Penn Badgley Is “Really Troubled” By Anyone Thinking You Is a Love Story

Badgley and costar Elizabeth Lail have a fascinating discussion about how viewers will respond to the "love" story in their new Lifetime drama

By Lauren Piester Sep 07, 2018 8:01 PMTags
Watch: Penn Badgley, Elizabeth Lail & Shay Mitchell Talk New Series "You"

You might not want to go into this week's premiere of Lifetime's You thinking you're in for a love story.

The new series, based on the book by Caroline Kepnes is told mainly from the perspective of Joe (Penn Badgley), an unassuming and charming bookstore owner with some very bad habits. The first episode, which premieres this Sunday, finds Joe meeting and immediately becoming obsessed with Beck, played by Elizabeth Lail. His obsession finds him stalking her through social media, and while Beck only sees a guy who seems to be weirdly perfect for her, viewers are privy to every single one of Joe's creepy thoughts and stalkery actions.

It was not love at first sight for Badgley when he first met his new character, and he was particularly confused at how anyone could like the guy or root for that relationship.

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"I personally was troubled..." he tells E! News. "I understood the appeal, but I was really ambivalent. I was really troubled, and that was also what [executive producers Greg Berlanti and Sera Gamble] said was appropriate about me playing him. I remain ambivalent. I'm really questioning why people like Joe so much."

Lail had a very different experience while reading the book the show is based on.

"So much of what Joe does is like what we do, the stalking and desperate for love, the desperate to be close to someone, and hating this other person, or whatever it is," she tells us. "We all do that, and i think that's a part of the attraction, is he gets to…"

"...Live out the fantasy," finishes Badgley. "He's like a troll, like a real troll, like an internet troll."

"Yeah, but a troll for love!" adds Lail, but Badgley is not so sure.

"Is there such a thing?"


As Badgley goes on to say in the video above, it will be interesting to see how viewers respond to Joe and everything he does in the name of "love," especially given our social media-driven lives and the #MeToo revolution. What Joe does is not really harassment from what Beck can see, but from the viewer's perspective, it's not quite not harassment and also not quite not love.

"Yeah, but he loves her, but he's sweet, but it's a love story!" Badgley imagines fans saying. "In what world?! I don't believe that's love. I don't think that love equals this, so I think we have to question, what is love, and if we think this is love, where are we mistaken?"

"I disagree with Joe possibly more than anyone," Badgley continues. "And I disagree that it's a love story. I don't see it the same way as anyone else, I think because of the things I had to do to play Joe."

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Lail's job playing the unknowing Beck gave her a totally different perspective.

"For me, your experience of love, especially a young person, I don't like to take away from that. So I would say Beck is experiencing it as a love story, a potential love story, whether or not is real, true love, or the good kind of love, the love without attachment and all the rest of it, I wouldn't say it is that," she says. "But do think for her, and for me playing it, it is about the relationship, and it's kind of her figuring out how to love and to be loved."

"By the end of it, it's certainly not a love story," she says, though Badgley disagrees in a way.

"You know what's funny though, it's towards the end that...I had to start connecting to the part of Joe that thought it was a love story, because I as a person having to read it and do it, I was horrified."

If that conversation isn't one hell of a tease for this show, we don't know what is.

For more fascinating discussion from Lail, Badgley, and to hear from costar Shay Mitchell, press play on the video above.

You premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. on Lifetime.