You showrunner Sera Gamble has revealed how the character of Joe Goldberg was crafted to make him the ultimate leading romantic, until you see his darker side.
A huge number of the show's fans professed their love for the stalker/murderer, but the creator insists that that's exactly what was meant to happen.
The Netflix series was adapted from the books by Caroline Kepnes, and Goldberg was designed to romanticise his creepy obsession with specific women, leading to their deaths:
Gamble spoke to The Hollywood Reporter during their drama roundtable about the love for Joe which so many fans seem to possess:
"There's a very vocal contingent of fans of Caroline Kepnes' book who were like, 'I heart Joe.' Essentially what she's done is taken the classic romantic hero and just peeled back the gloss and sheen and John Cusack with the boom box and she followed it to its logical conclusion.
"I mean, if you turn off the sappy music and turn on a David Fincher score, romantic comedies are stalker movies."
She's got a good point here. Mute all the music from movies like Pretty Woman and it starts to seem pretty creepy very fast. Try watching You without Joe's narration and it's deeply unsettling:
The showrunner continued; "Romantic comedy behaviour in real life is criminal! That was basically the starting place for the show."
"The plot of pretty much everyone I can think of- and we have watched all of them many times in the writers' room- is contingent on the guy…well first of all, he has to do a certain amount of fucking up so she can forgive him.
And he has to get over some of her shortcomings," Gamble says. "I mean, that's love, right?"
Penn Badgley has been more than vocal with fans who adore his character, and was openly worried:
A: He is a murderer https://t.co/g2g4f3JvaF
— Penn Badgley (@PennBadgley) January 9, 2019
Sera Gamble claims that she constantly had to have a conversation with Badgley over the script, and how they could transition him into the villain subtly.
"For Penn, when Greg Berlanti and I were talking about the casting, we talked about how we needed an actor who really felt like Joe Goldberg was on paper.
"And Penn is all of that great stuff: He's thoughtful, he's a reader, he's a humanitarian, he's a feminist, he's extremely disturbed by Joe's behaviour," Gamble explained.
Here’s an article from @harpersbazaarus by @CrystalPonti about her experience with a stalker. I don’t know enough about the reality of stalking, honestly, but I’m moved to see that somehow @YouNetflix & the conversation around our show is encouraging others who do. https://t.co/kMfAP5IeOF
— Penn Badgley (@PennBadgley) February 13, 2019
"A lot of our conversations throughout making season one were largely about his level of discomfort with each thing I was sending him.
"Penn's never like, 'That feels weird, I'm not going to do it.' He's like, 'We're going to do it, let's just talk it through, and by the way, I have never been more uncomfortable in my life.'"
The opening episode begins with Joe's narration and the start of his obsession with Beck, but it's not immediately obvious that he's a killer. The light stalking was intended to be red flags.
"In order to make the structure of the episode work for the television show, that first scene needs to positively function as a pure romantic comedy scene. It's a meet-cute and it shouldn't feel creepy," Gamble told Variety.
"We even got some early notes that in the first five minutes of the show you can't really tell where it's going," she added. "But to me, that was the thesis of the whole show: You can't really tell.
"So if this feels like a romantic comedy to you, let's look at other things that look like a romantic comedy to you and non-judgmentally admit to one another that we enjoy stories about men who transgress and take away agency and save the day by maybe even killing people.
Gamble also spoke about the lingering shots of Badgley's eyes;
"It was really, really important to us to preserve the idea that this was two young, good-looking people in a bookstore who maybe have some stuff in common- until you push into his eyes at the end of that scene and you're like, ‘Wait a minute…'"
The showrunner also said that, when she adapted the book to the screen, she changed aspects of Joe's character to hide his true nature. She wanted to hide that he "looks at every woman and judges her as a virgin or a slut."
There was one scene which Sara was afraid to shoot, and displays the intensity of Joe's creepiness;
"The scene that actually made me nervous, though, was in the pilot. Very early in the first episode, a character masturbates on the street in shadow," referring to Joe in front of Beck's window.
"I was watching it at a screening and i was like, 'Oh, we're going to lose them and they're never coming back.' Then the next scene came and everyone was on board, and that was the moment I knew the show would work. I was really doing it on faith until that point."
The show has been a runaway success since it landed on Netflix after originally premiering on Lifetime, and the second season is currently in pre-production.
It will star Badgley once again as Joe and Victoria Pedretti as his new love interest; Love Quinn.
The murderer moves to Los Angeles for the next season, time will tell if Love Quinn can survive.
Feature image: Instagram/@dizioloji_