You star Penn Badgley’s life – co-star split, failed pop music and showbiz break
Penn Badgley has been a hit with viewers ever since he took on his now iconic role as Dan Humphries in the 2007 teen drama Gossip Girl.
However, in real life, the Hollywood actor is a stark contrast to many of his onscreen characters as he prefers to kick back and relax with his loving family or rock out with his indie band in his spare time.
But it hasn’t always been easy for the 34-year-old heartthrob, as the American actor has openly discussed his struggles with fame and he even took a five-year break from the silver screen to focus on himself.
After much soul searching, Penn luckily decided to return to acting and the handsome hunk certainly came back with a bang as he took up the role of Joe Goldberg on the hit Netflix psychological thriller, You.
As fans prepare for the third instalment of the chilling TV saga – which is set to drop on the popular streaming service this Friday – Daily Star has taken a look back at his life and TV career over the years.
Struggle with fame
Penn first broke into the showbiz scene back in 2007 when he unwillingly took on the role of the Lonely Boy himself, Dan Humphrey.
Shockingly, he had turned down the role twice before TV producers finally convinced him to join, as he was worried about the effect joining such a huge show would have on his life.
The Maryland-native openly discussed his struggles with being in the limelight and found it to be one of the negative sides of his profession.
Speaking to New York Magazine in 2008 during the peak of the show’s popularity, Penn said: “It really does feel like we’re living the show sometimes.
“The psychology of celebrity is such a weird and new thing. I think the last time people treated anybody else like this was demigods like in the time of ancient Greece.”
And it turns out his feelings on fame didn’t change throughout his time in the limelight as the TV hunk revealed he was still struggling with the idea of fame towards the end of show.
In 2012, Penn confessed to Vulture magazine: “I think there was a phase where I was really upset.
“I was 23 years old and wanting to be an artist, and I was on a f***ing TV show. Going to fashion parties and stuff. I was like, ‘What the f**k am I doing?’”
Before he appeared in the breakout role, Penn tried to make it in the music industry when he was 12, recording a pop song after his mum and dad got divorced.
Later calling his song "terrible and misguided", he told the Guardian: "When you first go to LA as a kid, there are all these things you have to do, all these workshops you have to take, and a producer found me in one of them. I wanted to make music but as a 12-year-old, you have no idea."
It was at this point that Penn took a break and sought out religion to help him come to terms with the effects fame was having on his mental health.
During his five-year break, the Hollywood actor found faith in an Iranian and Middle Eastern religion called Bahá'í which was formed in the 1860s.
The religion, which is practiced by approximately five to eight million people around the world, focuses on three main principles: the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humanity.
At the time, he told People Magazine: “I’m really grateful for [the notoriety], but also, you struggle with things.
“The phenomenon of fame is literally invisible, but it influences and dominates your life if you aren’t careful.
“Learning how to accept it and accept that lots of people think they know me us ultimately what led me to seek out such a spiritual perspective.”
And it was through his newfound faith that he found “divine love” with his wife Domino Kirke, who he married at a small Brooklyn courthouse back in February 2017.
He told the publication: “I don’t think I could truly value human love until I developed divine love.
“[Domino and I] very much had a romantic beginning, and I think that you discover in marriage that what sustains a marriage for decades = there are less and less people who can tell us this – but I think it has something to do with [divine] love.”
Prior to marrying his loving wife Domino, the TV hunk’s love life was constantly making headlines despite his best efforts to keep his romantic relationships away from the public eye.
But it was hard for loyal viewers of Gossip Girl not to follow the offscreen romance between the Lonely Boy and his co-star Blake Lively, who played the role of Serena Van Der Woodsen on the show.
Clearly their onscreen chemistry was too electric for the pair not to see where a relationship would go as the dynamic duo soon started dating not long after they started working alongside each other on set.
And the happy couple remained together for more than four years before they finally called time on their romance despite the fact the pair were still in a relationship on the show.
Looking back on their breakup, Penn confessed on Watch What Happens Live that there was very little awkwardness between himself and the blonde bombshell.
He told viewers the pair were: “Actually consummately professional, to be honest.
“I think we should both pat ourselves on the back for getting through it – because, you know, anything is complicated in that way, and we handled it.”
Shortly after he ended things with Blake, Penn entered into another high-profile relationship with Hollywood actress Zoe Kravitz who he found “real, true, earth-shattering love” with.
Looking back on their relationship, the actor credited Gossip Girl for their romance as he explained in a 2013 interview with Movieline.
He told the publication: “It gave me the opportunity to live in New York and to be in a position to get this role.
“It also put me in New York City so I could meet Zoe.”
Yet their two-year relationship sadly came to an end in 2013 with Penn’s love life appearing to quieten down over the years as he slowly withdrew from the spotlight.
Although the TV star has moved on to bigger and better things, fans of the Gossip Girl heartthrob couldn’t help but notice the striking similarities between his character Dan Humphries and his latest project as psychotic killer Joe Goldberg in You.
He told the publication: “It’s not that I don’t like my character. It’s just, after a while, you’re known as somebody that you’re just not, and this is somebody who I so am not. He's not real.
“He’s a tool on the show with soap-operatic arcs and he needs to be a judgmental douche bag sometimes. I get that. I don’t hate anybody for that. But it sucks when people call me ‘Dan’ and think that I'm him.”
But long-term fans of Penn’s couldn’t help but compare the Joe to his previous role as Dan with the strikingly obvious similarities between the two characters onscreen.
After years of reflection, the star confessed how he has now come to terms with other people’s perception of him throughout his TV career.
While on a Press Tour for the first series of You, he confessed to reporters: “There are parallels, not the least of which is that I'm playing both of them.
“I’d say in the first scene of the first episode, by every measure, Joe might appear to be Dan, and then he diverges.
“And also, as time goes on, [I’m] probably less interested and more accepting of the fact that there’s no way to control people’s perception of what it is they’re watching,” he confessed.
“If people want to see the similarities and focus on them, that’s fine, because they’re there.
“But trust me, the parallels and comparisons are not lost on me. I can only imagine, like, the worst version of an ad, like, ‘If you like Gossip Girl, this one’s gonna be a killer’."
In simpler terms, he joked to E! News: “In some ways, he’s just Dan with a knife.”
Series three of You launches on Netflix on Friday, 15 October.
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