Penn Badgley is known mostly for his roles as Dan Humphrey in Gossip Girl and Joe Goldberg in Netflix’s hit series, You.
He is also father to 2-year-old son James, who he shares with his wife of six years, Domino Kirke. Having a newborn had put Penn’s own childhood into perspective for him and how it’s affected his life as he grew up.
He recently revealed on an episode of the HypocondriActor podcast that he suffered from a birth defect – having been 2 months premature – that would require his mother and other family members to resuscitate him “multiple times a day” until around the time he was 1 year old.
“My heart and lungs would stop,” Badgley said, explaining that doctors had to continually resuscitate him “for the first couple of weeks” after he was born, eventually giving the responsibility to his mother, who had to learn “how to resuscitate me, like, viscerally.”
“I was on a monitor that would just beep very loudly,” he continued. “[The doctors] basically said, like, ‘This will happen immediately, so you’re going to have to [resuscitate him],’ and [it occurred] until about [the age of] 1.”
He recalled his cousins telling him stories of when they, too, had to help resuscitate him, sharing an anecdote about an instance when he was in the back seat of the car and once his monitor would stop, “all anybody had to do is just touch me,” adding that “just human touch would wake me up.”
After his condition eventually “faded away”, as Penn grew older, he realized that, despite having no memory of that time in his life, it still took its toll on him and proved to have effected him even into adulthood.
“I’m extremely sensitive to touch,” he admitted. “I just noticed that in my life, and I realized later that it’s probably pretty significant.”
Beyond that, his infant condition has had an intellectual impact on his outlook on what is to be all of our fates: death.
“Death doesn’t scare me,” he stated. “That sounds weird to say, but…there’s some aspect to that where I feel like there’s a gravity to the earliest experiences I had…like, I can have a mode that is very solitary and meditative.”
Although he can take away positive aspects from what he went through as a child, he can now better understand the fear that most likely engulfed his mother throughout that time period since he’s become a father himself.
“I started to think throughout the first year [of my son’s life],” he started, “like, if that was me, I was constantly flatlining. You have so much personality and consciousness going on even by the time you’re a couple of months old, but especially a year old.”
“Thinking of my toddler now, I realize it actually did affect me,” he added. “It affected my sense of what life is like, what life is not like. My toddler is so joyful, and I think I might’ve been too, but it would mark him.”
Penn is also figuring out how to be a stepfather, as Kirke has a 14-year-old son from a previous marriage, but has gushed about how the John Tucker Must Die actor has adjusted wonderfully to his role in her son Cassisus’ life.
“He’s a really good stepdad,” Kirke told Us Weekly in 2019, before they had even welcomed their own son. “He doesn’t have to be ‘dad’ so he can have more fun with him. It’s really nice.”
“The stepparent thing is definitely uncharted territory for me,” she admitted, “because I didn’t grow up with one, but…he takes care of him really well.”