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TV

Penn Badgley talks You season 2 and his character Joe

Forget the socialite scandals of Gossip Girl, the secrets You keep are deadly.

By Thomas Mitchell
You was the fitting obsession of the summer when it came to streaming. After all it provided the return of Gossip Girl's Penn Badgley to the small screen.
Based on Caroline Kepnes' best-selling novels, Penn plays Joe Goldberg, the charming owner of a small New York bookshop – at least that's all he appears to be.
When, Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail), an aspiring writer and graduate student, strolls into Joe's store and catches his eye, a deadly game of cat-and-mouse begins. Joe becomes infatuated with Beck and will stop at nothing to make sure she belongs to him – and no-one else.
Catering to a millennial audience who are in Penn's thrall and love dissecting the show's underlying commentary on social media and rom-com clichés, streaming giant Netflix acquired the rights to You from US cable network Lifetime.
After doing so, the series, which had a small cult following, soon exploded, and Netflix quickly commissioned a second season.
Now, TV WEEK Close Up catches up with Penn to ask about all the hype.
Joe was enthralled with Beck.
What attracted you to the role of Joe in You?
It's the element of the show that's a little bit like a social experiment. Along the way, I was very nervous as to how people would respond. I was also really attracted to the themes of You – the inequality of men and women.
Can you explain in your own words what your character Joe is like?
I'd say he's every pitfall of male privilege magnified and then handed a mallet! It sounds like a tight little soundbite, but it's also very true in a dark and disturbing way. Yet he isn't wholly evil. Doing this role, I learnt that there's a bit of humanity in everyone, in understanding that everyone has a reason for their actions.
Did you do much research to prepare?
I didn't, because he's a fictional character. There have been so many depictions of serial killers done so well, whereas Joe is a little bit of a creation, he's not reality. He's the embodiment of a couple of really potent ideas and so, in that way, it makes him more sinister.
Joe has a dark secret or two.
Social media plays a big role in You. Will people change the way they share information online or become more paranoid after watching this?
That's a great question. I hope no-one becomes more paranoid – and if they do, then let's hope that saves them from some personal paranoia online. It's important, to some degree, to be careful what you share online, but ultimately this is just a show.
There are moments of comedic relief – what does it add?
It's good to laugh! We all need levity, lightness and humour to balance things out. Joe is fictional, a creation, so we can make him many things. It also means that if you do relate to him at times, that doesn't make you a murderer!
Have you got a backstory for Joe? Did you think about why he is the way he is?
Not really. Sometimes actors can get caught up in that. It can make for an informed performance, but it can contribute to self-obsession. At the end of the day, it's a job.
A second season has been confirmed. What can we expect?
It's exciting! We have the second book, so we know there will be a lot of different events. The Joe of the show is different to the Joe of the book, so we'll keep growing him.
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