Penn Badgley 'very troubled' by sexual harassment allegations against You costar Chris D'Elia
Penn Badgley is speaking out about the sexual harassment allegations against his YOU costar Chris D'Elia, saying on Tuesday that he was "very troubled" by the accusations. The actor also said he's been reflecting on the "disturbing" idea that his own show, in which he plays a stalker and murderer of women, encourages that kind of behavior.
"It did affect me deeply. I was very troubled by it. I am very troubled by it. I don’t know Chris. I know that, if there’s anything we need to do in this age, it’s to believe women," Badgley said in an upcoming episode of the Los Angeles Times' Can't Stop Watching podcast.
Last week, numerous women accused D'Elia of sexually harassing and soliciting nude photos from them, some of whom were allegedly as young as 16 at the time. D'Elia denied the allegations, saying in a statement, "I know I have said and done things that might have offended people during my career, but I have never knowingly pursued any underage women at any point." Fellow comedians, like his former costar Whitney Cummings and Amy Schumer, have spoken out against D'Elia and stood by his accusers.
The comedian appears in three episodes of YOU's second season, which debuted Dec. 26. He plays the seemingly supportive comic Henderson, who is later revealed to have preyed on and exploited young women. The character dies in season 2, and EW has confirmed the comedian won't be appearing in season 3.
Badgley, who stars as the charming psychopath Joe Goldberg on the hit Netflix series, said the allegations have made him reflect on his own behavior, adding that he's "thankful that I have tried to uphold a certain level of conduct." However, the situation has also made him question the role of YOU in a broader cultural sense.
"The idea that a show like ours would indirectly, unwittingly be a haven for people who are abusive is disturbing. It’s very disturbing," Badgley said. "Does a show like ours help to create that culture? Well, I know that at least our show ... thinks about things in a dismantling, deconstructive manner. I would hope that at least our show is not serving to uphold these kind of, like, bunk ways of being and these systems, right?"
The actor told EW last year that "all of my fears were confirmed" when the series became a huge success and countless fans fawned over his deadly character. Showrunner Sera Gamble has even said that the point of YOU is to prove just how poisonous so many so-called "romantic" narratives are.
“What we’re doing with Joe is we’re taking a really hard look at that romantic hero idea and subverting it so that we can show the very toxic underbelly of the kinds of things we love seeing in our great romantic stories," Gamble told EW.
In terms of changing the narrative, Badgley said that although it's vital to hold individuals accountable, it's also imperative to dismantle the "evil" system that enables perpetrators — often "white men" — in the first place.
"One thing that our culture tends to do quite systematically and methodically is to revel in identifying villains so that the system can remain evil," he said in the LA Times interview.
"What is really important is to recognize that the policies that underwrite every given system — the practices, the regulations, the laws that underwrite every one of these systems which act as a haven for the individuals that take advantage, namely white men," Badgley added. "And women — but, you know, white people, and white men. And white men of a particular breed, who are successful and charismatic."
Badgley also revealed that after the allegations against D'Elia broke, the producers reached out to 17-year-old actress Jenna Ortega, who played a 15-year-old on YOU. Her character was one of the many young women D'Elia's character preys upon in season 2.
"The first thing our producers did was reach out to Jenna, who played Ellie, the girl opposite Chris in those scenes, just to make sure she felt safe. We can feel safe and sound there," he said.
Representatives for Gamble declined to comment to EW at this time.