The most ironic thing about interviewing Joe Goldberg is that I was worried about looking like a stalker. I was always a fan of You cast member Penn Badgley, right back to when he was ‘Lonely Boy’ Dan Humphrey in TV series Gossip Girl. The similarities between Dan Humphrey and Joe Goldberg have been pointed out before, but now that Joe is terrorising the rich and elite in You season 4, the characters have more in common than ever.
But don’t worry — Penn made it clear to me that he still can’t stand the You character, who adopted the moniker Professor Jonathan Moore as he grifted his way into a professor job at a London university.
“I can sort of feel bad for him, but not bad enough,” Badgley sighed. “As a real person? He’s obviously, like, a real sad case. Super traumatised. I mean, we know that’s like the origin of how people become abusers.”
Although some actors go to the ends of the earth to justify the movie villains they play and try to get into their mindset, Badgley has always been unapologetic about how much he loathes Joe as a person. But after going behind the camera for the Netflix series‘ penultimate episode this season, he admitted that seeing Joe from a new angle gave him a new perspective on the villain.
“I think [directing] made me resist him less,” Badgley explained. “I didn’t have time to worry about that, so I was just able to enjoy him more. It was much easier for me to kind of slip right back into him — although it already is quite easy.”
Similarly, in season 4, Joe also spends a lot of time trying to resist his old habits — completely normal hobbies like stalking and murdering, of course — but things take a turn when he gets embroiled into the mystery of the Eat the Rich killer and Joe’s stalker turns the tables on him. Needless to say, old habits die hard, and it isn’t long until Joe is back to his old, deranged self.
But Badgley admitted that as easy as it is to inhabit Joe, and despite directing a foray into his mind palace in episode 9, he’s still no closer to cracking him as a person. “I don’t know that I gained any greater understanding [of Joe by directing an episode],” he said. “Kind of sad that I didn’t.”
Although Joe spends a lot of time deriding influencer culture in You, another key difference between him and Badgley is that the latter embraces social media. Along with Nava Kavelin and Sophie Ansari, Badgley hosts Podcrushed, a podcast which, he explained to me with a raised eyebrow, is all about “the awkwardness and heartbreak and anxiety around becoming a teenager and middle school.”
After making a number of TikToks to promote the podcast — including one with the Taylor Swift song ‘Anti-Hero,’ Badgley’s goofy dancing and quick humour soon led to him going viral and becoming something of an inadvertent TikTok celebrity — and he now has his own account with over 3 million followers.
“The podcast TikTok account is where we all started getting to know TikTok,” he explained. “And we were making a bunch one day, and a new Taylor Swift record came out. My co-host is a Swiftie — she loves Taylor Swift. And she knew that this video was like, iconic. And then that’s how that happened.”
On the subject of TikTok, I asked the thriller series star what he thought about the fancams and edits being made by fans who see Joe as a victim. “He is a victim,” he smirked. “No, but, I think like — what is he? I mean, there’s the truth version and the fun show version. Joe is… Joe just needs to dissolve as a character. It’s like, let’s just get him to his end. He needs to dissolve because there’s no redemption for him as a real person.”
But if Badgley wants Joe to dissolve, does he want You to end with season 4? Not necessarily. “I want to see his dissolution,” he explained. “When I say dissolve, I don’t mean I just wanted him to away. What we’re going to witness is his dissolution. And I think that’s right.”
He continued, ” [Joe] as a character doesn’t deserve to go on. If, somehow, it’s possible for a guy like him to be redeemed in real life? Okay, fine. It’s not for me to say. It’s not my place to say. But as a character? No. We need to watch what it’s like to dissolve.”
You can watch You season 4 part 2 now on Netflix. But first off, check out our You season 4 part 2 review and our You season 4 part 1 ending explained so you’re all caught up. If you’ve already seen it and need to digest what the f*ck just happened, check out our explainers on what happened to Marienne, Love’s return, the You season 4 part 2 ending and everyone who dies in You season 4.