20 Behind-The-Scenes Facts Of Netflix's You

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've likely heard about "You" — Netflix's psychological thriller series starring Penn Badgley as a charming, manipulative murderer. 

Unlike the wealth of true crime documentaries Netflix has been rolling out recently, "You" is fictional. However, the fear you'll experience after binge-watching this show feels real enough to make you want to delete all of your social media accounts and never talk to another stranger again — especially in a bookstore. With three seasons released so far and a fourth in the works, fans are dying (no pun intended) to find out what's next for the Actual Worst Boyfriend Ever, Joe Goldberg. However, there's a lot more to the Netflix hit series to be discovered behind-the-scenes.

1. Penn Badgley doesn't get Joe's appeal

As problematic as Joe Goldberg — the seemingly charming and charismatic bookstore clerk — is, the creepy character gained a surprising amount of fans once "You" premiered on Netflix in December 2018. The sheer amount of Joe fans is surprising because, simply put, Joe is an obsessive and controlling stalker-turned-cold-blooded-murderer. Those traits are certainly nothing to romanticize, but that hasn't stopped certain fans of the show from siding with Joe, while also criticizing the object of his attention, Beck, for failing to realize how great he is. Uhh, what?!

Penn Badgley may play Joe on TV, but he definitely is not a Team Joe kind of guy in real life. The actor even took to Twitter (via Teen Vogue) to dissuade fans from celebrating his creepy character. Responding to one fan who tweeted "[Penn Badgley] is breaking my heart once again as Joe. What is it about him?" Badgley responded, "A: He is a murderer." And that's all [s]he wrote, folks!

2. Netflix saved the show

If you watched "You" on Netflix and found yourself thinking the whole thing was playing out like some sort of made-for-TV Lifetime drama, then give yourself a pat on the back because your instincts are spot-on. Before the show was catapulted to fame on the streaming service in December 2018, its first season had a rather underwhelming run on the television network known for its over-the-top (and totally addicting) original thrillers. But despite "You" having all the ingredients usually required to make a Lifetime hit, the show's ratings fell flat — and the network announced in December 2018 that "You" was no longer a part of its family. 

However, one network's trash is apparently a certain streaming service's treasure. Shortly after Lifetime announced the end of "You" on its network, Netflix swooped in to save it — premiering the drama on its platform the day after Christmas. Producer Greg Berlanti told The New York Times, "['You'] went from being one of the least-watched shows I've ever worked on and been most proud of ... to being the most-watched show I've ever worked on in 20-something years of being in the business."

3. This is why Beck looks so familiar

You boasts quite an impressive cast, with a few faces you likely immediately recognized from wildly popular shows — such as Penn Badgley from "Gossip Girl" and Shay Mitchell of "Pretty Little Liars" fame. In addition to its A-lister cast, "You" introduced to viewers a wealth of lesser-known — but crazy talented — actors. Among these rising stars is Elizabeth Lail, the woman behind the ill-fated Guinevere Beck. 

But even if you couldn't place her face, there's a good chance Lail looked familiar to you — especially if you consider yourself a fan of all things Disney. In 2014, the actress was picked from virtual obscurity to star in ABC's "Once Upon a Time" as "Frozen's" Princess Anna. Considering Princess Anna is one of the most popular Disney princesses in the history of, well, Disney princesses, it's safe to say that scoring the royal role was Lail's big break. 

4. The book is way different

It may not surprise you to learn that You is based on a best-selling novel of the same name. There's certainly no shortage of movies and TV shows based on books, and Caroline Kepnes' novel "You" contained a story perfectly poised to be adapted for the screen. And while both the book and the show are delightfully thrilling and equally addicting, there are some key differences in the stories being told. 

As Bustle points out, Beck has a much stronger voice in the book. While the show depicts Beck as oblivious to Joe's stalking, the book reveals that Beck was actually aware of it. For example, in the book, Beck knew Joe followed her to that poetry reading — and she even found it flattering. 

Other differences include the addition of Paco and Annika's characters in the show, the method Joe uses to kill Peach, and the question of whether or not Candace (Joe's ex-girlfriend) is alive or not. In the book, there's no question Candace is dead — but the show's first season ended with her showing up at Joe's bookstore. Talk about a cliffhanger!

5. Some critics aren't happy

"You" might have surged in popularity and gained hoards of new fans when it made the switch from Lifetime to Netflix, but not everyone is happy about the show's presence in the current zeitgeist. In fact, many critics have called out the show for being problematic in the way it depicts Joe as being more charming, clever, and intelligent than he is creepy, manipulative, and dangerous — as well as the way in which it depicts Beck as simply a plot device to push Joe's story forward.

As Vulture notes, "You" gets caught in the trap of telling the story completely though Joe's point of view — a point of view which completely fails to see Beck as anything more than a supporting character in Joe's story. In a review of the show's season finale, Vulture wrote that "You" is a "story that gives a violent male character a full, complicated history while never revealing more about its female character beyond what said male character can discern and/or chooses to project on her." And after viewing the show in its entirety, that's a hard point to argue.

6. Millie Bobby Brown was pro-Joe ... and people were concerned

There's no question that "You" is one of the hottest shows in Netflix. The psychological thriller is so popular, in fact, that it's caught the attention of the star of another hit Netflix show. Millie Bobby Brown, the young actress who portrays Eleven on Netflix's "Stranger Things," took to Instagram in January 2019 to join in on the virtual water cooler conversation surrounding the show. 

According to Entertainment Tonight, Brown posted a video to her Instagram story, saying, "So I just started that new show 'You.' [Joe's] not creepy. He's in love with [Beck], and it's okay." The star continued, "So I'm obsessed with it, I'm binge-watching it, absolute banger, Netflix."

Fans were quick to respond to Brown by pointing out that Joe's extremely problematic and dangerous behavior shouldn't be mistaken for love or affection. Thankfully, it seems that the star developed a better understanding once finishing the show. Brown later took to Instagram to clarify her comments, saying, "I guess I gathered an analysis too quickly. I watched episode 10, [and he's] most definitely is a stalker. My bad if I upset anyone."

7. Is Joe based on a real person?

It's only natural to wonder if "You" is a terrifying story based in reality — or, more specifically, if Joe is a terrifying character based on a real person.

Caroline Kepnes answered this question in a piece she wrote for the website What Is This Book About, revealing that there are three ways for her to respond when people ask about the inspiration behind Joe. The author wrote that part of Joe — the book and music-loving part — is based on her father, a connoisseur of books and music who died in 2012. Another inspiration for the character, Kepnes writes, is "the price we pay" for social media. 

Revealing the third inspiration for Joe, Kepnes continues, "And in the end, there is the simple, overwhelming truth of what I always set out to do when I write. To activate empathy, in both of us, you and me, and that doesn't mean that you love Joe or hate Joe, it only means that you're experiencing life from his perspective."

8. 'I didn't choose the role because it was another character that was kissing a girl'

Despite all the talk surrounding Joe, Penn Badgley's bookish stalker isn't the only engrossing character "You" has to offer. Shay Mitchell joined the first season's cast to portray Beck's best friend, Peach, a complicated character who, like Joe, has ulterior motives when it comes to Beck — though Peach doesn't resort to violence to get her way. 

When we first meet Peach, we're led to believe that she's nothing more than a concerned best friend. However, as the show progresses, it's revealed that Peach is actually in love with Beck — and doing everything in her power to cut Joe out of the picture. Playing Peach marked Mitchell's second LGBTQ identifying role (her first was on "Pretty Little Liars"), but the actress told Refinery 29 that her characters' sexual orientations are only part of who they are, and don't play a part in her choosing certain roles. Mitchell said, "I didn't choose the role because it was another character that was kissing a girl. With this [project], it was really just the character that I was enjoying getting to play, regardless of who she was making out with. That was not even a thought."

9. The show was developed for Showtime

As covered in this article, "You" originally premiered on Lifetime in 2018 to less-than-ideal ratings, only to be scooped up by Netflix and catapulted to mega-popularity. However, a lesser-known fact about the psychological thriller is that the series was originally developed for Showtime. Yes, that Showtime — the network responsible for shows like "Homeland," "Dexter," "Penny Dreadful," and "SMILF." Considering the action-packed and risqué nature of these hit shows, it's not crazy to wonder how different You would have been if it had premiered on its intended network.

But according to showrunner Sera Gamble, the show isn't all that different than it would have been on Showtime. In an interview with Collider, Gamble revealed that the show simply worked better with the powers-that-be at Lifetime, saying, "We wrote a draft for [Showtime], and it just became clear that we didn't have the exact same vision for the direction of the show, but that happens frequently. ... And writing this for Lifetime has not been terribly different. I like to be pushed and asked questions. And the questions that Lifetime was asking were really interesting."

10. Are romantic comedies to blame?

As horrifying as Joe Goldberg's behavior is, some fans of You still continue to defend his antics and label Beck as undeserving of his affection — but why? Well, as Joe himself points out in the show, obsessive, stalker-like behavior has been portrayed onscreen and passed off as love for as long as romantic comedies have been around. Julia Lippman, a University of Michigan professor, told The Huffington Post, "Men are socialized to be persistent and women are socialized to be flattered by it. [Women are] taught that we should want this from men. That it means we're desirable. And who doesn't want to be desirable?"

Even Sera Gamble, "You's" showrunner, seems to have a difficult time discerning romance from Joe's toxicity. In an interview with Collider, Gamble revealed that she found herself sometimes rooting for Joe and Beck to end up together (even though she was well-aware of the relationship's grisly ending), saying, "I can't help it because I love a romance." Oof.

11. Elizabeth Lail wanted a different ending

If you weren't satisfied with the way season one ended, don't worry — you're far from alone. Plenty of folks wanted a different ending for Beck, including Elizabeth Lail.

As a quick refresher, Season 1 of "You" ended with Beck realizing the extent of Joe's stalking and crimes just before he captures and locks her in his creepy glass box at the bottom of the bookstore. After suffering mental and emotional torture for days, Beck musters up the energy to make a run for it — but, alas, Joe catches and kills her before she's able to escape. 

In an interview with Radio Times, Lail revealed that, even though she'd read Caroline Kepnes' novel, she was rooting for an alternate ending in which Beck survives. Lail said of the ending, "The unfortunate thing is, the woman doesn't win in the end ... and I'm so sick and tired of that." However disappointed she was about her character's fate, Lail did admit that she felt the unfortunate ending to be "much closer to the truth," given Joe's advantage. But hey, a gal can dream. 

12. Penn Badgley isn't just the show's star – he's also a producer and director

According to IMDb, Penn Badgley isn't just the star of "You." He's also been an executive producer since Season 3. And, as of Season 4, he's also a director. "We hired a new director this season but he seems to know the show really, really well," wrote showrunner Sera Gamble on Instagram.

It turns out, Badgley's directorial debut came in the form of the ninth episode of Season 4. As Badgley explained on the podcast "Podcrushed," he was "so glad" to have had the experience. "I am very visual," he said. "I have clear specific ideas about how I want something to look, but what really fed me was getting to talk to the actors, giving them notes." Apparently, the episode he directed was "really emotionally intense," so it wasn't an easy task. But, he said, "I felt like I got to put a little bit of my own imprint on it visually" (via ET Canada).

13. Love wasn't a killer in the books

It's safe to say that "You" took things in a new direction in Season 2 and Season 3. While Season 1 followed the original Caroline Kepnes book pretty closely, the show changed quite a few details as it went on. Let's start with the character Love. While Love is in the books, she's quite different.

As Insider noted, Love isn't even a killer in the books. In the show, the character has already killed four people before she meets Joe, including her first husband. However, in the books, her husband dies in a surfing accident. In the show, Love kills Candace and Delilah, but in the books, Joe is responsible for those murders. 

In the show, Season 2 ends with Love revealing to Joe that she is just like him — a stalker and a killer. In the books, this plot twist never happens. Instead, when Joe tells Love about his murderous past, she simply agrees to stay with him because she loves him (via PopBuzz). It's safe to say that the books and the TV show are pretty different.

14. Penn Badgley doesn't have to memorize a lot of lines

You would think that as the star of the show, Penn Badgley would have quite a few lines to memorize, right? Well, as it turns out, not quite. As the actor explained in a 2019 interview, he doesn't actually have to say that much on camera, which means he doesn't have that much to memorize. "Most of my lines are in my head," he said. This meant that Badgley got to simply read his lines into a microphone after filming. "Most days when I was on set, actually, I wouldn't have to memorize any lines, I would just have to do them later," he said. "And that was quite interesting." 

Luckily, Badgley explained, he actually got his start in the industry doing radio voiceovers and video games when he was just 10 years old, so he felt pretty comfortable doing all of Joe's narration. 

15. Dylan Arnold auditioned for the roles of Joe and Forty

In Season 3, Dylan Arnold played Theo, a college student who becomes infatuated with Love. As it turns out, Arnold almost played someone else on the show — twice. "So I auditioned for Joe for Season 1, and then I auditioned for Forty for Season 2, and now, third time's the charm, I got Theo in Season 3," the actor told Teen Vogue. "So my relationship with the show goes way back, and I actually went to college with Elizabeth Lail, who played Guinevere Beck in the first season."

Arnold explained that he watched the first few episodes, but he eventually watched the rest of the show when he was called back to audition for a third time. "I went back and was like, 'Okay, let me watch the second season and get the tone of the show,'" he said. "I wound up bingeing the entire second season in two and a half days, which I've never done with another show I've auditioned for." Sounds like fate took a hand, and Arnold finally got the perfect part for him.

16. Victoria Pedretti tried out for the part of Beck

Dylan Arnold wasn't the only "You" actor who had a long relationship with the show before actually joining the cast. As it turns out, Victoria Pedretti, who played Love Quinn in Seasons 2 and 3, was actually up for another part first: Beck, Joe's love interest in Season 1. "'You' was my first call-back ever," Pedretti told Elle. "I auditioned for the first season, for Beck, and had a call-back with the producer." Even though Pedretti didn't get the job, it all worked out for the best. "I'm glad I didn't, because it meant that I was able to do 'The Haunting of Hill House,' and it meant that I was able to come back to play Love," she said.

In another interview with Byrdie, her Love audition came when she was still finishing her university degree. "I was reached out to by Greg Berlanti and Sera Gamble about 'You' because of the work they saw me do on 'Hill House,'" she said. "I haven't even talked to them about whether or not they remember me auditioning for Beck, to be honest." Who knows if Pedretti's first audition for Beck helped her land the part of Beck, but either way, it seems like she eventually landed the part she was destined for.

17. The actors had to take special precautions to film on subway tracks

Remember that terrifying scene in Season 1 where Beck falls onto the subway tracks and Joe jumps down to help her? It turns out, that scene wasn't exactly easy to film for the two actors. After all, subway tracks aren't exactly a safe place to film. In fact, Elizabeth Lail, who played Beck, and Penn Badgley, who played Joe, actually had to take an eight-hour safety training course in advance. "We got proper MTA cards," Lail said to BUILD Series. "For the next year and a half, we can go on the tracks. We are certified, so be careful," added Badgley.

By the sounds of things, Lail and Badgley did a course that would usually be reserved for people training to be train conductors in the city. It's definitely good to hear that the production team took their safety so seriously!

18. Penn Badgley wasn't sure about accepting the role

It's pretty hard to imagine anyone but Penn Badgley playing the role of Joe — after all, he has the whole creepy yet inexplicably attractive thing down to a tee. But, as it turns out, there was a time when we could have had someone else in the lead role. Of course, the production team always thought that Badgley was a good fit. "He brings with him the vibe of what Joe says he is on paper," Sera Gamble, the show's creator and showrunner, told Vulture. However, she went on to explain that Badgley was hesitant about accepting the role at first. "He's capable of plumbing those depths and going there, but he was initially ... I don't think repulsed would be too strong a word," she said.

So, what changed his mind? "It was really ultimately my conversations with [the team] that made me overcome my, my pesky moral conflict over playing such a guy." We're just grateful he changed his mind!

19. How many times is 'you' said in the show?

As anyone who has seen the show "You" will know, the word "you" is used a lot. In his infamous voiceovers, Penn Badgley is constantly talking to the object of his affection and describing them as merely "you." Wondering how many times the word is said? Well, luckily, Netflix has pulled together the uses of the word in Season 1 in a slightly trippy video. The total in Season 1 alone is allegedly 241 times.

However, it turns out, this isn't even every mention of the word. According to the official Instagram page for Netflix Australia and New Zealand, the word is used a total of 3,857 times across Seasons 1 and 2. Apparently, the word appears more often in Season 1. It's safe to say that the total "you" count is much higher after Season 3 — and we can only assume that we'll be hearing the word quite a few more times in Season 4.

20. Ellie wasn't a character in the books

In Season 2, Ellie, played by Jenna Ortega, quickly became a fan-favorite. She was also one of the only characters who had a real bond with Joe that wasn't — well — super creepy. If you're a fan of Ellie, you might be sad to learn that the character doesn't actually exist in the original Caroline Kepnes books at all. In the show, Ellie is the younger sister of Delilah, but in the books, Delilah only has an older sister and we never even meet her (via Insider). As ScreenRant noted, adding a character like Ellie into the show gave us a chance to see a more human side to Joe.

Even though Ellie didn't feature in the books, we may still see more of her on the show. "Ellie is still in Joe's life," explained showrunner Sera Gamble to The Hollywood Reporter. "He's sending her money. She hates him, but he is sending her money. So that door remains open for us." 

Even though Joe moved away from LA and she was only mentioned in Season 3, there may still be hope that Ellie could make a return. As Ortega also told PopSugar, "I had such an incredible time there that if they would like to have me back, I'm more than happy to take a few digs at Joe again." Fingers crossed we haven't seen the last of Ellie!