Penn Badgley Explains Why He Felt 'Overwhelmed' by Fame After Gossip Girl
"It was not the most fulfilling or meaningful contribution that I could make as an individual seeking to better the world," he said
During an appearance on the Baha'i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson podcast Thursday, Badgley — who played Dan Humphrey on the teen drama — said he has since "processed" his time being on Gossip Girl but admitted that fame can still be "overwhelming" in today's society.
Badgley said that as his star continued to rise, he felt pressure to use his platform for good.
"The most meaningful form of action I saw, as a person who'd been on Gossip Girl, as a person who had, at this point, hundreds of thousands of followers — yeah, because I got on social media late," the You star, 34, said. "If I had gotten on in the middle of Gossip Girl, I very well could've had millions upon millions — but it would've been for a particular reason, you know? So I was thinking, the most meaningful contribution I have to make as an individual is on these platforms."
"And in trying to have a pure intention and honest interaction on these spaces, I also found that I was completely overwhelmed by being conscious of how many likes or retweets or whatever [that I got]," Badgley continued. "It was such a convoluted way to be like, 'acting.'
The actor said playing up his fame on social media felt like a "very convoluted, complicated, wrapped up in ego and our materialist culture" approach to imparting influence.
"It was not the most fulfilling or meaningful contribution that I could make as an individual seeking to better the world," he said.
Speaking of the impact fame can have on mental health, Badgley recalled having "an anxiety attack" two years ago while doing a press tour for You at a mall in Manila.
"It was packed with thousands of screaming adults," he recalled, noting that "in all of my years of witnessing some form of adulation, like, the fan experience," this incident was particularly intense for him.
One thing that has helped Badgley to find "remarkable peace" is coming into the Baha'i faith, which he credits to giving "so much legitimacy to prayer and meditation" in his life.
"I will say, something like an anxiety attack is becoming more and more a thing of the past," he said. "That's not something that I'm as challenged by."
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Badgley starred on six seasons of Gossip Girl from 2007 to 2012. Created by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, the CW hit — based on Cecily von Ziegesar's book series — followed the lives of a privileged group of teens living in New York City's Upper East Side.
According to executive producer Josh Safran, Badgley didn't enjoy starring in the beloved series.
"Penn didn't like being on Gossip Girl, but . . . he was Dan," Safran told Vanity Fair in 2017. "He may not have liked it, but [his character] was the closest to who he was."
Badgley, for his part, has also spoken out against fans comparing him to his former Gossip Girl character.
"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," told Vulture in 2013.
"[Dan is] not real. He's a tool on a 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," he continued. "But it sucks when people call me 'Dan' and think that I'm him."