As Dan Humphrey, Gossip Girl’s loveable leading man, Penn Badgley traipses through New York with a coterie of privileged prep-school coeds. But when the cameras aren’t rolling, the laid-back actor, star of this month’s thriller The Stepfather, prefers tacos and street trucks to STK.
“It’s fucking weird,” says actor Penn Badgley of the frenzy his hit television series Gossip Girl has brought to Manhattan, inspiring gaggles of schoolgirls to camp out on set and city tours of locations frequented by the show’s fictional Manhattan scenesters. “I’ll be the first to admit that New York is one of the greatest cities in the world,” he says. “But what you see on screen is not the life we really lead.” Still, there are parallels: Badgley dates Blake Lively, who plays his on-screen love interest, Serena; he’s regularly terrorized by camera-wielding tweens with Twitter access; and Penn also enjoys the perks of celebrity. “When people lament fame,” he says, “it’s like boo-fucking-hoo. It’s amazing to have so many privileges.” Even with the imminent release of two big-screen projects—this month’s psychological thriller The Stepfather, opposite Dylan Walsh and Amber Heard, and the high school comedy Easy A—Badgley keeps his rising star in check. “People take themselves so seriously in this city and this industry,” he says, “But success is a slippery fish—you can’t hold onto it.”
House of Oldies 35 Carmine Street This must be the last place in the country, if not the world, that only sells records. There’s a lot of ego at most places that sell good vinyl, but the guy here is really nice—he’s just an old dude who wants people to have a great record collection. I love music, soul specifically, and the way that jazz lends itself to soul and the way soul lends itself to hip-hop. You can find soul in any genre. I just started listening to Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest and—as indie as they are—even they are inspired by soul.
Mud Truck Astor Place I take my coffee black. Every once in a while, I’ll have a soy latte, which I’ve gotten inexplicably hooked on. I like getting my coffee from a truck because, when filming on set, that’s what I’ve become used to. Not that I’m obsessed with food trucks. Indian cuisine is my favorite kind of food, but I couldn’t really see myself being drawn to an Indian street truck.
La Esquina 114 Kenmare Street Hanging out in front of the taco stand here is like taking a tiny step back in time. I love the idea of taco stands, especially ones with really great food. I wouldn’t say I’m just into the stand, though; the restaurant and the bar are really good as well. Maybe it has something to do with the tequila, which is my drink of choice: añejo, straight.
Shake Shack Madison Square Park It’s amazing to shoot Gossip Girl in New York City. I think it instills in those of us living here a certain authenticity. I really love Madison Square Park. It’s relaxing and private. The great thing about Shake Shack is that it’s in the park—maybe it’s the other way around, actually. I usually order a double-cheeseburger with fries, which I’m not so happy about on days like today, when I want to go to the gym.
Nur Khan’s Rose Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel 2 Lexington Avenue We were here with the Gossip Girl cast last night for Blake’s last-minute birthday party. We shot our pilot here while living in the hotel, so it’s like our base. When we feel like going out and getting rowdy, being who we are in New York City, it’s fun to indulge in VIP treatment. Normally, that’s not important to me, but in this world, it’s kind of great. Whenever I see red velvet I think of these rooms. Likewise, whenever I smell bourbon I think of Rose Bar’s Manhattans. They have the best Manhattans.
Photography by Adam Fedderly Styling by Elle Werlin Grey Shirt by Yigal Azrouel. Tan Jeans by Bally. Patterned Scarf by Dolce & Gabbana. Shirt and Cardigan by Robert Geller. Jeans by Prada. Boots by Z Zegna.