At the height of his career, Penn Badgley had money, fame and the adoration of millions of women who were consumed by the very sight of him. The Baltimore-born actor was catapulted to stardom when he joined the cast of "Gossip Girl" (The CW, 2007-12), the glossy, teen melodrama that followed a group of beautiful and privileged snobs who attend a private school on Manhattan's Upper East Side. As "good guy" Dan Humphrey, he romanced the preppy blonde Serena van der Woodsen portrayed by Blake Lively, who - to the enjoyment of fans and tabloid editors alike - dated Badgley in real life. The sparks between the couple only added more sizzle to the already seductive show, making Badgley a press magnet and one of the more recognized actors of his generation. But the fun ultimately did not last, as Badgley and Lively ended their relationship in September 2010, much to the dismay of fans. Meanwhile, the actor continued his prominent rise with feature roles in "The Stepfather" (2009), "Easy A" (2010) and the financial thriller "Margin Call" (2011), while continuing to inhabit the television role that had made him a star in the first place.
Penn Dayton Badgley was born on Nov. 1, 1986 in Baltimore, MD. His unusual name was inspired by his ultrasound photo that his father thought looked like a tennis ball. The future teen heartthrob split his childhood years between Richmond, Virginia and Seattle. He attended Charles Wright Academy in Tacoma, WA, and was involved with the Seattle Children's Theatre where he did voiceovers for children's radio stations. It was around this time that Penn realized his passion for acting. His parents divorced when he was a child; shortly thereafter he and his mother relocated to Los Angeles where he began pursuing an acting and singing career in earnest. He even recorded a pop single in 1998. When he was 17, after completing two years of credits at Santa Monica College, he was accepted at the University of Southern California, but did not attend due to contractual obligations at the time.
Early in his career, Badgley did mostly voiceover work for video games - in 1999 on "Mario Golf 64," a game he claimed never to have even played, as well as on "Mario Tennis 64" in 2000. His screen acting debut was on an episode of "Will & Grace" (NBC, 1998-2006), the Emmy-award winning sitcom that had launched the careers of actors Debra Messing and Eric McCormack, where he played an elementary school bully. He followed it up with numerous TV appearances and film projects, including the high school teen comedy "John Tucker Must Die" (2006), where he played the younger brother of John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe) who had a reputation for being a serial dater. In the minor hit, Badgley, who was called "The Other Tucker," fell for Kate (Brittany Snow) but his intentions were blind-sided when his brother asked Kate out instead.
A breakout role as Phillip Chancellor IV, a young Iraqi war veteran, on the soap opera "The Young and the Restless" (CBS, 1973- ) earned Badgley a Young Artist Award nomination for Best Performance in a Daytime Series in 2001. This led to his first starring role on the WB series, "Do Over" (2002-03). Badgley, who was 16 years old at the time, was convincing as Joel Larsen, a 34-year-old loser salesman who, thanks to a freak accident, gets propelled back in time as a 14-year-old so he can alter the course of his life. Despite receiving positive reviews, the show was canceled short of a full season. "Do Over" was not Badgley's first short-lived role; he starred in several TV shows that failed to make it to their second season, including the soapy drama "The Mountain" (The WB, 2004-05) and the collegiate series "The Bedford Diaries" (The WB, 2006), where he played a pre-med student more interested in partying than hitting the books.
In 2007, the tenacious actor finally got the break he had been waiting for. Badgley was cast as a lead on the CW hit, "Gossip Girl," a teen drama based on the popular young adult novels by Cecily Von Ziegesar that revolved around the lives and loves of young adults growing up on New York's Upper East Side. He was one of three guys on the show - Ed Westwick, who played Chuck Bass, the salacious one whose flamboyant outfits rivaled the trendsetting get-ups worn by the show's leading ladies; and Chace Crawford, who played Nate Archibald, the charming ladies' man. Badgley's character was the missing piece in this handsome trio; he was cast as Dan Humphrey, a Brooklyn-dwelling aspiring writer who played the love interest of the elite crowd's princess, Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively).
The onscreen couple was an item in real life, much to the chagrin of the actor's mostly teenage girl fans. But his romance with Lively did not hurt the show's popularity. In fact, "Gossip Girl" was undoubtedly one of the most talked about teen dramas in its heyday, due in large part to its depiction of the lead characters as scheming, self-absorbed and hypersexual young socialites. Badgley's compelling performance earned him a Choice TV Actor: Drama nomination at the Teen Choice Awards in 2009. Also that year, Badgley starred in the remake of the classic '80s horror film, "The Stepfather," appearing as the son who comes home from military school to find his mother living with a man he suspects is hiding a dark side.
Pursued a singing career and recorded a pop single
First credit was voice work for the video game "Mario Golf 64"
First screen acting credit was on an episode of "Will & Grace" (NBC)
Lent his voice to the video game "Mario Tennis"
First gained notice with his role as Phillip Chancellor IV on the soap opera "The Young and the Restless" (CBS)
Played the lead role on The WB series "Do Over"; canceled just short of a full season
Cast as Sam Tunney on the short-lived series "The Mountain" (The WB)
Played the lead in another short-lived series "The Bedford Diaries" (The WB)
Co-starred in the film "John Tucker Must Die"
Apppeared in "Drive-Thru" with future "Gossip Girl" co-star Leighton Meester
Cast as Dan Humphrey, a budding writer and son of former rock star Rufus Humphrey, on The CW drama series "Gossip Girl"
Starred in the remake of "The Stepfather"
Nominated for the 2010 Teen Choice Award for Choice TV Actor: Drama
Co-starred opposite Emma Stone in the comedy "Easy A"
Nominated for the 2011 Teen Choice Award for Choice TV Actor: Drama
Joined the ensemble cast of the financial drama thriller "Margin Call"