Penn Badgley calls reaction to less sex scenes ‘out of proportion’

Spoilers for You season 4
Netflix released the second half of You’s fourth season last week. So now we know who the real bad guy is, as if we didn’t already. The second half of the season was surprising, yet not somehow, with a return to form and a return to New York for Joe. The more things change, the more things stay the same. Anyway, a major topic for this season was star and producer Penn Badgley’s revelation that he requested fewer sex scenes this season. He’d mentioned that in relation to fidelity in his marriage and a lot of people had thoughts on that. Penn shared with GQ that he thought the response was blown out of proportion.

Penn Badgley shared last month that he had requested fewer “intimacy scenes” for season 4 of his popular Netflix series You.

The 36-year-old actor revealed his request on his Podcrushed podcast. Now he is responding to the comments and backlash from his request.

After seeing the response to his request, Penn says his comments were actually “blown out of proportion.”

“What I was speaking about wasn’t actually the final product,” Penn told GQ. “It was sort of like the culture inherent to the production of all movies, but particularly those scenes. It’s like, look, we know that Hollywood has had a history of flagrant exploitation and abuse.”

Penn admitted he was “nervous to even have that conversation” with You showrunner and co-creator Sera Gamble.

“It was not easy. It was easy because of Sera‘s response, and I felt relieved,” Penn shared. “But technically speaking, if I thought I’d had the ability to set that boundary earlier, I would have.”

After having that difficult conversation, he isn’t sure how that will impact his career. “We shall see if setting that boundary, of course, has any ramifications. Just simply, it does limit the number of projects you can be a part of,” Penn said.

[From GQ via Just Jared]

The response to Penn’s request was definitely blown out of proportion and it was kind of weird. Some people commended him for setting boundaries at work and his consideration of his scene partners. And other people kind of ripped into him for the implication that those scenes were cheating and implied that he felt that way because he was sketchy or otherwise had something to hide. And others just thought the sex scenes were essential to a show like You. To which I say — there are still sex scenes. They’re now just more like network TV sex scenes where everyone is covered and there’s a kiss and cutaway versus the more graphic nudity and simulation on cable/streamers. Penn’s clarification to GQ is right — you can very clearly see in the final product that is You season 4 that there are still sex scenes, but they’re done in a way that is more mindful of the actors’ boundaries. Which I think is a good thing! Penn has said You is likely to end after the fifth season, so it will be interesting to see how this boundary changes his career going forward.

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11 Responses to “Penn Badgley calls reaction to less sex scenes ‘out of proportion’”

  1. Macheath says:

    I actually have a lot of respect for him for this. Call me old fashioned but I can’t stand gratuitous and explicit sex scenes. I miss nuance and implication in film and television sometimes. I find subtlety and anticipation far more exciting, appealing and, dare I say, more sexy. Plenty of examples where a smouldering look and a tentative touch followed by a cut away has far more of an effect on the viewer than the actual act. Anyway, that’s obviously not the motivation for Penn’s decision, but it’s still admirable for him to take a stand for his own comfort and for that of his costars. I hope it doesn’t negatively affect him going forward.

    • mtos says:

      Agreed. It’s unnecessary. GOT could have benefited from this. And many other shows.

    • OriginalLeigh says:

      Agreed. If a show has to have graphic sex scenes in order to demonstrate passion and/or love then they probably just need better writers and actors. I hope other actors, particularly women, will have an easier time setting boundaries at work.

    • Snoozer says:

      I like sex scenes and I cannot understand why sex (which is natural and good) is somehow ‘bad’ and gratuitous violence is fine. It’s such an American oddity. Love you guys, but… why? It’s very puritanical. I prefer the European way.

      I love watching a sexy, steamy sex scene. I don’t need to see all the parts – it can be insinuated – I don’t even need to see all of the action; but I want I nice long lead up and part of the action.

      I do want the actors to feel safe, supported and comfortable though; but I think part of that is to stop thinking of sex scenes and nudity as such a big deal as a culture. Another part is the intimacy coordinators and more females on set, from Directors and Producers down to crew.

      And if they don’t like those scenes? I mean, not every show or movie needs to have a sexy element. Just avoid those parts. I just don’t want them eliminated altogether.

  2. Lens says:

    Maybe he shouldn’t have said anything. Just a thought.

  3. kelleybelle says:

    Errr, fewer sex scenes? 😉

  4. JC123 says:

    Stannis is Boratheon voice: fewer

  5. Elizabeth says:

    NORMALIZE EXERCISING BOUNDARIES AS AN ACTOR AND ANY OTHER PROFESSIONAL!! I don’t care about You or Penn Badgley, particularly, but love that he has been an example so that when any more-marginalized person does the same they can cite this highly publicized precedent.

  6. Lurker25 says:

    It’s great and double-great that it’s a man calling for it. Because

    1) no matter how graphic he has to get, his scene partners inevitably are put in situations where they show more nudity and this gives them a break as well.

    2) it’s gotten out of control. I watched the new HBO Perry Mason the other day and felt like a goddamn gynecologist. Open vag, twig and berries, it was all on full display. Perry Mason is actually a good show so it seems unnecessary.

    3) especially bc a lot of BAD shows use the nudity to distract from an utter lack of imagination in how to better stage a scene or convey information. (Cough GoT “sexposition” cough).

    4) to the point where some entire networks think nudity is the way to cater to their core demo. The Party Down creators recently talked about shopping their show around and what each cable outlet wanted the show to be – HBO wanted a knowing “insider” take on movers and shakers, etc. Starz wanted a scripted show and took it, but the exec notes were always always always more nudity. They would throw in episodes set at porn conventions just to meet the boobies quota.

    Whatever Penn considers fidelity and his business with his wife aside, dialling down the gratuitous nudity (meaning shows that don’t pivot around love/sex. No such thing as gratuitous on Bridgerton for example) is a very good thing.

    • Snoozer says:

      Nudity is only bad if we as a culture see it as shameful. A lot of Scandinavians, for example, simply don’t and it’s very freeing. I have no problem with nudity. As long as everyone feels okay doing it.

  7. Susan says:

    FEWER sex scenes, not less. Les sex is ok tho.

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