×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘13 Reasons Why’ Actor Justin Prentice on Suicidal Thoughts, Debut Feature as Producer

Justin Prentice may be cast as the ruthless villain of “13 Reasons Why,” but he, too, had to cope with mental health challenges when younger, including thoughts of suicide, the actor told Variety at the Monte Carlo TV Festival on Tuesday. As Prentice gets ready to film Season 3 of the hit Netflix show, he talked about the impact the first two seasons have had, and his debut feature film as a producer.

13 Reasons Why” centers on the suicide of a high school student and the reasons why she took her own life. A major factor was her rape by Prentice’s character, Bryce Walker, an entitled jock. The show has sparked discussion about sexual violence and mental health issues.

Did Prentice ever have suicidal thoughts himself when he was younger? “When I was a kid, I was very much a perfectionist, and I had a bunch of different compulsions. And so through all of that I had high anxiety and high stress, so I did, actually,” he said. “I brought it up with my mother because I was very fortunate to be close with my parents. And she was instrumental in helping me through it, which was awesome.”

Suicide and sexual assault have affected those close to him. “A buddy of mine took his life in high school; [there were] similarities [with the show’s storyline] there,” he said. “There are some people very close to me who were sexually assaulted or raped when they were young.”

The show contains some difficult scenes, and leaving that behind afterwards was a challenge. “It’s hard sometimes to jump in and out of [such scenes]. Sometimes after the very dark scenes it kind of stays with you for a little bit. But the cast…we are all a big family, so we will usually get together after the very dark scenes and just decompress, and take a breather for a second, and all have each other’s backs, which is nice,” he said.

Prentice said that the show’s willingness to tackle tough issues head-on set it apart from many others. “It’s not afraid to really dive into the heart of the issues. We’ve seen a lot of these issues portrayed on screen, but our show doesn’t shy away from the brutality of them,” he said. “I think [it’s] a beneficial way of showing things. It’s a mirror to society saying these are the issues in America right now. Let’s fix them because it is absurd that some of this stuff is still going on.”

The show has been popular worldwide and generated a great deal of coverage in the media, but Prentice has shielded himself from any remarks about his own performance. “I try not to read anything [about myself]. In terms of looking up articles and press stuff, I try to avoid it for my own sanity,” he said.

Even if he did read those articles he’d be at a disadvantage, as he admitted that he has only watched the first two episodes of Season 1 but not the rest of the show. “I don’t like watching myself, so that’s why. Otherwise, I would very much watch the show. But I’m an insecure actor I suppose. I’ll just shred apart my performance. It would be like, ‘Why did you make that choice?’ and ‘Your face looks weird’ and ‘Why are you doing this?’”

Alongside “13 Reasons Why,” Prentice has also had a recurring role on AMC’s “Preacher.” “I also played a rapist in that one,” he said. “So the next role that I do is going to be a very lovable, sweet person….I have to be very particular now with what I do next.”

Apart from Season 3 of “13 Reasons Why,” which will probably start to shoot in the next couple of months, Prentice said, his focus would be on producing his first feature film, which his girlfriend, Annika Pampel, will be directing with the working title “Odium.” “It is a very contained psychological thriller that takes place in one house and the periphery of the house in Sequoia National Park,” he said. “It’ll be interesting. It’ll be fun. Hopefully we’re going to film it, maybe, in March of next year, if not earlier.”

Prentice and Pampel previously worked together on the short film “Crossing Fences,” also as producer and director, respectively.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Elite Season 2

    San Sebastian: Spain’s SVOD Players Debate Competition, Brand, Talent

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — Executives from HBO, Netflix, Amazon and Movistar+ and “Elite” co-creator Darío Madrona took to the stage to field questions on the Global Impact of Spanish Series. Here, briefly, are five takeaways: 1.Spain First “La Casa de Papel” was watched by 34,355,956 Netflix accounts over its first seven days,  after a July 19 [...]

  • Samsung Makes Bid to Keep Viewers

    Samsung Makes Bid to Keep Viewers From Skipping Fox Ad Breaks

    Fox is hoping to knit together the seconds-long divide between a TV program and the commercials that support it. During ad breaks for a few football broadcasts, tomorrow’s run of the Emmys and Wednesday’s season premiere of “The Masked Singer,” the network will kick off ad sessions with special show promos that display artistic renderings [...]

  • Patria

    HBO Europe Unveils ‘Patria’ Footage to Captive San Sebastian Audience

    SAN SEBASTIAN — Amid large expectation, HBO Europe has revealed first footage giving a first sense of tone and pace of its Spanish original series “Patria.” A packed-to-overflowing press conference on Saturday morning at the San Sebastian Festival can be read as one sign of the potential popularity of the eight-part series. The panel sneak-peek [...]

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • Peter Weber and Mike Johnson

    'The Bachelor's' Mike Johnson on Diversity and New Leading Man Peter Weber

    ABC named its newest star of “The Bachelor” this week, officially making Peter Weber the leading man for Season 24 of the long-running dating show. Social media backlash ensued following the announcement due to ABC’s selection lacking diversity, yet again. Since the dating franchise began in 2002, there has been only one “Bachelorette” of color [...]

  • ABC Studios Logo

    ABC Studios Head of Alternative Fernando Hernandez Exits

    ABC Studios’ head of alternative Fernando Hernandez has departed from his post at the Disney-owned television studio, a source familiar with the situation told Variety. The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news. Hernandez’s exit follows an executive shuffling at the top in recent months that has included the departure of Amy Hartwick, ABC Studio’s head [...]

  • Rob Cowan, Greg Silverman'The Conjuring 2'

    Greg Silverman’s Stampede, School of Rock Team for Unscripted Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Former president of Warner Bros. Pictures Greg Silverman is partnering with School of Rock through his content creation company Stampede. The collaboration with the music school will create exclusive content, starting with the development of an unscripted series.  School of Rock operates a network of performance-based education franchises that offer students of all ages guidance [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content