Penn Badgley Says Backlash Over Rejecting Sex Scenes Was ‘Blown Out of Proportion,’ Questions Why Netflix Split ‘You’ Into Two Parts

Penn Badgley ignited a fiery social media debate in February when he revealed that he now refuses to act in sex scenes. “That aspect of Hollywood has always been very disturbing to me — and that aspect of the job, that mercurial boundary — has always been something that I actually don’t want to play with at all,” he told Variety just as the fourth season of his Netflix serial killer show “You” was launching.

“It’s important to me in my real life to not have them,” Badgley added about swearing off sex scenes. “My fidelity in my relationship. It’s important to me. And actually, [sex scenes] was one of the reasons that I initially wanted to turn the role down [in ‘You’]. I didn’t tell anybody that. But that is why.”

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Badgley’s comments earned a polarizing response, with his detractors criticizing him for equating sex scenes with real sex. Many of Badgley’s critics pointed out that intimacy coordinators are now a staple in Hollywood so that sex scenes remain safe during filming. In a new interview with GQ magazine, the actor confronted the backlash over him rejecting sex scenes and said it got “blown out of proportion.”

“What I was speaking about wasn’t actually the final product,” Badgley said. “It was sort of like the culture inherent to the production of all movies, but particularly those scenes. It’s like, look, we know that Hollywood has had a history of flagrant exploitation and abuse.”

Badgley said he was “nervous to even have that conversation” with “You” showrunner Sera Gamble, adding, “It was not easy. It was easy because of Sera’s response, and I felt relieved. But technically speaking, if I thought I’d had the ability to set that boundary earlier, I would have. We shall see if setting that boundary, of course, has any ramifications. Just simply, it does limit the number of projects you can be a part of.”

While “You” featured a handful of sex scenes in its first three seasons, Badgley stressed that his refusal to do them in Season 4 “didn’t change the trajectory of the season at all.” He added, “I mean, Joe was naturally ready to not be in that position anymore.”

Badgley also spoke to GQ magazine about Netflix’s decision to split “You” Season 4 into two parts. The first five episodes of the season launched Feb. 9, while the remaining five debuted March 9. The release strategy was not uncommon for Netflix, which has split seasons for “Stranger Things,” “Ozark” and more in the past, but it proved controversial among “You” fans, as part of the show’s appeal was allowing viewers to barrel through the cliffhangers and binge the twists in rapid succession.

“It wasn’t ever meant to be released as two parts,” Badgley said. “I don’t know what the conversations were with Sera Gamble and [co-creator] Greg Berlanti, for instance. I think that’s just Netflix’s economic reality. And I think it makes sense, generally, to release things in installments. I like that. When I found out, I was like, ‘We’re going to leave a month between [episodes] five and six? That’s a big old diversion.’ Because, to me, it doesn’t all come home until you finally see the cage.”

“You” Season 4 is now streaming in its entirety on Netflix.

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