Penn Badgley Joins Cast of "Gossip Girl"
You know the type; dark, very cute, kinda quiet, brown, puppy-dog eyes? Actor Penn Badgley has the stats for strong boyfriend material. You might have seen him in the short-lived series "The Bedford Diaries" or "The Mountain". He was also in John Tucker Must Die and will co-star in the upcoming rugby-themed Forever Strong.
This fall (starting Sept. 19 on The CW), Penn takes on the role of Dan Humphrey on the much anticipated teen-aimed series "Gossip Girl" from the creator of "The O.C.". The show is based on the very popular book series about the relationships in a crowd of rich teens in New York City. Penn's character is an outsider (don't we just love those?) who has the hots for Blake Lively's rich gal character.
We cornered Penn recently for a chat about the show, his own high school experiences, musical tastes and more.
TeenTelevision: How did you come to get this role of Dan in "Gossip Girl"?
Penn: My agents sent it to me and, initially, I was hesitant because I'd done so many WB shows playing the same guy; the nice guy with maybe a hard edge so, by the end of each show, I'd sort of transform the character into a cooler guy [laughs]. That was my pride acting out. But, once I read the script and I knew that Josh [Schwartz "The O.C."] and Stephanie [Savage "The O.C."] were involved, that's when I signed onboard because I knew it would be something special.
TeenTelevision: Your role seems more "meaty". You're the guy who has more to prove, the outsider. Has that been fun for you?
Penn: Yeah, it's always nice to be the moral compass of a show. I think he stands out as the heart and soul and a lot of people identify with him, maybe more than others. It's much easier to like the guy that's smiling than the guy that's scowling. It's great but also, I'm hoping that they'll explore some darker sides of his character so that he can really have some arcs.
TeenTelevision: What is his goal in life?
Penn: Well, I haven't even read the second script yet [laughs].
TeenTelevision: Yeah, it's early. But what do you think makes him tick?
Penn: I think, the vulnerability of a teenager is universal, regardless of how popular you are. I really think I just drew on that, my own experience as a teenager.
TeenTelevision: Have you suggested anything to the writers and creators that you would like for Dan to do?
Penn: I'll suggest certain things... as a joke but, in general, they've got a handle on it. They know what they're doing. Suggestions of mine would be taken to heart but, ultimately, they have their own vision and I just go along.. at this point. Maybe in Season four?
TeenTelevision: So you're not from New York. Is the whole cast living in New York now?
Penn: I'm flying out Monday. I was born in Baltimore. I've lived in Virginia and Seattle and L.A. longer than anywhere else so I'm kind of all over. I did one other show in New York ("Bedford Diaries").
TeenTelevision: Is the cast planning on hanging out in New York when you aren't shooting or does everyone just want to keep their distance from each other?
Penn: Initially, Chace [Crawford] Ed [Westwick] and I all talked about living together although Chace and Ed are living together. I decided to go out on my on since I've roomed with people from every other show I've been on and decided it was time to spend it alone.
TeenTelevision: Living together could be both good and bad if one guy gets yelled at and the others don't etc...
Penn: Yeah, exactly. So, we're all very close. Being on location brings a cast together.
TeenTelevision: What kind of music are you into? Do you play an instrument?
Penn: Yeah. I play guitar. I listen mostly to soul, jazz, hip-hop, reggae. I enjoy rock but, honestly, a lot of it I feel is bland so when it's good it's good. A lot of it sounds alike.
TeenTelevision: Do you have a younger sister like your character in the show?
Penn: I have an older half-sister but I never had a relationship with her because she's so much older and I never lived with her. We keep in contact but don't have that sibling contact.
TeenTelevision: Did you get together then with Taylor [Momsen who plays his younger sister] and talk about your characters' relationship?
Penn: We spend time on set. It's not that hard. We got along and, already, I feel so protective over her. She's thirteen and looks like she's at least seventeen.
TeenTelevision: What was your high school experience like?
Penn: My first day of high school one of my best friends got punched in the face by a senior. It was in the hall of a big public school. That was a rude awakening. I realized that kids just act so erratically. Like I said, the vulnerability of teens is universal and, sometimes, they'll act out like that guy acted out in an offensive way for no reason, hitting my best friend.
TeenTelevision: Were you in a clique or on the outs or what?
Penn: I ran the middle. I was friends with the popular kids. I was friends with kids who weren't. I just walked the line. There's not as much division as in this show but kids will naturally judge each other very viciously. It's universal; all the scandalous gossip fodder that's going on in this show, it happens in every high school. It's not really unique to this lifestyle [rich kids in New York].
TeenTelevision: Are you a Sidekick guy or into texting?
Penn: Not at all. I just recently got a text thing because my friends insist on texting me but, for the most part, I'm pretty low tech. I'm kind of a technological idiot. I have a computer but that's about all I do.
TeenTelevision: What shows did you watch growing up?
Penn: I always loved "The Simpsons". I still watch it. I watched "The X-Files" with my dad but I've never been a big TV guy. In fact, I didn't have a television for about eight months until recently. I wanted to watch Wimbledon so I got some rabbit-ear antennas.
TeenTelevision: Do you have any projects on the side coming out?
Penn: There's a rugby movie Forever Strong I did last summer that looks like it will be coming out soon and a horror film that went to DVD.
TeenTelevision: So other than watching Wimbledon, what sports are you into?
Penn: Soccer. I play soccer.
TeenTelevision: Working out?
Penn: Well, the soccer and I go to the gym.
TeenTelevision: Any message to the fans as to why they should check out the show?
Penn: I think anybody who has loved shows like "The O.C." or any teen dramas in the past is gonna like this regardless but I do think it has a little bit more of an adult flair to it. The style and sensibilities that setting it in New York City bring to it, I think will attract a broader audience. Even though the problems of these wealthy people might not be universal, the culture of New York City is a little more approachable than the cocoon that is Newport Beach. More of a melting pot, much more worldly.
Lynn Barker is a Hollywood-based entertainment journalist and produced screenwriter.