Penn Badgley Recalls 'Night-and-Day' Change in His Profile While Dating 'Gossip Girl' Costar Blake Lively

The You star says his three-year relationship with Lively "saved me" from stumbling into the pitfalls faced by many young Hollywood stars

Blake Lively and Penn Badgley
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/WireImage

Penn Badgley credits his ex and Gossip Girl costar Blake Lively for keeping him on the straight and narrow after he shot to fame on The CW show.

According to Badgley, 36, his three-year relationship with Lively, 35, "saved" him from succumbing to the pressures and temptations of his surge in status during the height of the show's popularity.

When the show premiere on Sept. 19, 2007, Badley's profile suddenly raised significantly, then even more so when it was confirmed that he and Lively were dating off camera (just as their characters Serena van der Woodsen and Dan Humphrey were on the show).

"It was a little bit night and day," Badgley told Variety, also claiming, "Beyond our relationship, I don't think anybody was going to be interested in me publicly."

gossip girl
Blake Lively, Penn Badgely and Taylor Momsen in Gossip Girl. Everett

Though the costars broke up in 2010, the speculation about their relationship never subsided, and Badgley was decidedly eager to step away from that kind of attention once the show ended in 2012.

While he looks back on his time on the show as "fun and fast-paced," he also said there was a "dark undercurrent that would bottom out in my later 20s."

He explained, "I didn't want to be in television. I was biding time a lot with Dan — I was not invested. And I'm not saying it's a good thing! I'm saying it's just what it was."

Badgley points to his relationship with Lively as the stabilizing force that helped him avoid getting swept up in the "dark undercurrent" during that period of his life.

Though he acknowledged he "never struggled with substance," he noted, "Blake didn't drink, and I think our relationship in some ways saved me from forcing myself to go down that road."

Badgley also made it clear he never struggled with any kind of suicidal ideation — though he did enter into a "spiritual crisis" after playing an isolated character like Dan.

You. Penn Badgley as Joe Goldberg in episode 408 of You.
Courtesy of Netflix

After stepping away from acting briefly to pursue other interests, Badgley returned to much acclaim and intrigue as Joe Goldberg in You, which premiered on Lifetime in 2018 and gained a larger following when it moved to Netflix in its second season a year later.

Off screen, the actor married Domino Kirke in 2018, and they share 2-year-old son James, 2, and Kirke's son Cassius, 14, from a previous relationship.

Lively went on to marry her Green Lantern costar Ryan Reynolds in 2012. The couple share four children: Betty, 3, Inez, 6, James, 8 and a baby born earlier this year.

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You is now streaming on Netflix. Gossip Girl can be streamed in full on HBO Max.

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