Yes, for those who don’t know, Langford, who plays Hannah Baker in her breakout role on the Netflix drama, is in fact Australian.
Langford was joined by her co-stars Dylan Minnette and Kate Walsh, executive producer Brian Yorkey, and executive producer and director Tom McCarthy at Netflix’s FYSee Space in Beverly Hills on Friday night for a panel hosted by Jenelle Riley, deputy awards and features editor of Variety.
The show, based on the young adult novel with the same name, revolves around Hannah Baker’s suicide, alternating between the past and present day as she leaves behind 13 cassette tapes explaining the 13 reasons why she decided to end her life.
“13 Reasons Why” does not shy away from dark, graphic and intense scenes, making the show no stranger to criticism.
Still, McCarthy said the series did its job — to spark the conversation in a broader way.
“I respect the opinion of experts, but being an adult myself I sometimes think, ‘Well, maybe we should listen to the people who are driving the viewership,'” he told Variety. “Young people want to have this discussion. Maybe they are telling us something.”
To depict the scenes of sexual violence and suicide, the cast had psychiatrists on hand advising them to ensure an accurate portrayal of victims and their friends and family.
“My main concern and objective was just being faithful and do honor to parents who have had to undergo and endure the unimaginable,” said Walsh, who plays Hannah’s mom, Olivia.
As a high school sophomore, Hannah’s death came at a time when children tend to become private and rebel from their parents, Walsh noted. At the end of the season, Hannah’s parents get a chance to listen to the tapes their daughter left behind.
“I don’t think any parent could ever imagine the secret life of their child,” Walsh told Variety. “To start hearing about your child’s life and their feelings and what’s happened in a whole different world than you imagined is massive.”
Although Hannah is a fictional character, Langford grew close to the story she was helping to share. She got emotional as she described filming episode 13, the last episode of the series where Hannah ultimately takes her life.
“At that point I’d been playing her for six months, so there was this sort of pseudo memory of living through someone’s life vicariously,” Langford said tearfully. “I just didn’t want to let her go because at that point she’s a person and you’re dealing with real issues.”
Walsh chimed in, saying, “It was all hard. Everybody just wanted to do honor to these characters, to the writing, and to the humans who had gone through this.”
“I put these three through a certain kind of hell,” Yorkey said of Langford, Walsh, and Minnette.
It was particularly hard for Minnette, who plays main character Clay Jensen, to listen to all of his star-crossed lover Hannah’s tapes.
“We really did like to beat the s— out of Clay whenever we had the opportunity to,” Yorke said.
Minnette added, “I think he gets hurt at physically at least once in every episode.”
“And there’s a season two,” Yorke hinted.
And while cassette tapes won’t be used the second time around, there is much more of Hannah’s story to tell in Season 2, Yorkey said.
“Hannah told her version of events, but there are at least 12 kids who have another version of those events that we actually haven’t really heard from yet,” he said. “I don’t think Hannah told any untruths on her tape. She reclaimed her narrative, which had really been taken from her.”
Despite the popularity of the first season, Minnette said he plans to approach Season 2 with the same uncertainty in reception as he did in Season 1.
“I just want us all to do the same as this year,” Minnette told Variety. “Just go in assuming that nobody is going to watch it, everyone’s going to hate it, and try to make the best thing possible.”