Actor Penn Badgley recently reflected on becoming famous and how it didn’t make him happy, plus how his ex-girlfriend Blake Lively helped him navigate that difficult time.
Badgley and Lively starred together on the hit CW teen drama “Gossip Girl” and had an on-again, off-again relationship in real life. The 36-year-old actor said their romance helped make him famous. “Beyond our relationship, I don’t think anybody was going to be interested in me publicly,” the actor told Variety during a recent interview.
The “You” star described that quick rise to fame as “fun and fast-paced,” but as also containing a “dark undercurrent that would bottom out in my later 20s.” Badgley clarified that those issues were not drug-related.
“To be honest, I never struggled with substance,” he told the publication. “Blake didn’t drink, and I think our relationship in some ways saved me from forcing myself to go down that road.”
Instead, Badgley described inner turmoil that was “nothing short of a spiritual crisis.”
“Like anybody who experiences some degree of fame and wealth, I was presented with the universal truth that not only does it not make your life better or easier, it actually can greatly complicate things, and make you quite unhappy,” he told Variety.
The actor went on to describe some of his feelings during that time.
“I was never anything that I would define as suicidal at all, but I was certainly in a despair,” Badgley continued. “It had to do with ‘Do I matter? Do I matter? Does anything matter?’ These questions do inform how we feel. The answer that I came upon was ‘Yes.’ I think we all have to come to that. I don’t know how you could come to ‘No’ and be happy, so we all have to come to that ‘Yes’ somehow. Probably repeatedly.”
Eventually, the actor embraced the Bahá’i faith, a monotheistic religion developed in Iran and parts of the Middle East. Badgley went on to describe how his newfound faith had impacted his outlook.
“I was thinking a lot about social change, social action, social transformation — but also my own transformation, my own change,” he said, describing the tenets of Bahá’i as “the most committed pathway from individual transformation to social transformation.”
“I thought to myself, ‘If I really want to participate in the betterment of the world, I think that I should become a Baha’i,’” he said.