Spoilers for You season 2 below.
A woman named “Love” is almost too on the nose for a TV love interest. That irony isn’t lost on Victoria Pedretti, who portrays the mysterious object of Joe Goldberg’s obsession, Love Quinn, in Season 2 of You—especially when the very name subverts her true nature.
While Season 1 of the breakout Lifetime-turned-Netflix series centered on sociopathic stalker, serial killer, and public masturbator Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) and his obsession with Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail), the show’s second season sees Joe infatuated with Love, an aspiring chef who doubles as a produce manager at her family’s Erewhon-like grocery store in Los Angeles. Of course, Joe stalks his way into landing a job there as he tries to start over and escape from ex-girlfriend Candace, who is very much alive and determined to ruin his life after he tried to kill her. In L.A., Joe becomes entangled not only with Love, who’s hiding a dark past of her own, but her twin brother Forty Quinn and the Quinn supermarket dynasty.
The role of Love is the latest in a series of two-year breaks for Pedretti, who landed her first leading role in 2018 with the inaugural season of The Haunting of Hill House, Netflix’s hit family horror. Pedretti was a standout as the grief-stricken Nell Crain, delivering a riveting performance that ultimately led to her role on You. “You was my first call-back ever,” Pedretti tells ELLE.com over the phone from Vancouver. “I auditioned for the first season, for Beck, and had a call-back with the producer. I didn’t get the job, but I’m glad I didn’t, because it meant that I was able to do The Haunting of Hill House, and it meant that I was able to come back to play Love.”
Season 2 of You was particularly compelling for Pedretti, who recognized eerie similarities in Nell and Love. “While they have a lot of similar circumstances, and they’re [both] coming from a large, publicly known family, they are completely different people,” says Pedretti. “Love is [also] a widow, and a twin, and her twin has an addiction issue. It was really cool to be able to deal with a lot of the same issues with a character who internalizes them in such different ways.”
During a break from shooting her role in the next season of The Haunting series—this time at Bly Manor, where she’ll play a woman named Dani who left America to travel the world under mysterious circumstances—Pedretti spoke to ELLE about the crazy twists in Season 2 of You and what she thinks of Joe.
By the end of 10 episodes, we see that Love, who seemed so pure at first, is actually more similar to Joe than we thought. How did you approach such a complex character?
[Love] is very similar to the way in which we see Joe: This person who seems to have a bleeding heart, who cares so deeply about others, but has a warped sense of how to care, and what is love—which is ironic that that is her name. [It] doesn’t mean she doesn’t possess a great deal of love, but she doesn’t understand boundaries. And all of this has been warped by a lot of conditioning throughout her life, in the same way Joe’s idea of love has been warped by a great deal of conditioning and trauma throughout his life. Certainly a lot of duality, when it comes to this great passion for love and life, and this great passion for protecting those that she cares about, and the lengths [to] which she will go to ensure that.
It’s interesting to see Love painted as this glowing, spirited young woman reeling from the loss of her husband a few years back. There’s this other half of her that we, as the audience, don’t really know about until later on—that she’s dangerous, and has killed in the past. Tell me about that dichotomy.
I think that’s who she wants to be. I think she wants to not have all this fucked up-ness in her life, but she didn’t choose that, to a certain extent. In the same way Joe didn’t choose that [life], we are very aware of the person he wants to be. But at the same time, that journey is very difficult. We have to commit ourselves to certain ways of behavior, in order to avoid, I don’t know, killing people. We [have] got to give ourselves the responsibility to control ourselves that much. Apparently, she lacks that control. But I think she wants freedom. She doesn’t want to be tied down by judgment, and these ideas about image that were hammered into her head growing up.
While Love has also killed people, she has these real emotions and feels things very strongly. Do you think Joe is more sociopathic?
I think so. Do I want to be the person having sympathy for the murderer? I don’t know, but I do. I have to, I play her. I am her, to a certain extent. I’ve embodied that, so I have a strong sense of what’s motivating her, and it definitely isn’t the thirst for blood. She’s trying to protect what she has, and what she’s allowed to call her own.
In the beginning, it almost seemed like she was in cahoots with Candace, who came to L.A. to warn Love about her relationship with Joe, but that’s not what happens. Was it frustrating for you to see Love turn on the woman trying to save her?
Oh, that’s my favorite thing. My favorite representation of the women who seem like they’re down for other women, and then a man comes along, and all of a sudden they don’t recognize the other women in their lives. They can’t see up from down. This dutifulness that we’re taught towards men is…It blows my mind every time, in the way we’re able to demonize each other. [Love] is so completely absorbed in the idea of, “You’re trying to ruin our life,” [with] no sense of, “You’re trying to protect me. Maybe I should listen.” And even when she’s talking to Forty, she just writes off everything Candace says as, “She’s crazy.” It’s something we hear all the time: “She’s crazy.”
The internalized misogyny is so interesting to see played out. Candace ends up as the most rational person on the show.
Oh yeah, and yet nobody listens to her when she’s brave enough. It’s not like it’s easy for her. It’s not like she takes joy out of coming into their life to ruin it. It’s painful for her and yet she’s doing it anyway, because it’s the right thing to do. She’s trying to protect people from a killer.
During the season, we hear the story of an au pair committing suicide after she sexually abuses Forty when he’s a child. But it turns out the family’s been covering up the fact that Forty killed her. Then, by the end of the season, we learn it was actually Love who killed her. Why did Love let the family believe it was Forty, when she was always trying to protect her brother? That move seems extremely manipulative.
I personally think it’s what she says in the monologue in episode 10. He’s known for these things. If everybody’s still under the [impression] that she can protect him and protect the family, then there’s no need to bring anybody else in. She’s fiercely independent and doesn’t feel as though she needs oversight. She feels very adult at a very young age because of [how much] she’s had to take care of herself. She knows if she takes responsibility for those things, then everybody’s going to see her differently, and growing up in a family that’s so obsessed with image, she’s very aware of the way that affects people. You see when she’s like, [to Joe], “We got this handled babe, I’m going to get the LAPD, because we own them. We own the fucking police. We could do whatever. We are above the law baby. You’re with me now.” That’s how she knows how to live.
In one of the final scenes of the season, when Forty is holding the gun to Joe’s head, does Love realize that Forty always knew she killed the au pair? There were a few lines that led me to believe that.
I personally think she knew that he knew. He was unconscious, but I’m sure he was, in some way, aware at some point. I think she knew he knew, but it [is] unsaid because he was grateful. Not that he wasn’t angry that she had killed this person that he loved, regardless of the fact that he was being molested, and it was legally rape. [Forty] is the most silenced in the family, and never taken seriously. He can’t really assert when he thinks about things because he’s known as untrustworthy and weak.
During the season, Love finds it nearly unforgivable when she learns Joe is hiding his true name and identity. But by the end, you realize she too was hiding her identity. What are your thoughts on that?
In her mind, she’s being honest. I think, sometimes, we can all be hypocrites.
At the end of Season 2, Love stops Joe from killing her by saying she’s pregnant. Do you think he would’ve killed her if she didn’t say that?
You’ve got to ask Penn, but it looked like he was going to kill me, right? It really looks like he’s going to kill me.
Does she think that by telling Joe that’s going to make him love her more, or love her completely again?
I’m not sure he’s ever going to be able to love her, now that he cannot deny the fact that she’s a real fucking person who’s capable of a lot. He likes to live in his fantasies, from what I can see, and she’s no longer a fantasy. He can feel a duty. That’s related to his ideas of what it means to be a man, and I’m sure she could be playing on that.
At the end of the season, unlike Beck, Love is alive. Does that mean you’ll be in season 3?
I don’t know. I don’t know anything.
What do you think is justice for Joe?
In my eyes as Victoria? If you take down Joe, you have to take down a lot of fucking people, because I don’t think Joe is necessarily some extreme exception, and that he deserves some justice that is so far removed from the systems we already have in place. I think that would do just fine: responsibility for his crime and equally tried. I don’t really trust our justice system that much, to be honest. But I know that there are laws in there that say you’re not allowed to stalk, harass, murder, rape people, or just publicly masturbate, hit people over the head with a rock and chop people up like meat.
In this season, what do you think the characters of Joe and Love say about good versus evil?
I’d like to think the show allows us to explore a lot of the gray area, which I think is valuable in this day and age. We mostly only get to hear Joe’s perspective, but I think we can see a lot of people around him trying to do their best under the circumstances and failing, and being unfair, cruel, and violent. I don’t know what each of the characters says about good and evil, but I certainly think they show us that there are certain things that cannot be undone, certain things that cannot be unsaid. I feel like it says that life is important to preserve in all circumstances. I hope we feel a great deal of loss when people are being killed.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.