Dylan Minnette and Katherine Langford are the stars of Netflix’s new young-adult drama series 13 Reasons Why, based on the best-selling book by Jay Asher. We caught up with them to talk about the show’s dark subject matter, how executive producer Selena Gomez got involved, and what it was like to shoot.
13 Reasons Why has a dark story – can you explain the premise?
Katherine: The season’s about a 17-year-old girl called Hannah Baker, who I play, who ends up committing suicide and leaving a box of tapes explaining the reasons why she does it. And through the course of the season we follow Clay Jensen who is played by Dylan [Minnette], as he listens to the tapes and tries to come to terms with why she did it and what happened.
The book that it’s based on has become really popular all over the world. Did you feel a lot of pressure because of that?
Dylan: There’s definitely pressure because people are very attached to the story, and the characters, and they want it to be told in their ideal way. Everyone’s going to have their own ways they want it to be made but I had a lot of faith in it just from seeing who they had attached to it. You had Netflix – you know they’re going to do it right – and then Paramount was involved, but also like Tom McCarthy (Up, Spotlight) was directing the first couple episodes, it was amazing, and then Brian Yorkey is a Pulitzer prizewinner, and Anonymous Content produces such great… content! So seeing those people that were attached, I knew they were going to tell the story exactly how it should be told and I didn’t think people would be let down.
Katherine: Everyone going into this had the same vision, which I think is such an important thing. Everyone wanted to tell it authentically – everyone wanted to portray this in an unflinching way, which I think is really different to how young adult shows have previously been shot. It’s a really important and cool thing to be a part of. You feel proud of how you’re showing these issues when they are so important.
Selena Gomez is on board as an executive producer – what does that entail? Did she come to set? What was she doing?
Katherine: Selena’s a very busy lady. Let’s not lie – she’s very busy. At the time that we were shooting she was on a world tour and she’s flying to so many different countries. But even though she wasn’t physically there for the first part of shooting, it always felt like Selena and Mandy were there because they’d send us emails and reach out and offer support. Mandy and Selena were the ones who bought the rights to this book, and you give them so much credit and praise because it’s been a long time making this, and making sure that it was told in the correct way – the best way. I really give it to them for sticking out and waiting for Netflix to do this and for everyone involved to be a part of it.
Most difficult scene to shoot?
Dylan: I definitely didn’t have as many… there’s difficult scenes but Katherine had the brunt of the real difficult scenes.
Katherine: I’d say the hardest scene for me to shoot was the last scene, and probably not for the reasons that people would think. At that point I had been playing Hannah for six months and I’d been with her through every event that had happened and at that point I was so protective of her and in my head she was a real person that it was actually just really hard to let her go.
Hannah’s voiceover is crucial to the show. What was it like recording it?
Katherine: In the last three months I’d shoot for the week, then I’d fly out to LA on the weekend to record the voiceover, and then I would come back and shoot for the week and then fly over to LA for the voiceover, and keep doing that whenever we had a chance. It was intense, because I got to watch what we’d shot and also narrate it, but it was kind of cool because Brian [Yorkey] was there and we just trying to make sure the accent was right and all that kind of stuff. Not getting the Aussie accent in there. I’m proud of how it turned out and I hope everyone who watches it is proud of it too.
13 Reasons Why is available to stream on Netflix now.