Caroline Kepnes Talks Watching Penn Badgley Turn Into Joe Goldberg - Exclusive

With her 2014 novel "You," Caroline Kepnes introduced Joe Goldberg to the world, and it wasn't long before he became an international sensation. A hit Netflix show followed, bringing Kepnes' character to an even bigger audience, with "Gossip Girl" alum Penn Badgley embodying the sensitive serial killer at the core of "You." 

While Netflix's "You" is set to end with its 5th season, Kepnes is back with her fourth novel in the book series, "For You and Only You: A Joe Goldberg Novel." In the latest installment, Joe finds himself accepted into a prestigious writing program, with his heart set on becoming a successful novelist. However, nothing is ever simple for Joe Goldberg, and he is surrounded by an elite group of students with whom he has little in common. The entire book is filled with searing observations on class and privilege, as well as razor-sharp pop culture references. 

"It's a new Joe in this book," Kepnes tells The List. "He did kidnap someone during the pandemic, because he's Joe," she continues. "But I liked him going into this book, having done all of this reflection and done all of that work of putting it all through the filter, and coming out thinking he has empathy for everyone — but of course, it's empathy for himself."

In an exclusive interview with The List, Caroline Kepnes opens up about "For You and Only You" and what it was like watching Penn Badgley become Joe Goldberg on TV.

Getting 'chills' when Penn Badgley became Joe Goldberg

It's difficult to imagine anyone but Penn Badgley playing Joe Goldberg on "You," and author Caroline Kepnes was instantly thrilled with Badgley's performance, as he brought her suave but deadly character to life. "I remember early on watching him on a little tape they sent and getting chills," she explains. "Everything from his tone of voice, the way he holds a book — it was like he's embodying this character. ... I was so impressed."

Having created a truly inimitable character, Kepnes was excited to watch Badgley make Joe Goldberg his own. She explains, "It was a thrill because it's a hard thing to pull off." She continues, "To see Penn allow to have the story work this way, where you're actually watching Joe ... He nails it over and over. It's clear that everyone else thinks so too." As for why Badgley is so perfect as the serial killer, Kepnes says, "It's that Maya Angelou quote that's one of my favorites about how people don't remember what you say or what you did, but how you made them feel. In that way, he's got that way about him, where when you're watching him, he can do things and you do feel for him. That's the scary key."

It's undeniable that Badgley's performance on "You" has captured the hearts of viewers all over the world. And thanks to Kepnes' wonderful source material, Joe Goldberg is someone we'll never forget.

"For You and Only You: A Joe Goldberg Novel" is out now from Random House.