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The Journal Gazette

  • Lifetime Elizabeth Lail and Penn Badgley star in “You,” an hourlong thriller airing tonight on Lifetime.

Sunday, September 09, 2018 1:00 am

Thriller shows dangers of social media

George Dickie | Zap2it

Anyone with a tendency to overshare on social media should find a series such as 'You' instructive – and a bit chilling.

Premiering tonight on Lifetime, the hourlong psychological thriller from executive producers Greg Berlanti (“Dawson's Creek,” “Brothers & Sisters”) and Sera Gamble (“Supernatural,” “The Magicians”) stars Penn Badgley (“Gossip Girl,” “Easy A”) as Joe, a 30-ish Greenwich Village bookstore manager, into whose workplace one day walks pretty blond customer Beck (Elizabeth Lail, “Once Upon a Time”). They meet, flirt and he sells her a book. It's clear they have chemistry. He also gets her name from the credit card slip.

From this, he is able to go on the internet and social media and glean many things about her, including her address, friends, favorite hangouts, family situation, alma mater and career ambitions. All the things a burgeoning stalker and sociopath likes to know.

His invasions of her privacy escalate as he monitors her activities both online and on foot, and he eventually sneaks into her apartment when she isn't home and looks through her computer. He decides that they should be together and anyone standing in their way, such as her unfaithful boyfriend Benji (Lou Taylor Pucci, “The Answer Man”), should be eliminated – through any means necessary.

It's a story that should make any social media enthusiast uncomfortable, as it did Badgley, who admits to misgivings about playing a stalker in the age of MeToo.

“I personally feel that it is a bit of a social experiment because it's like a litmus test to see the mental gymnastics we're still willing to perform at the cultural level to love an evil white man,” Badgley says. “So I'm very curious. ... I think that it will certainly add to the conversation and it will create its own conversation. So I'm looking forward to the response.”

To play Joe, Badgley tried to find the humanity in what would otherwise be an inhuman character.

“I was just focused mostly on his curiosity and his sensitivity,” he says, “because there are so many things about him that are inhuman or at least there are a couple glaring things about him that are so inhuman. So yeah, I think in order to make him human ... I realized that as an actor that's I guess my only job. And it was ultimately his curiosity, his investigation that somehow is so naive and innocent that it might even be insular and then becomes all of the terrible things that it is.”