In the shocking season 1 finale of Netflix's psychological thriller You, we saw the social media-savvy stalker, Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley), turn pale after coming face-to-face with his not-so-dead ex-girlfriend, Candace Stone (Ambyr Childers).
You, from Greg Berlanti and Sera Gamble and based on the novels by Caroline Kepnes, first ran on Lifetime, but it attracted far more attention (and more than 40 million viewers) when it debuted on Netflix last September. The series centers on Joe, New York City bookstore manager who fancies himself a romantic, but in reality obsessively internet stalks the women he wants to date to force them to fall in love with him.
In the new season of You, out Dec. 26, Joe is self-exiled in LA, trying to start his life over and navigate a new "relationship" with Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti), while Candace is hot on his trail. In the trailer for the show's sophomore run, which Netflix released earlier this month, we quickly see that Candace knows exactly who Joe truly is, possibly making her more dangerous than the charming yet deadly bookseller.
"You did it again, didn't you?" Candace says to Joe, unflinchingly, when they meet. Her voice plays a chilling warning over the scenes: "If he loves you, that's the most dangerous thing."
Ahead of the season 2 premiere, I spoke with Childers about her role on You. Playing the antagonist role this season is an interesting challenge, she said.
"The overall goal for Candace is to show Joe's true colors and to protect everybody that comes in his path, because she knows what he's capable of," Childers said. "She's like the vigilante, and I think that's a lot of responsibility. But when you're trying to help people you care about and serve justice, those are the hard obstacles that come with it."
Here's a transcript of our conversation, covering Candace's return in season 2, why the show is so important in our digital age and what women in particular should do to avoid the Joes of the world. It contains light spoilers for the second season, and has been edited for clarity.
Q: Did you know how Candace's story in season 2 was going to play out ahead of time, or was it a surprise to you?
Childers: I did learn early on in season 2. But I was OK with that, because this is not a show about unicorns and rainbows. This is a show about a man killing and murdering and torturing people.
Early on in season 2, I was eager to know Candace's intentions, but I liked that the writers kept it close to the vest. I liked that you let the character's vulnerability come out really slowly to show the audience that she wasn't a villain. Can you speak a bit more to that?
At the end of the day, Candace is not a murderer. She's not a killer, but she's also trying to protect others and show Joe that she's not fucking around. She's serious.
The whole theme of the show is "what would you do for love?" but for my character, it's "what would you do for vengeance or truth?" I think that's a really interesting storyline that I kept asking myself because, yeah, you could totally justify her being the crazy ex-girlfriend, but if you really think about it, most people would turn their backs, walk away and not care. But she's a strong woman, and I love how the writers crafted her in that way, because I think a lot of women can take something from that. Don't take any shit. Stand up for other women or humanity. And don't back down. Not everyone is going to be able to do that, but it's TV, so obviously Joe had to have someone that was going to come up from his past to keep him on his toes and keep him running.
The show is definitely a unique take on the "stalker guy." Why do you think that the show is important for our generation, as digital as we are?
I like that the show really shows the extreme dark side of obsession, and it shows how simple it can be for someone to use modern resources to work their way into your life. It's really scary. Obviously, You is an extreme version of that, but we just have to be cautious and talk to our girlfriends and our children about internet safety. And what you put out there -- people don't realize that once it gets out there, it's out there. It doesn't matter wherever in the world you are, your status or anything like that.
I watch a lot of dark shows, and Dateline, and there are some people with serious loose screws. So, you've just got to be careful who you trust. It doesn't mean that you can't trust, you just have to be smart.
Along the same lines, what do you think is important for women to learn about Candace's story?
It could be as simple as (and this just popped into my head): I was walking down the street last night with my daughter. We were walking to dinner. It was dark, and on the other side of the street there was a man and a woman screaming at the top of their lungs. My daughter wanted to cut through the alley, and I had to explain, We don't cut through alleys at night, it's not safe. And as I'm going through this with my 9-year-old, we turn the corner and there's this man who was just completely losing his shit. I had stopped and watched because I'm the kind of person -- it's easier to turn your head and pretend you don't see, but if it had escalated anymore, I feel like we have to step in. That's part of protecting each other as women, as men. You see the things that aren't appropriate in Hollywood -- we just went through this whole #MeToo movement that's still going on. It's time that people stand up for what's right, and I feel like that's the theme for Candace.
We reveal so much of ourselves on social media and we have to be strong enough to face those uncomfortable situations that people get put into. A lot of people avoid it because of pain or fear. Our world is so fucked up that we need more people doing the opposite of that.
Read more: Best TV shows of 2019: CNET's staff picks
Do you think we can expect to see a season 3 of You?
I have no idea! I hope so. This is the kind of story that could just keep going. I mean, eventually, someone has to get caught, but that can go for so long. It's always that cat and mouse game where you've cornered them but they get away. The show could go on forever and I hope it does.