You Season 4 is a very different, ennui-filled beast than the seasons of yesteryear. There’s a lack of stalking on behalf of Joe Goldberg (who’s now “Professor” Jonathan Moore), and there’s some lewdness from other characters, but Penn Badgley doesn’t participate nearly as much in carnal-type acting this season. That was fully intentional, as Badgley recently revealed on his Podcrushed podcast. He simply asked showrunner Sara Gamble if he could skip (most of) the sexy stuff, and Netflix was good with it.
The former Gossip Girl star revealed that he felt uncomfortable being intimate as part of his job due to his marriage (to Domino Kirke), and from there, Badgley has further elaborated to Variety about how he has always disliked sex scenes, which he calls “disturbing” and more. In fact, Penn felt that it’s so “important” to value “fidelity” in his marriage that he nearly turned down the show in the first place:
Badgley spoke carefully describing his discomfort with sex scenes, “having done a fair amount of them in my career.”
“It’s not a place where I’ve blurred lines,” he says. “There’s almost nothing I could say with more consecration. That aspect of Hollywood has always been very disturbing to me — and that aspect of the job, that mercurial boundary — has always been something that I actually don’t want to play with at all.” He’s also now older than his romantic interests on the show. “Didn’t used to be the case,” he says.
One can easily see how Badgley might have felt extra icky about the sex scenes so far in You, given that most of them also involve a power differential which is not fantastic. There’s one scene in particular in Season 3 (a forced couple-swapping scene) that felt very uncomfortable for all involved, and that felt palpable. Perhaps I’m reading into this too much, but when I watched the scene, I thought, “He really looks upset here, and not simply as Joe Goldberg.”
However, Badgley has always been somewhat outspoken regarding his feelings about how You is received. He attempted to point out to rabid Twitter followers that they should not lust over his serial killer character. As well, he recently declared that the recent fascination with Jeffrey Dahmer does land “on the shoulders of Netflix,” although Badgley also believes that the show’s fans could do some inward gazing. That’s an ongoing conversation for another day, of course, since True Crime and Crime Dramas are all the rage on streaming.