Gina Rodriguez and Penn Badgley sat down for Variety‘s “Actors on Actors” series, which pairs actors to discuss their respective roles.
Among the topics of discussion: Badgley’s provocative role of a deranged stalker in “You”, which initially aired on Lifetime with little fanfare but later became a bona fide hit when it was picked up by Netflix, where the show’s second season will be airing exclusively.
“It was a near-death experience,” says Badgley of the show teetering on the brink of cancellation after its Lifetime run. “There was a two-week period where we were technically cancelled.”
Rodriguez addressed the controversy that ensued when fans began lusting after Badgley’s character, a murderous stalker who becomes obsessed with an aspiring writer, telling him that “your character’s not great.”
“I think the logline on Lifetime was, ‘How far are you willing to go for love?’ But I was always like, ‘No, that’s not what that is.’ To me, it’s like, ‘How far are we willing to go to forgive an evil white man?'” he responded.
Rodriguez also zeroed in on a particular element of Badgley’s performance. “What’s up with your crazy eyes?” she asked.
“This is something that people talk about. I’m like, ‘Isn’t that acting?'” quipped the former “Gossip Girl” star.
“I don’t find it difficult to access what apparently people define as creepiness or even rage,” he added. “Somehow people find it more roguish and charming. It’s like, ‘I’m killing people in the next scene.’ And maybe there’s something to that, that we’re not evolved enough yet not to be attracted. This is the evil-white-man thing.”
Badgley admitted he finds it difficult to reconcile the thirst of fans for a character exhibiting such reprehensible behaviour.
“The cultural norms incline us to forgive a certain kind of person, namely someone who looks like myself, less so someone who looks like you. The titular character in my case is someone who is doing unforgivable things, and yet we keep performing backflips to figure out how it is that we’re going to forgive him. I got a lot of responses on Twitter. Just a lot of what we like to call ‘thirsty’,” he explained.
“So I had this measured response: ‘Let’s maybe check ourselves a little.’ And I was really pleased and surprised to see how much that elevated the conversation around it. I think, if you’re not careful, because it’s on Netflix, you could binge it all too easily. And then you’re like, ‘Why do I feel off?'” he added.
“It’s a meta thing. You can lean into the pop culture element of it, and then you continue the conversation off-screen.”
Production on the second season of “You” began in February 2019 but a release date hasn’t been set.