On You, Penn Badgley plays a bookstore manager who thinks of himself as a “true romantic,” but his behavior — from stealing his crush’s phone to straight-up murdering his romantic rival — is the stuff of horror movie villains. However, because Joe is wrapped in a charming, Penn Badgley-esque package, it can be hard for fans to see him as such. (Just ask Millie Bobby Brown, who came under fire for claiming that Joe was just “in love” on her Instagram story while watching the series.)
“The whole point [of Joe] is that he’s meant to garner a conflicted reaction. I don’t see him as a portrayal of a real person, I see him as a representation of the part of us that identifies with him,” Badgley explained to Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb. “The part of us that is a troll, that is victim-blaming, that is privileged and blind. We’re meant to identify with him.”
In order to combat Joe’s charm, Badgley replied to several fans on Twitter, setting them straight about Joe’s insidious nature. ("He is a murderer," Badgley reminded one fan who swooned over the You antihero.) Still, when fans exhibited their own Joe-like behavior — trolling and sending hateful messages to the people who expressed a like of Joe — Badgley shut it down immediately.
"I was [writing back to fans on] Twitter, very tongue-in-cheek. In fact, I reached out on Twitter to [one of the commenters talking about Joe], and hopefully she’s seeing this. We were DMing,” said Badgley on TODAY. "She's very intelligent... she's on the right track."
Joe may be one of the most fascinating television characters of the year, but it's important to remember that the person portraying him wants you to think about his behavior critically — not see him as your TV boyfriend. And if you don't? Well, Badgley may just slide into your DMs for a chat.
Check out the full interview below: