Gossip Girl‘s Blake Lively and Penn Badgley enjoyed an off-screen romance in addition to an on-screen one while shooting the show. And while the two have moved on and haven’t spoken much about their years dating from 2007 to 2010, Badgley did give Lively a lot of credit in his new Variety interview for keeping him from rock bottom.
The man behind Dan Humphrey didn’t love being on TV at the time. While doing the show, “I didn’t want to be in television. I was biding time a lot with Dan—I was not invested,” he said. “And I’m not saying it’s a good thing! I’m saying it’s just what it was.”
Those Gossip Girl years were “fun and fast-paced” but underneath, there was a “dark undercurrent that would bottom out in my later 20s,” he said. Variety‘s reporter asked if any of the darkness was substance abuse-related. That’s when Lively came in. “To be honest, I never struggled with substance,” Badgley said. “Blake didn’t drink, and I think our relationship in some ways saved me from forcing myself to go down that road.” He didn’t offer any more comments on her, but opened up himself about having “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 said. Variety wrote that he felt isolated and unsure who to trust.
“I was never anything that I would define as suicidal at all, but I was certainly in a despair,” he said. “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.”
Lively spoke in 2017 about dating Badgley while on Gossip Girl; they had been in their early 20s. “I remember there was one point where we were just afraid of how our personal lives overlapping our work life could be perceived by our bosses,” Lively said. “[But then] we were like, ‘Oh no, that’s exactly what they want.’ They wanted us all to date. They wanted us all to wear the same clothes that we’re wearing on the show. They wanted that, because then it fed their whole narrative. People could buy into this world.”
“At the time, I was wearing the same clothes and doing fashion shoots, and dating the same person that my character was dating—or sometimes that person [Dan] was my brother, you never know with Serena—and because of that, what people were projecting onto me was that I was Serena,” she continued. “We look the same, and we acted the same as far as they could tell, because I wasn’t doing anything but that show. If [Penn and I] were photographed walking down the street, they didn’t know if it was a paparazzi shot or if it was a shot from the show.”
Senior News and Strategy Editor
Alyssa Bailey is the senior news and strategy editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage of celebrities and royals (particularly Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton). She previously held positions at InStyle and Cosmopolitan. When she’s not working, she loves running around Central Park, making people take #ootd pics of her, and exploring New York City.