Why Penn Badgley is perfect to play the creepiest character in the new Lifetime thriller 'You'

When author Caroline Kepnes was writing her 2014 book, You, she pictured Gossip Girl alum Penn Badgley as the thriller’s main character, a bookstore clerk who becomes obsessed — and not in a cutesy Sleepless in Seattle kind of way — with a woman he meets there.

“I did,” Kepnes, whose book is being turned into a Lifetime series starring Badgley, tells Yahoo Entertainment. “I mean, I pictured so many different specific people, and it would change from day to day, based on what I was watching and reading, and then he just nailed it for me. It’s the fact that you believe that he’s reading all of these books, and he has that way about him, where he seems smart and thoughtful and…,” she adds with a laugh, “a little tortured.”

<em>Gossip Girl </em>alum Badgley plays Joe in Lifetime’s new thriller <em>You</em>. (Image: Lifetime)
Gossip Girl alum Badgley plays Joe in Lifetime’s new thriller You. (Image: Lifetime)

Badgley stars alongside Shay Mitchell (Pretty Little Liars) and Elizabeth Lail, from another Freeform series, 2016’s Dead of Summer, in the TV adaptation of the book.

Kepnes, who worked as a writer on one of the show’s planned 10 episodes, has also written for The Secret Life of the American Teenager and 7th Heaven. She says the new series is “amazingly faithful to the book.”

Lifetime viewers, she adds, will “be at home” when watching.

“You know how there’s a world of Hallmark, where it’s soft and it’s comforting?” Kepnes says, “And then there’s Lifetime, where the b**** has the gun, and this has that. The b**** does get the gun.”

Penn Badgley as Joe in <em>You</em>. (Image: Lifetime)
Penn Badgley as Joe in You. (Image: Lifetime)

Besides Badgley and Mitchell, viewers also will recognize the names of the show’s creators, Supernatural producer Sera Gamble and Greg Berlanti, an executive producer of Riverdale, Arrow, and Supergirl.

So far, there are only 10 episodes of You planned, but Kepnes did write a sequel, 2016’s Hidden Bodies, so there’s plenty of material for more — she hopes.

“It’s about the world we live in right now and the double-edged sword of craving validation online and from other people,” Kepnes says of her story. “And it will make your skin crawl when you use social media — in the best possible way.”

You premieres Sept. 9 at 10 p.m. on Lifetime.

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