Penn Badgley's character on the hit Netflix show "You" is a stalker and murderer disguised as a shy New York City bookstore clerk in a romantic relationship with the object of his obsession.
That has made it strange for the former "Gossip Girl" star in real life when he hears fans describing themselves as "addicted" to the character of Joe Goldberg even though he is a serial-killing monster.
"It's interesting the way people are talking about it because I don't find it addictive, because I have to be him,'' Badgley told Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Tuesday.
"He's a pretty reprehensible guy. You start to discover his true motives pretty early on. He's a guy who's capable of stalking, he's a guy who's capable of murder, he's a guy who's capable of a lot of manipulation."
The show, which originally aired on Lifetime in the fall before being picked up by Netflix, subverts the usual approach by telling the story from the stalker's point of view.
It also depicts how social media and oversharing can be used by a stalker to insinuate himself into the life of the object of his affection, which in Joe's case is a struggling young writer named Guinevere Beck, played by actress Elizabeth Lail.
"He's just completely obsessive and compulsive and believing that he's operating by the logic of a true romantic,'' Badgley said. "What he does is he takes the tropes that we've seen in romantic comedies ... and it totally subverts them by actually following them closely, and he comes to this really kind of terrifying conclusion."
Badgley, 32, has also tried to remind fans on Twitter who have romanticized his character that Joe is a murderous monster. He said on TODAY that his replies were "tongue in cheek."
"So that was partly disingenuous on my part because the whole point is that he's meant to garner a conflicted reaction,'' Badgley said. "I don't see him as a portrayal of a real person. I see him as a representation of the part of us that identifies with him. The part of us that is a troll, the part of us that is victim blaming, the part of us that is privileged and blind. We're meant to identify with him."
He even direct messaged one follower on Twitter after she wondered what it was about Joe that inspired such feelings.
"I was having fun, they were having fun,'' he said. "What's funny is that people kind of jumped on the Joe train and were trolling her, and that's not what I intended at all."
Badgley initially wasn't sure he wanted to play Joe. He was on the fence about taking the role until his wife, singer Domino Kirke, weighed in.
"She wanted me to take it,'' he said. "I was like, 'I don't know if I can play this guy.' She really wanted me to take it."
After attracting about 655,000 viewers per episode during its run on Lifetime, "You" was watched by 40 million households in its first four weeks on Netflix, according to the streaming service. An upcoming second season has also been confirmed.