The lyrics in Taylor Swift‘s “Anti-Hero” hit home for a lot of people, but when you look at them through the perspective of a serial killer? They take on a whole different meaning. Just ask Penn Badgley, the actor behind frequent murderer Joe Goldberg on Netflix’s You, who recently caught the pop star’s attention for lip-syncing her Midnights lead single dressed as his character in a viral TikTok.
The success of Badgley’s “Anti-Hero” TikTok (nine million views and counting) is made even more impressive when you consider that it was the very first video he ever posted on his account. But in a new interview with Rolling Stone, the Gossip Girl alum explained that it was actually Swift’s track that inspired him to start his TikTok career in the first place.
“I thought for years, ‘I’ll get a TikTok when the time is right,’” he told the magazine in an interview published Friday (Feb. 10). “And then when Taylor’s record came out, it just seemed the song wouldn’t have worked with anybody else. Me. Joe. Anti-Hero. Taylor Swift? It just was the perfect moment.”
Swift has described “Anti-Hero,” her longest-running No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, as being like a “guided tour through all the things I tend to hate about myself.” In his TikTok — on which the “All Too Well” singer herself commented “OMG!!!!” — Badgley dons Joe’s trademark baseball cap and hilariously sings the track’s self-deprecating main hook, “I’m the problem, it’s me.”
As You fans can attest, Joe (who goes by Jonathan Moore while hiding out in London in the Feb. 9-released fourth season) is definitely the problem in almost every scenario. And just like Swift, he often struggles internally with his insecurities and personal demons — his just happens to be a psychological inability to stop stalking, kidnapping and gruesomely murdering people in his life.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to play Joe,” Badgley explained in the new interview. “And so I bring that to it in a way. Joe is always struggling with who he is, and what he’s doing,” he says. “There’s always like three levels of lies with Joe no matter what’s happening.”
Watch Penn Badgley sing along to “Anti-Hero” below: