Penn Badgley Talks Dealing with ‘Overwhelming’ Fame After Starring ‘Gossip Girl’

Penn Badgley is opening up about life in the spotlight.

In a new interview on Rainn Wilson’s Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson podcast, the 34-year-old actor talked about how he’s using his platform to do some good in the world after receiving tons of fame from his Gossip Girl days.

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“The most meaningful form of action I saw, as a person who’d been on Gossip Girl, as a person who had at this point hundreds of thousands of followers—yeah, because I got on social media late,” Penn shared. “If I had gotten on in the middle of Gossip Girl, I very well could’ve had millions upon millions—so I was thinking, the most meaningful contribution I have to make as an individual is on these platforms.”

He continued, “And in trying to have a pure intention and honest interaction on these spaces, I also found that I was completely overwhelmed by being conscious of how many likes or retweets or whatever. It was such a convoluted way to be like, ‘acting.’”

Penn also said that playing up his fame on social media was like being “wrapped up in ego and our materialist culture…It was not the most fulfilling or meaningful contribution that I could make as an individual seeking to better the world.”

He then recalled a having an anxiety attack during a press tour two years ago at a mall in Manila in the Philippines when he was mobbed by fans.

“It was packed with thousands of screaming adults,” Penn recalled, adding that “in all of my years of witnessing some form of adulation, like the fan experience,” this one was really over the top.

“I had an anxiety attack that press trip,” he shared. “And I’m not a person who has that. I mean, look, I have anxieties I think. I’m human.”

Penn added that that moment was “really was profound” for him.

“I was coming to terms with having lived half of my life at least in some kind of public eye. I felt the blessings descending, but it was in the form of an anxiety attack and it was pretty intense,” Penn explained.

“I was 32. I’d been through Gossip Girl and processed that and it still was—I will tell you, the elevator doors opened and what I was met with, it was very hard to smile in the face of what it felt like,” he said. “It was alarming and it was really hard to process in that moment.”

Penn concluded his message by saying that he hopes the concept of “celebrity” won’t have the same meaning in the future.

“In some future vision of society, it should be just civilization,” Penn said. “I don’t think celebrity exists in the way that it does now.”

In an interview from last summer, Penn opened up about doing “plenty” of drugs in his 20s.

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