Penn Badgley Shares How Relationship With Ex Blake Lively "Saved" Him

More than a decade after Penn Badgley and Blake Lively’s split, the actor, 36, is looking back at their relationship and being catapulted into fame with Gossip Girl.

By Elyse Dupre Feb 15, 2023 10:52 PMTags
Watch: Penn Badgley Shares How Ex Blake Lively "Saved" Him

Spotted: Penn Badgley reflecting on his time on Gossip Girl.

While fans loved watching his character Dan Humphrey's on-again, off-again relationship with Blake Lively's Serena van der Woodsen, they also enjoyed following the stars' offscreen romance, which ended in 2010 after first sparking dating speculation in 2007.

"Beyond our relationship," the You star recently told Variety, "I don't think anybody was going to be interested in me publicly."

However, life in the spotlight wasn't always as glamorous as it seemed. While reflecting on the show's six-season run, Badgley recalled those years being both "fun and fast-paced" as well as having a "dark undercurrent that would bottom out in my later 20s."

Secrets of the Original Gossip Girl

While he noted that the feeling wasn't related to any substance use, he credited the A Simple Favor star with being a positive influence on him. "To be honest, I never struggled with substance," the 36-year-old told the outlet. "Blake didn't drink, and I think our relationship in some ways saved me from forcing myself to go down that road."

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As Badgley—who admitted there was a time when he "didn't want to be in television"—explained, that darkness stemmed from "nothing short of a spiritual crisis." 

"Like anybody who experiences some degree of fame and wealth," he stated, "I was presented with the universal truth that not only does it not make your life better or easier, it actually can greatly complicate things, and make you quite unhappy."

And he felt lost. "I was never anything that I would define as suicidal at all, but I was certainly in a despair," Badgley continued. "It had to do with 'Do I matter? Do I matter? Does anything matter?' These questions do inform how we feel. The answer that I came upon was 'Yes.' I think we all have to come to that. I don't know how you could come to 'No' and be happy, so we all have to come to that 'Yes' somehow. Probably repeatedly."

Badgley found happiness through his Bahá'ís faith, his family (including his wife Domino Kirke, their son James Badgley, 2, and his stepson Cassius Riley, 14) and his career. He not only stars in and produces the Netflix series You—now in its fourth season—but he also hosts the podcast Podcrushed.

"If this is how I'm going to exist in a way that for me is sustainable—emotionally and spiritually and psychologically," he said, "then this is how I'm gonna do it."

If you or someone you know needs help, call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also call the network, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit for additional resources.