Penn Badgley
Todd (Penn Badgley) © 2010 Screen Gems

Penn Badgley is a busy actor, when he’s not starring on the phenomenally popular TV series Gossip Girl he’s making movies, such as this new comedy Easy A. He portrays Todd, a school friend of Olive (Emma Stone) who, from telling a little white lie, has the entire school believing she’s a slut.

Penn spoke with us about his new movie, which has remarkably similar themes as Gossip Girl

You graduated high school at 13, so you didn’t have a normal high school experience. How do you relate to your character?

Well, I think, specifically with my character, he’s really not your conventional high schooler. The purpose that he serves is that he is sort of a grounding [force] for Emma’s character. He pops in and out and you’re not really sure what he’s doing there, but he just comes in with a wink and a nod to make sure she’s alright.

He sees beyond high school as the end all, be all experience of any teenager. He knows that that’s not all there is to life, and that this is just another chapter. I think he’s one of those guys who knows that he’s still waiting for the good stuff. Not to be over cynical or anything, but he’s not terribly caught up in it.

Did you know Emma prior to making this?

Penn Badgley, Emma Stone
Todd (Penn Badgley) and Olive (Emma Stone) © 2010 Screen Gems

I did, but only barely. We’d met in passing a couple of times. We hit it off immediately. It’s almost as though we did know each other before, but we didn’t. And in fact we were lucky because, in a role like this, for my role to work, there did have to be a chemistry there, because he’s there so little. So it’s a good thing that we did hit if off so quickly.

What was Emma like to act with?

It’s interesting because I’ve always been a person who’s thought of myself as very professional, but over the years I’ve become sort of lackadaisical. You fall into a pattern with TV and you’re able to memorize your lines in a moment just before you shoot, and you’re still rehearsing in the first take. That’s kind of the way I operate. Not that it’s a good thing at all.

But Emma was at the other end of the spectrum with that. She was incredibly prepared. She had the entire script memorized before her first scene. And it was a dense script, a lot of monologues for her. I popped in and it was like, ’Hey Olive!’ She had an overwhelming undertaking and she nailed it.

You have a certain pattern in your career. In Gossip Girl rumors run wild and now this.

Penn Badgley and Emma Stone
Todd (Penn Badgley) and Olive (Emma Stone) © 2010 Screen Gems

Well, I think it’s a reflection of the times and the way teenagers interact, the way young people are. With the social networking and the Internet, with Facebook, Twitter and that kind of stuff, it does change the way you operate. It’s hard to sum up in a sound bite, but I think it’s really fascinating how so many movies revolve around that kind of concept, We, as human beings, are discovering this new way of micromanaging our personality online.

I think the reason it ties into high school so easily is because that’s when everybody is doing that. That is a time in everybody’s lives where however long we’ve been here, that teenagers are super insecure and they want to be cool and they want everyone to like them. And Facebook has made them even more acutely aware of the pimple on their cheek. That the movie touches on that, that Gossip Girl touches on it, even movies that have nothing to do with it, you still have the camera-phone. The way those are used in movies as devices now is a reflection of the world we live in.

And the Internet attributes to how fast these things spread…

Yeah, it’s the way that everything has increased and changes so quickly. When I was in high school, and I’m very young, high school for me was very different. It was very recent, and we didn’t have Facebook or Twitter. Myspace was still kind of like, ‘What is Myspace?’

Is it good or bad?

Me personally, I don’t think it’s terribly good for us. That’s my personal opinion, but I think it’s amazing what we can do, we have things like iPhones, but it is a bit weird. The phone call is kind of like reserved for only important people, whereas most of the time you’re just texting.

Do you ever feel a need to respond to the gossip you see about yourself online?

No, because it’s not true. If it’s not true, it’s not true and it doesn’t have any legs to stand on. All of us on Gossip Girl are going through this. Something will flare up and one of our cast mates will be frustrated, and you’ve just got to remember, if it’s not true it will fade away and nobody will remember it in a week. That stuff comes and goes.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.