It seems to be the celebrity life cycle to be an unknown cast on a major TV show, get famous from it, then turn around and insult it. It’s a strategy originated by Katherine Heigl but perfected by many young Hollywood stars to come after her, and especially by the Gossip Girl crew. Blake Lively has already admitted that the teen soap isn’t her “best quality” of work; and now this interview with Penn Badgley shows that Blake isn’t the only star who’s happy the show is bowing after season 6.
And yet, Penn could have been a lot douchier in this interview. That’s right, I’m congratulating him on striking a good balance between candid and diplomatic when chatting with Vulture about leaving Gossip Girl behind. Because even though Blake and Leighton Meester are the two female leads, we can’t look at Penn without thinking of Dan Humphrey, a.k.a. Lonely Boy, a.k.a. the “normal” Brooklyn ugly duckling who blossomed into an Upper East Side swan and now writes scathing anonymous tell-alls about the rich kids whose inner circles he said he’d never join.
Penn has gotten caught badmouthing Dan before, but good for him for immediately admitting that he’s screwed up. Also, he reveals, he’s always been uncomfortable with the character from the beginning—so much so that he initially turned down the role:
“I’m just like … I’m done, dude. Look, I absolutely appreciate the opportunity it’s been. I wouldn’t be here without Gossip Girl, so I will always be in debt and grateful. And I’ve said some shit that … I don’t regret it, but I’m just maybe too honest about it sometimes. But the reason I turned it down initially was because I was just frustrated. I was frustrated and I was broke and I was depressed and I was like, I cannot do that again. I can’t. But then my parents and my managers, they let me come to my own conclusion, but they were like ‘You need this, man. It’s not your thing, it’s not your bag, but …’ Stephanie Savage, the creator [of Gossip Girl], she said to me, ‘I know you might not want to do this again, but just take a look at it.’ And I actually was like, ‘I appreciate so much that you thought of me. I just don’t want to do this. Thank you for understanding that I wouldn’t want to do this.’ And then they couldn’t find anybody for it — which is weird, because a million people could play Dan Humphrey — and she came back around, I was about to get a job as a waiter, and I was like, ‘Okay.’ You know?”
I don’t really blame Penn for being uncomfortable with his character, especially considering the shit that the writers have dragged Dan through with each season. To be fair, in the pilot TV Dan was not as creepy as Books Dan, but since then he’s had more reversals than any other character. There are days when I’m embarrassed by gossip posts I write here, and it’s not as if people know to associate that with my face.
But here’s an interesting fact you may not have known: Penn originally wanted Ed Westwick‘s part!
“When I first started, my ego wanted to play Chuck Bass. No, 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. He’s 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. But it sucks when people call me ‘Dan’ and think that I’m him.”
I dunno, I think that Dan Humphrey is a better role to have than Chuck Bass. Because the writers really screwed with book canon there, seeing as Chuck was gay (and probably Gossip Girl) in the novels. Even though season 6 Dan is unrecognizable compared to season 1, Chuck Bass has been a caricature since the pilot. I know, because the Style Network aired the pilot the other day and I just shook my head every time Chuck appeared on-screen to murmur deviously and try to rape someone.
Really, I’d say that Dan now is pretty Chuck-like, what with all the hubbub over his tell-all about the Upper East Side. Not to mention that the writers have somehow convinced us that Dan/Blair is as viable a couple as Chuck/Blair. Not since How I Met Your Mother somehow made Barney/Robin into more compatible soulmates than Ted/Robin have TV writers achieved this kind of coup.
I was kind of hard on Penn last year, when he said that Blair was Dan’s soulmate. But I think his quote on the potential end of “Dair” shows that he’s gained a lot of perspective on these characters:
“I did, actually. Well, I didn’t like how it ended, because it was just kind of [draws in breath sharply]. But I do like the scenes with Leighton [Meester] because I get to kind of interact in a fun way with her. When Dan and Blair are together, I think that’s him at his brightest, maybe.”
So, in some ways Penn gets his wish right before starting his last year of the show: He gets to be Chuck Bass, and very soon he’ll never have to play a lonely, creeper teen again.
Photos: Patricia Schlein/WENN.com and Gossip Girl fan wiki