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"You" Star Penn Badgley Says He Won't Do Any More Sex Scenes in His Career

The actor requested that none be written into the current season of his hit Netflix show.

Fans of the Netflix show You will notice that something's different when they stream the new season. The first half of Season 4 of the thriller series debuted on Feb. 9, and You star Penn Badgley spoke about the new episodes with his co-hosts Nava Kavelin and Sophie Ansari on their podcast Podcrushed. He revealed that he no longer wants to do "intimacy scenes" as an actor and shared what happened when he approached series creator Sera Gamble about his request. Read on to find out why the Gossip Girl alum is over filming sex scenes and why he's decided to decline them from now on.

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Badgley made this decision before You even premiered.

Penn Badgley at 2018 PaleyFest
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

Before starring on You, Badgley was best known for starring on Gossip Girl as Dan Humphrey and had also been in the movies Easy A and John Tucker Must Die. On Podcrushed, the 36-year-old actor shared that prior to being cast on You, he had already decided he didn't want to do sex scenes anymore.

"I asked Sera Gamble can I just do no more intimacy scenes," he explained of their recent conversation. "This is actually a decision I made before I took the show. I don't think I have ever mentioned it publicly. One of the main things was, do I want to put myself back on a career path where I'm always playing the romantic lead?"

His marriage played a role.

Domino Kirke and Penn Badgley at the launch of "Podcrushed" in 2022
Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Badgley explained that his marriage is one reason why he no longer feels comfortable doing sex scenes. The actor married singer Domino Kirke in 2017, and they welcomed a child together in 2020.

"Fidelity in every relationship, and especially my marriage, is important to me," Badgley said. "It got to the point where I don't want to do that. Of course, before I took the show, there was the question, do I have a career if I don't. Think about every male lead you've loved: Are they kissing someone? Are they doing a lot more than that?"

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He requested to go from "100 to zero" when it came to sex scenes.

Penn Badgley in "You" season 4

You is about a man named Joe Goldberg, who develops dangerous and often deadly obsessions with women. He almost always ends up in relationships with them, successfully hiding that he's been stalking them, meaning that intimate scenes have been a part of the job for Badgley up until now.

Badgley said of speaking to Gamble, "I said to Sera, 'My desire would be zero. To go from 100 to zero.' But I signed this contract. I signed up for this show. I know what I did. You can't take this aspect out of the DNA of the concept. So how much less can you make it, was my question to them."

He continued, "She didn't even bat an eye. She was really glad that I was that honest. She was sort of, I want to say almost empowered. She had a really positive response. She appreciated my directness and she appreciated that I was also being reasonable and practical. They came back with a phenomenal reduction."

You Season 4 is about more than sex and love.

The conversation about the reduction in sex scenes came up when the Podcrushed hosts were discussing how Season 4 is less focused than previous seasons on love and romance.

"I think it's more about class, isn't it? And it's about wealth and it's about privilege a bit more," Badgley said of the new episodes. Season 4 also takes place in England rather than in the United States.

He recalled one particularly awkward sex scene.

Penn Badgley at SiriusXM Studios in 2020
Cindy Ord/Getty Images

In a November 2022 episode of Podcrushed, Badlgey's co-hosts asked him to share an awkward moment from set. He opened up about sex scene that he had to film alone, due to the position of the camera.

"I've been forthcoming about how sort of awkward and vulnerable intimacy scenes can be and actually many other scenes," he said. "I had a scene. It was like a fantasy scene from Season 3. Where Joe, he's having dream sex—it's hard to narrow it. But, the way they wanted to shoot it, the camera was so tight and close." He explained that because the camera was so close to him, he didn't film the scene with his co-star, but alone as if the other character was also there.

"In my underwear on a bed in a fake room in front of probably 12 people or something—and then knowing that it's going to be seen by millions of people—I had to hump the air, because I was simulating real sex with a person," he said. The actor added, "It was a weird sensation. You can imagine."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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