Even though there are way too many reboots, sequels and reprises happening in the TV world right now, I, for one, was excited about the announcement of a new iteration of “Gossip Girl,” solely because maybe they’ll do it right this time!
Don’t get me wrong, “Gossip Girl” was -- and still is -- one of the best dramas, teen or otherwise, on TV. Not only can we credit it with handing us Blake Lively, but the combination of high school drama and scandalous affairs was exciting. But then they let Serena and Dan end up together, and it was almost all for nothing.
What should have happened? Rufus and Lily lived happily ever after, their kids got over themselves, Dan became a recluse where he was free to blog to his creepy heart’s desire and Serena married a Wall Street broker. Done and dusted. Instead, they rewarded Dan’s scummy behavior with the happy marriage! Boo.
At least I can take comfort in the fact that Penn Badgley hated his character as much as I did. Now, that’s no secret, as the broody (you try thinking of a better word for Badgley) actor has commented on his frustration with Dan time and time again. He once called Humphrey a “tool on a show with soap-operatic arcs” who “needs to be a judgmental douchebag sometimes,” and told W Magazine earlier this year that playing Dan was likely “the least likable I've ever been.” And that was before he played a stalker-killer.
Most recently, he talked to Entertainment Tonight about how he’s reconciled his past with “Gossip Girl” with his role as Joe Goldberg in “YOU” on Netflix (the second season of which is out Dec. 26).
“I think it's pretty clear that, like, I've never been a proponent of Dan Humphrey's,” he said when asked if he’d return to the HBO Max reboot, out sometime in 2020. “I've never been necessarily the greatest friend or fan of Dan Humphrey, which now I reconcile in this way that I'm like, you know, I would love to contribute in a meaningful way to [the reboot].”
And back in February, he told GQ that he’d realized Joe was “almost the only role I could have possibly done after ‘Gossip Girl.’”
“Up until this role, everybody thought I was such a nice guy. And it’s great to be a nice guy, but the kind of nice guy that makes ‘nice guy’ an insult -- that's actually not a nice guy,” he said of Dan. “I think that's what frustrated me. Lo and behold, I play somebody who's not a nice guy, and that everybody loves. We don't like Dan Humphrey. We like Chuck Bass. We like Joe Goldberg. So, in a sense, what do you expect?”
There ya have it, folks: We don’t like Dan Humphrey!
But the bigger picture here, I think, is that Badgley just has a hard time seeing himself as an actor. Honestly, does the guy even like his job? Jury’s out. He’s talked at length about his struggles with fame and notoriety, and in the same interview in which he called Dan a tool, he told Vulture, "I was 23 years old and wanting to be an artist, and I was on a f*cking TV show. Going to fashion parties and stuff. I was like, 'What the f*ck am I doing'"
Is that not...being an actor?
It’s almost as if he’s playing bad characters in order to satisfy his complicated feelings about his career. Or perhaps being “Lonely Boy” for years, just to come out as the show’s villain, essentially, led him directly to playing another complicated nice/bad guy.
A self-fulfilling prophecy if I’ve ever seen one.