How You Made You Fall In Love With Joe Goldberg on Purpose...At First

In new interviews, showrunner Sera Gamble has been opening up about the leading murderous man at the center of the Lifetime-turned Netflix hit.

By Lauren Piester Jun 03, 2019 8:17 PMTags
You, Penn Badgley, Netflix, LifetimeLifetime

If you couldn't help but feel a little bit attracted to Penn Badgley's character in You, congrats! That's exactly what was supposed to happen, at least at first. 

In a couple of new interviews, You showrunner Sera Gamble has been talking about adapting the show from the books by Caroline Kepnes, and the way the character and the show were designed to make Joe Goldberg (Badgley) the ultimate leading romcom man...until you discover that he's an extra creepy stalkery murderer. 

"There's a very vocal contingent of fans of Caroline Kepnes' book who were like, 'I heart Joe.' Essentially what she's done is taken the classic romantic hero and just peeled back the gloss and sheen and John Cusack with the boom box and she followed it to its logical conclusion," Gamble told THR during their annual drama showrunner roundtable. "I mean, if you turn off the sappy music and turn on a David Fincher score, romantic comedies are stalker movies." 

Is Penn Badgley's "You" Character Just Dan From "Gossip Girl?"

"Romantic comedy behavior in real life is criminal!" Gamble continued, with plenty of examples: he's chasing her through an airport, chasing her on a freeway, watching her sleep. "That was basically the starting place for the show." 

"The plot of pretty much everyone I can think of—and we have watched all of them many times in the writers' room—is contingent on the guy...well first of all, he has to do a certain amount of f--king up so she can forgive him. And he has to get over some of her shortcomings," Gamble says. "I mean, that's love, right?" 


Badgley has been pretty vocal with fans who claim they're in love with Joe, and openly troubled by the character. Gamble said it's a conversation they constantly had to have with Badgley over every script, and they knew they could only get someone like Badgley to play a guy like Joe.

"For Penn, when Greg Berlanti and I were talking about the casting, we talked about how we needed an actor who really felt like Joe Goldberg was on paper. And Penn is all of that great stuff: He's thoughtful, he's a reader, he's a humanitarian, he's a feminist, he's extremely disturbed by Joe's behavior," Gamble said. "A lot of our conversations throughout [making] season one were largely about his level of discomfort with each thing I was sending him. Penn's never like, 'That feels weird, I'm not going to do it.' He's like, 'We're going to do it, let's just talk it through, and by the way, I have never been more uncomfortable in my life.'" 

Everything We Know About You Season 2

While the pilot starts with Joe's narration and light stalking of Beck (Elizabeth Lail), it's not immediately obvious that he's someone dangerous, and that his light stalking is a sign of much worse habits, which was part of the point. 

"In order to make the structure of the episode work for the TV show, that first scene needs to positively function as a pure romantic comedy scene. It's a meet-cute and it shouldn't feel creepy," Gamble told Variety

"We even got some early notes that in the first five minutes of the show you can't really tell where it's going," she continued. "But to me, that was the thesis of the whole show: You can't really tell. So if this feels like a romantic comedy to you, let's look at other things that look like a romantic comedy to you and non-judgmentally admit to one another that we enjoy stories about men who transgress and take away agency and save the day by maybe even killing people. It was really, really important to us to preserve the idea that this was two young, good-looking people in a bookstore who maybe have some stuff in common—until you push into his eyes at the end of that scene and you're like, ‘Wait a minute…'"


In adapting the book to the screen, a few changes were also made to that opening scene to further hide Joe's true nature, like a reference to Beck being "embarrassed to be a good girl," so that Joe wouldn't immediately come off as a guy who "looks at every woman and judges her as a virgin or a slut," Gamble told Variety. 

One scene that does start to reveal Joe's true creepiness in that first episode is one that Gamble thought would be the end of anyone being on board with the show at all. 

"The scene that actually made me nervous, though, was in the pilot. Very early in the first episode, a character masturbates on the street in shadow," she said during the THR roundtable, referring to Joe, across the street from Beck's apartment, masturbating in the bushes. "I was watching it at a screening and i was like, 'Oh, we're going to lose them and they're never coming back.' Then the next scene came and everyone was on board, and that was the moment I knew the show would work. I was really doing it on faith until that point." 

The show worked so well that when it landed on Netflix, after originally premiering on Lifetime, it became a huge hit, and the streaming site picked it up for a second season, which will star Badgley alongside Victoria Pedretti as Love Quinn, the new object of his affection, as the show moves from New York to Los Angeles. You can find everything we know about the second season below!

You is currently streaming on Netflix. 

Welcome to LA

Season two is heading to the other side of the country for some light stalking in Los Angeles instead of New York. Will people in New York be better at having curtains? Only time will tell. 

What we do know is that Joe is not a Los Angeles fan in any way. He's gonna hate it, and that's going to be fun. In fact, where the vibe of season one was very much dependent on New York, the vibe of season two is sort of based on how much New Yorkers hate LA. 

Joe Really, Really Hates LA

"There's a very particular romantic feeling that comes with being in New York as a young person, especially without a lot of money. You're young, free, you're struggling and you're trying to find a kindred spirit. Los Angeles is a completely different vibe," EP Sera Gamble told TVLine. "I've lived here since I was 16, and one of the classic truisms about living in LA is that you're surrounded by former New Yorkers who f–ing hate it here. So we started the writers' room for Season 2 by being like, "Joe moves to LA and he completely hates it. Let's talk about how much fun that is."

VIctoria Pedretti Takes the Lead

Since Beck is...indisposed, Joe will now be setting his sights on a girl named Love Quinn, played by Haunting of Hill House star Victoria Pedretti

Love is an "artistic" aspiring chef in LA working as a produce manager in a high-end grocery store, and she's not interested in social media or branding and much more into leading an interesting life. She's in grief when she meets Joe, and "can sense he too has known life-changing loss." EP Sera Gamble told EW that Love "embodies the best of Los Angeles," while Joe hates the city and not much is going to change his mind on that. 

Love's Got Friends

Love has quite the variety of friends. Melanie Field plays Sunrise, a stay-at-home lifestyle blogger, while Marielle Scott plays Lucy, a literary agent. Charlie Barnett plays Gabe, Love's oldest and closest friend and confidant who's an acupuncturist and psychedelics aficionado. 

New Neighbor, Who Dis?

Carmela Zumbado plays Delilah Alves, an investigative reporter who lives in the same building as Joe. "Delilah becomes dangerously invested in her new neighbor, Joe Goldberg, who seems to be hiding something." Oh, he's definitely hiding something. 

Joe's Got a New Job

Adwin Brown plays Calvin, Joe's pleasant new boss at the trendy LA grocery store/cafe/bookstore Anavrin (it's Nirvana backwards). "Working at a bookstore with Joe...what can go wrong?" asks the show's Twitter account. Love also works at the store, as does her brother Forty, played by James Scully. He's confident, opinionated, and privileged, a charming and razor-sharp bully. He's working through a 12-step program, relying on his sister for support and attention, but "it never takes much of a shove for him to fall back off the wagon."

Long Live Candace

Joe's ex-girlfriend made a surprising appearance at the end of the first season, after we were left to assume Joe had killed her, and clearly Joe also thought he had killed her. He didn't, and Ambyr Childers was promoted to series regular for season two. It's not clear if she has followed Joe to LA or not, but Gamble told THR that she'll have "bigger stuff" this season, and if she's there to torment Joe in any way we are here for it. 

Jenna Ortega Is Ellie

Ortega, who starred in Disney Channel's Stuck in the Middle and as young Jane on Jane the Virgin, will play a young con artist named Ellie who likes to act and appear older than her years. She grew up in the big city with minimal supervision and must take care of herself and do whatever she needs to to make some cash, including scamming Joe Goldberg, apparently. 

Chris D'Elia Shakes Things Up

The casting of comedian Chris D'Elia felt like a surprise, until we read Deadline's description of the character: "Henderson, a designer-hoodie, black Ray-Bans, expensive sneakers-wearing famous comedian with a 'hard-life-lessons man-of-the-people' thing working for him." Sera Gamble also describes him as an "uberfamous comedian and known good guy." 

Perfect, honestly. 

Welcome the Penguin

Gotham's Robin Lord Taylor will recur as Will, a personable guy who deals with "unsavory sorts" as part of his job and finds himself in a bad situation. Aside from Forty, he's the only main character there are still no photos of, which might mean something or it might mean nothing. 

Joe's Past Could Return

Just because Joe has framed Dr. Nicky and moved across the country doesn't mean Beck and Peach's murders (and Benji's and....) couldn't come back to haunt him. EP Sera Gamble reminded THR that Peach's family has hired an investigator and there's still probably evidence in her house. 

"If you look at every act of violence that he does in season one, that is potentially something that could come back and bite him," Gamble said. "And Dr. Nicky is in prison and he is ardently protesting his innocence." 

Gamble couldn't promise John Stamos will return, but said the writers have been "talking a lot about the character."  

Straying From the Book

Season one deviated from Caroline Kepnes' book in a few small ways, most notably by keeping Candace alive. Season two will be a mix of staying with the book and following that Candace story somewhere new. 

"There's a lot of great story in the second book that we're going to be able to do, but in our way," Gamble told TVLine. "Even though some of the changes we made in Season 1 seemed small at the time, they were fundamental. Every little change we make to a character is a butterfly flapping its wings and causing a hurricane in Season 2." 

Joe Will Keep Being Garbage

In that same interview with THR, Gamble described Joe as a "very interesting, particular kind of guy who thinks that he is—what's the word for it? Maybe 'woke.'"

"He thinks he really understands women. He thinks that he is such an incredible ally," she continued. "I think that can be one of the most dangerous positions of all when you're entitled and when you're not entirely self-aware about why you do the things that you do... So I don't know, we're having a lot of fun being subversive with the story, and that will continue." 

And we will continue to remind you that Joe is a serial killer, just for those of you who keep getting too distracted by Penn Badgley's face to remember that. 

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