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Penn Badgley on being in Manila with Shay Mitchell: ‘I feel like we’re 2/5 of the Backstreet Boys right now’

By: - Super and 2BU Editor
10:34 PM January 15, 2019

Penn Badgley and Shay Mitchell with host Joyce Pring at the YOU Fan Event

Screams erupted as Shay Mitchell and Penn Badgley arrived at the “You” Fan Event at Greenbelt 5 on January 15. Their fans had waited for them for hours, with a number gathering to line up even before the mall opened. And once the event started, the screaming didn’t stop.

“I feel like we’re 2/5 of the Backstreet Boys right now,” said Penn. He was met with more screams.

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Greenbelt Gallery had been transformed into Mooney’s, the bookstore that plays a vital role in the show “You,” which originally aired on Lifetime in the US and has been picked up by Netflix for a second season. In the show, Penn (Gossip Girl) plays Joe Goldberg, a bookstore manager who develops an obsession with graduate student Guinevere Beck (played by Elizabeth Lail). One of the many obstacles to his desired romance with Beck? Her best friend Peach Salinger, played by Shay (Pretty Little Liars).

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“The scenes with Peach were the most fun,” Penn said.

“She sees Joe as a pest,” Shay said. “She’s annoyed by him.”

It’s funny to see Penn and Shay get along so well IRL, especially after watching their characters snipe at each other in the show. In the two days they’ve been in Manila, Shay, who is half-Filipino has shared some very Filipino things with Penn: they tucked into a massive bowl of halo-halo, had little plates of turon and posed for photos with a jeepney.

Shay also took the time to visit the kids at Virlanie Foundation on Monday night with her friend, classical pianist and composer Chloe Flower. In her Instagram stories, Shay said that they asked the kids what toys they wanted and today, while Shay was working, Chloe got busy at SM Mall of Asia, shopping for the kids and buying essentials for the center.

Super spent the afternoon with Shay and Penn, shooting them (with cameras—unlike Peach, we do not own a gun) and quizzing them about the show. We had so many questions. Here are excerpts.

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People were getting mad at you for having your halo-halo with coffee. 

Penn: Oh really?

People were like, halo-halo and coffee—what is he doing?

Penn: I’m American. (laughs)

They were like, ‘He’s gonna have an upset stomach.’

Penn: Well they weren’t wrong.

So apart from the halo halo and the turon, how has your visit been so far? Has it been endless work?

Penn: Well, yeah. Well, it’s not endless, but it’s just like, that’s what we’re here for, so far. Shay’s seen other parts of Manila before. I have not. Everybody’s been really kind. Yeah.

Why do you think you’re so good at playing a psychopath?

Penn: Why? I don’t know. (laughs)

Shay: Can I answer? He’s a really good actor.

Penn: That’s a good answer. Yeah.

Shay, don’t you think it’s unfair that his character did worse things but he gets more love than your character? 

Shay: You haven’t seen the hashtag #JusticeforPeach? (laughs) I think Joe was a lot more charming than Peach was. She was funny at times but she was kind of, you know, queen bee…

Penn: A bee? That’s so cute.

Shay: Yeah, exactly.

Penn: So I feel like they were more charmed by Joe’s character at the beginning.

You knew that people were going to like Joe. 

Penn: Yeah yeah yeah. Uh huh.

Which is why you were trying to tone down the charm.

Penn: Yeah.

But were you surprised by how much people like him?

Penn: Yes and no. It is what we were going for. It is what I struggled with the directors, with the writers, with the producers. I was always thinking, “What? Why? Why am I doing this way?” There were times when I apparently was too creepy or I was too dark and I would be conflicted. But… then I would just have to learn to trust them. And I think the point is that Joe is not a real person. He’s not meant to be like a clinical portrayal of a person who’s truly capable of these things. I think what Joe and the whole show does is it takes a lot of these themes that we see in everything, the kind of shows we’ve been in before, the kind of movies we’ve been in before, the kind of shows and movies that are just everywhere… it takes these same ideas about romance and roles of men and women, of chivalry, and then it just basically follows the logic to its end and shows you how kind of distorted some of these ideas we have are about about love and relationships.

Will the reaction of fans change the way you approach the character in season 2?

Penn: No because I think that would be dangerous. I sent out a tweet jokingly that I would, but no… I think he’s got to change… I’ve always wanted to see him continue getting more disturbing. He has to, yeah, you can’t just keep enjoying the same thing over and over. I think that’s really irresponsible, that’s actually gross.

What do you have to say to people who want to see more Peach in season 2?  

Shay: Lucky for you, you get to see her twin sister Lychee come out in season 2. (laughs)

Penn: In season 3, her cousin…

Shay: Tangerine.

Penn: Her cousin Blood Orange.

So a lot of fans are proud of coming up with this theory that Joe is actually… 

Penn: Filipino?

(Shay laughs)

No one’s every thought that, I think. But the evolution of Dan Humphrey. 

Penn: Oh yeah yeah yeah.

Do you believe that?

Penn: That was my theory initially.

I know, you called it a meta-progression.

Shay: That’s funny. I never thought about that.

Penn: I mean, I saw it from the first time I read the script… This is basically just Dan killing people.

Shay: Oh my god. Yeah, yeah I see it.

You said that you have to fall in love with the character you play. What do you love about Peach?

Shay: I love that she was different from any character that I played before and you know it’s fun to play the bad girl sometimes and she just had a lot of great lines. The writing was superb and she was fun. And she was wearing heels. I enjoyed being out of runners for a minute.

Penn: Did you not?

Shay: I only wore runners (in Pretty Little Liars). I was the most casual one. I was Sporty Spice out of the group, like the Spice girls. And I’m not Sporty Spice. I mean I can be but I like to be Posh, dress Posh.

I heard that you brought your own wardrobe.

Shay: Yeah. I worked with the stylist.

Penn: For Peach? Like your actual clothes?

Shay: Yeah, all mine. Those bags. I had five suitcases.

What about you, what do you love about Joe?

Penn: That he’s fictional. And that he’s inspiring these kind of conversations about this toxic kind of ideas we have about about masculinity and romance and stuff and also… you know, you were asking me earlier, am I going to change my my portrayal of him because of fans’ reactions? And the answer is no, because actually the only thing that I can do is focus on what keeps Joe alive. Alive in his heart and his mind, what keeps him so incredibly optimistic throughout these insane scenarios. And I think it’s because he actually has these qualities that if you only have those he’d be amazing. You know, he’s really curious, extremely investigative and rigorous in his examination of things and he will go to any lengths for somebody that he believes he loves. Of course, he doesn’t actually love them.

Did Joe hurt Mooney? 

Penn: I don’t think so. But that’s not up to me. The writers might reveal that, you know what I mean?

One of my favorite parts of the show was watching Joe restore the old books. Was it actually you doing it? Because we can actually see your face while you do it.

Penn: And I really look like I know what I’m doing, don’t I?

Yeah, did you have to study that? 

Penn: There’s a guy named Uriel (Cidor) who really does that and what’s funny is in the first episode, when I’m hitting the book with a mallet, we wanted to line it up to make sure it’s all right. At the end, I’m like, “Uriel, call me crazy but I think what they want me to do, which is hit the thing with the mallet, would destroy the book, wouldn’t it? And he’s like, ‘Yeah, that’s absolutely crazy. There’s no reason you would would ever want to do that.’ And so at first, we added this little bit where I’m kind of hitting it like that. And he’s like, “That’s really all you would do with a mallet.” And then finally, the directors are like, ‘Just hit it.’ So I hit it. I cannot, I cannot, I cannot restore a book.

One last question, Joe goes to LA next season. What kind of crazy stuff do you think he’s going to be doing?

Penn: I actually don’t know. I really don’t know.

Shay: I asked him too.

Our interview ended just as Shay’s halo-halo (with extra jackfruit) arrived. “That’s the normal size,” we tell Penn.

“That’s still huge,” he said.

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