Penn Badgley Talks "Gossip Girl", "Easy A" and More!
On "Gossip Girl" dark and handsome actor Penn Badgley's character Dan is ensnared in a baby scandal and stays home as relationships end and new ones begin in Paris. Right now, we're In Beverly Hills with Penn to talk about his new high school-centric comedy film Easy A.
Penn looks really hot in a crisp dark blue dressy shirt, jeans, his signature dark, curly hair and sipping from a coffee cup. The actor let us know that he thrives on work... lots of it. He shot Easy A while flying back and forth endlessly to the NYC "Gossip Girl" set, loves working with "A" co-star Emma Stone and just isn't into all the tweeting, friending and social networking thing in general that drives the plot of Easy A... hummm and "Gossip Girl" as well. Interesting. Check it out!
TeenTelevision: You have a certain pattern in your career it seems. In "Gossip Girl" rumors run wild and rumors shape the story of Easy A. Any comments on that?
Penn: Well, I think it’s a reflection of the times and the way teenagers interact, the way young people are. With the social networking and the internet, and Facebook, Twitter and that kind of stuff, it does change the way you operate. I think it’s really fascinating how so many movies revolve around that kind of concept, and we as human beings are discovering this new way of micromanaging your personality online.
I think the reason it ties into high school so easily is because that’s when everybody was doing that. That was a time in everybody’s lives where teenagers are super insecure and they want to be cool and they want everyone to like them. So the fact that Facebook has made them even more acutely aware of like the pimple on their cheek, I think that’s what it is. It's a reflection of the world we live in.
TeenTelevision: And both the show and the movie emphasize how fast these rumors spread.
Penn: Yeah. Everything has increased and changes so quickly. When I was in high school, not all that long ago, it was very different. We didn’t have Facebook or Twitter. MySpace was still kind of like, ‘What is MySpace?’
TeenTelevision: Even as a kid, have you ever started a rumor about someone because you wanted to "get" them?
Penn: You know, not that I’ve never sinned, but I was pretty good about that specifically.
TeenTelevision: So you wouldn't pass it on even if you heard anything?
Penn: No. I was always pretty responsible and fair with that kind of thing. I went to a private school in Washington State that was really small, and the kids were kind of vicious, and it gave me a sensitivity to that sort of thing at a very young age. I didn’t ever want anybody to feel bad about themselves because of some bullshit that somebody was spreading around. I was always very sympathetic or empathetic. It’s a really awful thing to see somebody get torn apart like that.
TeenTelevision: Do you think all this online social networking is good for high schoolers or any of us?
Penn: Me personally, I don’t think it’s terribly good for us. That’s my personal opinion, but I think it’s amazing what we can do, that we have things like iPhones and whatever, but it is a bit weird. Like the phone call is kind of like reserved for only important people, whereas like most of the time you’re just texting. I mean it’s kind of a strange thing.
TeenTelevision: What about you personally? Even if you don't like it, are you kind of forced to do it?
Penn: Well, I don’t have Twitter or Facebook or MySpace because of the show and because, I guess, whatever you want to call it, the notoriety I have. I actually joined Facebook about two months before the show started, just kind of like, ”I’ll just see what this is about.” All my friends were doing it then I did it and I didn’t really like it that much, and then the show started and I had like thousands of requests. This is not happening.
Then the same thing for MySpace. I tried it for a bit and I was just like, 'I really don’t want to have to be responsible for creating another personality online'. I understand that you want people to be interested in you but, not that I’m all over the tabloids but I think for somebody who’s a celebrity, or whatever you want to call it, it’s like a double negative. You cancel each other out, I’m not sure why you would want one to tweet or Facebook. But again, that’s just me.
TeenTelevision: When you are in the tabloids, do you ever feel a need to respond to the stuff you read or see?
Penn: No, because it’s not true. Like if it’s not true, it’s not true and it doesn’t have any legs to stand on. All of us going through this, something will flare up and one of our cast mates will be frustrated or something, and you’ve just got to remember, if it’s not true it will fade away and nobody will remember it in a week. That stuff comes and goes.
TeenTelevision: You graduated high school at age 13. So your teenaged experience wasn't that of a "normal" high schooler. How do you relate to your character Todd in Easy A?
Penn: Actually he’s really not your conventional high schooler. The purpose that he serves is that he is sort of a grounding for Emma’s character Olive. He pops in and out and you’re not really sure what he’s doing there, but he just sort of comes in with a wink and a nod to make sure she’s all right. And then he’s out.
He sees beyond high school as the end all, be all experience of any teenager. He knows that that’s not all there is to life and that this is just another chapter. I think he’s one of those guys who knows that he’s still waiting for the good stuff. Not to be over-cynical or anything, but he’s not terribly caught up in it. And he’ll have fun. He’ll be the mascot and like do really ridiculous stuff. I think he embraces the fun of high school, but he also doesn’t concern himself with it too much. I was the same way. I was fortunate enough to not have to like stick to the conventional path.
TeenTelevision: I understand your wacky costumes in the film (woodchuck mascot and painted blue "Devil") were pretty uncomfortable, right?
Penn: Yeah, but if that’s the worst part of my job I’m pretty lucky. It was really chafing is a better word. It was like a hundred degree weather, and I was in blue body paint and with a woodchuck thing. And because we shot it all in one day, I put the body paint on, so we could go back and forth, but I was constantly sweating, and it was getting on the costumes so they had to clean the costume and repaint my body. So in between takes I’m like standing there sweating, disoriented in front of a gym full of Ojai, California high schoolers for extras. And standing there just in blue tights and blue body paint. And I thought to myself, 'Wow, wonder if I could have seen a snapshot of this 5-6 years ago, what would I think?'
TeenTelevision: Did you know Emma Stone before making Easy A?
Penn: I did, but only barely. We’d met in passing a couple of times. You know, we hit it off immediately and we were lucky because, for my role to work, there did have to be a chemistry. He's there with her so little so it’s a good thing that we did hit if off so quickly.
TeenTelevision: Emma has tons of lines and just memorized the whole script. Do you ever work that way?
Penn: I’ve always been a person who’s thought of myself as very professional, but over the years I’ve become sort of lackadaisical because you fall into a pattern. With TV, you’re able to memorize your lines in a moment just before you shoot, and your kind of like rehearsing in the first take still, and that’s kind of the way I operate. Not that it’s a good thing at all. Emma was incredibly prepared. She has lots of dense monologues and I pooped in and was like 'Hey, Olive!'..... Yeah, she had an overwhelming task and she nailed it!
TeenTelevision: You get to dance a teeny bit in Easy A. Didn't you have a musical theater background like Emma did?
Penn: I do, yeah. (I get to dance) a little bit. I actually love to dance, and used to do a lot of hip hop dancing. There was a point where I was taking it very seriously and I was good. But I didn’t get to move in this really. In fact, there’s one point where I was dancing more, and they were like, 'You really shouldn’t be doing that', because the point in that scene is for me to be supporting Emma as opposed to having to do some cheesy dance thing. And I (agreed), ‘Yeah, absolutely.’
TeenTelevision: Didn't you make this while you were also shooting "Gossip Girl"? How did that work out for ya?
Penn: [laughs] Barely. The last scene that I shot, which was the party scene, where I pop in again with 'Hey Olive, see you at the salt mines', I went right from there. They had the car waiting outside the house where we were shooting with my bags already packed, and I got in and went right to the airport. It was like that every time I worked. I was just kind of flying in for a bit and then flying out. It was really disorienting, but I I’m young and I can take that kind of schedule and while I can, I like it. It makes the work so important. It gives you a sense of purpose, and it’s fun.
TeenTelevision: You get to sort of copy an iconic moment in '80's films where John Cusack holds up the boom box to serenade his love in Say Anything. Were you a fan of those '80's John Hughes or similar films? I know Emma is.
Penn: I haven’t seen any of them. I’d seen a clip of Say Anything, I’d seen the iconic boombox shot, but the Judd Nelson ‘fist pump', I’d never seen The Breakfast Club. I was watching it, in fact after we shot Easy A. I watched it on set one late night on "Gossip Girl" in the makeup trailer. And I was watching and I saw him do that (he pumps his fist in the air) and I realized, I didn’t at all do it the same way! I did some socialist salute. I raised my arm slowly straight out like that, and I can’t believe no one told me on set that I was doing it wrong.
TeenTelevision: How long have you been back shooting new "Gossip Girl" episodes and did you get to go to France?
Penn: I did not get to go to France. We’ve been shooting for about 2 months, I think we’re on the sixth episode about now, and there’s a baby on the way. In Paris, there’s a brush with death.
TeenTelevision: You can't tell us who?
Penn: No, but if you go look at paparazzi stuff, you can tell what’s going on.