The actor sits down exclusively with ET about the anticipated return of the Netflix hit.
Is Joe Goldberg about to meet his love match?
The provocative psychological thriller, You, returns to Netflix for its anticipated second season the day after Christmas, just in time for a festive dose of murder, revenge and manipulation that only this show can provide. Like the Caroline Kepnes sequel novel, Hidden Bodies, on which the new episodes are based, the action moves from the Big Apple to sunny Los Angeles, the antithesis to everything Joe (sorry, Will Bettelheim) represents, and the former bookstore manager -- on the run after the unexpected re-emergence by his presumed dead ex-girlfriend, Candace Stone (Ambyr Childers) -- finds himself attempting to start anew and leaving his deadly past behind. Attempting being the operative word here.
But Joe's wish to be better, or his version of whatever "better" means, is threatened when he meets Love. Literally, Love. An aspiring chef from a wealthy family, Love Quinn (The Haunting of Hill House's Victoria Pedretti) is a stark contrast from Joe's season one obsession, Beck (Elizabeth Lail) -- an alarming love affair that didn't end so well... for Beck. R.I.P. And John Stamos, aka the incarcerated Dr. Nicky (framed by Joe for Beck's murder), is back for a crucial cameo.
With mere days left before the next 10 episodes unfurl in Joe's twisted love saga, You star Penn Badgley promised that the new season is as dark, gory and dangerous as the first -- if not more.
"I feel like ultimately, in terms of those devices -- the gore, the darkness -- it's the same show... in a good way. Like, you know what you're getting. But really, what's different are these two women, Candace and Love," Badgley told ET's Lauren Zima during an exclusive sit-down interview at the London Hotel in West Hollywood, California, in November. "They represent something that was absent from the first season."
"In Candace, you have the irrefutable fact that Joe's a murderer, right? No one likes to call him that. Everyone likes to say stalker. He's not just a stalker, no. We have Candace, who is, to him, this mystifying [impossibility]. It's like, 'How is she [alive] because how am I?' So he's got to grapple with it," Badgley said, contrasting the two women in Joe's life. "And then Love, who is essentially the polar opposite of Beck in that she wants to be with Joe. He's not pursuing her in the same way. It's a different dynamic, so the fact that he is a predator, the fact that he is delusional, has all these different manic compulsions, they're all challenged in a very different way. You see him struggling with himself and hope in a new way."
Fans of Kepnes' You novels may have been surprised to discover that Candace, who stays dead in the books, was the one to re-enter Joe's life at the end of last season, a twist that pays off in spades in season two. The creative departure from the source material leaves at least one storyline with a slew of possibilities.
"Even in the first episode, you see him at a level of... what's the word, it's not disturbed, he's like, it's more than disturbed. I just like the way that I make Joe grapple with Candace... He's suffering the world's most unjust persecution," Badgley said of how Joe feels about Candace's return. "I mean, you know, that's not the case. And somehow she makes him, I don't know, you see it in my face, I'm just so [pretends to be flustered]."
And Love. There is much more to Love than meets the eye, and for that, she could be the woman who beats Joe at his own game. Or, make him actually get on the straight and narrow.
"She is theoretically a perfect match because she wants to see somebody the way Joe wants to be seen, and vice versa. They both want to be seen," Badgley teased. "You understand more and more [that] she has a mania there too."
You asks a lot physically and mentally of Badgley, 33, who is in nearly every scene, does the episode-dominant voice-overs and often finds himself in precarious situations. As Joe, of course. (Badgley pointed to the second episode as being particularly heave-worthy. Hint: It has to do with a life-like headless prosthetic body, wrestling and fake blood. We'll let your mind wander on that one...) Shedding himself of Joe's skin, though, isn't a problem for Badgley, however intense or gruesome things get on set.
"I've always said, I mean, for me meditation and prayer are profound," he said. "But I actually, I don't struggle with it in the way that you would think. I leave Joe behind when they say 'cut,' within reason, but for me, I think about all these other things. Like, these conversations we're having, like, 'Damn, why do we want to watch this so much?' Like, this is intense."
Naturally, the conversation drifted to fan adoration over Joe's charm, likability and attractiveness, despite the fact that he's a bona fide serial killer who is guilty of despicable acts. Earlier this year, Badgley called out fans fawning over Joe, reminding them rather bluntly that he's "a murderer" at the end of the day.
"People come up to me in shackles like, just take me. I've done the hard work. The cage is back there, just put me in," Badgley quipped, clearly joking... maybe. He admitted that he's been thinking about "tweaking" his approach when it comes to engaging with fans obsessing over Joe and missing the fact that he isn't exactly an aspirational guy.
"I didn't ever mean to be correcting people in that way... But, it was interesting," he said of the social media frenzy. "I think the media response last year was very interesting to see, and I'm actually... to me the whole point of this show is that it has to be this viral kind of thing. It's this conversation piece, this social experiment, so I'm not sure. Because last time I did it, I literally was sipping on a coffee and shot some tweets off in six minutes, and then suddenly it was this viral thing."
Asked whether You's Joe Goldberg has started to overtake Gossip Girl's Dan Humphrey in terms of the character fans want to talk to him about more, Badgley had a surprising answer. "Joe is challenging Dan's legacy, I'll say that, pretty quickly," Badgley revealed.
The second season of You begins streaming Thursday, Dec. 26 on Netflix.
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