Spoiler alert: This post contains plot from the second episode of Lifetime’s YOU.
By the end of YOU‘s premiere episode, Joe (Penn Badgley) had let the audience see his less-charming side, the side that decided to knock out Beck’s ex-boyfriend, Benji (Lou Taylor Pucci), and hold him captive in the basement of his bookstore. But in the series’ second episode, even Joe wasn’t sure what he was going to do next — or rather, how far he was willing to go in the name of “protecting Beck.” In Joe’s mind, he’s helping Beck (Elizabeth Lail) by keeping her away from Benji. But was he helping Beck when he decided to kill Benji?
Episode 2 ended with Joe ultimately deciding to trick Benji into drinking peanut oil, which prompted an allergic reaction that left Benji dead. EW spoke with Benji himself, Lou Taylor Pucci, about the experience of making the episode and spending so many hours in that cage.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I assume you knew from the beginning that the role was only for two episodes?
LOU TAYLOR PUCCI: Oh yeah, from the beginning. I auditioned for Penn’s [Badgley] part first because I think they were seeing everybody for the same roles just to see who could act. So I went in to play Joe and I think I did a pretty good audition but I think they were like, “Good performance, not the right guy.” Obviously I’m so different than Penn and he is so good in this role. Maybe it’s just his deep voice or something, but he seems like a learned literary scholar. He’s got that thing about him that you need to play this guy. So they brought me in about a month later [for Benji], on my birthday, hilariously, so I got a good birthday present.
In terms of shooting episode 2, you all shot the scenes essentially in chronological order, correct?
Yeah we did. That was [director] Lee Krieger’s decision, and it was really smart because the intensity has to rise. I knew that I was going to need to go to the ends of the earth with this one because this guy is trying literally everything to get out of this cage for a whole episode, so I worked with my acting coach and we found something different for each scene that I could cling to. In one of them, I feel like I was playing Joe’s lover, trying to be really comfortable with him and seduce him into getting what I want. In another one, I finally get broken down to real Benji. Each scene it felt like I was coming from a different place, like I’d had a lot of time to think in that cage and now, what is going to be my next manipulative move? Because if anything, Benji is a pretty master manipulator and I think it’s just natural. I don’t think he really practiced; it just came to him. He’s just the kind of guy who gets what he wants and knows how to do it, which is really shitty. [Laughs.]
If you read that death, it doesn’t sound too brutal, but it was so brutal to watch.
I’ve seen a little piece of that and it is gross! So I’m excited. Part of what this show is, especially for Lifetime, I think they want to shock people. I think they want to, in some ways, be darker than they’ve ever been. So they’re allowing the show to seemingly get away with stuff that you wouldn’t get away with otherwise unless you’re on HBO or something like that.
How long did it take to film all your stuff in episode 2?
We did it all in a day and a half. But I knew I was going to have to act like I had been in there for longer, so what I did was I starved myself. I was already vegan, hilarious I know, but I was. I was what they call a fegan, so it’s like a fake vegan who still eats eggs and certain things. For the show, I was like, “You know what? I’m going to stay vegan but I’m going to not eat carbs and then also get rid of eggs.” I was so skinny because I had to look like I’d been in this cage. That was the way I did it. I don’t recommend it. [Laughs.]
What’s your biggest takeaway from this experience?
The takeaway from this whole thing was working with great people. It was this dream project where somebody says, “Hey, you wanna play something you’ve never played before where you get to be a complete douchebag and we’re going to kill you, but we’re going to torture you slowly so that we see every little dimension of your douchebag-y nature until you’re dead?” I was like, “Yeah that sounds like the most fun and challenging thing I’ve ever tried, so yes, of course that sounds great!” [Laughs.]
YOU airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on Lifetime.