We chat to the cast of the controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, now back on screens for a second season
We knew the ending to the first series from the get-go, so how can a story that culminates in the death of the main character (over 13 hour-long episodes no less) be stretched to a second series?
For those who have been living under a rock for the past year, 13 Reasons Why is Netflix’s massively controversial high school drama telling the tale of bullied schoolgirl Hannah Baker and the 13 tapes she leaves for her tormentors after her death.
The much-anticipated second series was released on Friday May 18 and, according to the show’s makers, Hannah’s story is far from over.
Season two has been shrouded in mystery and ever since it was announced that Katherine Langford would be returning to play Hannah, we’ve been dying to know what the writers had up their sleeves.
The Australian actress explains that we will see a “different Hannah in season two”, and fans can expect to see more of Hannah’s backstory before the lead-up to her death.
“This season the only time you see Hannah is through the eyes or through the lens of someone else,” says 21-year-old Langford. “So whether that’s in the form of storytelling, flashbacks or through Clay’s [Hannah’s classmate] eyes in the present day, that’s the only capacity you see her in.
“The focus [in season two] is the important storylines for the other characters – the recovery of Clay and the parents in the school and, essentially, everyone.”
There is a different narrator for season two and writer Brian Yorkey says that much of the new series centres around the court case that Hannah’s parents bring against the school.
“We based season two and the story of the trial on a number of actual [bullying] trials that have happened,” says Yorkey.
“We did a tremendous amount of research and were all surprised at the number of these trials and also the level of bullying and the aftermath that took place.”
Yorkey goes on to explain that much of the second season will focus on developing the storylines of other characters further, as they deal with the aftermath of Hannah’s death.
“Healing is about speaking your truth, owning your own story and reaching out and making connections,” he says. “We heal as a community. Hopefully what we see in season two is characters beginning to realise they are stronger together.”
Twenty-year-old Dylan Minnette, who plays Clay Jensen, lets slip that Clay hasn’t quite moved on in the way he’d hoped, implying we’re about to get a whole load more of the teenage angst, drama and turmoil that sucked us into series one, as the community tries to move on from the horrific chain of events.
When the first series kicked off in March 2017, the actors were relatively unknown, and the part of Hannah was Langford’s first serious acting role.
The show, which was co-produced by singer Selena Gomez, has been one of Netflix’s biggest hits, and the furore surrounding the controversial issues raised has been massive, with schools around the world (including in Dubai) warning parents about the show and the themes it addresses. As critics prepare to review season two, there’s no doubt that these young actors will be polishing their armour.
In response to reaction to the first season, Minette says, “There’s no way I feel you can really prepare for that. We’d hoped that people would like it, we hoped that people would watch it but we had no expectations. That freed us up to tell the story that we wanted to tell, without having too much pressure, just tell it and see how it goes.”
The actors admit that the filming was emotionally gruelling, and producers even brought in therapy puppies to lift the spirits of the cast during difficult scenes. But the conversation raised from the controversy is something that the cast and crew hope will continue with the next 13 episodes.
Minette adds, “What happened was what we wanted to happen – we wanted to start important conversations about these topics that we cover on the show. People had differing opinions on what they thought about the show or how things were portrayed but that’s exactly what should happen, because that’s when the discussion starts.
“With season two we’re definitely trying to continue this honest, unflinching and truthful story and just be real – otherwise I don’t think there’s any point in being in the show.”
Yorkey explains that during filming, an adolescent psychiatrist, an assault specialist and a doctor were on hand to support the actors and crew. And although scenes were hard-hitting, the writer feels that they have never been more relevant than in today’s society.
“We thought long and hard about how to treat some of the difficult scenes in season one,” he says. “We made the decision to treat them very truthfully and honestly.
“We didn’t want to glamorise things but we also didn’t want to look away, we wanted you to be a part of what the characters are going through. We knew that there would be discussion about that and not everyone would agree with that choice.
“What was a surprise, I think, was the number of people who talked about it, the amount of discussion, the amount of conversation around it.”
Love it or hate it, the show has definitely had an effect and if the first season is anything to go by, there’ll be no skirting around the hard stuff in season two.
And Katherine Langford couldn’t be happier about that.
She adds, “I think the beauty about the show is that it resonated with so many people but it resonated differently with everyone based on their own context, and because of that it allowed discussion. In in one way or another, it’s changed people’s lives.” Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why is out now on Netflix.