Penn Badgley is speaking out about the fascination with his stalker character on You.
On Tuesday, the 32-year-old actor stopped by Today to discuss his bookstore manager character. On the series, Badgley’s Joe falls for and stalks a girl named Beck (Elizabeth Lail). The obsession — spoiler alert — turns deadly when Joe begins killing off people in Beck’s life.
While Badgley called Joe “reprehensible,” he also admitted that the point of the character is “to garner a conflicted reaction.” That conflicted reaction came when fans — including Millie Bobby Brown — began expressing their love for the character on social media and Badgley hilariously roasted them.
“That was partly disingenuous on my part because the whole point is he’s meant to garner a conflicted reaction,” he admitted. “I don’t see him as a portrayal of a real person, I see him as a representation of a part of us that identifies with him. The part of us that is a troll; that part of us that is victim blaming; the part of us that is privileged and blind. We’re meant to identify with him.”
With regard to his Twitter quips, Badgley called the whole thing “tongue and cheek” and revealed that he reached out to one woman who tweeted him after fans actually started attacking her.
“I reached out [to] that woman, her name is Nobia and hopefully she’s seeing this. We were DMing,” he said. “I just wanted to check in and be like, ‘Hey, I didn’t realize…'”
“She’s very intelligent. She’s on the right track,” he said of their conversations, following her tweet that asked, “@PennBadgley is breaking my heart once again as Joe. What is it about him?” “I was having fun, they were having fun, and I think what’s funny is that people kind of jumped on the Joe train and were trolling her and it’s like, ‘No, wait! That’s not what I intended at all.'”
Badgley called people’s love for Joe “interesting,” especially since his ill motives are realized very early in the series.
“You start to discover true motives pretty early on, like eight minutes into the show. He’s a guy who’s capable of stalking. He’s a guy who’s capable of murder. He’s a guy who’s capable of a lot of manipulation and abuse,” Badgley said. “It’s this really interesting thing where you’re seeing the trajectory of a soul, of a man and he’s just completely obsessive and compulsive and believing that he’s operating by the logic of a true romantic.”
“I think what he does is he takes the tropes that we’ve seen in romantic comedies — movies and shows that I’ve been a part of and many of my colleagues [have been a part of] — and it totally subverts them by actually following them closely and he comes to this, like, really terrifying conclusion,” he added.
The former Gossip Girl star also joked that the internet is “making it a lot easier” to stalk someone and rejected the idea that Joe is anything but ordinary during his interview.
“The whole point is that Joe is actually not a mastermind,” Badgley said. “He’s actually, in some ways, extremely average.”
ET caught up with the actor back in September and he discussed the problematic fascination that people have with Joe.
“The question really does become: What time are we in? What moment are we in that we find this so compelling? I’m not saying it’s bad to find it compelling, but what is it that people like so much?” he said. “I think with this show, we have the opportunity to explore and we don’t necessarily have to feel bad about it, but we should be asking the question.”
“And then there’s this other part, where Joe demands that we recognize where we have been operating under faulty logic,” Badgley added. “Like, ‘Oh yeah, I was kinda doing it. I just wasn’t doing what he did.’ How disingenuous is it for me to feel so far from how he’s behaving if I’m at the trail-head — he’s much further down and he went off on a detour and he’s lost in the woods — and maybe I should just not be here at all. Maybe I should be at a different park. It’s an interesting idea.”
“It’s an interesting part of this conversation about why we might like Joe, what we find about him that is relatable. In a way, he’s trying to be the kind of man that he’s seen in movies,” he continued. “He’s also threatened by the kind of man he thinks he’s meant to be, in terms of a brooding, brutish man; strong, cold predator, more or less. How predatory are the male icons we’ve loved for decades? He’s threatened by the male archetype and then he tries to embody it, and he’s sorely mistaken on both counts. But there is a point where I can’t blame him and then past that point, he must be blamed.”
Watch the video below for more on the fan reaction to You: