Penn Badgley Calls Accusations Against Chris D’Elia “Disturbing,” Rallies for Systemic Change

In a new interview for the Los Angeles Times TV podcast, Can’t Stop Watching, Penn Badgley called the sexual misconduct allegations leveled against his You costar Chris D’Elia “very disturbing” and called on listeners to believe women.

Multiple women have come forward sharing stories of sexually inappropriate behavior performed by D’Elia when they were still minors. In a separate story, the Times reported that Julia Holtzman, who shared screenshots of her interactions with D’Elia on Twitter, was a 17-year-old senior in high school when the then-36-year-old comedian first pursued her. Another woman, Simone Rossi, shared screenshots of her and D’Elia’s exchanges, in which he asked a then-16-year-old Rossi to send him pictures of herself and to “make out.”

In a statement released to TMZ, D’Elia denied the allegations. “I know I have said and done things that might have offended people during my career, but I have never knowingly pursued any underage women at any point,” he said. “All of my relationships have been both legal and consensual and I have never met or exchanged any inappropriate photos with the people who have tweeted about me.”

D’Elia joined the cast of You in Season 2—the Netflix series centers around Badgley’s Joe, a serial stalker/murderer who justifies his ruthless tendencies with his hopeless romanticism. As Henderson, D’Elia played a stand-up comedian who grooms underage women, drugs them, then assaults them. After seeing D’Elia play this role, Rossi told the Times, “I really couldn’t believe they cast him as a pedophile. For me, it was like: Why are these shows casting him as this person?”

Badgley said on the podcast, “I am very troubled by it. I don’t know Chris. I know that, if there’s anything we need to do in this age, it’s to believe women.”

Acknowledging that there is a lot he cannot speak to personally, he added, “I think the one thing that I can speak to that is maybe relevant for listeners now is that individuals of course need to be brought to justice as much as that is possible. Right? One thing that our culture tends to do quite systematically and methodically is to revel in identifying villains so that the system can remain evil. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t say ‘evil.’ Well, you know, I don’t know—if it’s not evil, I don’t know what is. So that the system can remain intact and unchanged, we point to individuals in power who, yes, are upholding and perpetuating these terrible norms, which are often abusive if not downright lethal. So those individuals ideally would be brought to justice. Ideally there would be less of those individuals.”

He also called attention to “the policies that underwrite every given system—the practices, the regulations, the laws that underwrite every one of these systems which act as a haven for the individuals that take advantage, namely white men.”

He continued, “The idea that a show like ours would indirectly, unwittingly be a haven for people who are abusive is disturbing. It’s very disturbing. What does it take to change that? Because it’s not just vetting individuals. There needs to be a change in culture and attitude so that that kind of behavior is so clearly reprehensible, it’s so clearly, like, anti-human.”

On whether or not You helps perpetuate such harmful norms, Badgley said, “Does a show like ours help to create that culture? Well, I know that at least our show is trying to be—thinks about things in a dismantling, deconstructive manner. I would hope that at least our show is not serving to uphold these kind of, like, bunk ways of being and these systems, right?”

You producers reached out to Jenna Ortega, the 17-year-old actress who worked opposite D’Elia on-screen, after the allegations surfaced, according to Badgley. “The first thing our producers did was reach out to Jenna, who played Ellie, the girl opposite Chris in those scenes, just to make sure she felt safe. We can feel safe and sound there,” he said. “So, as far as our show is concerned, as far as we’re concerned, there’s only so much we can take responsibility for. And I say ‘we’ pretty broadly, because we’re all doing different things. I’m, at the end of the day, an actor, and I don’t have a lot to do with a lot of this stuff. But I do think, in the future, I would like that to change, personally.”

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