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Lifetime YOU Q&A w Penn Badgley, Elizabeth Lail, Shay Mitchell, John Stamos, Greg Berlanti +Ep Guide

Maj Canton - September 9, 2018

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On Sunday, September 9, 2018 at 10pm ET/PT, Lifetime premieres the addictive psychological thriller, YOU. This provocative new series is a 21st century twisted love story that asks, “What would you do for love?” When a brilliant bookstore manager (Penn Badgley) crosses paths with an aspiring writer (Elizabeth Lail), his answer becomes clear: anything. Using social media as his tools to gather the most intimate of details and get close to her, a charming and awkward crush quickly becomes obsession as he quietly and strategically removes every obstacle ­ and person ­ in his way. This series is one of the classic tales that has the DNA of all good Lifetime movies... boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy starts stalking girl. With the help of social media, he stalks her a little bit more. He makes the girl fall in love with him. Based on Caroline Kepnes' best-selling novel of the same name, the series stars Penn Badgley, Elizabeth Lail, Luca Padovan, Zach Cherry, and Shay Mitchell, with a special guest appearance by John Stamos.



This summer at the Television Critics Association (TCA) Summer Press Tour, Lifetime presented a panel that included cast members Penn Badgley, Elizabeth Lail, Shay Mitchell, John Stamos and series creators Greg Berlanti, Sera Gamble and author Caroline Kepnes. Here are a few highlights (edited for clarity and readability) from that panel


From left to right: Sarah Schechter, Greg Berlanti, Sera Gamble, Penn Badgley, Elizabeth Lail, Shay Mitchell, John Stamos, and Caroline Kepnes

at the Television Critics Association (TCA) Summer Press Tour in July 2018.


Caroline Kepnes at the Television Critics Association 2018 Summer Press Tour.

Question: Caroline, where did you get the idea for the book?

Caroline Kepnes: I worked at a bookstore long ago in their basement. We had to write down all the sales and it made for interesting conversation with people who just wanted to buy their book and leave. I'm kind of paranoid by nature and now suddenly everyone's like “I'm at this grocery store right now at this moment.” Joe was my scary idea; what if someone was watching you and you didn't know it? So much of it is voices in my head. Just imagining moments in life when you meet someone or hear him or her and you automatically are intrigued by them. We're hearing Joe's perspective but as we get to know Beck we understand why he's intrigued and I just follow that voice and see where it takes me.

Question: As you were writing this did you find men and women would view it in different ways?

Sera Gamble: It's simple but it's true. I think there's something so fundamental about this show that women almost universally fear. Caroline tapped into that in the book. The way men move through the world is slightly different than women. But Greg is such a good writer, he writes men and women both brilliantly. So really it was a process between the two of us of egging each other on. He sends pages and it's like, “Shit, now mine have to be better.” I have to figure something out that's darker or more interesting or that he won't see coming. The primary feeling was just of being pushed to my A-game.

Penn Badgley at the Television Critics Association 2018 Summer Press Tour.

Question: What's it like playing a gentleman stalker in this era of “Me Too?”

Penn Badgley: I seem to be more troubled by it. I don't want to speak for anyone else but I felt as though maybe I was the most troubled – which is why Greg and Sera insisted that I was the right guy for the role. I am really interested to see how people respond to this show. It's a bit of a social experiment because it's like a litmus test to see the mental gymnastics we're still willing to perform at the cultural level to love an evil white man. I think it will certainly add to the conversation and it will create its own conversation. So I'm very curious.

Question: Can you talk about how Joe is different from the character in the book?

Penn Badgley: I don't know how he's different from the book. I was focused mostly on his curiosity and his sensitivity because there are so many things about him that are inhuman, or at least a couple glaring things that are so inhuman. So it was ultimately his curiosity, his investigation that somehow is so naïve and innocent that could make him human but then all of the terrible things come from that.

Question: To the uninitiated, this feels like maybe a version of Dan from GOSSIP GIRL that takes things way too far and is a lot more intense. Do you see any similarities between Joe and Dan or are you trying to make them completely different people?

Penn Badgley: Certainly there are parallels, not the least of which is that I'm playing both of them. I'd say in the first scene of the first episode by every measure Joe might appear to be Dan and then he diverges. I'm, also, as time goes on, probably less interested and then also more accepting of the fact that there's no way to control people's perception of what it is they're watching, and if people want to see the similarities and focus on them that's fine because they're there, and then whatever they see that really is new that's there as well. The parallels and the comparisons are not lost on me. I can only imagine, like, the worst version of an ad, “If you liked GOSSIP GIRL, this one's going to be a killer.”

Elizabeth Lail at the Television Critics Association 2018 Summer Press Tour.

Question: Can you talk about giving Beck agency so she's not a puppet for Joe?

Sera Gamble: She's not a puppet for Joe. A lot of the conversations Greg and I had with Caroline were about how to portray this woman in her early twenties who has so much drive and ambition, and we wanted to get deeper inside this character than we've seen in a lot of TV shows. Having a stalker actually enables us to get deeper and deeper into her life and add dimensions to her that aren't normally shown. It was really important to us to start by seeing her as Joe sees her. But as time goes on, we see her as she is.

Question: Can you talk about getting your head around Beck after reading the book?

Elizabeth Lail: First and foremost, Beck is a writer and woman living in New York, navigating her daily choices, including her choices in men. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good and that's part of the journey of life and learning. I just wanted to make sure she was true to what I believe her to be, which is somebody trying to do her best. She just has her daily life as a writer, as a woman, life in New York problems, but she doesn't know about this problem. I had a lot of empathy for her, a very big heart for her from the beginning.

Elizabeth Lail as Beck and Penn Badgley as Joe in YOU.

Question: What are the upsides and downsides of today's hyper-connected world as witnessed in shows like yours and others?

Sera Gamble: he world has gotten a lot smaller in a good way, there's a sort of democratization of the world. There's just a little bit more access for people who can't get in via old-fashioned roots like nepotism. We're exploring the downsides a lot through Beck. She wants to be a writer, she wants her voice to be out there. She's making ends meet as a yoga instructor and even yoga instructors are expected to have social media presence. It's really, really hard not to have a social media footprint. I mean, the major headline of the series is “privacy is gone.” Protecting personal information is shockingly difficult. Joe Goldberg is not some crazy tech genius. He's just an intelligent guy who understands the way people use the internet and he uses it in a sort of intended way and we follow that to some dark conclusions that are not unbelievable.

Question: In what ways do actual social media and the way it develops influence how it's used on the show?

Greg Berlanti: One thing we did when we were out pitching was to sort of cyber-stalk the people we were pitching to. We casually looked up certain executives and went in and started describing where their kids went to camp, the names of their housekeepers, and really specific stuff. The exciting thing for us, visually, was just how that's another character in the show. And how it's represented from an aesthetic level but also how it's part of the dialogue. The younger and younger you go, the more its just part of the fabric of how young people experiences the world.

Shay Mitchell: It is a different day and age but with Joe's character, I see myself in the same situation, to a much smaller degree. When you meet someone, you're like, “Google search, Facebook, Instagram.” And you go down this crazy, crazy hole. After being on the show and reading the scripts, it has made me a little bit more careful to NOT be like, “I'm at this grocery store at this moment.”

Caroline Kepnes: And it splits your identity into the one that you are in person and then this presentation online. When you meet someone, you look them up to see how they choose to present themselves.

Greg Berlanti at the Television Critics Association 2018 Summer Press Tour.

Question: Greg, being that you're involved in many other successful shows, can you talk about how involved you are with this one?

Greg Berlanti: I read the book and was just transfixed. I passed it around to friends. The studio asked if I wanted to do it since it was darker than other things I've done. I was intrigued and I'd been wanting to work with Sera Gamble. This was just one when we got together and started pitching it out, I asked her if she'd let me write on it with her because I hadn't done anything like that and she was kind enough to let me and she taught me a lot. And Sarah [Schechter] is working probably day-to-day on even more shows than I am. So we have a great company and everybody shows up and there are problems that arise that day. And then I try to preserve a certain amount of story time, to be in the writer's room or give notes on scripts. And then there's usually a moment where they kind of take flight on their own and I realize they don't need me as much anymore. By then I'm usually dreaming something up with somebody else.

John Stamos at the Television Critics Association 2018 Summer Press Tour.

Question: With the trend today in television, what's old is new again, would you be interested in any kind of a GOSSIP GIRL reunion? Shay, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS?

Penn Badgley:: (Joking) I would do it if Dan got to kill them. For whatever reason, that question, I feel like it has no answer. It's not about my interest. It's about so many other things. I don't think it'll ever happen.

Shay Mitchell: I guess never say never. You never know what could happen, so, yes.

John Stamos: You know, we're living in an anxiety-riddled world right now, and I think that people just want comfort food (like FULLER HOUSE). They want to go back to a place that made them feel safe, and maybe a little more of an innocent time, so I think that's why some of these shows are working so much.

Shay Mitchell at the Television Critics Association 2018 Summer Press Tour.

Question: All of you have been in a public arena of some kind where your images are used, and now are used without your consent as GIFs and as memes and everything like that. How do you feel about that?

Shay Mitchell: If they're good, yeah, it's funny. It just comes with the territory. I think that's where we can use social media, we can put out what we want to put out on our own platforms, and that's the positive side of it.

John Stamos: I remember being so tripped out by all of this. Like, wow, there's a site -- when it first all started, I mean, when I started, you'd have to go to the mall to see how popular you were. There was no, how many likes, it was give me an autograph. Now I've got to stay home and see how popular I am.

Penn Badgley: I am honored to be a GIF. I think that's rad. I mean, the only one that I've ever seen, it's kind of humiliating.

Sera Gamble (right) and Greg Berlanti (left) at the Television Critics Association 2018 Summer Press Tour.

Question: Can you talk about the second season?

Greg Berlanti: There are other books that give you some indication. I think part of the pitch was that different seasons would take place in new cities and that the background of that city would evoke part of the character, the nature, and tone of the show. And the second season would take place in Los Angeles.

Sera Gamble: It's one of my favorite things about both books. There's something so specific about New York in the first book that we have tried to capture as best we can. That's very specifically about people with a certain amount of money and there's a romance even to that. The second book is a brutal takedown of Hollywood. We're looking forward to bringing it to Los Angeles and see what people around here deserve.


Joe Goldberg (Played by Penn Badgley)

Joe is a brilliant twenty-something who uses the hyper-connectivity of today's technology to get the woman of his dreams to fall in love with him.

Guinevere Beck “Beck” (Played by Elizabeth Lail)

Beck is a kind and intelligent aspiring writer who meets Joe at the bookstore where he works and finds common ground with him as a fellow book lover.

Peach Salinger (Played by Shay Mitchell)

Peach has wealth and vast resources that make her the controlling queen bee of Beck's inner circle of privileged friends. She has her sights set on Joe in a way that feels oddly adversarial with Beck.

Dr. Nicky (Played John Stamos)

Dr. Nicky is a savvy but unconventional therapist that becomes a fixture in Beck's life, much to the dismay of Joe.

Paco (Played by Luca Padovan)

Paco is a bright kid that is abused and neglected by his mother and her alcoholic boyfriend but finds a friend and champion in Joe.

Ethan (Played by Zach Cherry)

Ethan is Joe's big-hearted fellow bookstore clerk.


If you want to know nothing about the episodes at all, skip this section. Provided by Lifetime, this episode guide includes general episode descriptions and specific plot details.

Sunday, September 9, 2018 at 10pm ET/PT
Joe meets Beck, falls in love and goes down a social media rabbit hole to learn everything about her. He becomes so obsessed that he tracks her IRL (and they meet again!). This might be a real shot at real love. But there are some things standing in the way... like her ex, Benji. If Joe's serious about Beck, he's going to need to get serious about the problem of Benji.

"The Last Nice Guy in New York"
Sunday, September 16, 2018 at 10pm ET/PT
Beck and Joe have a real date! Joe does everything he can to win Beck over, but she's stuck on her ex, Benji. Benji isn't good for Beck. How far will Joe go to keep Benji out of Beck's equation?

Sunday, September 23, 2018 at 10pm ET/PT
Joe has done so much to clear the decks for Happily Ever After with Beck. But Beck suddenly seems less than certain that Joe is The One, so he sets out to prove he's boyfriend material. But balancing this important time in their blossoming potential relationship with the tricky behind-the-scenes maneuvers he's been pulling proves challenging for Joe.

"The Captain"
Sunday, September 30, 2018 at 10pm ET/PT
Beck heads out of town to rendezvous with the man she's been texting with “The Captain”. Joe, of course, follows. And he's shocked by what he finds. Faced with her own duplicity, Beck realizes she and Joe are going to have to bring a scary level of truth and authenticity if their connection is to have any chance of growing.