Penn Badgley asked that Joe not have intimacy scenes in season 4 of ‘You’

The first half of the fourth season of You dropped on Netflix on Friday. Obviously I binged it and I like the switched up premise. I like seeing Joe on his toes! Anyway, I did notice in the first five episodes, there is a notable decrease in sex scenes compared to the previous seasons. And apparently that was by design. Penn Badgley asked the show’s creator to have Joe’s intimate scenes reduced as much as possible due to his career goals and his marriage.

Penn Badgley made a special request ahead of filming season 4 of You.

The 36-year-old actor shared on the latest episode of Stitcher Studios’ Podcrushed podcast that he asked You’s showrunner to limit his sex scenes in the upcoming season of the Netflix psychological thriller.

“I asked Sera Gamble, [the] creator, ‘Can I just do no more intimacy scenes?’ This was actually a decision I had made before I took the show. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it publicly, but one of the main things is, Do I want to put myself back on a career path where I’m always [the] romantic lead?”

Badgley, who married Domino Kirke in February 2017, added: “Fidelity in every relationship — especially in a marriage — is important to me.”

He continued, “It got to a point where [I thought], ‘I don’t want to do that,’ so I said to Sera, like, ‘My desire would be zero [intimate scenes], to go from 100 to zero.'”

That said, Badgley realized his request might not be possible and that “I signed this contract. I signed up for the show. I know what I did.”

He added, “You can’t take this aspect out of the DNA of the concept, so ‘How much less can you make it?’ was my question to them.”

To Badgley’s relief, Gamble “didn’t even bat an eye. She was really glad that I was that honest, and she was sort of almost empowered. She had a really positive response and they came back with a phenomenal reduction.”

[From People]

So it seems like Penn’s reasoning is twofold — not wanting to play a romantic lead forever and fidelity in his marriage. I’m not surprised by the former — I was surprised he even took this show because it seemed like he wanted to get away from that type of casting. But it is interesting that he says that he made this decision before he signed the contract and then signed it anyway, knowing what it was. I guess he really wanted to take on this meaty role? Anyway, they have changed the show to honor Penn’s request this season. Joe used to have sex with at least two women per season in fairly graphic scenes, but this season there have only been a few kiss/shirt off/cutaway scenes a la network TV. I thought that was because Joe was still pining over last season’s love interest, but I guess not. The changes work narratively though. Penn has always been pretty realistic about his character and the show though and gets props for his honesty, for example, saying that viewers shouldn’t have crushes on Joe. The latest callout: saying Netflix glamorized Jeffrey Dahmer. You is such a big hit, Netflix probably doesn’t care and he can say what he wants. I’m looking forward to the second half of season four. But it seems like we’ll have to wait another season for Cardi B’s cameo.

photos courtesy of Netflix

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41 Responses to “Penn Badgley asked that Joe not have intimacy scenes in season 4 of ‘You’”

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  1. BaronSamedi says:

    I had zero interest in this story because it should be normal at this point that all actors can express what they’re comfortable with doing on camera and have that respected.

    But then I read an interesting take: The person thought it was for sure about the marriage and probably about him having cheated before. Because otherwise why even mention the word fidelity in this context? He’s an actor. This shouldn’t be an issue. Unless of course he’s blurred the lines between professional and private kissing before…

    I thought it was an interesting take and I’m inclined to believe there is something to it. Especially if he signed anyway. Because it’s not really about HIS comfort levels but his wife’s.

    • Jane says:

      If he got married in 2017, he may well have entered the phase of his relationship where he and his wife are no longer ripping each other’s clothes off all the time, and having to film rather explicit sex scenes with various beautiful actresses is messing with his head, so this is pre-emptive rather than reactive. After all, the previous season was all about Joe’s marriage going stale and both he and Love looking elsewhere.

      • BaronSamedi says:

        That would be even worse? Again, he’s supposed to be a professional so I would expect him to lock tjat shit down during a sex scene….

  2. ThatsNotOkay says:

    No, Penn, you don’t have to always play the romantic lead. Know how to avoid it? Don’t take the part! And actors accepting roles then asking that they be changed to accommodate their beliefs is pretty nuts. In this case, it worked out and he had a lot of leverage. But if you know what the role is up top, accept it, and then don’t want to do the scenes, you’re putting a lot of people in iffy positions and you’d better be worth it or you’ll get killed off on the show. I am all for actors and actresses doing what’s comfortable for them, but you have to be honest about that from the beginning! That way, if the producers decide they want you and you’re worth the accommodations, they can hire body doubles or reimagine scenes in ways that you will be comfortable with, and have it in their budgets ahead of time. It’s a partnership and no one is left feeling like their arm is being twisted. You can’t spring this stuff on them last minute. That doesn’t work out well for anyone involved.

    • Concern Fae says:

      This. Yes, actor’s wishes and comfort should be respected, but there is also the option of not taking the role.

      There are people saying we should bring back the Hays Code, but the Hays Code also forbade any depiction of homosexuality, miscegenation, or law and order not prevailing. The police might have bad apples, but had to be portrayed in a positive light. In the 30s, Nazis and Hitler could not be shown as bad, because it would be prejudice against a nationality. And “prejudice against a nationality” is the garbage reason the IOC is giving for letting the Russians and Belorussians back into the Olympics and international competition.

      Banning because of discomfort never ends well.

      • Ameerah M says:

        Comparing one actor’s desire to no longer do love scenes to the Hays Code is a bit of a stretch.

    • Kate says:

      Do we know he signed a multi-season contract and asked to change the terms mid-way through? Or was this part of the negotiation to do another season? People are allowed to change their minds and ask for what they want, especially after several years of doing something and realizing it’s not working for them anymore.

      • Christine says:

        I agree, and Sera Gamble is one I’ve followed from her early Supernatural days. That was not a show that banked on sex to sell it, so I can’t imagine she was too unhappy to agree with Penn.

    • Turtledove says:

      They can just use doubles and cut scenes creatively. Is it slightly more $ and more work? Yes. But while his character is someone who generally has had a lot of sexual scenes, it’s not like the entire show is him having sex. They can work around this pretty easily, I think? And it is a nice precedent to have set.

  3. Léna says:

    I would not have thought YOU would turn out to be such a good TV Show IMO. Season 3 was amazing and I liked how they started this new season.

    I enjoy their take on “eat the rich” even though it’s a bit hypocritical since Penn Badgley was last year’s most paid actor, with 75 million of dollars (apparently, I know taxes etc… but still)

    • Jc says:

      There is no way that he made that much money from You, even as a producer. Netflix does not pay anything near that per episode. He has not made that much money in his entire career, I would guess.

  4. Emmi says:

    Let’s be honest, this happened this way because a man asked a woman producer to do this. Because of his marriage. How romantic.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never even watched the show so I’m not invested here and it’s a good message that’s being sent. But the next exploitation Oscar bait (hello, Blonde!) is probably already in pre-production. With a female lead and a male “auteur” director.

    I’m getting another coffee, I sound bitter.

    • Vienne says:

      The first thing I thought about when I saw that is OOOOH it is a woman director. Would a male director agree to that from a female actor?
      Happened to see a clip of Britney Spears performing with Michael Jackson (he would have been around 50) and him touching her and stuff in the performance and her seeming at least slightly not into it and thought wow how many women have done things that give them the ick feeling due to male producers and directors? I’m glad this story came out. I really never thought about it

      • Voominvava says:

        When Ruth Wilson was in the affair… She was upset at some of her scenes becoming so graphic sexually and she asked for them to limit them a bit. She really didn’t want to be nude the whole season. And they ended up killing her off. I believe that was a female director or producer who did it.
        It was pretty sad because she was so good in that show and we didn’t need to see everybody’s tits.

  5. M says:

    He sounds bitter to me. Maybe you aren’t getting offered better parts because Jamie Dornan already exists? And yes, if he were a woman and demanded this, they’d have laughed and said get naked.

    • mtos says:

      He does sound bitter. I watched the first three seasons and enjoyed them. I had a hard time getting through the first two episodes of this season. It’s very boring and that’s not due to the lack of intimacy. It’s just repetitive at this point.

  6. Becks1 says:

    I’ve never watched this show. Should I? Is it good?

    Anyway good for him, if he’s not comfortable doing intimate scenes he should not have to do them. The same should be true for everyone in Hollywood.

    • Lizzie Bathory says:

      I’ve really enjoyed it. Badgley gets to do a lot, it’s surprisingly funny & I really like the writing. And crucially, Joe finds himself in different situations in each season, which keeps it interesting. I’d recommend giving it a try.

    • ariel says:

      I LOVE the show, but it certainly is not everyone’s cup of tea. The interesting thing is the juxtaposition of well- stalking and murder (the first episode (season 1) alone will make you want to delete all your social media), and the way he sees himself as old fashioned, romantic, and honorable. and in some ways he is those things.
      But the most fun thing about it is some of the characters, while mostly developed and shown to be complicated, multi faceted humans – are mainly awful people, and i do get a little joy out of their murders. True of at least one person in every season.

      After i read this thing about reduction of sex scenes, season 4 made sense- there are still a bunch of sex scenes, but several times he declines to go through with it- and almost zero actual kissing, even though there is a mostly clothed simulated sex act.

    • Kitten says:

      I absolutely love it. It’s so hard to do dark comedy well and this show strikes just the right note between scary/dramatic and lol funny. Or maybe I just have a sick sense of humor. Ha.

  7. Jj says:

    I’m cool with this. I’m not puritan by any means, but I’ve never watched anything and thought “yeah, that was good, but a few sex scented would have made it much better.” Most sex scenes could be replaced by some passionate kissing and implied next steps and nothing would be missing 🤷🏻‍♀️. I fast forward them when my kids are home and in other rooms just in case and it doesn’t feel like I lose anything plot wise or cinematically

    • Vienne says:

      Me too sex scenes do not add much for me. I watched the cheesy sex/life on Netflix as I do love suspense (and the production was pretty good) but soooooo many sex scenes did make it a bit lacklustre for me. I honestly prefer a kitchen scene or a yard scene or a traffic scene 🤷‍♀️

    • Emmi says:

      I think many directors think it’s inherently sexy. It’s not. We all know it’s fake and the strategic covering of nipples etc. just makes it look so staged. Just leave it out, it’s mostly unnecessary, like you said. And if it is really integral to the plot, make sure it’s at least good. The hottest movies are hot because the leads have chemistry, not because there are any sex scenes.

  8. Frippery says:

    Same, tbh, especially with how graphic intimacy scenes can get. I usually fast forward through them. It also goes without saying that 95% of the time a scene like that* has some small amount of male nudity but full on female breasts and ass, or if there you see a man’s butt then the actress will have full frontal nudity. It’s always the female performer doing / showing more. And with everything that’s been said in the last 5 years or so about how many actresses where uncomfortable, pressured into it, feel horrible about filming it, didn’t want to, etc……

    *And it goes without saying that almost all of the graphic sex scenes on TV are heterosexual pairings.

    • Sarah says:

      I agree! It often feels gratuitous and adds nothing to the plot.

    • Kitten says:

      Right. I’m not opposed to sex scenes at all but when they’re gratuitous and unnecessarily graphic it just takes away from the story for me.

  9. Michelle says:

    I’m super surprised by the negative comments on this. I agree that if a woman actor asked a man show runner to do this, the conversation might have gone differently. But we should applaud that this did happen. Men actors can be exploited too, and he was strong enough and had the mentality to say, “I am not comfortable with this but I understand it’s my job so what can we do here?” Good for him. I love this show; I haven’t seen the latest season but in the past, honestly the sex scenes made me uncomfortable because of the character so I’m happy to not see those!

    • Otaku fairy says:

      Good for him. Everybody is different though, so hopefully people won’t use his fidelity comment as a new excuse to demonize female performers for agreeing to those kinds of scenes while in relationships with someone else/while the other performer is in a relationship. It doesn’t take much for people’s misogyny to come out.

    • Sass says:

      I agree Michelle. I think Penn is a good actor and like any actor who got his start in a CW teen drama, of course he would like to stretch his legs and do less romantic stuff. I do think this role has given him that. I didn’t expect to stick with YOU. It’s not “great” by any means in terms of realism but what it IS great at is getting the viewer to sympathize with the protagonist – who is also the antagonist. His inner dialogue and the way Penn delivers it (which is very important) makes you start agreeing with him. You slip further and further into the hole he’s digging. That’s what creeps like Joe are good at doing. That’s what our brains are good at doing: rationalization. None of us want to believe we are bad people which is why we do that. It’s an extreme example but that’s why it works. This has actually been my favorite season so far because for once he’s not mooning over some girl he’s going to kill. He’s struggling to come to terms with himself and although I figured out who “you” was within the first 10 minutes of episode 1, I prefer a mystery (which is hilarious considering the meta commentary on it).

      I really enjoy sex and intimacy but like its sadistic twin violence, it’s overused as a plot device/filler in entertainment. I often skip over gratuitous scenes of either in anything I am watching. I just want the story!

      I’ve also done acting almost my whole life and my last role was actually a musical theatre performance when I was pregnant with my second child. I went to the director and asked her to not write in any kissing/intimate scenes with my male lead opposite. She thankfully agreed because I was ready to walk if she didn’t. My husband and I have a very secure relationship- but he understandably didn’t want me kissing anyone else and I didn’t want to either. 🤣 The actor who played the opposite of me is actually a good family friend to this day 14 years later. (He’s gay)

    • Kebbie says:

      Same. The takes all over the internet have been so weird on this. “How dare he want to be respectful to his wife, he must have cheated on her in the past. He’s creepy for this.” Like, what??

      Good for him. Good for his wife. Good for the people who took his wishes into consideration and made changes for him.

    • AmelieOriginal says:

      It did go very differently for Ruth Wilson on The Affair but interestingly that story took place with a female showrunner/director. She understood she was signing up for a show with nudity and sex scenes when she took the part on a show called The Affair but as the seasons progressed, it seems like a lot of the nudity was gratuitous and didn’t make a lot of sense. It’s what I’ve been thinking of these last few days and while Penn’s motivation for asking for less intimacy scenes are very different from Ruth’s, he had a supportive director. Ruth Wilson didn’t and it led to her abrupt early exit from The Affair which at the time, people didn’t know what had happened and there was all sorts of speculation going on. I can’t remember if Celebitchy covered that story at the time and I’m not going to link it but it was a pretty horrific and jarring read.

    • Kitten says:

      I know–I don’t get it either. “Don’t take the role”. I think he made it clear that he knows he signed a contract and he’ll do what he has to do but it’s not unfair for him to at least ASK. And he’s the STAR of the show FFS! He’s not the first actor who makes requests, gives input etc etc. It’s his effin right.

  10. girl_ninja says:

    Wow. A lot of negative comments about this. If one feels uncomfortable about certain aspects of their job they have a right to discuss changes with their superiors. Good for Penn and hopefully that kind of freedom can be had by all people in ALL industries.

    • Kay says:

      Yeah, this conversation is important and any public win for actors rights is huge. Good for him, and good for all the other actors (of all genders) who will now have precedent when they ask for changes.

    • chloeee says:

      yeah, honestly, I am surprised at the backlash. I honestly didn’t notice or miss the raunchier content. I think the show is clever and he does a great job, I never really watched his previous shows but I like him a lot

  11. K.Tate says:

    Sex scenes are not important in any movie (for me). The implication is way better. I think I’m getting old?

  12. phlyfiremama says:

    I’m all for it. Let’s not show serial murderers as love interests. There are enough horrible romantic tropes to model for girls as there is. Let’s not normalize serial killer sex,. M’kay?!

  13. souperkay says:

    My favorite take on this is from Kayleigh Donaldson, who thought it might be because of stan culture & its most toxic forms.

    Penn is saying it’s for his marriage, but the reasoning might be to protect his family from stans.

  14. Mandy says:

    I’m glad he spoke up and got some things changed but also agree he could have turned down the role. I love You and the earlier seasons we’re pretty sexed up and this one still has some sex. But I kind of side eye the fidelity comment, your an actor and it’s part of the job that you took. Also pretty sure him and his wife love the lifestyle all that money affords them from the show so there that too lol. If my husband could bring in that cash with that job I would send him off with my blessing because I also trust him and know a show set is also a place of work and everyone should be treated with respect.

  15. Maria A says:

    I watched season 1 and 2 but I couldn’t watch anymore because it romanticized a serial killer. Just like women who liked Ted Bundy because he was handsome and charismatic or that Netflix show about Jeffrey Daumier, it’s just creepy and disgusting. I know it’s just a show but I am not into this form of entertainment where men objectify, stalk, abuse and kill women or men and are still liked because they are handsome. That’s a no go for me.

  16. Gremlin says:

    This is the absolute best Penn has looked! I LOVE the beard and dark, wavy, hair. The scene where Elliott is giving him the new identity with the hair tendril falling on Penn’s face…. sigh 😍