With the recent release of Netflix's latest dramatic thriller You, came an influx of, shall we say, disturbing reactions on social media, romanticizing the actions of one clearly deranged stalker. Penn Badgley, who plays the stalker in question, however, was not having it. Quick to take to Twitter to dispel everyone's charmed romantic notions of his character Joe, the actor went viral days ago for his amusing, though very real, warnings on a few of Joe's confused admirers.
"Said this already but @PennBadgley is breaking my heart once again as Joe. What is it about him?" one tweet reads and to which Penn replied with "He is a murderer." A reminder he so pointed out over and over at the recently concluded You press junket at The Peninsula Manila, along with Pretty Little Liars star Shay Mitchell. "He’s meant to represent the things that are inside of all of us. Joe in some way is a bit of like the internet troll made real, which is a serial killer. The meta response to this show is quite deep. I think if we’re not careful Joe can maybe bring out the Joe in all of us." Penn says.
Shay, on the other hand, absolutely enjoyed getting to play the mean girl this time after portraying the sweet and loyal Emily Fields for years. "I’ve played such a nice, sweet character for so many years, to be able to play on the other side, I get it. I get why people like playing the bad girl. It is fun. Just to have that back-and-forth with Penn’s character, it was hilarious. I really enjoyed playing her.”
Below, Penn and Shay talk more on what they truly feel about Joe and Peach, why nothing about them shoud be emulated, the one other character they would play on the show, and more! (Warning: Spoilers ahead!)
Congratulations on the success of You! How does it feel to be part of something as succesful as this?
S: “It feels pretty awesome. We just had a great time shooting it. To me personally, the first time I saw the script I was like ‘I don’t care if I’m gonna be part of this or not, I can’t wait for this show to come out. It just has all the elements on what makes a really good show. And then shooting it, we’ve had so much fun, it went by so quick. Now it’s showing it’s also really exciting to get to re-live it again with family, friends, and fans who have watched the show."
P: “It’s less fun for me because I’m a murderer, let’s just be clear. I mean I know it’s all fun to watch but—I don’t wanna give any spoilers—but I kill more than three people."
What was it like the first time you read the script?
S: “I remember reading some of the scenes between Penn’s character Joe and Peach and just imagining how it would play out. But honestly being on set and getting to work with Penn, being my first time, was ten times more fun. It’s funny, I’m literally having to kill him with my eyes.”
P: “I love working with Shay, and I love doing press with Shay. I feel like we just mix well, like the ingredients of halo-halo.”
S: “There we go!”
P: “Unity in diversity!”
P: “When I first read the script I was quite troubled. Because again, I understand all the elements about the show but I’m thinking I don’t get to play Peach or Beck, I don’t get to watch it, I have to be Joe. Everyone else gets to watch it and enjoy it in this different way, so for me when I read it I was actually like, 'Good luck, but I don’t know if I can do this for such a long period of time.'
"You do a film, for instance, and it’s like two months and you don’t do it again. This is like six months in a year, maybe we’ll go on for season after season killing more people. So I think I had a lot of reservations, which is appropriate because we can all watch something and feel somewhat responsible. But that’s the thing, to the degree that everybody else is able to consume it in this way that is enjoyable, I kind of have to take on the burden of it being somewhat real for myself, and it’s just a bit different.”
You were so vocal about not romanticizing the character. How did you respond to a lot of conflicting comments from your viewers?
P: “First of all, we as the people who made this show should take on the responsibility, because he is a charming guy and that was obviously what they wanted. It was a push and pull between me and the directors, and the writers wanting me to be charming and I was always like less so.
"I think it was a balance between making this guy real and then also...to me, he’s not a real person. I was not thinking of a clinical portrayal of a real psycopath. I was thinking sometimes of that, and then other times he’s meant to represent things that are inside of all of us. Joe in some way is a bit of like the internet troll made real, which is a serial killer. The meta response to this show is quite deep. I think if we’re not careful Joe can maybe bring out the Joe in all of us. So I think I’m the person who always has to be thinking of the delicate balance of these things. Just because I’m that guy.”
What were the things that you liked and disliked about your characters?
P: “That’s easy. Everything! I dislike everything except that he’s curious.”
S: “The thing about Peach, I mean I do love the fact that she loved and cared for her friend, I just wish it wasn’t that much.”
P: “I think Peach, in a way, is kind of the best person in the show because she sees Joe for who he is, and she does love Beck. She’s being possessive and manipulative but in that world it’s kind of the least...I think she sees things clearly, she knows what she wants, she’s extremely honest."
S: “I have to say I did enjoy playing her truthfulness. I can admire that element to her. I just don’t love so much the controlling aspect of her and their friendship...I’ve played such a nice, sweet character for so many years, to be able to play on the other side, I get it. I get why people like playing the bad girl. It is fun. Just to have that back-and-forth with Penn’s character, it was hilarious. I really enjoyed playing her.”
A lot of times on the show, Joe rationalizes his actions in a tone that sounds eerily acceptable to him. Do you think other viewers will take this as validation to imitate the things that he does? How would you deal with that?
P: "Yes. I'm not sure [how I would handle that]. I think that's a great question to be asking. I think that's what season two will be conscious of. I think season one is conscious of it but it's interesting. I mean, the show just kind of boomed now, and safe to say it's a hit, right? So we'll see because it just happened a little bit ago. And now that everybody's really charmed by Joe...maybe that just means I didn't do a great job. [Laughs.] Again every step of the way I was encouraged to not lean in to the idea that he was a killer, and lean in to the idea that he doesn't understand that part of himself very well and to make him human, and I think that was the right thing to do."
We see, in a way, how Peach does love and care for Beck, although her feelings do border on obsession. Do you think her actions are justified?
S: "No, I don't. Because I don't have any weird photos of my friends that they don't know about. Again it goes back to, like, if somebody knows what you have of them, cool. But if you're doing it behind their back or without them knowing, that's when it's weird. And so I would say that having a fondness and a love towards Beck is fine and acceptable, but she could have told her in a different way. She didn't have to drug her. Just be honest and say 'I have feelings' and make it a conversation. So she could have done things a little bit better."
If you could play another character on the show, who would it be and why?
P: "It would be Beck, 'cause she's actually the best person on the show. She gets a bad rep, everybody's like 'oh nobody's good on this show,' but actually Beck is. Yes, in the beginning she's sleeping around but everybody's making bad decisions in this show, but she's a victim to a lot of different social forces, not just Joe, but social forces as a woman. And I just think she doesn't get the credit she deserves."
S: "I guess Beck because she has the most time and it would be the opposite of me to play. But then Anika and Lynn were really fun too. I just wish they had more screen time."