Spoilers for You season 2 below.
By now, fans of Netflix’s psychological thriller You know that Joe Goldberg—the charming bookstore manager-turned-serial-killer played by Gossip Girl's Penn Badgley—will stop at nothing to win the object of his affection. The unfortunate souls who get roped into Joe’s twisted, dangerous world often end up as fresh prison meat (Dr. Nicky), identity theft victims (Will Bettelheim) or worse, ashes (Benji, Elijah, Peach Salinger, Guinevere Beck—the list goes on). However, if one person could’ve uncovered Joe’s obsessive behavior and exposed him for the killer he is, it was green juice-toting L.A. rich kid Forty Quinn (James Scully).
We meet Forty, the charismatic but unstable twin brother of Joe's new love interest, Love (Victoria Pedretti), when he saunters up to Joe in the first episode. “Does everyone in LA walk around like they own the place?” Joe asks post-convo, his disdain for Forty clear. In the first few episodes, you start to understand Joe’s contempt; Forty is needy, has a serious substance abuse problem, and is way too invested in his sister’s love life. “I was doing a whole extended adolescent thing with Forty, so he had all of the wants and needs that any young person would have, and all of those insecurities,” Scully explains to ELLE.com. “All of the bravado and the drug abuse, that's him trying to cover up how sad and awkward and sort of embarrassed and insecure he is.”
Forty’s insecurities and substance abuse stem from his dysfunctional family and a sexual assault when he was 13. But just as Love and Joe’s love starts to blossom, Forty and Joe develop a sweet bromance that seems to put Forty out of harm's way. But like Peach, Benji, Beck, and many others, entering Joe’s world usually guarantees an early demise, and Forty learns that the hard way.
Ahead, Scully on Forty's tragic ending, on-set chemistry with Penn Badgley, and the twisted alternate ending You showrunners planned.
Forty sure loves a green juice.
I'm actually not a fan. I'm more of a blueberry açai situation. The first few scenes we did with this yummy green juice that had apple juice and lemon juice and ginger in it, but that stuff was so sweet. After a while, I was like, "Hey, is there any way we could switch to one of the green juices that are just spinach and kale and water?" The team was wonderful and accommodating. In the scene when [Joe] comes to visit me after the acid trip and brings me the green juice, and I chug all of it, I had to do that like nine times. By the end of the show, I was like, "No, I don't want to see a green juice. Nobody give me any green juice. No more green juice of any kind."
Is there a part of Forty's character that's similar to James?
Not to toot my own horn or anything, but it's that sort of endearing, goofy quality he has when he's not being such an L.A. brat that we have in common. I struggle, especially in an environment like the entertainment industry, to take myself seriously enough. I like making everything, myself included, a joke, and as [Forty] and Joe got closer, Forty relied on that. Everything was a joke to Forty.
Forty is a very complex character who comes with a lot of baggage. How do you get into the head of someone so deeply fucked up?
It was a lot, and especially episodes 3, 4 and 5: my nervous breakdown at Henderson's party, confronting Love at her friend brunch, and then me freaking out at the vow renewal. I was like, "Man, Forty just cannot get his shit together." We've done three scenes where everyone's having a really good time and enjoying themselves, and then I walk in and self-destruct. As we got deeper and deeper into his fucked up-ness, it was sort of a release, because it was going to contextualize and rationalize the way he behaves at the beginning of the series. Everyone is going to start to understand him.
You're no stranger to dark roles, coming off playing JD in Heathers. How do you know which ones are right for you?
When I saw Forty, I knew I had to do that. At the time, I didn't really have any credits to my name, so I probably would have taken any job that somebody offered me. It's funny that for a long time, my go-to type was troubled dangerous teenager with a gun, and now it seems like I've grown into sad older brother with a drug problem. I'm attracted to characters like that because there's more to work with. If you're a happy normal character on a television show, how far can you really take that? But when somebody has all those layers of anger and shame and insecurity and love and hate, there's more to go off as an actor. It's easier to do your job when the character is more intense.
For a minute it was the Forty and Joe show. What was it like filming those scenes with Penn, especially the trippy adventure through L.A.?
I could spend weeks talking about how much I love Penn Badgley. We hit a really nice bromance by the end of the season. Penn is an established actor and as seriously as he takes his work, he's ready to meet people where they're at. Penn saw that I was a goofy, silly guy, and I think interacting with Forty onscreen gave Joe a chance to be a little goofy and silly. It was a nice change of pace for his character. [Penn's] such a consummate professional, and he was always there asking me, "Do you need to work on this? Can I help you work this out?" In episode 8, the acid trip episode, we're fighting each other and I had to do the whole thing where it's his voice coming out of my mouth. We had to run that a thousand times to get it right, and he was so there for it.
In the scene where I confessed to him everything that happened as a child, and then he comes over and gets down on the ground and holds me, that was not the way that scene was supposed to go. Forty and Joe genuinely reached a place in the series where Joe could get down on the ground and cradle him like a child and it will work. And it did.
Team Joe or Team Love? They're both killers, yet Joe seems to get more love than Love.
It's interesting because what you learn about Love in that final episode is that she's not deeply in denial the way Joe is. Joe is constantly rationalizing to himself in such a guy way that everything he's doing is somehow for the betterment of the people around him and to protect people. Love knows she's a monster. She's a little more pragmatic and realistic, and for me, that makes it more palatable.
If you're going to murder people for your own gain, at least be honest with yourself. Don't tell yourself it's part of some wild romantic love narrative like Joe is all the time. I mean, we really shouldn't find any of them redeemable. There's nothing wrong with thinking Penn Badgley is really cute and talented in the show, but we're not supporting any murderers. That said, I do think Love is the morally superior serial killer in that situation.
Forty's sexuality is a topic of debate on social media. Was there ever a conversation in the writers' room about how it would be addressed?
I felt like it was obvious enough what we were doing. We all know what heterosexual men are "supposed to look like" on television, and then there's Forty, right? I've been on sets before where they'd tell me to deepen my voice. There was none of that on this set. I checked in and asked, "Hey guys, am I being too silly?" And they were like, "Nope, you're doing exactly what you're doing." I understand that representation is important and it's important to be visible, which is why I try to be as visible as I think is appropriate as a queer person. But I also don't think it's every queer character's responsibility to walk into a scene and announce to the audience that they're queer. Gay characters and trans characters and lesbian characters and pansexual characters and bisexual characters should all be allowed to exist in stories on television without the focus of the story being their sexuality or their identity. And that's what was happening with Forty. The story is not about him, it's about Joe, and Forty was just a queer person who Joe happens to know.
By the end of the season, Forty figured out Joe and tried to warn Love, but she chose to stand by him. If Forty survived, would he have found it in his heart to forgive Love?
I was really sad that there was no moment of reconciliation between Forty and Love. I say all of these terrible things to her and then before anybody can even process that, I'm dead. Forty would've started the new season telling Joe and Love, "No, you're both monsters. I want nothing to do with you. Leave me out of it, leave me alone." But because of who he is as a person, he would've eventually been worn down and fallen back in love with them both. I don't think he would be able to hold that grudge against them.
Was there an alternative ending for Forty or did all signs point to death?
When I signed my contract, they were like, "You're going to die but you're going to make it all 10 episodes." A lot of the people who died in the first season didn't really mean anything to Joe, so he was not sad to see them go. [The writers] wanted Forty's death to really hurt Joe. In the earliest versions of the script, Love was supposed to kill Forty, but we can't have Love killing her own brother. Then, there were versions where Penn was going to, but Joe has killed so many people. One of the writers said there was a version of the third season that starts with Forty in the cage in the basement of Love and Joe's house. Still, I think Forty dying was the only way to go. It was a good ending. Long live Forty. Maybe we'll get a Beck ghost moment in the third season.
You season 2 is streaming on Netflix now.
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