at any of the world leaders who we find reprehensible, and do we think redemption is possible? Do we feel that we’re capable of judging who’s worthy of redemption? So, Joe, in a real world, having done what he’s done – is redemption possible? Maybe only in death. Yeah, I don’t know.”
Luckily, away from some of the darker themes of the show, Badgley did find a little light relief while in the UK – albeit while he was unwell and unable to work or hang out with his friends.
Inspired by his co-star, Ghosts and Feel Good actress Charlotte Ritchie who joined the You cast this season, he indulged in some very British comedy.
“I really got to see a lot of Ghosts when I had COVID for about two weeks and I was unable to work. I watched the whole series, which I really did love. It brought me some joy.”
Season four of You comes to Netflix in two instalments, with five episodes having already been released and a further five parts released on 9 March.
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