Penn Badgley of 'Gossip Girl': Investing Is 'Greek to Me'

Penn Badgley of Gossip Girl on investingPenn Badgley, who plays a stock analyst in the new film Margin Call, worries about the market. He just doesn't put money into it.

"I don't really believe in investing," the Gossip Girl star tells The Price of Fame. "Whether it's ignorant or naive or clever, who knows? But I think I was vindicated a little bit with the crash."

Art seems to contradict life for Badgley when it comes to Margin Call, opening Friday. After a colleague (Zachary Quinto) spots a fatal equity trend, Badgley's money-grubbing Seth searches for his conscience on the eve of the 2007 collapse. Meanwhile, his morally bankrupt superiors (Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore and Jeremy Irons) maneuver to protect their assets.

Offscreen, Badgley is publicly fighting the good fight against institutional greed. He joined other celebrities such as Kanye West, Mark Ruffalo and Alec Baldwin at Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. The A-list has absorbed criticism by some for co-opting a protest that targets the privileged.

"Everybody's a critic and they're welcome to do that," Badgley says. "What's beautiful about the movement is that it invites a vast range of people and opinions."

He concedes that making big bucks on a hit TV show may not endear him to the so-called 99% crowd. "People might roll their eyes," he says in our interview at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan.

He knows the objections. He's never had a non-acting job. He's 24 and already wealthy. "It's irrelevant for me because it's more of a human issue," he explains. "It's not just a financial crisis at hand. It's a human crisis."

Earning His Own Money Since Childhood

Asked if his parents imparted a philosophy about money to him, the actor laughs and says no. He was born in Baltimore and developed his acting chops as a youth in a Seattle musical theater company. He then moved to Los Angeles and got an agent. By age 15, he had secured his first prominent role in a short-lived series.

In 2007, he found a TV show that stuck, landing the Gossip Girl role of Brooklyn boy Dan Humphrey, who joins the Upper East Side in-crowd. A high-camp ensemble of the young, gorgeous and spoiled, the show thrived as banks and portfolios wilted. Badgley discovered there's nothing like starring in prime-time to keep you from feeling the pain of a recession. "For the most part, I felt like I was watching it instead of participating in it," he says.

Badgley was about to become a waiter and join the real world before Gossip Girl. Now, armed with a steady paycheck, his main concern is that a cash-depleted Hollywood might be less willing to take a chance on him in the movies. He's done a few pictures, including Easy A and The Stepfather. And he's about to play rocker Jeff Buckley in a biopic.

If the month-old Occupy Wall Street movement were sending out invitations to join a session of populist outrage, we suspect Badgley would not be at the top of the list. But that's OK with him. "I certainly did not grow up with any money," he says. "I'm not an affluent blue blood. I've been working professionally since 12 and paying my own bills since 14."

Even so, success hasn't tempted him to gamble a chunk of his earnings in the stock market. He refuses to drop one dime into a system that he confesses is "like Greek to to me."

"It doesn't need to be understood by everyone, but that is a problem because everyone participates in that world," he says. "If you spend money, buy a home, or if you are an American citizen, we did participate. There is a lot of anger. We didn't realize what we were taking part in."

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WIth all due respect for all activists, learning about investing has got to be required reading. I am a little disappointed that Penn is so cavalier about his lack of knowledge--I worry that he may be setting-up himself for a nasty financial fall in the future. ALL individuals, small earners, middle earners, high earners, should know how to manage their money and investing is part of that. The actions on the part of the "occupiers" is quite understandable--given that the very industry (represented by Wall Street), that markets investing, is NOT investing in HUMAN capital. Corporations are sitting-on over $2 trillion dollars in cash reserves and could hire workers..NOW. But they are not, why? The unreasonable notion that they are waiting for the economy to grow and stabilize, makes no sense. The economy will only grow and stabilize when they start hiring. The ball is in their court. The government has done all it can do. Taxpayers have done all they can do. Consumers are doing all they can do. It is time for corporations with cash rich balance sheets to step-up and INVEST IN AMERICANS.

October 21 2011 at 12:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The reason he is taking up the Marxist cause on Wall Street is because he is Loony Tune lefty like the rest of them. You just can't cure the lazy insanity associated with the steal from someone else mantra the Left's Slave Masters swill as poison to their poor slaves .

October 20 2011 at 3:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to daballofire's comment

It's a good thing that the Tea Party is disintegrating

October 20 2011 at 8:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to someoneole's comment

You got no proof of that. The facts are quite different but they get in your way don't they? Weren't you the one saying that the tea party wouldn't make a difference in the last election? How did that work out for you?

October 21 2011 at 1:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

Thank you, that is a good pun seeing the state that Greece is in right now. Investing in the Stock Market is "Greek to me too". Greece was a great place for Tourism, but they are letting them fail. Seeing that they were the last to Join the European Union, I know they wish that they didn't. That could be here if they do not heed to the signs of excess greed. CEO's did not get rich by themselves. They could a least try to hire the people they fired from Wall Street, since they are making the big bucks right now. Nope, they rather get that bonus that is actually alot of people's Salaries, but they don't even know it.

October 19 2011 at 2:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Terry and Mandy

If he is so wealthy from his string of acting jobs, I'll bet there is a financial adviser involved in his assets. He may be busy making the money, but I'll bet there is someone who is actively investing it for him.

October 19 2011 at 12:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Terry and Mandy's comment

One can only hope...otherwise I see a "Doris Day" or "Tony Braxton" or "Debbie Reynolds" or a celebrity you name his future. All of these wonderfully talented people "trusted" someone else to manage their money and sign their checks---they went bankrupt--losing everything, because they "didn't sign their own checks." Artists (and all individuals, frankly) are prime targets for unscrupulous financial advice and unethical money mgmt. There is no automatic pilot when it comes to your finances. REMEMBER MADOFF--and these were mostly very sophisticated investors. If they can get duped, what happens to the most cavalier and ignorant among us, like Penn. He'd better wake-up. Trust, but verify and by all means, sign your own checks!

October 21 2011 at 12:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply