Actor and comedian Chris D'Elia has been a topic of conversation in recent days, after multiple women publicly accused him of sexual harassment and unwanted social advances. The news - along with the detail that, at the time of the alleged contact, some of the women involved were as young as 16 - has made some examine aspects of D'Elia's career in a whole new light. In addition to a controversial Workaholics episode in which D'Elia played a pedophile, he also had a brief arc in Season 2 of You, in which he played Henderson, a famous comedian who preys on underage girls. Penn Badgley, who stars on the hit Netflix series as Joe Goldberg, recently addressed the parallels to D'Elia's real-life actions in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times' Can't Stop Watching podcast.
"It did affect me deeply," Badgley revealed. "I was very troubled by it. I am very troubled by it. I don’t know Chris. I know that, if there’s anything we need to do in this age, it’s to believe women."
"What is really important is to recognize that the policies that underwrite every given system — the practices, the regulations, the laws that underwrite every one of these systems which act as a haven for the individuals that take advantage, namely white men," Badgley went on to say. "And women — but, you know, white people, and white men. And white men of a particular breed, who are successful and charismatic. I think that we need to remember that that is the level of change we’re looking for."
"The idea that a show like ours would indirectly, unwittingly be a haven for people who are abusive is disturbing. It’s very disturbing. What does it take to change that? Because it’s not just vetting individuals," Badgley continued. "There needs to be a change in culture and attitude so that that kind of behavior is so clearly reprehensible, it’s so clearly, like, anti-human. That is also what I think about on a given project that I’m on. And, you know, to the degree that the subject matter is conflicting and challenging in that end, trying to create that culture, does a show like ours help to create that culture? Well, I know that at least our show is trying to be — thinks about things in a dismantling, deconstructive manner."
As those who have seen Season 2 of You remember, Henderson's arc involved him befriending Ellie Alves (Jenna Ortega), a young girl who lives in Joe's Los Angeles apartment building. Ellie's sister, Delilah (Carmela Zumbado) alleges that she was sexually assaulted by Henderson when she was underage, and Joe's investigation of Henderson begins to confirm as much. Ultimately, Joe kidnaps Henderson and forces him to admit that he's an abuser, but Henderson dies soon after from being pushed down the stairs in an altercation with Joe.
Badgley confirmed that the show's creative team did reach out to Ortega after D'Elia's allegations came to light, and that he hopes the industry will continue to make positive changes.
"The first thing our producers did was reach out to Jenna, who played Ellie, the girl opposite Chris in those scenes, just to make sure she felt safe. We can feel safe and sound there. So, as far as our show is concerned, as far as we’re concerned, there’s only so much we can take responsibility for. And I say “we” pretty broadly, because we’re all doing different things. I’m, at the end of the day, an actor, and I don’t have a lot to do with a lot of this stuff. But I do think, in the future, I would like that to change, personally."
D'Elia recently made a public statement to TMZ, in which he denies the claims.
“I know I have said and done things that might have offended people during my career, but I have never knowingly pursued any underage women at any point. All of my relationships have been both legal and consensual and I have never met or exchanged any inappropriate photos with the people who have tweeted about me. That being said, I really am truly sorry. I was a dumb guy who ABSOLUTELY let myself get caught up in my lifestyle. That’s MY fault. I own it. I’ve been reflecting on this for some time now and I promise I will continue to do better,” D'Elia's statement reads.
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