Last week, Chris D’Elia became the subject of numerous allegations of sexual abuse and predatory behavior after a young woman named Simone Rossi shared her troubling experience with the comedian—whom she accused of “grooming” her when she was just 16 years old. Most of the allegations involved young women, some of whom were underage at the time of their interactions with D’Elia. Over the past week, former colleagues of D’Elia such as Amy Schumer and Whitney Cummings have spoken out to condemn the 40-year-old’s behavior and support his alleged victims. The latest to speak out is Penn Badgley, who plays creepy stalker Joe in the hit Netflix series You. One of many disturbing aspects about these accusations is that D’Elia has played characters whose behavior uncomfortably mirrors the allegations against him; in the second season of You, D’Elia plays Henderson, a comedian who drugs and sexually assaults underage girls. During the recent episode of the Los Angeles Times podcast Can’t Stop Watching, Badgley said he is “very troubled” by the allegations against D’Elia, which he also called “disgusting” and “disturbing.”
“Systematically, it needs to be addressed. Individually, it needs to be addressed,” said the actor. “You know, it did affect me deeply. I was very troubled by it. I am very troubled by it.” Badgley went on to say that “if there’s anything we need to do in this age, it’s to believe women,” adding that he feels “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.”
Badgley said that producers of You reached out Jenna Ortega, the 17-year-old actress who portrayed Ellie, a 15-year-old precocious cinephile and aspiring filmmaker who eagerly accepts the mentorship of D’Elia’s character, Henderson. In one episode, Henderson drugs Ellie, but his attempt to assault her is thwarted by Joe, who might not have been able to step in had he not been stalking the pair. The series has been criticized for its romanticism of Badgley’s character, who makes for an admittedly charming psychopath, but You does make efforts to reckon with the complex dynamic between the audience and such an obvious villain rooted in misogyny.
In the podcast, Badgley touched on another troubling facet of the series: “...the idea that a show like ours would indirectly, unwittingly be a haven for people who are abusive is disturbing,” he said. Badgley also pointed out that society tends to “revel in identifying villains,” and that particular enjoyment may allow these systems to continue functioning as is. D’Elia, meanwhile, has denied the allegations against him, claiming in a statement that he has “never knowingly pursued any underage women at any point.”