Penn Badgley Revealed The Major Breaking Bad Role “That Got Away”

He might never have been Dan Humphrey.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 13: Penn Badgley visit at SiriusXM Studios on February 13, 2023 in New...
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Gossip Girl almost had a different “lonely boy.” Though Penn Badgley landed his breakout role as Dan Humphrey in 2007, the actor revealed he was up for another major part around the same time. During a BuzzFeed Celeb “Puppy Interview,” he said that there were “a bunch” of roles people would be surprised to find out he auditioned for but didn’t get. There was one in particular that stood out, though.

“One I got close on was Breaking Bad. It was between me and Aaron Paul, we tested,” he explained. “Actually, that was the best television script I’d read at that point. That was the one that got away.”

But the fan-favorite role of Jesse Pinkman didn’t get away from Paul, who eventually won three Emmys for playing Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) sidekick crystal meth dealer from 2008 to 2013 on the award-winning AMC drama. (He also reprised the role in Netflix’s El Camino movie in 2019.) While sitting down for an episode of PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing in November 2019, Paul recalled being “at the lowest point” of his career when he and Badgley landed their Breaking Bad auditions.

“I tested against three other guys. I knew it was really between me and this other guy. Penn Badgley was one of the guys that was testing,” Paul recounted. “It was so long ago that I’m blanking on the two other guys. I did not recognize them at the time. But this other guy just really… Right when he walked in, I was like, ‘Oh my God, that guy looks like a meth addict.’ ... In a good way! He was just in the role. I was like, ‘This guy is going to steal it from me.’”

Though Badgley didn’t steal that role, he shot to stardom while playing Dan on The CW’s Gossip Girl from 2007 to 2012. Even so, the actor recently admitted to Variety that he “didn’t want to be in television” at the time. “I was biding time a lot with Dan — I was not invested,” he explained. “And I’m not saying it’s a good thing! I’m saying it’s just what it was.”

While filming the sudsy teen drama, Badgley also began a high-profile romance with co-star Blake Lively, and recently credited the relationship with saving him from turning to substance abuse during the “dark undercurrent” of his later 20s. “Blake didn’t drink, and I think our relationship in some ways saved me from forcing myself to go down that road,” he shared.

‌Now, Badgley is continuing to make his mark as anti-hero serial killer Joe Goldberg in Netflix’s You — which even included a subtle Gossip Girl reference in Season 4. In the scene, which went viral on TikTok, Lukas Gage’s character, Adam Pratt, tells Joe (under his new “Jonathan” identity), “Naughty Jon, I never took you for a gossip.”

Had Badgley played Jesse Pinkman first, though, he might’ve added a “b*tch” to the end.