Penn Badgley on his ex Blake Lively: ‘Our relationship in some ways saved me’

As we wait for the second half of the fourth season of You to drop, Variety has a pretty detailed profile of Penn Badgley to tide us over until March 9. It covers Penn’s career leading up to this role, his spiritual/existential crisis a few years ago, his thoughts on the Joe character, and his plans for his own future career. There’s some interesting insight in there about his Blake Lively relationship and more about his wish to stop doing sex scenes. Some highlights:

On not wanting to do sex scenes: “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. In fact, Badgley wishes he didn’t have to do any sex scenes. “It’s important to me in my real life to not have them.” (The scenes in the current season of “You” are all done fully clothed.) “My fidelity in my relationship,” Badgley says. “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.”

On Gossip Girl and his ex, Blake Lively: For years, while doing the show, “I didn’t want to be in television,” he says, and “I was biding time a lot with Dan — I was not invested. And I’m not saying it’s a good thing! I’m saying it’s just what it was.” When he looks back on those years, “there’s two ways I see them.” “Fun and fast-paced” is the first way he’d characterize that era. But underneath was a “dark undercurrent that would bottom out in my later 20s.” I ask whether any of the darkness was substance abuse-related, and he waves me off. “To be honest, I never struggled with substance,” Badgley says. “Blake didn’t drink, and I think our relationship in some ways saved me from forcing myself to go down that road.” That’s interesting phrasing: “forcing myself to go down that road.” It indicates that when Badgley found himself facing “nothing short of a spiritual crisis,” he sought solace from all corners.

On toxic masculinity and Joe’s future: Playing someone like Joe Goldberg just wasn’t appealing, despite it being alluring to Badgley that the character subversively took “the tropes of Dan Humphrey, put it in a blender and sort of reconfigured and re-served it,” he says. But having found peace in his life, he had little desire to play someone so awful. As for how the show will end — will Joe be justly punished after everything he’s done? Badgley finds the question interesting. “Is killing Joe enough?” he wonders. “Whoever kills him is brought down to his level.” He has an idea of what Berlanti and Gamble have in mind, but won’t say what it is. “I think it’s the only way it can go,” he says.

On the future of his own career: But he feels different now, and like any savvy actor in the digital age, he’s using this spotlight to leverage new paths for himself. Badgley wants to do more as an artist — producing, directing, creating — and he’s excited about what’s next. “Things are so digital, so online,” he says. “I think you’ve got to be fully in or fully out.

[From Variety]

It’s interesting what he says about Blake and a pretty nice way to talk about your ex. By most accounts, she’s not a partier and that helped him from becoming one too. Penn does kind of give that bourbon-drinking writer vibe, which is why he’s cast as characters like Dan and Joe, so it makes sense that was something he might have been drawn to if he weren’t dating Blake. His fuller explanation of not wanting to do sex scenes anymore makes more sense. It seems like he’s trying to do right by himself and his wife and his costars, especially when they’re 5-10 years younger, as some of the women on You have been. He also says they have a five-year plan for You and it’s likely to end after next season if it gets renewed (which it will). And in addition to being a producer on You, Penn directed the penultimate episode of this season, has plans to direct a feature film, and has a production company and podcast. Apparently he’s also pretty good at TikTok for an elder millennial, which I never would have expected from him since he seems so self-serious.

Header photo from the set of Gossip Girl in 2008, credit: Edward Opinaldo,, other photos credit Dara Kushner/ and Netflix

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

20 Responses to “Penn Badgley on his ex Blake Lively: ‘Our relationship in some ways saved me’”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. FancyPants says:

    There is definitely something to be said about the company you keep. I have always credited my first college roommate for getting me off to the right start in college. I was randomly paired with a sophomore my first year of college, and I think I could have gone either way that first year, but when I would come back to the room and she was studying, I would think “well I guess I better study too.” She rarely drank alcohol too, so I think not being around it frequently kept me from a lot of temptation.

  2. Jegede says:

    Penn has always had only good things to say about Blake.

    And I think he hung around her parents a lot too.

    Generally, Badgley seems to have warmth for the Lively family.❤️

  3. Veronica S. says:

    As long as everybody is consenting and not being pressured, there’s nothing wrong with sex scenes lol. You’re stimulating sex not actually having it. Nobody thinks otherwise. Not really thrilled with this wave of anti-sex rhetoric coming down the pipe from all quarters since it rarely bodes well for women and sexual minorities socially.

    It’s nice he has such good memories of his ex, though. Speaks of an amicable regard.

    • Frippery says:

      I don’t think he said there was anything wrong with them, just that he personally didn’t feel comfortable filming them. No one should have to do things they aren’t comfortable with, and more actors should speak out about things that make them uncomfortable. Unfortunately, an issue gets more recognized when straight, white men say something about it, so I am glad he’s speaking up.

      • Robert Phillips says:

        Your right no one should have to do anything their not comfortable with. So he shouldn’t have taken the role at all. He is playing a character. The person on the screen isn’t Penn. Its the character. And the sex scenes, even though we see them are supposed to be private in the story. So again acting. And I honestly wonder. He’s writing a script and directing. Will it have sex scenes? Will he get other actors to do what he isn’t willing to do? He seems to think he’s a lot more important than he actually is.

      • wellbetterspringa says:

        If he is so troubled about his simulated sex scenes then he shouldn’t have become an actor and he sure as heck shouldn’t have signed a contract for YOU. And how long ago did he date Blake? Isn’t it odd that he’s bringing her up now, after she’s been married to Ryan for over a decade and has 4 kids with him. And you know that that he had to sign a new contract every time the a new season was set in motion. After season 2, I was beginning to lose interest, season 3 was typical and boring…..i couldn’t even watch the entire 1st episode of season 4. So he got caught, dipping his nether regions in the wrong pool and this is all about making it up to his wife. Dude, you aren’t even that cute. Get over yourself.

    • Lux says:

      I think sex scenes are great if they enhance the plot or push it forward, but so many of them are gratuitous. It’s gotten quite exploitative, especially for women—if it really doesn’t add that much, there is no need to insert one? Also, it speaks to how unsavory and uncomfortable the atmosphere was in the past if enforcing intimacy coaches is such a recent phenomenon. And let’s not be naive here—simulating sex is still incredibly intimate; there is a reason why actors always fall for or have affairs with their costars. I appreciate Penn for being very upfront about that aspect of the job and how it can cause tension in a relationship.

      • Robert Phillips says:

        Can you think about your actual life? Are you naked in front of your partner? Do the two of you get dressed in front of each other? Most people will say yes. Acting is trying to bring a story to real life. I agree there is a lot of nudity that isn’t needed. But in real life there is a lot of nudity that just happens. And if the movie wants to be realistic than that should be a part of it also.

      • Coldbloodedjellydonut says:

        I agree, Lux. I could do with a lot more insinuation or fade to black when it comes to sex and violence in our media, it feels like a lot of it is taken to another level for shock factor. I honestly have to fast forward or stop watching a lot of shows because it’s upsetting.

  4. OriginalLeigh says:

    I think many of these unnecessary sex scenes are used to exploit women. Actors shouldn’t have to do them if they feel uncomfortable.

  5. dlc says:

    lots of people seem to speak highly of her who know her personally. She is a little grating online.

  6. AngryJayne says:

    I love this dude.
    He’s honestly (not just smokin’ hot with that beard) a breath of fresh air in the industry. I’ve been reading and seeing interviews with actors for years, and I don’t recall any one of them ever saying that sex scenes with increasingly younger costars bothers them.
    I mean damn, if only there were more Penns in the industry.

  7. K.Tate says:

    I don’t know of this actor but my daughters are obsessed so that’s why I’m clicking on articles mentioning him. Does he like his jobs at all?

  8. Concern Fae says:

    I can understand his not wanting to do sex scenes, but he is playing into the depicting sexuality is immoral tropes that are flying around right now. That is not good. It gives strength to the people who want to shut down all depictions of sex, especially queer sexuality. Over the weekend, the founder of the new social media Sproutible’s ban on explicit sexuality would cover linking to articles describing sexual assault allegations.

    It’s good for people to set their own boundaries around sex, but wanting to control other people’s expression of their sexuality (AKA his young co-stars) isn’t great.

    • OriginalLeigh says:

      His young female costars are following scripts that were written by other people, and they are most likely doing so in order to further their careers. How is that an expression of their own sexuality? Also, he’s not saying that no one should do these scenes. He’s just saying that he doesn’t want to do them.

      • Frippery says:

        But if that’s the way *he* personally feels about it, why isn’t that okay? He isn’t saying, “No one should have to watch these very explicit simulated sex scenes” or even, “No actor should have to film this kind of material”. He’s saying that this is what he is and isn’t comfortable with. That’s his own boundary. I don’t understand this push back that he should have to do things he isn’t comfortable doing for some kind of greater liberal sexual national good. It’s a bit weird to put all that on him.

  9. Jo says:

    I think he needs to be clearer although granted, it’s not easy to talk about these things. If he says he is uncomfortable, that’s really refreshing because these increasingly more explicit scenes are not always necessary and verging on soft porn. We have gone from censorship to an exagerated emphasis on sex, detrimental to good writing and interesting plot and character development.
    Moreover, pointing out the discrepancy in age of male/female love interests is valid and a good point.
    However, if this is a conservative take on sexuality and fidelity whereby even thinking about another person is a sin, then it takes away from the whole idea of a film, which is being fictional, and being human, which is being horny.
    I miss old films where things were much more alluded to rather than sex being performed for the cameras. It’s mostly cringe, I tend to fast-forward the scenes and they are mostly all unnecessary. And they seem to be a strain on most actors who seldom like to do them.