Gossip Girl or Too Cool for School? (with Penn Badgley)

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When actor Penn Badgley was offered the role of Dan Humphrey in “Gossip Girl,” he initially turned it down because it wasn’t interesting enough. He also turned down the role of Joe Goldberg in “You” because he didn’t want to glorify a serial killer. Sam asks Penn what led him to change his mind on these two career-defining shows, how his Baháʼí faith helps him make decisions, and why you won’t be seeing him on crypto ads anytime soon.

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Penn Badgley, Samantha Bee

Samantha Bee  00:00

Hey, If this isn’t your first time listening to this podcast, then you probably picked up on the fact that we talk all about choices here. And, well, if this is your first time listening, then welcome. Nobody ever forgets their first. Today, I am feeling a little meta, maybe I’m a little too into choice to in my head about it. I’m thinking about not just what good choices are. But how we clear the path, I guess, to make our choices, for me, comes down to clarity. And I recently had a kind of wrestled with a clarity and how I make my own professional decisions. I think like we all are looking to find a little bit of clarity sometimes. So maybe you need this reminder to, at least for me, I now know that I make my best choices when I can just like, for one brief moment, clear everything else from my mind and give myself the time and space to go through my checklist of whichever hurdles I need to decision to clear. For me, it’s mostly about my family life is too short, is too short, and my kids are growing up too fast for me to spend a prolonged amount of time away from them out of the house. Maybe there’s a time for that in the future. I doubt it, but it’s definitely not now, that is really the emotional part of making a career choice and then there’s the very real logistical part of making a career choice and that I think, is shared by almost everyone. Do you need the money? Does it help provide health insurance? Is it creatively fulfilling, we all need to prioritize these in different ways and I realized that it is a luxury to even have these decisions to make, which is why I take them very seriously. Just a couple of more weeks left in 2023 so reflecting a ton on the choices that have brought us to this point this year. And the choices I hope will make 2024 even better, I wish I truly wish personal clarity to everyone listening this holiday season. And I encourage you to make a physical checklist of the things that are important to you because I have that list and I refer to it constantly.

Samantha Bee  02:41

This is Choice Words, I’m Samantha Bee, my guest today is Penn Badgley. Oh, we talk oh a lot about what it means to say yes to jobs, to change your mind about a job to give something another chance, what it means to take a job because you need the money or if it’s good for your family. I really enjoyed talking with him. And I hope that you enjoy our conversation. So take a listen and make good choices.

Penn Badgley  03:16

Thank you for having me on, it’s an honor. I really I’ve loved you for you know, a long time.

Samantha Bee  03:23

Well, let me return the compliment to you. I am literally so excited to talk to you. I am a huge fan. Huge fan our whole family and this is so fun. Oh my god, thank you for saying yes.

Penn Badgley  03:39

Yeah, this is this is this is when having a podcast is fun. Maybe you always have fun with yours. And when we’re recording I have fun with ours been writing as a podcast it’s a lot of work.

Samantha Bee  03:50

It’s more than it’s more work than people think. For certain and you also become kind of a technological. I couldn’t even say the word technological. I fucked up even the word. But you do become very what’s the word? I’m looking for it you have a an ease with equipment after a while.

Penn Badgley  04:09

Yes, I still think that things happen to me and my computer that happened to no one else and our engineer has seen it.

Samantha Bee  04:18

Anyway, thank you for doing this. Okay all right okay, so let me begin here. I’m sure that you know that this, I like to like launch into a conversation by talking about, like choice that people make we’re so aware of your promise? Well, I’m very interested in how people got where they were visa vie the choices that we make and also with the choices we haven’t made and where we’re going and what the implications of that could be. So I’m super curious about like, what kind of a decision maker are you? Are you decisive? Are you, do you Mall? Do you agonize when you make decisions or do you are you just like, no, I really know myself and actually it’s very, it’s effortless.

Penn Badgley  05:03

It really depends. I speak sometimes like, I’m very decisive. I know that I think sometimes I can, I can appear to be decisive because I guess my voice maybe my mannerisms. At the same time, sometimes I feel like I can’t even decide what to say. So there’s a lot of stuttering hemming and hawing. I, you know, I agreed to be on this show before I knew the premise because I have personal view. And then when I found that it’s about choices, I’m like, oh, that’s actually very, that’s a very interesting thing because my relationship to making choices is, I don’t know, I’m, I think about that it’s really important, it’s really, really, really, really important because the choices you make are the things that shape your life, so much. And I don’t think that I certainly wasn’t brought up to think about the way I’m going to make choices. I wasn’t brought up to like, here’s a framework whereby you can make choices in a way that is going to be reliable, and it’s going to like, make you happy. You know what I mean? Like, I really feel like I’ve been making choices, just like on the fly on my own for a really long time I’ve been professional for a long time. So I mean, look, I have been somewhat famously transparent about two choices I’ve made, which I, which I initially said no, and then yes to and that’s Gossip Girl and in my show you now, you know, both I both I initially said no, and then you know, well, yeah, I mean, so well, the first time with Gossip Girl, I didn’t even change my mind it went away. They tried to find the character and then came back, like almost two months later. And so then then, then I was given a real opportunity to, I don’t know, are you sure? I mean, I was broken and it was just like, it was kind of like, yeah, there it was anyway, the point with those decisions is that they could not have influenced my life more. I could not have influenced my life more I mean, you know, that’s like, that’s virtually all I’m known for, as most actors are known for so little of what they’ve done. And yeah.

Samantha Bee  07:20

Okay, so when you said no, when you initially said no to Gossip Girl, probably like, this is not for me. I don’t want to do this. Was it it was just was it the content of it, it was just sort of.

Penn Badgley  07:29

I mean, just like, I saw before that I had been doing television for eight years. Professionally, not even this does not include, you know, theater and auditioning in in Washington state before I moved to LA. So I was so fed up with television, I felt like I had read every television scripts. Actually, I had just tested and nearly gotten but lost the role. of, of, I believe his name is Jessie in in a Breaking Bad Aaron Paul’s character. So I tested Aaron and I tested on that role. And when I read that script, I was like, this is the best television pilot I have ever read, read will ever read. If I’m not going to get this, I can’t do any more television. I’ve done so many series that got canceledl, I’ve done so many recurring roles, and just guesthouse, whatever it was, I didn’t know what I was going to do, I was going to try my hand at music and then and then and then just get a job as a waiter, or whatever. The Scripture guysborough came along, it did not convince me of any other ideas. I just thought, you know, and but but look, that’s that’s not it’s just it just was what it was like, it was exactly what it was and that was not what I was interested in. That’s fine, I said as much to the series creators, you know, who asked me what I take a look at it and I said, and in fact, they prefaced it with with think you won’t be interested in this. We think you won’t be interested in we think you won’t be interested in this. But we really think you’d be great for it so just take a look at it and I was like, you know, thank you so much for thinking of me. But I bet respectfully, I think you’re right, I think I’m not interested in this and that was that, you know, that was that they couldn’t find the person came back again, like a month and a half or two months later and.

Samantha Bee  09:21

When you turn it down, when you were like this is just not what I’m this is not why I’m in this business. You’re just not meeting my needs at this moment. Was there a time in the two months after they went away that you were like, I probably should have.

Penn Badgley  09:36

No, yeah, that’s funny. No, not at all. I didn’t even think about it. I literally did not even think about it. I felt good about the choice, I did. And then when it came back, the Stephanie Savage, the series co creator with Josh Schwartz, I had worked with her years prior on something called the mountain which had been cancelled after its initial like order of nine or 13, whatever it was episodes back then. And if she wrote me from what I recall, was a very long and impassioned email just about the quality of the character, how she really thought that I would bring it to life and bring the show to life, whatever that stuff was. And it was so impassioned, and she was really calling me like, not me, I should say, the character, sort of moral center, the sort of heart of the show and, and then, of course, my team is like, I mean, the show is probably going to be huge, you know, as much as you can ever measure those things. And the idea is that, of course, you do that so then you can quote unquote, do what you want to do later. And which you can spend your entire life doing and, you know, so I just thought, Okay, I really wanted to live in New York City. And that is what that is what tipped it for me.

Samantha Bee  10:52

I love hearing that. You don’t be there’s something, because what I’m hearing is that you are really, truly not defined by your work.

Penn Badgley  11:04

Yeah, in my life and in your life at all. No, no, that’s true. That’s true. That doesn’t mean that then the rest of the world that only knows you through that work. finds you that way, which is an interesting thing.

Samantha Bee  11:17

Of course, but you you’re, you’re like, I don’t really need like, I need a job.

Penn Badgley  11:21

Yeah, yeah but ya know, that’s, it’s continues to really be that throughout, it’s, um.

Samantha Bee  11:29

And you turned down you at first also, you’re like.

Penn Badgley  11:32

I didn’t turn it down as strongly, I did say no to my team. And I thought about I thought about it for a good like, I think like a week.

Samantha Bee  11:41


Penn Badgley  11:42


Samantha Bee  11:43

We’re like, I don’t think so.

Penn Badgley  11:45

No, yeah. No, see there I was like, okay, this is actually like, probably one of the best opportunities that could come to me right now. But I, this is still not what I want to do my heart’s desire. And I think I think I can wait it out a bit longer and find something. I thought it was compelling, but I just didn’t know that I wanted to play this guy for for however long. I mean, look, I think I was 30. When I was making the decision, I’m 37, I just turned 30 so that’s, you know, it’s like my 30s GossipGirls, my 20s this will be my 30s. And my manager said, same manager is back in the day with Gossip Girl who asked me to reconsider. He said, okay, you know, once I presented my reasoning for why I didn’t want to do it, and I was trying to be a team player, because I knew that I would seem kind of crazy and just, it’s like, well, then what are you going to do, bro? What are you going to do?

Samantha Bee  12:35

Why are you in this business now?

Penn Badgley  12:37

Like, I mean, would you just want to keep playing music? Where’s that? So I knew that and I had just gotten married, by the way, didn’t have a source of income. And so my manager said, aright, look, you know, your your reasoning is sound. And if you feel this way, why don’t you just have this conversation with Greg Berlanti? Who’s the series creator, co creator with Sarah Gamble? And I thought, oh, okay, yeah, I’ll do that. And we were talking about it and yeah, so here’s my my thing was ultimately moral. And it’s hard to this is the thing is like, you know, when you’re making a decision about its morality, it’s a hard thing to really impress on someone else. You don’t, because like, I really felt like playing this guy was not. For lack of a better way of putting it, I didn’t feel like it was like a sound of moral decision. You know, and I won’t get into all the factors of why it was just like, I don’t want to represent this for this long. I don’t want to be the single vessel through which this gets expressed. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be expressed, I’m not judging it. I’m trying not to judge anyone else, at least for it. I just don’t want to be the the person through which it then all goes. And then you know what I mean? Like, no one else has to be this guy.

Samantha Bee  13:59

And, like, I don’t want to glorify.

Penn Badgley  14:01

Yeah, yeah and I, of course know that none of the people involved in making it do either. But there’s this inherent glorification of anything you capture on camera, anything, you know, like anything. And so anyway, I’m trying to say this to, and so Greg’s talking about he’s saying something about like, love true love a story, I think he referred to it as a love story. And and then I think I think I stopped him and I was like, so okay, so if this is a love story, what is it saying about love? And he took the world’s most perfectly dramatic pause, and he said, I don’t know, but I think we’ll discover that together. You know, and so the spirit of collaboration was there. There was something about that moment that that kept that that kept me from going to the other side of the fence. I took another week. And you know, you asked about happy make choices, here’s so I had become a high just about two years prior to this, it was the first profession major professional decision I became as a behind behind the high Faith is an independent world religion. So part of this experience for me, without going, at least now into anything about the by faith, it was I now had a different framework, or I now had a framework record. So here’s what I did, I still wasn’t sure. I pray and meditation had become a pretty significant part of my just, I don’t know, daily practice or spiritual life, whatever you want to call it. Faith as it’s defined enough, sort of behind terminology could be called, like, conscious knowledge in action. And so so a huge part about prayer is that it has to be followed by action, otherwise, there’s no way for any thing or anyone to, to express itself the prayer, the prayer is lost. So I’ve been trying to learn how to just pray, meditate, reflect act that’s like this, that’s the cycle, that’s the framework. And so here’s what I did. I wasn’t sure, I sat on my bed I said a prayer came into that prayer. Not with the utmost conviction, but a bubbling feeling of let’s explore this, with the caveat that I could get Wednesday evenings off to continue this, like this sort of mentorship program that I had with middle school aged kids in Brooklyn and so I called him my lawyer. I said, if I can get Wednesday nights off, I’ll do it, and he was like, I think we can make and, and so that’s that’s, you know, the decision process.

Samantha Bee  16:45

That’s a very well, that’s very deliberative.

Penn Badgley  16:48

Yeah, yeah to yeah I mean, sometimes, I think historically, I can veer towards to deliberative now, I’m just trying to shorten that time, right, just like I still that same steps process of prayer, meditation, reflection, action. I just tried to do that faster and faster, more and more efficiently, I should say.

Samantha Bee  17:10

We’ll be right back with Penn Badgley after this.

Samantha Bee  17:32

I like that, can I just say that I admire and I really respect that ethics came into your decision making, because I think that’s kind of increasingly rare. And just wondering, like, are you promoting any crypto products today? Or any, like a gambling app or something fun, cool.

Penn Badgley  17:54

It’s funny, I will have to go to my [..] No, I you know, here’s it’s hard to continue making choices at this level. Like you know, aren’t you know, regardless of what I think I’m at a I’m at a certain level, where the everything I do kind of has implications ramifications, it’s your constant having to weigh and measure things in a way where it feels like the stakes are very high. I’m talking about number you’re talking about viewership, or sometimes money or whatever it is in like the millions, if not the hundreds of 1000s that’s an insane place to be all the time. You’re trying to sell a concept. I mean, you know, this, like, if it’s a podcast or a show, you know, you’re asking for millions upon millions of dollars with the promise that millions of people or some attraction, attractive fraction thereof will be watching this, consuming it listening, whatever. And that’s and you’re one person. Like, oh, my goodness, that is a lot of the stakes are just high, and so you know, to me, I almost feel like if I didn’t have something that is less rational, or and actually subjective, because we should always be rational, but like something is purely subjective is like what I think so that’s where prayer meditation, I think really helps. It’s just like this is this is just some other wavelength to make this make this tenable and like sustainable.

Samantha Bee  19:23

Well, if I may say, as an outside observer, who does watch you and has watched like, multiple upon multiple watchings because I have an almost adult daughter who really likes to, and I feel that you and in your collaborative interaction with the show’s creator, like what you have created collaboratively, does not glorify a serial killer, you have, you have created the correct like a great balance of like, of loving the character and following the carrot and being interested, you’ve created a charismatic character, who you’re very into, you know, everybody’s into it and we’re like a following your story. But it’s so undercut, and it’s grotesque, right? It has to be.

Penn Badgley  20:20

That’s the right way.

Samantha Bee  20:21

It’s just the right way that it makes you as a viewer, question yourself. And I think that’s great.

Penn Badgley  20:28

That is great, and hearing it from you that yeah, I’ll take that I think that’s I do think that’s great and I think, I mean, look, if we’re thinking about like choices you make and like, and then just what that is, in the case of Gossip Girl, and in the case of my show, now, you if we were to look at a list of like concerns, and then hopes, you know, fears, and then like wishes, actually, all of them have come to be proven like, I knew what I was doing and thinking, my fears were well founded, because a lot of my worst fears have actually, I shouldn’t say come to pass or like worst fears, but like, all of my concerns were valid, because there has been some response and some experience where it’s like, okay, yeah, those were valid concerns, that’s real, and then and then some of my greatest hopes have been become real, too. So you know, it’s just like, it’s not like, I don’t believe in that you can make truly right or wrong choices, because that somehow is extremely black and white and binary and it suggests, I don’t know, it’s just not the way it feels.

Samantha Bee  21:40

Well, I feel like you, the way you’re describing your deliberative process is like very much about you’re just kind of juggling everything and then the right or the right decision kind of makes itself known to you like almost in your in your body, you go like, alright, there’s a reason why I keep coming back to this thing. Like, what am I why do I keep thinking, this will be an adventure, well maybe this is just, maybe this is an adventure that for some reason, I’m being directed to go on and I don’t know why.

Penn Badgley  22:12

Yeah, exactly.

Samantha Bee  22:13

But can’t walk can’t turn away from it, necessarily.

Penn Badgley  22:17

Yes, being I think being directed is a good way to put it’s constantly I mean, because I am spiritual and the words I would use is like, something is literal isn’t such an extreme thing to say, is this what God wants for me?

Samantha Bee  22:32

The Lord has spoken.

Penn Badgley  22:33

You know, you know, which is such a in some ways silly thing to say I never by the way would have thought I would have said something like that growing up, I was so against religion, the use of the word God, but of course, my context for it is different now, but anyway, I think it’s like it’s being directed by forces which are larger than any of us, you know, they’re also social. They’re also like, cultural, all these things, so wanting to just be like, look I alone, not gonna always know what’s right or good. Just gotta be just gotta do my part and then be directed. And I’m an actor anyway, so I’d say I suppose I take direction.

Samantha Bee  23:10

Right, but no, you’re, you’re directing too.

Penn Badgley  23:13

Just directly the ninth episode of the fourth season.

Samantha Bee  23:18

It feels to me like you have you’re just you’re a creator, you’re creator. In a lot of ways, because this is not your only creative endeavor, you’re a musician you do loads of.

Penn Badgley  23:31

Yeah, right yes yeah constantly generating something.

Samantha Bee  23:36

I guess all things being equal. If you don’t have to choose a path, but like, all things being equal, what feeds you creatively, spiritually, the most right now?

Penn Badgley  23:50

As a.

Samantha Bee  23:52

Just as like a full human being?

Penn Badgley  23:54

Yeah, yeah so something to think like as a recipient, it’s music. Like if I’m going to be moved by something usually music is going to do with the most And the fastest and the most regularly. It’s just the way I am, interestingly, podcasts because it’s it’s auditory. I really feel like they’re I’ve always been moved by them for like, I love radio lab.

Samantha Bee  24:17

And me too. Me too I love it. Okay, so what is your mentorship? What what is the mentorship that you do in middle school?

Penn Badgley  24:26

Many years since it’s sort of, it’s sort of disbanded and fizzled, because of my the rate of work, unfortunately, but you know, it does inform why I started this podcast I have now, which I’m not, I don’t feel like I’m here to promote but I should I need to always be developing it’s called Pod Crushed and it is about stories of stories of rejection and loss and heartbreak and whatever other things that are very awkward and cringe inducing and funny that you experienced in this unique time of Middle School, which is like the very beginning of adolescence, you know, and that can be a portal to conversations of any kind and any, any, like formative experience at any point in life. But so we have our guests on, and we we start there. And that actually came about because my two co hosts, were former administrators, or one was an administrator, the other was a teacher in middle school, had a middle school. They’re both behind who I met through the Brooklyn behind community. And because the faith is so like, the by faith is so sort of socially minded a lot of visor, like doctors, lawyers, teachers, educators, like the social workers in some capacity. And so I mean, there’s so many other kinds of people, but you do meet a lot of young professionals who are thinking that way. And I, I met, so Nava, my co host was actually working at the UN at this point, and she was researching the impacts of media on youth, as young as like four, you know, like how four year old boys and girls are learning how to be, quote, unquote, boys and girls, you know, it’s like that they’re already learning about gender, stereotypes, and all that kind of stuff. And the data is really not encouraging. In terms of, yeah, the way that like just media overall is, is just, it’s just really impacting our youngest eyes and brands. So our first conversations are just about like making stuff for younger people. And then Sophie was a teacher then but I met her at a at a like a high inspire, but not totally behind conference, which was focusing on like just the power of youth to to, quote unquote, change the world, we wouldn’t have been using that rhetoric but that’s effectively what it was, it was like, the power of young people to be unique, like spearheads of social change in their in their communities, you know, partly because they’re idealistic in a unique way, and optimistic and full of energy. And they don’t have other commitments, right? So anyway, long winded way of saying all this stuff was kind of swirling around. And one of the ways that like, behind engage in in community building around the world is called the junior youth spiritual empowerment program, so it’s like for kids who are just about 11 to 14 or 15. And it’s like, cultivating not only literacy, but like the powers of intuition and what you what you need, both in decision making, they really help. Yeah, and there’s places in the world where this has led changed culture in, in communities that are largely a different religion, you know, whether Muslim or like Buddhist or Hindu and have been, you know, ravaged by civil wars, this and that, it’s like, it’s something that in other parts of the world has, has shown to be a really beautiful thing, you know, it’s not quite there in the West in the same way. And I was just learning about this process and engaging with a group of young people in Brooklyn, and, you know, just trying to embed in the community be be a part of something meaningful. And I, I was really, like, not always clear on what I was doing there and if it was working, quote, unquote, what what is what does that even mean, and anyways, it was important enough to me that I really wanted to stick with it. And then and then eventually, I had to move to LA. For my show.

Samantha Bee  28:22

Right, so with the, I guess, like helping young people come into their own minds, in a way, like, helping them have faith in their own.

Penn Badgley  28:35

Yes, in their own ability to truly empower so what we call ourselves, I said, mentorship, because that’s the word of our culture. But we call ourselves as animators, because it’s not I’m not I’m not teaching you specifically, like I’m not imparting, I’m not uniquely imparting knowledge to you, that is like mine to give you it’s more like I am helping you find your button to then animate you and empower you.

Samantha Bee  28:59

I love that. I love that you’re like helping them just like open themselves up.

Penn Badgley  29:05

Yes, totally.

Samantha Bee  29:06

And be able to kind of like, form an expression that’s real for them.

Penn Badgley  29:12

Yes, think critically understood. You know, we talked about like gut feelings. How often have we learned how to, like, you know, ignore our gut feelings? And what is our nervous system literally trying to tell us in those moments, like, what, what has our previous experience been? And why are we ignoring that? So in some ways, this is like, this is like trying to undo that, like, by the time you’re 11, 12, 13, you’ve already learned so much from a culture that is, in a lot of ways toxic and misguiding you so you know, empowering in some way helps you. I guess, I guess in a process of empowerment. What I mean, I don’t know like what’s happening is.

Penn Badgley  29:52

Learn , learn to trust your self.

Penn Badgley  29:53

Yes, that’s exactly that’s exactly.

Samantha Bee  29:56

it is funny because I feel like that is a skill that, I think, if you like, can inculcate that, like if you can give kids I like what you’re saying, because it’s such a formative time in life.

Penn Badgley  30:11

So formative.

Samantha Bee  30:12

Terrible, or grade or like, whatever the middle school age range means for most people’s terrible progress and a lot of ways.

Penn Badgley  30:23

It was tough for me.

Samantha Bee  30:25

Really, and and then, but you know, you to learn to trust your gut, even someone is such an effective, it’s such a good tool to have in your toolbox because even like, I’m 54 now, and I’m telling you that people try to override the override what’s in my gut a lot of times still, or they try, and I really, you have to be so strong in yourself to know what is right for you at any age.

Penn Badgley  30:51

Yes, it’s so true.

Samantha Bee  30:53

It doesn’t really go away that push and pull, that doesn’t really stop, you just have to learn that you’re a strong person. And that you’re usually right, that will tell you.

Penn Badgley  31:04

Your gut does tell you I mean, we’re sensitive, intuitive creatures, you know. And there’s something there that we need to yeah, like trusting ourselves is probably also the first step to trusting other people right, I think.

Samantha Bee  31:17

Hold that thought more with Penn Badgley after one more break.

Samantha Bee  31:39

Do you think that you’re so invested are so interested in this age group also because you started working? I mean, you started working professionally.

Penn Badgley  31:46

The age of 12.

Samantha Bee  31:47

At that age, right?

Penn Badgley  31:48

Yeah, I mean, so I was working beforehand. You know, the first job I had was in radio, incidentally. Back when I was like nine or 10 years old, at a get a children’s radio station called Kid star in Seattle.

Samantha Bee  32:02

I feel like I could totally understand why you would connect with that, creative audio.

Penn Badgley  32:10

Yeah, in a way, I think it was more authentic than what school could give me is more engaging than what’s I mean, unfortunately, a lot of schools not are not really going to be stimulating for most people, you know, and in those years are murky, because there was so much moving in so little was structured, because I was in and out of schools and, and then by the time I was 12, basically stopped going to school. And then and because I was in LA, I was working on sets and having a tutor there. I then actually ended up testing out in order to not have a set tutor and to work adult hours. So then I could technically go to community college, but I was 13. And that was like, and that was weird.

Samantha Bee  32:58

I’m 13, I’m going to college. You know what? I’m gonna call it, I’m gonna say you’ve made some pretty great choices.

Penn Badgley  33:08

You know, it’s funny. It’s funny. You say, yeah, I think weirdly, in this conversation, that is the way that it feels. It does not always feel that way. But in this conversation, it definitely does.

Samantha Bee  33:19

Sometimes when you articulate something for yourself, you’re like, oh, no, actually, I’m actually very capable.

Penn Badgley  33:26

Measure of that, and might be like, due to how intact I feel, you know, like regaining so much that felt like it was maybe lost along the way. Because by the way, some of these decisions were pretty crazy, like going to LA and becoming a child actor, like it was the best decision for, for a child of her family, but look like.

Samantha Bee  33:47

Being a child actor is not an area necessarily where people thrive.

Penn Badgley  33:53

No, it’s not. It’s mostly, it’s really not.

Samantha Bee  33:57

No, it’s not. Would you ever okay, people ask me a lot, they’re like, would you because my children are older or they’re like, your child ninja children want to go into acting? I’m like, why in the world would they go into the entertainment business, they see what we’re doing at home. Like, we don’t? It’s not like we make it look good. It just is our lights our job. It’s our job and we treat it as such. It’s not who we are it is our job.

Penn Badgley  34:27

Do they want to do anything like this?

Samantha Bee  34:29

Not in the least no, not really. They don’t, well, again because we haven’t, because we’ve treated it as a job and not as I think something that just seems like so otherworldly, like we just are doing chores a lot. We’re just like any family. We’re like, let’s go, let’s go to West Side market, we gotta get my bananas, you know what I mean? Nobody would ever look at our family life and go awful, this is sexy.

Penn Badgley  34:56

Of course, that’s very much the way we feel.

Samantha Bee  35:00

You know what I can I can I say this? This is just an observation because I do again, I’m a big fan, I love how you talk about your wife.

Penn Badgley  35:08

Oh, thank you.

Samantha Bee  35:09

It’s very refreshing.

Penn Badgley  35:12

Oh, thanks.

Samantha Bee  35:13

You know what I mean, it’s refreshing to feel the respect the love the sort of the admiration.

Penn Badgley  35:21

I’m really again, like you reflecting on my life. That makes me feel better. Yeah, that good. I’m glad.

Samantha Bee  35:28

I like it when people are a team. You know what I mean? I feel like there’s possibility in that it’s like a good. It’s just good to model that.

Penn Badgley  35:38

Totally, yeah, well, look, you know, it’s funny, talking about making choices like the choice to get married. And to start a family, no one has any idea what they’re actually doing when they start that process.

Samantha Bee  35:50

Not at all.

Penn Badgley  35:50

And we really are realizing how much we come from, you know, so much dysfunction so that everything we’re doing almost feels like new. Not that we’re not the first people to do it, but we might be in our lineage. And you know, and it’s like, it’s, it’s, yeah, we’re constantly awed by the the impact of that decision we made, you know, it’s funny, you make like, one decision. And then it’s like, it rolls plays out for so long. It’s decisions are crazy.

Samantha Bee  36:17

They really are like, you go, I’m gonna live. We’re gonna live here. We’re gonna put our roots. Okay, yeah, we grew up scattershot. We grew up all over the place. We’re on all these different places, why don’t we put a root  down? And where you select? Is you you’re gonna do that is so huge. It’s completely impactful. Do you feel like to have a sense of what the next 10 years will look like for yourself?

Penn Badgley  36:45


Samantha Bee  36:45

Do you or do you do that? Do you go like a five year plan? 10 year plan? 15 year plan, no more showbusiness cabinetry.

Penn Badgley  36:57

I feel like I know myself well enough to know that anything I might imagine is totally. It’s a fantasy. You know, I will say that by the time I was 24, all the dreams I had checked off. I lived in an art in like an artist’s loft in Brooklyn. I had I was playing Jeff Buckley, who was one of my icons growing up. I was very much in love at the time with someone I thought I could marry. And there were countless things happening that just felt like wow, if 10 years ago, I had had like that thing like, do I see myself continue as being I’m in my mid 20s, and I’m, I think I would have been thrilled to see that moment. What’s interesting is that after that moment, all of it began to be stripped away, like not only that relationship, but then like the arc that my career seemed to be the trajectory that it might seem to be having, it’s it was just like, kind of like […] and just sort of sidetracked and that the independent films, were not happening in the way that I wanted them to, you know, everything was just kind of going left. I did not see myself 10 years from then being another television show. And being an it being as successful as Gossip Girl, are you kidding me? Are you kidding? Like a character that actually now might eclipse the previous one.

Samantha Bee  38:37

Oh, I think.

Penn Badgley  38:38

I mean, yeah, I think he actually has successfully yeah, I think so. I never would have thought that would have happened. I mean, you know, my worst fear is that I’d be known as Dan Humphrey for the rest of my life. And I still might be by the way, I still, you know, doesn’t mean that I won’t be. So I don’t know, I really don’t know. So in 10 years, what you’re gonna have a 13 year old and a 24 year old. I’m excited for that, I gotta tell you the conversations you can have with a 24 year old and a 13 year old. Yeah, I love that. Um, so I would say my hopes start in the order of like, you know, fatherhood and family person, so you know, I would just hope I think of my right now. This makes me sound so obnoxiously high minded, by the way, so like, of course I have, but but I’m thinking right now of measuring it in relationships. So I’m really thinking of my relationships with my kids, and then my wife and just how we’re all feeling that includes my my stepsons, father and, and his family, you know, we’re so it’s just I hope that in 10 years, we’re all just like, man, you know, got a great family and can really trust it and really, because, you know, by the time I was those ages, that’s not the way I felt.

Samantha Bee  40:02

It’s what you’re describing makes complete and total sense to me. It’s really like, what else is there?

Penn Badgley  40:10

Yeah, I mean, I, I think in some ways we need to, of course, we don’t just want to be family oriented, but if you but if you have a family, it needs to be intact otherwise, you can’t even do that much more, you know, it’s like, if you want to be of service to the world, you want to do all this other stuff, it’s hard to do that. If your foundation is really broken and miserable, and, and so, I’m a typical millennial in that like, I don’t know how to feel about the future of the world, and like its state and condition.

Samantha Bee  40:44

Oh no, it’s terrible.

Penn Badgley  40:45

I have like, part of my faith is that is that I have utmost faith in the eventualities of humanity, like the arc, the long arc, but the immediate future is dicey.

Samantha Bee  40:56

Long, long arc, it feels we have a lot to do.

Penn Badgley  41:00

We do we have a lot to do, and we’re not going to see it before our death. So like I, you know, like, the next 10 years could be, I mean, there couldn’t be a little bit of buckwild, right, like they have to be we’re confronting resources and all kinds of stuff, all kinds of stuff.

Samantha Bee  41:17

We’re confronting so many terrible things.

Penn Badgley  41:20

Yeah and so like to have a career in like media, like what is media look like? In 10 years? It’s straightaway the Internet is change everything I personally, call me crazy I do not, I’ve never experienced the feeling of what do you call it? Job security, what’s the term that people use security, just security, security? Safe? Never felt safe. So I yeah, 10 year plan to me is like, okay, family is the foundation, anything beyond that? Great hope to be doing it, can we scale back so that I don’t need to be like, on an iconic show or film or whatever, I think that’s smart.

Samantha Bee  42:05

So smart. Building a life of meaning. And then you can kind of weather a lot, well can I just say thank you, because I really liked this, this was great.

Penn Badgley  42:18

Oh, I’m glad I’m into this, this is a ne too, me too. I love again, I love the premise, I’m going to keep listening.

Samantha Bee  42:26

I appreciate that. You’ve unspooled my brain today, so thank you for this pause. Oh, I hope you I hope I see you chopping logs one day upstate.

Penn Badgley  42:42

Yeah, thank you. Thank you so much for having me, honestly.

Samantha Bee  42:45

Thank you.

Samantha Bee  42:53

That was Penn Badgley and I had no choice but to look up one thing. He mentioned that as a child actor, he was able to go to community college at 13, was just a little baby. So I actually had to know what is the youngest age of someone to ever go to college? Well, my friends that will be Michael Kearney who enrolled in college at six, six years old, and graduated at 10. I feel very unaccomplished and who I can’t imagine what his social life was like, listen, you can’t have everything. Anyway, good news, there’s more Choice Words with Lemonada Premium subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like a special outtake from this theory interview. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts.

CREDITS  44:01

Thank you for listening to Choice Words which was created by and is hosted by me. We’re a production of Lemonada Media, Kathyrn Barnes, […] and Kryssy Pease produce our show. Our mix is by James Barber. Steve Nelson is the vice president of weekly content. Jessica Cordova Kramer, Stephanie Wittles Wachs and I are executive producers. Our theme was composed by […] with help from Johnny Vince Evans . Special thanks to Kristen Everman, Claire Jones, Ivan Kuraev and Rachel Neil. You can find me at @Iamsambee on Twitter and at @realsambee on Instagram. Follow Choice Words wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.

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