“Gossip Girl” star Penn Badgley could not have been cooler as he talked to us in his woodchuck mascot uniform on the set of Easy A laughing about how ridiculous he felt wearing the costume.
Q: How brutal was that scene where Emma Stone is singing and dancing?
Penn Badgley: You know what? I’ve endured worse.
Badgley: Not here, no. But it was another Screen Gems picture. One that I did last year. We spent three nights on a rooftop in 30 degree weather and I was just in a T-shirt and it was freezing rain that they had to make. The rain they make they have to keep very cold because if it was warm, if it were warmer then the air, you get steam. So it was a freezing water, and movie rain is like a sheet of water; the second you’re in it you’re absolutely drenched because water, in order for it to be on film, it has to be heavy. It’s a miracle I didn’t get some sort of illness.
Q: What movie was that?
Badgley: It’s called “The Stepfather.” That was an intense shoot for me because we were shooting “Gossip Girl” at the same time and I was flying back and forth. I did a lot of my own stunts. It was a very physical role. I guess this one is too.
Q: How’s the blue paint treating you?
Badgley: I’ve gotten kind of used to it. I kind of like it. I don’t know. I have to, right? At this point I feel like I’m clothed. I know that probably sounds ridiculous, but I feel like I’m clothed.
Q: Can you explain what the blue paint is for?
Badgley: My character, his name is Woodchuck Todd, and he used to be a blue devil, the former school mascot that was eventually voted to be satanic by the conservative Christian right infecting the high schools – don’t say that!! (laughs) They, in a sort of like, what would you call it? I guess a vendetta against the mascot; they have him replaced by a more innocuous figure like a woodchuck. And the joke is that it’s really, really f*cking lame.
Q: And Amanda Bynes is the leader of the anti-blue devils?
Badgley: She is. Yes. And she plays it brilliantly.
Q: What do other people at the school think about her character?
Badgley: About Amanda Bynes’ character?
Q: Yeah. Because she’s so uptight and so conservative.
Badgley: You know what’s so great about her character actually is that initially you think that she’s sort of just a b*tch, frankly. Just a very conservative, uptight, prude young girl, but you realize later that those are her actual values and she has a moment of truth with Olive. While she’s initially sort of the villain–ironically she’s the villain even though she’s a conservative Christian–you really do see that she has a heart. And that she really just loves God, and what’s wrong with that?
Q: When you first read this and they brought it to you and read this part where you have to dress up in a woodchuck suit…
Badgley: You know what’s funny, actually?
Q: They didn’t have that?
Badgley: No no no no. When I read the script, I wasn’t sure I wanted to play high school [student]. I knew the character’s name was Todd. But in the beginning when I read the script, the first description of Woodchuck Todd, it says, “a muscular kid painted in blue body paint comes out dressed as a blue devil” and I was like, “Man, I want to do that.”
Q: How do you feel in the woodchuck costume?
Badgley: Absolutely absurd. (laughs)
Q: Do you feel manly?
Badgley: Uhm, you know, I felt manly until I started doing the dances. And then I realized I had a cape on and tights. (laughs) So it’s a mixture of supreme sexuality and… just… complete…
Q: Isn’t it sort of like a kilt? Like, you have to be really manly to pull it off?
Badgley: I don’t know. Am I pulling it off?
Badgley: Well then, yeah. It takes a man to pull off a sparkly cape.
Q: What’s different about this movie than other teen comedies? Besides the woodchuck?
Badgley: I would say that first off it’s got a female lead. It’s got a series of female leads. And while it’s being provocative–the way that a lot of teen comedies are lately–it actually has heart. But that doesn’t mean that it’s too safe. At the moment it has an R rating and it seems like it’s going to be. It really depends on that realness to be a good comedy. At the moment, what we’re making I think is a pretty accurate portrayal of teenagers – just the way they talk, the way they are, their sex lives. In a way, we have more freedom than for instance on television with “Gossip Girl.” When I read it, it just was very different. First of all it is a quasi-adaptation of “The Scarlet Letter,” which is a really interesting take on the teen female heroine. That’s all I got, I guess. That’s a good sound bite.
Q: Did you have a regular high school experience?
Badgley: I didn’t actually. I graduated early, when I was 13.
Badgley: It sounds much more impressive than it is. And I started taking community college courses when I was, like, 14. So from 14 to 17 I was going to SMC – Santa Monica.
Q: So were you 6 when you started high school?
Badgley: About, yeah. I’d just stopped sucking my thumb.
Q: So you can’t relate to this?
Badgley: No, everybody can. Being a teenager is universal. It’s not just high school.