You Star Penn Badgley 'Got Close' To Playing Jesse In Breaking Bad

Penn Badgley was best known for his role as Dan Humphrey on the teen soap "Gossip Girl" before showing off his dark side on the hit Netflix series "You." Believe it or not, Joe wasn't the first edgy character that Badgley was considered for. In fact, the actor almost starred in the acclaimed drama "Breaking Bad" as the meth-cooking sous-chef Jesse Pinkman.

"One [role] I got close on was 'Breaking Bad,'" Badgley revealed in a puppy-filled interview with Buzzfeed Celeb. "It was between me and Aaron Paul. We both [screen]tested, and actually, that was the best television script I'd read up to that point. That was the one that got away."

The first season of "Breaking Bad" was released just one year after "Gossip Girl." The shows both ran for several years and became wildly popular — albeit in very different circles. "Breaking Bad" was a hit with critics, while "Gossip Girl" was a hit with teenage girls. The screening schedules of the two shows likely would have conflicted if Badgley was cast, and it's possible that the actor had already committed to a contract for "Gossip Girl" by the time he got into the final round of auditions for Jesse.

What we do know is that Badgley had a lot of misgivings about "Gossip Girl" before, during, and after his time on the show, and he probably would have dropped it to join the cast of "Breaking Bad" in a heartbeat if he could have.

Gossip Girl closed some doors for Badgley

Badgley grappled with fame even before his time on "Gossip Girl." By the time he auditioned for the CW series, he was already being recognized for his supporting role in "John Tucker Must Die" as well as his appearances on television staples like "The Twilight Zone" and "The Young and the Restless." His taste of success made him lose his appetite altogether — in fact, it almost led him to turn the role of Dan Humphrey down.

"I was definitely thinking about not acting after having been in television for already, at that point, eight years — I was 20 years old, I started when I was 12," Badgley explained in an interview with Josh Horowitz. "So when 'Gossip Girl' came around I was like, 'I don't know, I really don't know.' And in fact, when the role was first offered to me I said very conclusively, just no. Thank you for thinking of me, but like, no, I can't."

The actor doesn't believe in regrets, but he certainly doesn't think his reservations about "Gossip Girl" were unfounded. For better or for worse, the role had a huge impact on his career. "Post-'Gossip Girl' unfortunately one of my greatest concerns was, how am I going to not be known for this and the next 20 years?" he admitted. "And by the way, it's been 15 years. It's been 15 years since I made that one decision once."

As it turns out, it wasn't "Gossip Girl" that lost Badgley the role of Jesse Pinkman — in fact, it had nothing to do with him.

The 'Breaking Bad' creator insisted on Aaron Paul

Aaron Paul was down on his luck when he was auditioning for "Breaking Bad."

"I've had a lot of ups and downs and at the lowest point of my career, I wasn't able to pay my bills," Paul recalled in an interview with The Independent. "I was borrowing money. I thought, 'What am I going to do?' Then Vince Gilligan hired me." The young actor really needed the role — perhaps more than Badgley — but he didn't get the part because he was needy. He got the part because the series creator Vince Gilligan went to bat for him.

"No one wanted me – even after I tested, no one wanted me as the guy, and Vince said, 'No, he's the guy – he has to be the guy,'" Paul claimed. "Vince played his trump card and said, 'I'm not doing the show unless he's the guy.' So, they were like, 'Alright!'"

So there you have it folks — Badgley lost the part to Paul because Gilligan insisted that Jesse Pinkman was played by the scrappy up-and-comer.

It might be sad for Badgley that he didn't make the cut for one of the greatest television series of all time, but he solidified his place in the cultural zeitgeist as Dan Humphrey and revived it again decades later as Joe Goldberg. Badgley might not be Jesse Pinkman, the scumbag with a heart of gold, but he is Joe Goldberg, the pretentious bookworm with a murdering streak. Seems like a pretty classic case of winning some and losing some.